“The Bearded Lady,” Award winning blackberry stout recipe

As some of you already know, we got some very exciting news last weekend – our blackberry Belgian stout, “The Bearded Lady” won a GOLD MEDAL in the “All American Homebrew Competition,”  a BJCP sanctioned contest hosted by the Cincinnati Malt Infusers.

Obviously, we are ecstatic. Though we’ve been brewing beer for about 7 years, we’ve only just started entering competitions.  What makes the win all the sweeter is now that I’ve actually judged in a competition, I know how intense and critical our BJCP folks are.

Blackberry Belgian Stout

Even before winning the award, we knew this beer was pretty special. We first brewed it in the summer of 2012. We liked it so much, it became a household seasonal. Since then, we’ve had special requests for it from friends, acquaintances, and near-strangers too.

The flavor on “The Bearded Lady” is extremely complex. It starts with an aroma of tart fruit with a hint of chocolate and roast. Then when sipping, you get sweetness up front, then tartness from the blackberries, which rounds out to a luscious mocha finish. I came up with the name “The Bearded Lady” because the stereotypically feminine sweet tart fruit with a burly lumberjack stout base lends it freakish drinkability.

It’s a strange, beautiful brew.

The Bearded Lady, blackberry Belgian stout

“The Bearded Lady”

  • 1 liter yeast starter using a packet of Wyeast 1581 (if you can’t find 1581, which is a specialty Belgian stout yeast, try another Belgian yeast strain with similar specs)
  • 12 lbs two row malt
  • 2 lbs crystal 60
  • 8 oz chocolate malt
  • 8 oz roasted barley
  • 4 oz black patent
  • 8 oz flaked wheat
  • 1.5 oz Fuggle hops (AA ~4%) @ 60 minutes (use a hop bag if you have one)
  • 1.5 oz Fuggle hops @ 15 minutes
  • 1/2 Whirlfloc tablet at 5 minutes before end of boil
  • a 49 oz can of Vintner’s Harvest Fruit Puree – Blackberry

This recipe will produce a 5 gallon batch of beer. Mash in at 148 degrees for 45 minutes, then step up to 152 for another 45 minutes. Mash out. Boil for 60 minutes. Cool down, and pitch yeast, making sure to aerate the wort well.

Here are the specs:

  • Original gravity: 1.062
  • Gravity after primary: 1.015
  • Final gravity after secondary: 1.017
  • ABV: 6.5% ABV
  • IBU: 30 IBU
  • SRM: 35

Like I’ve said before, we always ferment in a plastic bucket, typically for a week or two then transfer to a 5 or 6 Gallon Glass Carboy for another week or two. We kept our beer at ~68 degrees Fahrenheit throughout primary and secondary.

When transferring from primary to secondary, add your blackberry puree directly into your secondary vessel. The contents of the blackberry puree are sterile, but make sure to dunk the outside of the can and can opener into sanitizer (we use Star San). You may also want to sanitize a funnel to pour the puree easily into a narrow necked carboy – from experience, this stuff stains.

After remaining in secondary for 1 – 2 weeks, cold crash to 38 degrees overnight before kegging. Cold crashing helps to improve the clarity of the beer. You can also add  a natural clarifier like isinglass.

Checking final gravity

Our next beer in the planning stages is a Belgian tripel with chamomile.

What delightfully bizarre beers are you brewing up?

27 thoughts on ““The Bearded Lady,” Award winning blackberry stout recipe”

    1. 🙂 haha – thanks! if you get into homebrewing you too could try some. But seriously, though, homebrewing is so fun. Cheers!

  1. Congrats as well on the win! Are you doing any water treatments with this stout? Batch or fly sparge? I live in the area and am trying to see how others approach making stouts/porters with our water. Thanks.

    1. Jason, thanks for stopping by! We did not do anything special to the water with this beer. We’ve been thinking of getting a water profile since our water is so hard, but so far it hasn’t hurt us too much.

      We fly sparge (we use this sparge arm: http://www.amazon.com/Affordable-Stainless-Steel-Sparge-Arm/dp/B0064OF1QO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393804276&sr=8-1&keywords=sparge+arm – though we’ve had to tinker with it a lot to get it to work right. The caps at the end kept falling off so we taped them on with electrical tape). We’ve gotten our efficiency to about 85% since using this technique.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Congrats on the win! Curious – since you’ve brewed this a few times, do you find that the SG after secondary is always higher than after primary? Since puree is made up of mostly water (which will thin out the beer), plus fruit sugars that will be 100% fermented, I’d expect it to further lower the SG. My experience has been that adding fruit to the secondary reduces final gravity and lowers the body of a beer.

    1. For this recipe we have seen that the gravity is always a tad bit higher than originally. With other fruit beers this has not been the case as you’ve experienced – either the gravity has come back down to previous levels or gone even lower, though I don’t think all fruit sugars are 100% fermentable. For whatever reason with this beer it has just slightly increased the final gravity.

  3. I picked a ton of fresh blackberries and decided I’m going to brew this beer today. Can I ask why you chose flaked wheat instead of flaked oats? Presumably the flaked wheat was added to improve head retention and add body, but usually oats are added for those reasons to this style, and flaked wheat is used more commonly in, well.. wheat beers, such as wits. Thanks! Can’t wait.

  4. Currently brewing 2 batches: double chocolate stout with toasted coconut and dark roast coffee (both steeped), and a Belgian Tripel with juniper, sweet orange, and ginger. This will be my next recipe though.

  5. Congrats on the WIN! It’s always nice to win, or in my case enter a homebrew competition just for the feedback. I threw your recipe into BeerSmith and it was off with your numbers. I am running at about 76% efficient at home and I needed to adjust the 2-row and Crystal 60 to get your numbers. I also used Wyeast 1762 a Belgian Abby II yeast which I thought came close. I have this sitting on secondary now on the Blackberry puree for the next 10 days. I cannot wait to keg and try this one. My color started out as a light chocolate brown and then the blackberries made it much darker. I also added a whirlfloc tab for a little more clarity. I am hoping to carbonate to around 2.1 volumes CO2.

  6. Hi there! I attended the “What’s Brewing” festival in Stavanger last weekend, and was lucky to try your “Bearded Lady Dessert Edition”. I loved it, and I would really like to try to replicate it at home. Is this the recipe? Because I can remember a distinct and pleasant chocolate and coconut taste – and exactly this is what I am after. I can only imagine how well it would work with something vanilla-ish for dessert – like a good quality ice cream, og something…

  7. Wow, what a beauty. I just wondered today how I could possibly use all my blackberries in the freezer, and talking to the guys at the brewshop about it. They suggested using Nøgne Ø’s Porter as a base, but seeing your marvellous prizewinning recipe, I think I will go for that.

    Have had some experience with different berries in Weissen, and it almost always turned out for the better. Looking forward to checking this one out.

    Now brewing a spruce/juniper/lingonberry weissen while fingers are crossed.

    1. Awesome! Let me know how it goes and if you have any questions. Seems like the perfect time of year for a unique weizen. Good luck!

      1. Had to use Lallemand Abbaye yeast for the Lady, but she seemed to enjoy it. (Fermentation took off like a rocket) The berries are in now and I will check the SG in a couple of days. Cannot wait to taste. Thanks again for sharing!

        The weizen turned out really weird and fun with some spruce taste and juniper at the finish to counterbalance the sour lingonberry. Not yet had anything like it.

    2. Just opened a carbonated bottle yesterday, and I still enjoy the visual sight of the pinkish foam and the delicious development of sweet and tart tastes. This is indeed a winner. Thanx again for sharing.

  8. Any experience aging this beer? I know you said you kegged it but I’d love to brew this over the summer and have a nice winter beer ready to go in 5 or 6 months.

    1. In my experience, darker styles like this will age pretty nicely for up to 6 months as long as they don’t get too oxidized during bottling. I think if you brew towards the end of the summer, she’ll be drinking great through at least January. Cheers!

  9. I’d like to try this one, since it sounds very fine. But since I’m new to brewing, I’m wondering if I have to mash in all the grains at the beginning or add the darker ones later to avoid astringent flavors?
    Thanks for this interesting recipe!

  10. Congrats was wondering if you had your fruit sink to bottom.
    I have and am tempted to stir but really don’t want to risk infection just worried about flavor of fruit in beer thanks

  11. I’ve brewed this twice 2.5 gallon. I pick blackberries and freeze every summer. What a great way to use them! I couldn’t find the the yeast the recipie calls for, so i used the dry Windsor yeasts both times. My brew club loves this awesome recipie!

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