Black Cherry Coconut (Stout), a.k.a. Bière de Samain 2012

Posted: August 4, 2012 in Recipe
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The inspiration for this beer came from two places. I have wanted to try a fruit beer for some time now, and when I was given several bags of dried cherries (5 or six pounds in total) that seemed like a sign. Although I considered basing the recipe for this experiment on a Saison/ Bière de Garde, Wit or Brown Ale (ala Great Divide’s Wild Raspberry Ale), Stout seemed like the most natural pairing for tart cherries. I really prefer dry Irish style Stouts over the sweeter and more alcoholic English Sweet Stout and Russian Imperial Stout styles so was not sure how to proceed from here.

The second part of the idea came when I saw coconut sugar in Sprouts- adding sugar to a wort can give the palate the impression of dryness, since the sugar is added without the accompanying body/mouthfeel that you would get by extracting sugar from grains during the mashing process. Many of the Irish Stout recipes I looked at, including all of the Guinness clones, had sugar of some kind added to the wort. I’ve never used coconut sugar, so this is also an experiment with that as well.

For those of you who don’t know me, every year I try to brew an anniversary beer that includes new ingredients and techniques as a learning experiment. The anniversary beers tend to be a higher alcohol content (7% abv +) than I usually brew for (4-5.5% abv), and in the past have been loosely based on the Bière de Garde style. In 2011 I experiments with creating a sour mash by soaking grains in water at about 110 degrees for a couple of days, before that I’ve experimented with re-cultured yeasts, ingredients (lemon verbena, oak chips, grapefruit peel, local honeys, etc) and decoction mashes. I usually try to brew so that the anniversary beers are ready for “release” on Halloween (Samain), hence the name. This year I’ll delay the release by a little bit, and hand them out to friends and family when my son is born (late Novermber-ish).

For the technique experiment this year, I am taking inspiration from Gordon Strong’s book “Brewing Better Beer” ( and altering the preparation of the dark grains from my previous Stout and Belgian Dark Ale attempts. Instead of mashing the dark grains in with the pale grains I am separating them out this time around. I am using Black Roasted Barley, American Chocolate Malt (Briess) and Carafa Special Type III Dehusked malts. By prepping the dark grains separately, I am also able to make a larger batch of beer than I usually do. Due to pot size (and apartment living) I typically aim to yield about 3.5 gallons of finished beer per batch. This time, I can boil about four gallons of wort and add in about three gallons of cold wort (from the dark grains) and reach about 5.5 – 6 gallons of beer. The brewing process started two days before it normally would have, as detailed below. I made two trips for supplies, so that the grains would be freshly milled for both rounds of brewing. I could have had the lighter grains milled at the same time I bought the darker grains, though this would have resulted in grains that were oxidized, a lower mash efficiency and a weaker, more bitter beer (from tannins).

Black Cherry Coconut Stout

Black Cherry Coconut (Stout) actual

Two days in advance of brew day (Thursday):

Black Roasted Barley prep:

  • Brought 3 quarts of water to a full boil, added the grains and removed from heart. Steeped grains for 5 minutes before straining and putting the wort into the Ozarka water container. Placed container into the refrigerator to chill.

Carafa Special & Chocolate Malt prep:

  • Bought a 2.5 gallon container of Ozarka water, emptied out ½ gallon (into drinking glasses) and poured grains in through the spout opening. Left at room temperature to steep until the morning of brew day, when the container was place in the refrigerator to cool down.

Brew day (Saturday), Mashing:

  • Started with 4 gallons of tap water at 124 degrees, and added Maris Otter and Torrified Wheat. After dough in temp was 122 degrees; 30 minute rest.
  • Heat applied, and temp boosted to 155 degrees; planned 60 minute rest.
    • Temp after 30 minutes was 150 degrees, heat applied to for a couple of minutes
    • Temp after 60 minutes was also 150 degrees. Wort did not feel like sugars were fully developed, so continued the rest for an additional 15 minutes. After additional time, the handle of my mash rake was sticker and the wort had a higher viscosity than before; also tasted much sweeter.
  • Heat applied again, and temp boosted to 165 degrees for a 10 minute enzyme rest
  • Strained wort off grains, and used 1.5 gallons hot (about 190 degrees) water to soak the grains in an “infusion sparge” for 45 minutes.

Brew day, Boiling:

  • 90 minute total boil
    • Galena hops added after 30 minutes (timer set for 30 min).
    • Liberty hops and Irish moss added after 80 minutes (timer set for 50 min).
    • Flame out (timer set for 10 minutes); yeast activator in WYeast packet crushed.
    • Wort strained into primary to remove hops and other solids, both batches of cold word added; 4.25 gallons volume. Cold water added to bring volume up to 6 gallons.
    • Primary placed in ice bath to cool.
      • Wort has a strong dark chocolate flavor with a bitter espresso and oak undertone. Hops come through in the background.

Brew day, Post-boil:

  • Specific gravity reading: 1.052 at 89 degrees.
    • Temperature correction: +0.004.
    • Adjusted specific gravity: 1.056, or 6.75% potential abv.
  • Yeast added.

Fermentation Schedule (planned):

  • 7 days in primary fermenter.
  • Beer racked off yeast sediment in primary. Cherries prepped by blanching (to remove the oils used is packaging them, which will inhibit head development) and then puréeing. Beer racked into secondary over cherries, and a little SAF US05 dry ale yeast added. Secondary fermentation will take between 14 and 28 days.
  • Rack beer to tertiary to clarify for 7 days (I realize that this beer is going to be pretty dark and hard to see through, but I want to make sure that as much sediment as possible is removed from the beer prior to bottling).
  • Bottle condition for 11 weeks.
  • Cold condition for 1 week.
    • Actual results will be posted as comments to this post.
  1. graincandy says:

    On Saturday (8.11.12):
    Specific Gravity reading = 1.020 at 69 degrees; temperature correction is +0.001
    Adjusted SG = 1.021, or 2.6% potential alcohol – puts the beer at 4.15% abv currently
    Tastes like chocolate milk, espresso and earth.
    I took three bags of the dried cherries and put them into a pot, covered them with warm water and then brought the water to boil. Dumped most of the water (and the oils that the chreeies were coated in) and then pureed the cherries.
    Beer racked back into fermenting bucket over cherries. The WYeast Trappist strain was still pretty happy, foaming up as I stirred the cherries into the fermenting beer. I did add a little dry yeast as insurance (against the fermentation getting stuck) and added some dried Fermentis “Champagne” yeast.
    Specific Gravity after the cherry addition = 1.033 at 76 degrees; temperature correction is +0.002
    Adjusted SG = 1.035, or 4.75% potential alcohol
    As expected the cherry flavors now come through, along with cola and espresso.

  2. graincandy says:

    Monday night (8/27/12)
    Racked early, major fermentation activity has been over for a couple of days and I wanted to get the beer into containers with less oxygen exposure. Something I wasn’t planning on was the loss of about a gallon in volume due to the fruit and yeast sediments. I ended up with about 5 gallons- rather than the six I’d been expecting.
    Specific Gravity reading = 1.020 at 78 degrees; temperature correction is +0.002
    Adjusted SG = 1.022, or 2.75% potential alcohol – puts the addition of alcohol from the cherries at approximately 2%. Added to previous alcohol conversion from the grain (+4.15%) and the beer is at approximately 6.15% ABV.
    Cherry, espresso and earthy flavors still dominate with some chocolate tones in the background (though the aromas are intensely chocolatey and bread focused). Developing a slight sourness- at this point I can’t tell if that’s from the tart cherry addition, the coconut sugar or because something got contaminated along the way. After leaving the sample in a glass for 15-20 minutes the sourness dissipated, so I’m hopeful.

  3. graincandy says:

    Prep for bottling:
    Dissolved 4.5 oz demeterra sugar in 9 oz water; sanitized 9x Belgian style bottles, 3x 22 oz bottles, 1x European pint bottle (16.9 oz) and 24 longnecks (in reality the fill on these is closer to 13.5/14 oz than it is to 12 oz.
    Specific Gravity reading = 1.020 at 70 degrees; temperature correction is +0.001
    Adjusted SG = 1.021, or 2.6% potential alcohol – puts the total ABV at approximately 6.3%. Sour flavors continue to dissipate, coconut is coming through in the background now. Still strong earth, espresso and ganache flavors; floats anyone?

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