Back to My Roots: Brewing Beer: The Bourbon aged Chocolate Stout

This is my third post of my new “Back To My Roots: Brewing Beer” series. In these posts I will explain the styles of beer I plan on brewing at the Cool Luckett Brewery as well as provide information on brewing techniques. Hope you enjoy! Don’t worry, relax, have a homebrew!

The Story:

After several attempts to brew a ridiculously chocolatey stout in the past I knew I needed to step up my cocoa game. I had brewed a straight chocolate stout using 8 oz of Hershey’s cocoa powder before with pretty decent results. I then mixed things up and brewed the same recipe but aged it on top of 4 lbs of strawberries, coining it a strawberry chocolate stout. Both of these beers came out pleasant, however the chocolate flavors and aromas faded so quickly that I knew I needed to find a way to maintain the cocoa.

Over the years of brewing chocolate stouts I have always called them “Forsythia’s Chocolate stout” or “Forsythia’s strawberry chocolate stout”. Forsythia was my grandmothers favorite flower and every time we would see them come spring her face would light up with joy. I wanted to dedicate one of my beers to the most loving, happy, and kind person I’ve known.

The Recipe:

I decided it was time to try the cacao nibs method. In my experience the most lusciously thick, chocolatey commercial beers have been from the breweries that age their beer on cacao nibs.Cacao nibs are basically raw chocolate, pieces of cacao beans that have been roasted, hulled and prepped. They can be used to bring out the darker flavors in chocolate. I used a total of 8 oz of cacao nibs.

Cacao nibs and vanilla beans

Cacao nibs and vanilla beans

I also decided to use 2 vanilla beans to help compliment the dark chocolate flavors. These bad boys look tiny, but man are they potent. Overall I aged my fermented stout on top of the cacao nibs and vanilla beans for a total of 3 weeks.

Ode to my brewing days in Central PA

Ode to my brewing days in Central PA

I roasted up the base recipe a bit, and kept the cocoa powder addition. The final ABV on this beer came out to 8.3% making it one of the biggest beers I’ve ever brewed.

Recipe: Chocolate Stout
Brewer: Nick
Asst Brewer:
Style: Sweet Stout
TYPE: Partial Mash
Taste: (35.0) Use 6oz cocoa powder, last 5 min
Age on 8 oz cocoa nibs
Age on 2 vanilla beans

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 5.72 gal
Estimated OG: 1.072 SG
Estimated Color: 57.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 35.5 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
6.00 lb Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM) Dry Extract 57.14 %
1.50 lb Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 14.29 %
1.50 lb Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain 14.29 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 4.76 %
0.50 lb Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 4.76 %
0.50 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 4.76 %
1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] (60 min) Hops 30.6 IBU
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (10 min) Hops 5.0 IBU

I decided to also experiment with aging the beer on oak chips that were soaked in Wild Turkey Bourbon. I have never been a fan of straight up bourbon, but for some reason I absolutely love bourbon-barrel aged stouts. I absolutely love the way the subtle bourbon notes complement the thick, roasty flavors.

I aged a 375 ml bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon on 4 oz of French Oak chips for a few weeks. I then added the bourbon soaked oak chips to the aging beer for a total of 10 days.

Tasting Notes:


Appearance: Dark, opaque. Nice solid head to begin, but fades rather quickly.

Aroma: Dark chocolate and roast notes evident. Pronounced vanilla/oaky notes, but not overpowering. Subtle-very light bourbon notes.

Mouthfeel: Thick and smooth.

Taste: Dark, roast, thick chocolate(very pronounced, lingers through the taste). Oak is very present and probably could use a little less to be honest(probably need to limit time beer sits on the oak). Very, very subtle bourbon overtones. Next time I will up the bourbon to at least a fifth.

Overall: I will definitely be using cacao nibs for every chocolate beer I make from now on. This has been on tap for over a month now and the chocolatey, thick flavors have barely faded. It will be interesting to see how this tastes several months from now. I hope the chocolate maintains and the oak mellows out a bit. I really enjoyed experimenting with oak chips and bourbon and will definitely do so in the future.

Look for a post about a Belgian Dubbel I brewed in collaboration with Trevor Peyton from Rugged Trail Brewing. Co shortly!


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