Designing a Beer - Oatmeal Stout

Designing a Beer - Oatmeal Stout

When thinking about what to brew next, one will often default to their favorite book, website or local expert for advice; nothing wrong with that but why not ask yourself for advice? In all likelihood, if you are an all grain brewer, you already have enough experience and wherewithal to make up your own recipe. You have been enjoying beer for years and have developed at least a small understanding of what malt characteristics and hop additions add to a beer - you can do this. Follow me as I design my first oatmeal stout recipe after the jump.

I am no stranger to designing original recipes and this is a style I have rather strong opinions about so it will be a stout for me but maybe not you. A stout, to me, is a beer with a crisp flavor of heavily roasted malts, the bitterness of dark chocolate and the mouthfeel of whole milk. I am not looking for an overly sweet or citrus character, nor do I want something so hop forward that the roasted, fresh baked brown bread, aroma and flavor is lost.

First Things First; How much booze do you want in this brew? Sure, there are style guidelines and they should be followed but hey, this is your beer, make it what you want. For this recipe, however, I will be following the guidelines found on, they are as follows:

OG: 1.048 - 1.065
FG: 1.010 - 1.018
(ABV: 4.2 - 5.9%)
IBUs: 25 - 40
Color: 22 - 40 SRM

Now that the guideline is chosen we will have to insure that the grain we use will put us in the proper gravity range and thereby proper alcohol by volume (ABV). Assuming we are making a 5.5 gallon batch (final product will be about 5 gallons, kegged), we can use software or long-hand to estimate the amount of grain we can use to get our targeted ABV. My target will be, as it often is, the higher end of the style's range.


The Main Grain we chose for the backbone of the beer, more often than not, is the malt lowest in complexity. US 2-Row is the default of many brewers, it is cheap, high in sugar and low in color contribution. Do not think that this is bad grain, it is wondrous and used so widely its importance is often forgotten. Specialty grains are very powerful and a beer can not easily be made solely from them. A beer made of ten pounds of chocolate malt would taste like liquid burnt toast - yuk. Instead the main grain, or base malt, must be balanced with smaller amounts of specialty grains in certain combinations to achieve a properly complex and delicious beer. I have decided to use two types of base malt; 2-Row and Munich. The 2-Row will provide a great deal of the overall sugars and the Munich will provide a more malt heavy character to the beer as a whole; think Marzen/Octoberfest flavors.*

5 lbs US 2-Row
4 lbs Munich Malt

Specialty Grains make up a very small percentage of the mash but will be contributing most of the flavor, color and malt aromas. Traditionally, and quite obviously, oatmeal stouts are created mainly with heavily roasted grains. For this batch I have chosen to add Crystal 120L, a reoccurring favorite, and biscuit malt to the common tag team of roasted barley and chocolate malts.

1 lbs Chocolate Malt
8 oz Roasted Barley
8 oz Biscuit Malt
4 oz Crystal 120 L
1 lbs Flaked Oats

The Flaked Oats will provide the desired silky mouthfeel, body and head retention without using any derived adjuncts and if roasted could even provide a nuttier flavor to the brew. All that remains is to pick a yeast.

Yeast can alter the flavor, aroma and texture of a beer as much, if not more, than any of the other ingredients so it is important that the right yeast is chosen for the job. For this recipe though, I will choose my all-time favorite and most versatile yeast; Nottingham. As you know, I make sure to never let my home-bred stock get low so it is always around but I do not chose it out of laziness (OK, maybe a little). I work with this yeast often because it is so good at revealing the true ingredients of the brew. This yeast, at the correct temperature, will hardly impact the flavor of the beer at all and allow the malt profile to really show through. If Nottingham does help with anything it helps to bring out that inborn and delicious fresh baked bread quality that a good beer has and an oatmeal stout requires. Perhaps the next batch I will try a true stout or red ale yeast, but this time - Nottingham it is! 

Wait, What About the Hops?! Well, in truth, they are of a smaller concern to this brew than say, an IPA. All that matters is they provide enough bitterness to counteract the sweetness from the 120L and do not overpower the malt profile we have created. What this means is that we will be using a long boiling, low-power hop and a very small amount of aroma hops.

1.5 oz Willamette (5.5%) for 60 minutes
0.5 oz Willamette (5.5%) for 15 minutes
1 tsp Irish Moss

Mash Profile affects the recipe as much as ingredients, so pay attention to your boil times and hop schedules! We want a full body so a higher mash temperature is going to be required.

Mash 14 qt at 156 F for 60 minutes
Drain wort
Sparge with 5 gal at 180 F
Follow Hop Schedule

Cool, transfer, pitch yeast
Give this batch 4 weeks in primary before you keg or bottle it please and thank you.

I Hope this has given you insight into the recipe design process and inspired you to create your own. This recipe was researched a bit but honestly, I just added what I thought would work! It is easier than you think and with a mildly educated palate, some experience and a bit of practice you will never want to follow a recipe again!