Skip to main content

Wil Wheaton Wootstout Extract Kit - Walkthrough and Notes

I bought a Wil Wheaton Wootstout extract kit from Northern Brewer quite a while ago... so long ago, in fact, that I won't be surprised if this thing is undrinkable when it's finished.  I read the instructions and they seemed so involved at the time that I wasn't comfortable brewing it.  Well, today I had the urge to brew and not a lot of time, which is the perfect scenario to brew an extract beer.

The Recipe

1 pound Flaked Rye
10 ounces of Black Malt
10 ounces of Roasted Barley
5 ounces of Carastan Malt
5 ounces of Crystal Rye Malt
3.15 pounds of Golden Light DME
3.15 pounds of Wheat DME
1 pound of Golden Light LME
3 ounces of Target hops
6 pounds of Golden Light DME
1 pound of Simplicity Candi Syrup
8 ounces of toasted and crushed pecans
3 ounces of cacao liquor
2 ounces of medium+ toasted oak cubes
6-8 ounces of bourbon (not included in the kit)
1 teaspoon of Wyeast yeast nutrient
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1 packet of Safale US-05 yeast
1 packet of Safale S-04 yeast

I opened the kit and learned that the Simplicity Candi Syrup in the kit was one of a batch I'd read about recently that wasn't inverted properly and turned into a rock in the container. I set it aside and pulled out a fresh one from a recent purchase.

The hops, when extracted from their sealed pouches, smelled fine. No indication of spoilage or soapy aroma to them.

There's a risk that the malt extract has gone stale, but I'm going to roll the dice and make the beer anyway.  I'll be using The Grainfather for this since it's convenient and already setup in the basement.

The Steep

Since this is an extract recipe, there's a steeping step in place of the mash. I put 2.5 gallons of water in the The Grainfather's kettle, inserted the basket, and waited for it to heat to 152F. Once at temperature, I added the grain packet and turned on the recirculation pump to improve extract efficiency during the steep.  I put the pecans in a muslin bag and added them to the steep.  At the end of the steep, the grains were discarded but the pecans reserved for future use.

The Boil

Enough water was added to the kettle to achieve 4 gallons of volume.  The wort was heated to boiling and I began stirring it with a spoon. As the wort swirled around the kettle, the Golden Light DME, Wheat DME, Gold DME, and Simplicity Syrup were added and the contents of the kettle stirred for a bit longer to avoid having extract accumulate on the bottom of the kettle and trip the thermal cut-off switch.

The wort was brought back to a boil.  A 90-minute boil began, with additions at the following times:

  • 90-minutes:  Target hops added
  • 15 minutes: 6 pounds Gold LME, yeast nutrient, and Irish moss added
  • 7 minutes: Wort recirculated through counter flow chiller to sterilize it
  • 0 minutes: Cacao liquor added, pecan bag re-inserted in kettle
  • Wort was pumped through the counter flow chiller into the sanitized conical stainless fermenter
Original gravity was 26.2 Brix or 1.112 Standard Gravity, which is almost exactly what BeerSmith predicted. Final volume in the kettle was just under 5 gallons and volume in the fermenter was approximately 4.5 gallons. I decided not to let the pump suck up too much of the sediment in the kettle and lost quite a bit of wort as a result.

The Fermentation

Wort went into the fermenter at 83F.  

I pitched the packets of dry yeast into the fermenter without rehydrating since the temp was a bit high. The beer was kept in a location with a 68F ambient temperature and allowed to ferment without any temperature controls.  Yeast was pitched on July 31. Primary fermentation is expected to be complete on August 27, at which time the beer will be transferred to a secondary fermenter.  While in secondary, the oak cubes will be soaked in 6-8 ounces of bourbon for a day. The cubes and bourbon will then be added to secondary to contribute their flavor to the beer.

At bottling time the bucket contained 4.25 gallons at an unadjusted reading of 16.5 Brix. When this figure is adjusted for the presence of alcohol using BeerSmith, it works out to a final gravity of 1.040 and an alcohol by volume of 9.7% not including the bourbon added during secondary.


Final volume in the bottling bucket was about 4.3 gallons. The beer was primed with 5.1 ounces of corn sugar and rehydrated champagne yeast to ensure carbonation. After bottling, the bottles were stored for a week in an insulated cooler heat-controlled to 76F. They spent an additional week or more at ambient basement temperatures of 65-68F before serving.

BeerSmith says that based on the original gravity of 1.112 SG and the final gravity reading on the refractometer of 16 Brix, the finished beer is 10.2% alcohol by volume. That's probably slightly low given the addition of bourbon along with the oak cubes.

Tasting Notes

At left, you see a bottle of the finished beer poured into a clean glass.

The color is a pitch black with finger-thick tan head that lasted about a minute or so.

The aroma delivers oak, bourbon, chocolate, and malt.

The flavor starts with a mix of hops bitterness, bourbon, oaky vanilla, and a hint of sweetness. This is followed by more bourbon and sweet malt, with a hint of astringency I associate with the hops. I get a bit of chocolate, coffee, and a hint of the pecans as well. The finish is bitter and lingering. It's a complex and intense collection of flavors.

Family members and friends who have tasted the beer have generally liked it or loved it.

If you make this kit, I would definitely recommend using a good quality bourbon as I did. (I used locally distilled Watershed Bourbon.) The reason I say this is that if you use enough bourbon to cover the wood cubes it will definitely be prominent in the beer. If you use a cheap or nasty bourbon then your beer's going to have a cheap, nasty bourbon element to the flavor.

Post-Mortem and Notes

When I've made high-gravity beers like this, carbonation has been the biggest challenge. As the photo in this post shows, the use of fresh yeast, plenty of priming sugar, and time spent in a warm environment seems to solve that issue. Despite being over 11% alcohol by volume, this beer did carbonate well and generate a nice head.

Many would disagree but for my taste this beer is a bit too bitter. If I brew it again, I'll probably dial back the hops load a bit. I might also do something to increase the chocolate flavor and consider adding some Special B malt to give it some fruit notes to go with everything else.

Apart from this, there isn't much I'd change about it. It has a nice range of flavors and they all seem to work together.

That being said, although I like the beer I don't love it as much as some do, so I don't know that I'll make it again. We'll see.


Popular posts from this blog

Yellow Label Angel Yeast vs. Typical Brewing Yeast

I currently have my second batch of rice wine fermenting with the "magical" yellow-label Angel Yeast from China, and wanted to share some of the more unusual aspects of using it.  If you've never seen or used this yeast, I suspect you're not alone.  It ships in a 500 gram package that looks like this: What makes it "yellow label" is that yellow box you see in the upper left corner of the package.  This implies that it's yeast for distilling (though you do not need to have a still or distill the output to use it).  As I understand it, inside the package is a mix of yeast and other materials which will convert starch into sugar and directly ferment it, without the need for a traditional mash step.  This can radically shorten your brewing time.  For my most-recent batch of rice wine, I heated 3 gallons of water to 155F, poured it over 13+ pounds of uncooked rice straight out of the bag, let that soak for an hour, rehydrated some of this yeast in warm water,

2021 Batch 1 - Rice Wine made with Yellow Label Angel Yeast

I've become a big fan of the Still It channel on YouTube.  About a month ago, Jesse posted a video about how he made rice wine using nothing more than water, rice, and a purported "magic" yeast from China called Yellow Label Angel Yeast. Perhaps even more amazing was the fact that he was able to make the rice wine without gelatinizing or mashing the rice.  He shows three batches in the video.  One was made by cooking the rice before adding the yeast mixture. Another was made by adding uncooked rice to boiling water.  The last was made by adding uncooked rice to room temperature water.  All three fermented out to roughly the same amount of alcohol in about two weeks. He was amazed by this, as was I. I resolved to buy some of this magical yeast from and try it out. In the Still It video, the rice is ground up in the grain mill into smaller chunks to make it easier for the enzymes in the yellow label yeast to convert and ferment.  I'm changing this up s

Making Alton Brown's Immersion Cooker Fennel Cardamon Cordial

Alton Brown's "Good Eats" series is my favorite cooking show.  I love the way he explains the "why" and "how" of a recipe in detail, which helps you understand (if things don't go right) where you may have gone wrong.  In his episode on immersion cooking (also known as sous vide), he shows you how to make a cordial in an hour using an immersion cooker. It took me a while to locate all the ingredients here in Columbus.  I ended up getting the fennel and vodka at Giant Eagle. The cardamom seeds, pods, and anise stars came from Amazon.  The Fennel fronds and bulb came from Trader Joe's at Easton. Ingredients 32 ounces of 80-proof vodka 2 cups of fennel fronds 10 green cardamom pods 3 ounces granulated sugar 1 tablespoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds 1 whole star anise Begin by loading your sous vide vessel with hot water and set your immersion cooker to 140F. While the cooker is getting up to that temperature, meas