brew day: Beamishish

Brewing an Irish stout: it’s been a while. So long, in fact, that any delay from a little detour into history and personal remembrance won’t significantly prolong the wait. Let’s get a beverage before the second paragraph.

Ready? In 1792, William Beamish and William Crawford, Protestant Scotch-Irish landowners from the North, established a brewery in Cork City and set about brewing a porter (which was still produced until the 1960s – that would have been interesting to try). For the first decades of its existence, their Cork Porter Brewery was the largest brewery in Ireland. Eventually dry stout supplanted porter as the flagship, eventually the name of the brewery was changed to Beamish & Crawford. A series of acquisitions and consolidations pepper its history, culminating with a sale to Heineken, which closed the brewery in 2009. Production of Beamish Stout moved over to Heineken Brewery Ireland (formerly Murphy’s Lady’s Well Brewery) and it is no longer exported to the US. Too bad for me.

Years ago when I spent a semester studying abroad in North Ireland, Beamish Stout wasn’t the outlier or afterthought that it seemed to be back here in the states (when we could still get it, that is). Guinness was, of course, ubiquitous, as it is here: the first-cited stylistic example, the default nitro faucet at the bar. Murphy’s was actually harder to find in Ulster, at least where I was. Beamish, with its Protestant connotation, seemed more common at my local (okay, locals) in Antrim than in pubs in the Republic until you hit its hometown of Cork in the far south.

On a holiday trip to Cork, I remember waking up in a hostel to the sounds of the Shandon bells and meeting some friends at a pub/restaurant with a harbor view to eat our way through various Atlantic fish species chased with pints of Beamish: chocolaty with a subtle suggestion of bready, toffee sweetness, a creamy texture (it did have that in common with the other two Irish stouts) and a bitter, dry finish.

Michael Jackson, in the 1993 edition of his Beer Companion, lists Beamish at OG 1.039 and 4.2% abv, with

… a distinctly chocolaty note, some silkiness of body, and a very delicate hop character. Chocolate malt, rather than roast, provides the keynote, and some wheat is used to help the creaminess of texture, lacework, and head. The wheat was once raw, but is now malted, to improve fermentability and therefore lightness of body. The hops include Challenger, Goldings, and – unusually – German Hersbruck. The beer has 38-42 units of bitterness.

In a later book, Ultimate Beer, he writes that

As its competitors have become sweeter, in deference to “modern” tastes, Beamish Irish Stout has seemed by comparison drier. The beer is toasty, with buttery, creamy, and peppery notes in a late, lingering, dry finish.

The Classic Beer Styles Series title Stout was published after the 1995 sale of Beamish & Crawford to Scottish & Newcastle, and was more recent than Jackson’s Beer Companion by several years. Author Michael Lewis’s questionnaire of global stout producers coughed up these particulars on Beamish as it was brewed at the time:

  • Specialty malts & adjuncts: ale malt, roast barley
  • Yeast: special strain evolved from original yeast
  • Hop form: pellet
  • Bittering: Target, Challenger, Perle
  • Aroma: Challenger, Goldings (added to kettle)
  • Mash temp: 143°F
  • Boil duration: 90 minutes
  • Fermentation: 73°F for 75 hours

Today’s project is to brew a beer inspired by (not a clone of … “clone” is such a problematic concept) Beamish: a little more idiosyncratic and a little more baroque than a straight-ahead modern dry Irish stout. I’m going to lean more heavily on Jackson’s descriptions – since, personally, that beer sounds more interesting than the cleaned-up, stripped-down one suggested by the answers to Lewis’s later survey – and adapt the process to my system to still keep within the parameters.

Base malt will be Malting Company of Ireland’s Stout Malt – MCI actually grew out of Beamish & Crawford’s old floor maltings, so that’s a nice little tie-in. Chocolate malt and malted wheat as cited, and – because I do distinctly remember a toffee character in Beamish absent from the other two – I’m adding in a bit of very dark crystal malt (it’ll help darken the color a bit and add some body, too). Unconventional for a dry stout, certainly, but we’re brewing to memory and not style guidelines, and I’m not counting on getting that note out of the chocolate malt, wheat or yeast. On my system, 143°F would be an excessively low mash temp, but a citizen does need high fermentability in order to wring 4.2% abv out of a 1.040 wort.

I’m sticking with the Challenger/Goldings/Hersbrucker combo. Even though Challenger is only about 40 years old, that blend seems very retro – UK brewers of the 19th century made use of imported hops (from continental Europe and also America) to supplement domestic crops and keep up with massive brewery production. The almost even BU:GU ratio cited by Jackson, plus a little sidecar of aroma hops later on in the boil, even for a non-hoppy style, also seems like a throwback: a little extra insurance, a held-over acknowledgement of hops as  preservative in the days before QC labs and microscopy. I don’t remember a late hop character in the Beamish I had, but that was a while ago now, and its presence is mentioned in more than one source, so I’m taking it on faith. The hop blend will be split into two separate kettle doses, but the aroma addition kept quite small – I mean, this isn’t a CDA. Snort.

Yeast – a bit of Zen archery here. I ended up on 1335 because I want a bit of English ester expression but lower diacetyl than would be had with 1084 or the like; and a healthy attenuation was a must.

Beamishish
Target OG: 1.040

Grist:

  • 74% MCI Stout Malt
  • 11% Chocolate malt
  • 7.5% Wheat malt
  • 7.5% Patagonia Crystal 190

Mash:

  • 150°F for 75′
  • 170°F for 10′

Boil:

… using a blend of Challenger, East Kent Golding, and Hallertau Hersbrucker pellets –

  • 90% of the blend at 60′ to a combined 38 IBU
  • 10% of the blend at 15′ to a combined 2 IBU

Fermentation:

  • Chill wort to 68°F, O2 and inoculate with Wyeast 1335
  • After TG reached, fine & keg for nitro dispense … stay tuned

Update: tasting notes here.

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52 thoughts on “brew day: Beamishish

  1. I had always prefered Beamish over Murphy’s or Guinness and wondered why Beamish disappeared from my local specialty beer store, its too bad they no longer export it to the US. Looking forward to see how this turns out.

  2. May have to take on this recipe or something similar… i brewed an oatmeal stout for st patricks day, and guess what? i forgot how much i love stout… so much in fact that i have just about 1.5 gallons left in the polypin :-/ i need to keep stout in my rotation!

  3. I agree that 143F is indeed quite low, but it looks like you went for a bit higher temp (150F) for a longer duration in pursuit of your goal of ~4.2%abv.

  4. Wy1335!!! I needed that info last week when I decided to ferment my DIS with 1084. Pitched a large starter at 57-58*F, ramped temp 1*F/day until the krausen disappeared (day 4ish). Mature/D-rest at 66-68*F until TG.

  5. Just brewed my first all-grain batch yesterday, which was (will be?) a Chocolate Milk Stout. All About Stout is one of my fave BTV episodes, so I’m glad to see you’re keeping up the St. Pat’s day tradition. Some day I’ll get around to the dry stout :o)

  6. Great looking stout grain bill – I wouldn’t have thought of the Crystal, but with that low amount, I think it stays within a dry style and will give it some nice toffee. I’ve been partial to bitters lately, but I can see a low ABV stout for this spring, for sure.

  7. Nice looking grain bill on this one. Looking forward to hearing how it turns out.
    My March stout is going to be long gone by 3/17. I just picked up a beer engine and put a stout on that is based on 1923 Courage Stout last week. Someone must be sneaking into the garage at night because it’s disappearing fast…

    • Cheers, JD! Re – your disappearing stout … you should probably post a watch out there to protect it, but bring a pint glass in case you get thirsty.

  8. Looks yummy. A couple questions though. The “Chocolate malt” label covers a broad range of color. What was was the lovibond rating of the stuff you used? Who was the maltster?

  9. Why Antrim? Last time I was in Ireland, I was disappointed in the available beers – a couple of continental lagers, Bud, and Guinness. I am sure that there are places with some unique beers, but I didn’t run across any.

    • Co. Antrim is where I lived when I studied there; I’m given to understand that Beamish is (was?) popular in the more Orange areas of North Ireland because its founders were Protestants from Ulster.

      • The historian in me finds that little nugget of information fascinating. I never thought about founder Religious/Political affiliation being a factor in brew popularity.

  10. What a coincedence, last week I brewed also brewed a stout for 3/17 with the 1335. Great minds, brew alike 😉 I picked this strain because of its English character and dry finish. I’m very curious to taste this strain in an stout.

    The smell durig primary was verry fruity, a bit like oak-aged red wine. That inspired me to use the yeastcake for a Robust Porter (single hopped with Admiral). Thinking about using this strain for my Russion Imperial Stout recipe with Target & Bramling Cross.

    After racking the stout to secondary I tasted a sample and although it wasn’t attenuated that well (1.047 – 1.018 / 61,7%) it still tasted fairly dry. I do wonder why I didn’t came close to it’s normal attenuationrate of 72-76%. Do you have any clues?

    • Cool! I also noted what I described as a tart orchard-fruit kind of character between hrs. 24-48 of the fermentation, but it’s gone now … will be curious to compare notes when these beers are done!

      Re: aa% – there are a lot of variables affecting it beyond the strain itself. If wort composition (mash temp, unfermentable/dextrin fraction of grist, etc.) and yeast health (fresh pack, pitch rate, O2, etc) can be ruled out, then I’d look at fermentation temp as the next most likely suspect. How were you measuring the SG?

      • Will be sure to pass you my tasting notes on these beers as soon as the are ready. The stout will be kegged. My plan is to bottle the porter as I like my porters with a little age on them.

        Measuring the SG is done with a refractometer. During fermentation I use brewing software to calculate the SG from refractometer measures. Just took another measure, and it dropped another 3 points. I guess that will have to do. 4,2% is a nice sessionable ABV for a stout.

  11. I happen to have a beamish recipe from a special edition of brew your own. If you wish, I can post it. I don’t have a brewing kit yet, hopefully this year since the last two years haven’t been too kind in “finally get my home brew kit” aspect of things, so I’ve collected a bunch of recipes. More clones than anything, but at this point, I have over 2,000.

        • Also, I’ve been following you, Chip Walton, and jake Keehler since your brewing tv days. This blog is amazing, as is chop and brew. Have to give a shout out to those who have inspired me. The massive collection of recipes I have acquired, represents a starting point that your knowledge has pointed me towards. It isn’t a collection of all the recipes that I will attempt to brew, but a starting point to emulate what you have done, to see if I can push boundaries, and come up with something stellar. My hat is off to you good sir

  12. Two quick bits – First, what’s your brewing water look like for this one? To me, water is what makes the difference between a great stout or porter or one that tastes just like all the other homebrews.

    Secondly, I just recently discovered Challenger and maybe it’s just the batch I got my hands on, but it is such an amazing English hop. I get that nice earthy/spicy/marmaladey English note, but there’s this smooth cocoa butter thing going on as well that just really pops out to me. Every English beer I brew now gets at least a little Challenger if I use finishing hops.

  13. Late to the party, sorry about that. Just brewed up a dry stout yesterday, pretty basic recipe just substituted40% of the roast barley for chocolate malt and fermenting it with mangrove jacks dry British ale yeast. During the brew day I had about 7 liters of left over wort (efficiency was higher than expected) so I have started an experiment, I pitched a small yeast cake of 3787 on to the small batch and I was wondering if a dry belgian stout is or has been a thing at any point in time?
    (Sorry for wordy as he’ll explanation and question)
    Cheers mate,
    Jim.

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      • Hops question – are the three used in equal proportions? I loaded all the recipe information into Beer Smith and used equal proportions of hops. I had to adjust the amounts at 90% @ 60 mins and 10% @ 15 mins but I did get the recipe to come out. I’m hoping to brew this Sunday. Cheers

        • No – I ended up using something close to 2:1:1 Hersbrucker-Challenger-Goldings, but the main thing is hitting the IBUs with the bittering addition (aroma is pretty slight), so I think your proportions will be fine.

          • I wanted to let everyone know I am extremely pleased with this recipe. Do to being busy I let it ferment in the bucket for four, but I think that helped overall. It is kegged and being carbonated. I gave my wife at sample taste and she thought it was the best of anything I have brewed so far. My son, who also brewed this batch with me, took a taste and I saw his eyes light up.

            I know it will be better when fully carbonated and looking forward to enjoying and sharing with friends. It does need to be served on nitro thru a proper stout faucet.

            Thanks.

  17. MD: Thanks for this thoughtful and well written post about my favorite stout. I have wondered if my Beamish empties would ever see a worthy refill and you have provided a buoy in a sea of chatter.

  18. Hi Micheal,

    Can you or someone who has brewed Beamishish tell me more about the hop blend? On Chip’s C&B site, the blend is listed as 1:1:2 ratio, but there’s four hops listed. Is the above just 0.9 oz of each hop at 60 min and the remainder of the blend at 15 mins? This looks like a beer I’d like to brew. Thanks for any help and advice.

    Justin T

    • Hey Justin,

      There are just three hops – Challenger, East Kent Golding, and Hallertau Hersbrucker (one hop); the additions can be scaled to hit the target IBU, and the first one is the most important/biggest.

      Cheers, and have fun!

      • Hi MIcheal,

        I finally ordered my ingredients. How important is the last addition? I plugged my numbers in Beersmith, and the last addition seems to go against the hop ratio you posted. Matter of fact, the additions look like…..

        60′ – .65oz each of Challenger & EKG. .14 of Hersbrucker
        15′ – .07oz each of Challenger &EKG. .57 of Hersbrucker.

        Seems like the additions don’t jive with the 1:1:2 ratio. Thanks for your help.

    • Well,with some compromises due to availability, my Beamish named “Be me” came out fine and I thank you for outlining the direction overall. I wanted 5 lbs. dark LME,saw muntons 3.3 lb. can @ $13.95 each,bought Breiss dark LME @ $2.95 lb. Wanted 14 oz. chocolate malt (450L) bought Bairds chocolate malt(325-400L) and 2 oz Midnite wheat @ 550 L for color. Wanted 8 oz. Patagonia (crystal c-190), bought CaraAroma (110-150 L). Wanted 8 oz. wheat malt, bought Weyerman’s light (pale) wheat malt. Wanted Wyeast British Ale II #1335, bought New Castle Dark Ale Yeast (dry). So it made a beer….The yeast took a couple days to kick in and I almost re-pitched on day 3, but finally didn’t need to. By Halloween it was ready and a decent stout it is, though not as fond as memory would have it. THANK-YOU again, James.

  19. I will definitely be brewing this stout again. It’s been a while since my last post, but after I put the numbers in Beersmith, I came out with these additions:

    .65oz of Challenger/EKG, .14oz of Hersbrucker @ 60 min
    .07 of Challenger/EKG, .57oz of Hersbrucker @ 15 min

    I also had to sub Simpson’s Extra Dark Crystal for the C-190 (thanks Chip). Mash in was 150 instead of 152, OG was a few points lower (1.040) but FG was 1.006. Is that typical for WY 1335? It does have a pretty dry finish. I thought the 1335 was to avoid that.

    It’s a very roasty brew. I love it! I don’t know if the real thing is close to mine or not as I’ve never had Beamish, but I see this being brewed again sooner than later.

    Thanks Michael!

  20. Finally got round to brew another batch of IDS inspired on this recipe. Couldn’t get my hands on Stout Malt, so substituted this with good old Maris Otter instead. Simplified the hops with Target for bittering and Bramling Cross for aroma.

    Sipping on a pint of this good black stuf right now, and I must say it is mighty good black stuf. Love the body on this 4,2% beer. Guess the wheat and crystal are responsible for this. The Bramling Cross adds a nice hint of red fruit, but this could come from the yeast as well.

    I will most definitely be playing around with this recipe in the future!

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