West Coast Stout
West Coast Stout
By Pete Ricks

Things just seem bigger out West. Bigger malt. Bigger hops. Bigger Beers. Many beer consumers in this country don't realize it since they seem to be preoccupied with a few paltry carbs, but there is a hop revolution taking place in California and other areas of the new brewing culture. I think it was the professional brewers in California that started this hopolution several years back and it only seems to grow a little bit more each year as the upper bounds of hop decency are tested and rewritten. As homebrewers, it is fun to try and emulate these hoppy beers, although I have found it difficult to replicate them as most homebrewers do not have access to some of the hop infusion and filtration methods that professional brewers enjoy. Still, we can try! This article is about a thick, nasty, dark beer called West Coast Stout. Some of you may have had the first iteration of this beer at the 2004 Homebrewers Conference in Las Vegas. Judging by the empty keg, some of you actually liked it which is more than I can say for most people. Most beer drinkers do not have the sophisticated taste for beers that push the malt, hop, and alcohol thresholds to their limits. WCS #1 was a fine, malty, 9% ABV Imperial Stout with a Pro Mash IBU calculated at 90. When compared to the 90 - 100 IBU professional beers served at the conference, the 90 IBU of my stout started to seem more like 30. Yes, we needed a hop infusion for version two!

I Love The Smell Of Lupulin In The Morning!

Hops, hops, and more hops. That was going to be the theme of version two. Maybe a little more roasted malt too. At the homebrewers conference, Vinnie Cilurzo gave a great presentation on Double IPAs. During this presentation, he told a story about how he and Tom Nickel had contemplated hopping the sparge water for their monstrously hoppy beers. So I tried it. I had thought about doing this before but I thought it might screw with the PH level of my sparge water. With the obscene amount of hops that I was putting in this beer, I figured it was probably as good a time as any to hop the sparge water. So I tossed in a quarter ounce of Simcoe Pellets. As you can see from the picture on the right, I also used hops on the screen during the sparge. For this beer, I tossed in an ounce of Columbus flowers(17.5% AAU). The general theme here is to infuse hops into this beer at every possible point.

This Beer Isn't Just About Hops And Alcohol

No, no, no. We must have MALT! Although this beer uses an Imperial IPA hop bill similar to that of Russian River Brewing's Pliny the Elder and others, it has great malt character too. The wort that you collect for this beer should resemble 10-40 motor oil. It will be thick and dark because this beer is a high gravity monster. If you were to brew this beer and enter it in a competition, it would most definitely be in the Imperial Stout category. The starting gravity should be 1.075 or greater but feel free to crank up the grain bill to as much as your system can handle. Collect about 7.5 to 8 gallons since this brew will be boiled for 90 minutes and much hop vegetation will be added, which will decrease yield. When you get to the hot break stage, swoon the glorious vapors of 2-row, roasted, and chocolate malts infusing with the 3 ounces of high alpha bittering hops that are just starting to release their oils. This is one of my favorite times during a brew!

More Hops!

Racking the wort into a fermentation vessel is yet another opportunity to add more hops. Sure, I could craft up some wiz bang hop back and circulate my wort through it but it wouldn't match my patchwork, micro barrel brewing system. So I took the easy way out and just threw some more Columbus flowers on the screen for the funnel that I use to rack the wort into a carboy. Fast and easy. I only used a quarter ounce here, but would have used more if I had not run out of hop flowers. This will not be the only fresh hop addition to the beer. Once fermentation has completed, another 3 ounces of hops will be added during the secondary fermentation stage. Then the beer will be racked into a keg with another 3 ounces of pellet hops for the long haul. One last thing, once you pitch the yeast for this brew, make sure you have your blow-off tube cleaned up and ready for use as you will need it. If you are fermenting in a carboy or some other 5-6 gallon device, chances are this brew will resemble a volcano within 24 hours. Be prepared!

The Recipe

So here is the 5.5 gallon recipe for West Coast Stout Version 2.0. I started out with a 9% ABV grain bill, only because I wanted to leave room for the Double West Coast Stout that will undoubtedly be brewed at some point. Probably sooner rather than later! Mash the grains at 150 - 152 for 60 minutes.

    Grain Bill

    14 lbs 2-row
    1.5 lbs Roasted
    1 lb Chocolate
    .5 lb 60l Crystal
    .5 lb 120l Crystal
    .25 lb Flaked Barley
    .25 lb Flaked Oats

    Hop Bill

    1 oz Columbus Flowers. In the lauter on the screen.
    .25 oz Simcoe Pellets. In the sparge water.
    2 oz Warrior Pellets 16.6%. Bitter - 90 minutes.
    1 oz Chinook Pellets 11.1%. Bitter - 90 minutes.
    1 oz Simcoe Pellets 10.1%. Bitter - 45 minutes.
    1 oz Columbus Pellets 14.5%. Bitter/Flavor - 30 minutes.
    1 oz Centennial Pellets 9.9%. Aroma - 0 minutes.
    1 oz Simcoe Pellets 10.1%. Aroma - 0 minutes.
    1 oz Amarillo Pellets 7.1%. Aroma - 0 minutes.
    1 oz Centennial Pellets 9.9%. Dry Hop - 7 days.
    1 oz Simcoe Pellets 10.1%. Dry Hop - 7 days.
    1 oz Columbus Pellets 14.5%. Dry Hop - 7 days.
    1 oz Columbus Flowers 17.5%. Dry Hop - 7 days.
    1 oz Columbus Pellets 14.5%. In the keg - ??.
    1 oz Simcoe Pellets 7.1%. In the keg - ??.


    For the yeast, you will want to use a fairly highly attenuating one like California Ale or a Dry English Ale. Try to use one that attenuates upwards of 80% as you want to ferment this beer out as much as possible. Residual sweetness should not be an issue if all goes well in the mash. Make up a big starter and have it ready to go.

This beer is churning away in the primary as I write this article. It should be kegged in mid July of 2004 so we'll see how version two is received in comparison to version one. If you would like the recipe for version one, you can find it under the Imperial Stout category in the Beerdude.com Recipe Database. Version 1.0 was titled Highway to Ale. West Coast Stout. Until next time, cheers!