Your First Irish Dry Stout

BYOB by | Mar 2007 | Issue #3
Illustration by Evan B. Harris

Sitting over there in the closet, a pile of buckets, glass, tubes and tools is taunting you. Your girl (or guy) Christmas-gifted you a new hobby, or you bit the bullet after last month’s article extolling the virtues of homebrewing. Now there’s a mass of strange gadgets waiting for you to get off your duff and brew.

But how do you go from buckets and syrup to a fine, handcrafted bottle of beer? Well, here at BeerAdvocate, we believe in making things easy for you. Follow our simple instructions and in four weeks you’ll have a pint to call your very own. We start with a classic Irish Dry Stout, the perfect gateway beer for drinkers and brewers. It’s tantalizingly exotic in appearance, explosive in flavor, smooth and pretty easy to make.

The Basics
First, some basic tips: You’re brewing beer, not performing brain surgery. Relax and picture that next glass of froth, but don’t cut corners or your hard work will be wasted. Use charcoal-filtered drinking or tap water instead of chlorinated city water. Cleanliness and sanitation after the boil are crucial, but don’t handle everything like a surgeon. Instead of bleach, use a no-rinse sanitizer like Star San or Iodophor. Search for the freshest extract, grains and hops available. Focus your recipes around pale extracts; you’ll have more control over your final product and an easier conversion to all-grain in the future.

Step-By-Step Brewing
Bring 3 gallons of water to 170 degrees. Place your crushed malts in a nylon grain bag and submerge for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, chill 2 gallons of water in the freezer. After 45 minutes, pull the grain bag out and let it drain completely. Don’t squeeze! You now have an inky black soup in your kettle. This wort tastes like weak, roasty coffee.

Kick up the heat under your wort and bring the uncovered pot to a boil. Turn the heat off and quickly stir in the extract syrup or powder. Be sure to dissolve the extract completely, otherwise it will stick to the bottom and burn, ruining the beer. Bring the pot back to a boil and add your first batch of hops. Forty minutes later, add the second dose of hops. After 20 more minutes, kill the burners and give the pot a vigorous stir clockwise before covering it to prevent infection.

While the wort is boiling, clean your fermentation bucket using water and a detergent, like TSP (trisodium phosphate), PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) or OxiClean. Don’t use dish soap! Rinse thoroughly. Add 1/4 cup of bleach (or no-rinse sanitizer) and fill the bucket with cold water. Add your lid and airlock to soak. After thirty minutes, empty the bucket and, if using bleach, rinse fully. Let the parts air dry upside down to preserve sanitation.

Rest the pot in a sink of cold, running water with ice. Crack the drain to keep water flowing. Check on the beer periodically until the pot is merely warm. By investing in a wort chiller ($20–$80), you can drastically speed up this step and improve your chances of success.

Pour your wort through your strainer into the newly sanitized fermentor. Fill up to 5 gallons with the cold, filtered water. Lid her up and shake your bucket/carboy back and forth for 5 minutes. Using a sanitized turkey baster, grab a sample to measure your original gravity. Pitch (pour) the yeast in, add the airlock, and you’re done for the week. Have a beer! (And clean up before your family gets upset.)

Place the fermentor in a cool place (around 65 degrees) and leave it alone for a week. Let it burble, enjoy the sound and don’t fret! Your yeast is making beer. For this batch, we’ll skip a secondary fermentation step and go straight to the bottle.

If the beer has finished burbling after a week, it’s time to bottle. Make sure your bottles, bottling wand, bottling bucket and racking cane/tubing are clean and sanitized. Boil 3/4 cup of corn sugar in 1 pint of water and add to the bottling bucket. Siphon your beer into the bucket, making sure it swirls the sugar solution evenly. Cover the bucket to keep the nasties out.

Attach your bottling wand to the tubing and spigot (or racking cane) and push it into the bottom of each bottle. Fill to the top and remove the wand. Notice how it leaves a perfect headspace? Cap with your fresh bottle caps and stick in a closet for 2 to 3 weeks. After that, you may drink your creation, and start contemplating your next brew session. Fun, isn’t it?

IRISH DRY STOUT

Malt
4-1/2 lb. pale liquid malt extract (or 3-1/2 lb. pale dry malt extract)
1 lb. Crystal 60z–120L
3/4 lb. roasted barley
1/4 lb. black patent malt
1/4 lb. chocolate malt

Hops
1/4 oz. Target (pellets) | 10% AA | 60 minutes
3/4 oz. East Kent Golding (pellets) | 4.75% AA | 20 minutes

Yeast
Liquid: WLP004 Irish Ale / Wyeast 1084 Irish Stout
Dry: Nottingham / US-05 (US-56) 

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