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Formulating the Oatmeal Toffee Stout

Posted by homebrewdad on 12/29/2013 at 08:24:34 AM


Recently, I've found myself sampling more stouts than I have at any time in the past.  I've particularly enjoyed Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, Samuel Smith's Chocolate Stout, and Left Hand Milk Stout.  Naturally, this fired my imagination, and I soon found myself tinkering with stout recipes in Beersmith.

It seems a little strange that I've been brewing for two years now, but have never done a stout of any kind; clearly, I'm long past overdo to attempt the style.  Fortunately, Santa brought me a gift certificate to Alabrew (my local homebrewing store), so December 26th found me there as I picked up my ingredients. 

I considered going with a tried and true recipe - perhaps Jamil's or Yooper's - but while I did use their recipes (along with Ray Daniels' superb book, Designing Great Beers) for inspiration, I ended up going with something a little further out in left field. 

From the beginning, I was certain that I wanted a smooth stout.  Roastiness is fine, as long as it's in moderation (after all, a beer isn't a stout without some roasty character), but I do not personally enjoy the super strong stouts that taste like licking a charred log.  Likewise, coffee notes are okay, I suppose... but since I don't particularly care for coffee to begin with, I don't really want a beer that tastes too much like it.

Ideally, I'd like a sweeter stout that features some more complex flavors - I want more than a one trick roast pony.  As a matter of fact, I'd love to brew a stout that features caramel and toffee flavors to balance out that roastiness.  However, I want to come up with these flavors by use of grains and process only - I don't want to go the route of artificial flavoring, actual candy, or similar "cheating" ingredients.

As a result, I've come up with an oatmeal stout recipe that will easily be the most complex brew that I have done so far.  Caramel flavor should be fairly easy to get via crystal malt, but toffee - which is even more appealing in my mind - is a bit tougher.  Crystal 40L is supposed to yield a toffee flavor, but getting more than a hint (which may well be lost in a beer with strong flavor) is a challenge.  If it comes out as I hope, I'll call this beer an oatmeal toffee stout.

I've done a fair amount of homework on the subject, and research tells me that my best bet for toffee flavor is to boil down a gallon of my first runnings; supposedly, the caramelization should bring out the flavor I'm looking for - or should at least give a stronger caramel flavor.  It will also add at least another hour to my brew day (if not more).

To get a true toffee flavor, I believe that I'll need another flavor component - butter (caramel plus butter equals toffee).  To this end, I'm using WLP004 (Irish ale yeast), which is known to give a hint of diacetyl (a chemical compound that yields slickness in mouthfeel and can give a buttery flavor). 

I've had great luck with WLP004 in Irish red ales, but I'll need to convince this yeast to give me more diacetyl than normal - without going overboard.  I intend to pitch the yeast at just a bit warmer temperature than normal, ferment the beer at the very top of the yeast's temperature range, and then possibly cold crash the beer right as it gets to terminal gravity.  The first two steps should increase diacetyl potential, and the third one should help preserve what diacetyl that has been produced (cold will knock the yeast dormant, which will prevent it from cleaning up the excess diacetyl).  However, if I cold crash too soon, I'll have an incomplete fermentation that could lead to a more cloying beer than I want (or even the risk of bottle bombs).

And naturally, I couldn't leave well enough alone - I've decided to toast some of my oats, as well, in the hopes of adding some more complex flavor to this beer. 

As of the time of this writing, I am cold crashing my starter, and I have eight ounces of toasted oats (which smell heavenly) waiting on my kitchen counter.  If everything goes according to my hopes, I'll end up with a truly special beer; I'll have smooth roastiness from black roasted barley and pale chocolate malt, I'll have toasty flavors from a little victory malt and the toasted oats, I'll have some subtle nutty hints from the toasted oats and the use of maris otter as my base grain, and I'll have caramel and toffee from a mix of crystal 40L, crystal 60L, the first runnings reduction, and the diacetyl production.  And of course, I'll have a wonderful creamy mouthfeel and long-lasting fluffy head from the flaked oats (and a couple of ounces of flaked barley). 

Of course, it's entirely possible that I'll end up with a hot mess on my hands.  I could end up with too many conflicting flavors in this beer, or I could screw up the reduction or diacetyl steps and really damage the flavor profile, resulting in a beer that I have to choke down. 

Or I could simply end up with an okay, but unremarkable beer.  Who knows?

I have to admit, I am really excited about the possibilities here.  If I pull this off, I feel like I'll have a signature type beer.  No matter what the final result, I've had a great time putting this recipe together, and I feel like I've learned a lot about some aspects of brewing that I've never really looked at before.  If this one turns out as well as I'm hoping... well, I suppose that's just a really nice bonus.

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Batch Size (gallons)5.5
Recipe typeAll Grain
Style13C. Oatmeal Stout
Original Gravity1.063
Final Gravity1.018
ABV5.91% (basic)   /   5.92% (advanced)       [what's this?]
Color33.2 SRM
Boil Time60 min

YeastWhite Labs WLP004 (Irish Ale Yeast)

Pale Malt, Maris Otter9 lbs69.6%3
Oats, Flaked 11 oz5.3%1
Victory Malt 8 oz3.9%25
Oats, Flaked (toasted) 8 oz3.9%15
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L 8 oz3.9%40
Black Barley (Stout) 8 oz3.9%500
Chocolate Malt, Pale 8 oz3.9%225
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L 4 oz1.9%60
Carafa III 4 oz1.9%525
Barley, Flaked 4 oz1.9%1.7

Goldings, East Kent (Boil)1.85 oz605%33.3

for complete recipe (with details like mash and fermentation temps), click here

Tags for this post: stout, oatmeal, toffee, caramel, roastiness, beer, brewing

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