It’s Winter! What You Should Be Brewing Right Now

It’s winter, well at least in the Midwest. For those living in colder climates, our palates scream for hearty, full bodied beers this time of year.  There are a range of beer styles to choose from to satisfy your desire for heavier beer.  My “go-to” beer for winter is a Foreign Extra Stout. I feel it’s a nice blend of  hearty, yet still easy drinking enough to enjoy a couple of pints.
The Foreign Extra Stout has an interesting and long style history. The style dates back to 1801 when it was reportedly developed and named by Guinness. In short, the style is a variant of traditional Irish dry stouts originally brewed for the tropical regions. Higher alcohol and hopping rates helped the stout survive the long journey to the colonies.1

Here is the summary profile for a Foreign Extra Stout:

Color Range:30-40 SRM
Original Gravity:1.056-1.075 OG
Final Gravity:1.010-1.018 FG
IBU Range:50-70
ABV Range:6.3-8.0%
Appearance:Deep brown to black in color. Tan to brown head with good retention.
Aroma:Moderate to high roasted grain aromas, often with coffee, chocolate and/or lightly burnt notes. Low to medium fruitiness. May have sweet aroma, or molasses, licorice, dried fruit, and/or vinous aromatics. Stronger versions can have a subtle, clean aroma of alcohol. Hop aroma moderately low to none, can be earthy, herbal, or floral. Diacetyl low to none.
Flavor:Moderate to high roasted grain aromas, often with coffee, chocolate and/or lightly burnt character, although without a sharp bite. Moderately dry. Low to medium esters. Medium to high bitterness. Moderate to no hop flavor, can be earthy, herbal, or floral. Diacetyl medium-low to none.
Mouthfeel:Medium-full to full body, often with a smooth sometimes creamy character. May give a warming (but never hot) impression from alcohol presence. Moderate to moderately-high carbonation. 
Source: BJCP & Beer Styles

If you’re going to brew a Foreign Extra Stout… In their book, “Brewing Classic Styles”, Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer profiles the Foreign Extra Stouts this way:

Foreign Extra Stout – 

A very dark, roast, and moderately strong ale. This is an intermediate style that can be brewed by extract-with-grain or all-grain methods. Ferments at 67 to 70 degrees F (19 to 21 degrees C).

(13.8-18.2 °P)
(2.6-4.6 °P)
30-7030-40 SRM
59-79 EBC
5.5-8.0% ABV
4.3-6.3% ABW
Source: Brewing Classic Styles, Jamil Zainasheff & John Palmer 2007

Guidance when brewing a Foreign Extra Stout

It’s probably best to first decide which variation of this style you wish to brew. Do you want a drier, less fruity version or a sweeter, fruitier tropical version?  I’ve learned after brewing many Foreign Export Stout batches that by simply choosing the right yeast you can brew the style variation you want. More on that later.

Base Malts

Start with a healthy portion of British pale ale malt. Maris Otter is a good, hearty character choice.  It should account for about 80% of your grain bill.

Secondary Malts

First off, you’ll need to include some roasted barley for not only roast but for dark color as well. Also, medium crystal malts should make up about 10% of your grain bill. Consider augmenting your recipe with some chocolate malt as well. Some brewers add some acid malt to replicate the tangy characteristics found in classic commercial Foreign Extra Stouts. 


A simple, single charge of bittering hops are all that’s needed for this style. Classic English bittering hops to consider include Kent Goldings, Fuggle and Challenger.


This style calls for a traditional brewing approach. A single-infusion mash in the low to mid 150 degrees Fahrenheit, encouraging some body in the beer works great for this style.


As I alluded to earlier, depending on which version of this style you desire, you have a yeast choice to make. If you wish to make the drier, cleaner version of this style, choose a yeast like White Labs California Ale (WLP001), Wyeast American Ale (1056) or Fermentis Safale US-05. If you want the sweeter, more tropical version of this style choose an English yeast like White Labs London Ale (WLP013), Wyeast London Ale (1028) or Danstar Nottingham.


When brewing a Foreign Extra Stout, consider using a Black (e.g. Bru’n Water) water profile. If you are aiming for the drier and cleaner style version, use a Black Dry profile. Here’s that profile:

Ca: 50 | Mg: 15  Na: 33 | SO4: 84 | Cl: 39

If you are after the more tropical version of the style, consider the Black Balanced profile. Here’s the profile for Black Balanced:

Ca: 50 | Mg: 10 | Na: 33 | SO4: 57 | Cl: 44

My experiences brewing a Foreign Extra Stout

I’ve brewed this style many times and have settled on a slightly sweeter more tropical version. I’ve accomplished this by simply picking an English yeast strain and fermenting it on the warmer end of the manufacturer’s optimum temperature range. This encourages some of the fruitier esters associated with these yeasts. To gain unique and deeper malt character, I use English malts whenever possible. Along with roasted barley, I’ve had good luck using equal amounts of crystal 40 and crystal 80 malt in my recipes. Lastly, I really like using pale chocolate malt in place of chocolate malt in my recipe. It seems to add more of mild milk chocolate malt flavor, though it does take away from the overall beer color. 


I surfed the internet for some more well known recipes to consider brewing. Here’s a few to consider:

Blackstrap Foreign Extra Stout (5 Gallons): Craft Beer & Brewing

OG: 1.074, FG: 1.018
IBUs: 61
ABV: 7.7%


  • 10 pounds Maris Otter
  • 1 pounds Fawcett Crystal 45L
  • 1 pound Breiss Extra Special Roast Pale Chocolate Malt 
  • 0.5 pound Roasted Barley
  • 0.25 pounds Black Patent malt 
  • 0.5 pounds Dark Molasses


  • 0.75 oz. Polaris (20% AA) at 60 mins
  • 1 oz. Hallertau (4% AA) at 5 minutes

Yeast: Irish Ale (Wyeast 1084)

Directions: Mill the grains  and mix with 4.1 gallons ate 163 degrees Fahrenheit strike water to reach a mash temperature of 152 degrees Fahrenheit. Hold this temperature for 60 minutes. Vorlauf until your runnings are clear, then run off into the kettle. Sparge the grains with 3.1 gallons and top up as necessary to obtain 6 gallons of wort. Before bringing to a boil, add molasses and stir until dissolved. Boil for 60 minutes, following the hops schedule.

After the boil, chill the wort to slightly below fermentation temperature, about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Aerate the wort with pure oxygen or filtered air and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 3 days, then let the temperature rise by a degree or two per day to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Hold at that temperature for at least a week, or until 2-3 days following the termination of fermentation. Cold crash, then bottle or keg the beer and carbonate to 2 volumes of CO2.   

New Stout II (5 Gallons): ECKraus

OG: 1.071, FG: 1.019
ABV: 6.8%
IBUs: 38
SRM: 40+
Boil Time: 60 minutes


  • 9 pounds English pale malt
  • 3 pounds Roasted barley
  • 0.5 pounds Crystal 40L malt
  • 0.5 pounds Black Patent


  • 2.0 oz. East Kent Goldings at 60 mins

Yeast: Wyeast 1084: Irish Ale

Directions: The day before brewing, prepare a 2L yeast starter (or just use two packets of Wyeast 1084). Mash crushed grains at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes. Sparge to collect 6.5-7 gallons of wort in your brew kettle. Bring to a boil and add Kent Goldings hops. Boil for 60 minutes. Whirlpool, chill wort, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Aerate well and pitch yeast at 72 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Ferment at 65 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks. Bottle or keg for 2.3-2.6 vols CO2. 

Foreign Extra Stout is my suggestion for what beer you should be brewing now. Please share your suggestions for which beer styles to brew for winter. Cheers!

1 Source: BrewWiki

2 thoughts on “It’s Winter! What You Should Be Brewing Right Now”

  1. Thanks for the comment. I share your love for Irish Stout. I can drink it year-round!

  2. It’s funny you chose this style for winter because the “standard” Irish Stout is my go to for summer home brewing. It’s a nice solid beer with a dry finish and it supports experimental stuff (like adding smoked barley) without detracting from it. I’ll have to ponder this and the addition of molasses which sounds fantastic.

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