“Let’s do a Sweet Stout next time” Kristen wrote to me. I thought, let’s go for the granddaddy of all Sweet Stouts: Mackeson.
When this beer was originally brewed, Mackeson was a big, mainstream product in the UK, heavily advertised on television. So much so that I can still remember the slogan: “It looks good, it tastes god and by golly it does you good”. Sadly, its fortunes were soon to take a turn for the worse.
Associated with old codgers sat in the corner of the pub with a half, Mackeson became as fashionable as the Bay City Rollers. Along with Brown Ale and Light Ale, Sweet Stout was a bottled beer that suddenly fell from favour. So much so that it’s hard to imagine now the enormous quantities of it that were sold.
Whitbread had been early players in the bottled beer game and as early as 1914 50% of their output was in bottled form. That was an enormous percentage for the time. I’m sure most UK breweries never got anywhere near that percentage at any point in the 20th century. It was through bottled beer that Whitbread became distributed nationally.
So a beer like Mackeson was very useful to have in their portfolio. And probably why Whitbread bought the Hythe Brewery in 1929. Especially a specialist and niche product like Mackeson. A beer they had a chance of getting into rival brewers’ public houses.
The version brewed at Chiswell Street in London, of which this is an example, was parti-gyled Whitbread’s other two Stouts, WOS, an Oatmeal Stout for the domestic market, and ES (Extra Stout) which was exported the Belgium. Which means some brews of Mackeson contained malted oat. How weird is that?
As brewed, Mackeson had a fairly normal attenuation of 70-75% apparent. Because the lactose wasn’t present during primary fermentation only being added after racking. It would have tasted very different before the addition of the lactose.
1965 was the year Whitbread started to voluntarily used unmalted grains, in the form of flaked barley, for the first time. The only other time had been when forced to by the government in WW II. A sad day.
Time to hand over to Kristen . . .
Notes: Bluntly, sweet stouts are a confusion to most brewers for many reasons. My guess is because very few people actual drink them, nor make them, anymore. It starts at the levels of sweetness. I’m talking proper sweet stouts now. Not the bastardized American versions that are basically a ‘comparatively’ sweet stout. Not the ones that are used as a vehicle for selling a process or a trademark, new bottle, new glass, etc etc. Only a few places still make them in the good old UK, and they don’t make much no matter how tasty they are. A lot of American brewers like chucking lactose into big stouts to beef them up but I like to think they are doing it to stick it to the millennials, again. Doesn’t make them sweet stouts. Stouts that are poorly fermented and sweet aren’t sweet stouts either. There is still one place where they like their ‘sweet’ stouts. Funny enough, these are in the hot tropical regions. You’ll basically find two versions; either in the lower alcohol ‘sweet’ stout or the omnipresent ‘tropical stouts’, which on a side note is my desserted island beer (porpoiseful pun). There is just something refreshing about drinking a ‘hot’ 7.5% stout…soul soothing no less. To me, the very most important thing about this recipe, is that I’ll be half naked on a beach in Jamaica drinking myself legless on 7.5% tropical, sexy and ‘sweet’ Dragon Stout while you read this. So you can hate me, or you can hate me and do something stupid like doubling the gravity and making a big bastard of a beer and drink my sexy dad-bod out of your mind…I’d probably up the invert percent to 12-15% so it doesn’t get too heavy…but that’s not this beer. Wait! Just make this first before you cackhand it all up… Can we please just focus on this beer Kristen? Holy crap, who brought this guy…
Malt: I’ve talked about mild malt a lot before. I have thought. Many thoughts sometimes. Basically, to me, Kristen, Paul’s Mild malt is in a league of its own. That’s not to say that all the other mild malts aren’t beautiful snowflakes in their own way…I’m saying, they may be snowflakes, but in the way your mom says you’re a unique snowflake. Seriously though, I’ve tried pretty much all non-UK mild malts and most are pretty much bluster and word smything. E.g. Turkish Delight. Sometimes you don’t need 3000# of Mild malt. Sometimes you can’t get 10# of the stuff. The most important thing to me about this entire recipe is that you get off your Khyber Pass and just do it. If you can’t get the mild malt good stuff, use a really nice and chewy pale malt. Maris is always great. Optic if you can get it. Canadian pale is really nice. Stay away from German pils and US pale malts on a whole. Even though not traditional, you can always throw in some Vienna or Munich to a more basic pale malt to get that ‘maltiness’ up a bit. I mean, there is nothing from stopping you from doing all Munich or Vienna. To me, this beer is much more about the play with roast and sugar than the base malt…although if you can, do it right. ALSO: Note that the lactose is added to this after fermentation which will bump up the gravity by 5 points or so. You can, however, throw it in at the whirlpool which I’ve found no difference AND is much easier to do, IMO. Which means if you put it in the whirlpool, your OG and FG will be about 5pts higher. Givertake. YMMV.
Hops: Doesn’t matter. Use whatevers. There is just a good amount to add an edge to the finish to keep its corpulence down.
Yeast: A nice English yeast will do nicely. Or a neutral one. Or a lager, like the tropical versions. Whatever your favorite house strain is, or play around with something new. Just make sure its healthy and not Belgian, Weizen, Wit, etc etc POF+.
Cask: Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.