From the HBD Archive
From: Frank Tutzauer <>
Subject: Head color in stouts and porters
Date: 1992-04-02 02:39:00 GMT

As a brewer, I would place myself somewhere in between advanced beginner and
beginning intermediate (batch #15 is in the fermenter). Of these 15 batches,
I have only brewed 4 stout/porters. Actually, 3 dry stouts and 1 dry porter.
Of these 4 brews, 2 had a very creamy white head and two had a dark brown
head. Although all of the beers were quite tasty, I am curious as to what
causes the difference in the colors of the heads. Since I am currently an
extract brewer, I understand that I am somewhat at the mercy of the companies
that manufacture my malt extract. Nonetheless, I would like to know what
determines the color of my beer's head in stouts and porters, and what I can
do to influence that color.

Under the assumption that the head color is determined by ingredients and not
process, I looked back over my notes for the 4 beers in question and compiled
the following data:

Ingredient Stout 1 Porter Stout 2 Stout 3
- ---------------------------------------------------------------
Extract Syrup A -- B C
Dark DME 3lb 5lb 1lb --
Flaked Barley 1c 1c -- 1c
Roasted Barley 1lb -- 1/2lb 1/2c
Crystal -- 4oz 1/2lb 1/2c
Black Patent -- 1c 1/2lb 1/2c
Chocolate Malt -- -- -- 1/2c
Quaker Oats -- -- -- 3/2c
Yeast M&F dry 1084 1084 1084
Priming 3/4c dex 1c amber 1c amber 5/4 c light
Head Color white white brown brown

Note: DME = dried malt extract (not diastatic malt blah blah blah)--all DME
is M&F DME; A = 4lb Muntons Export Stout (hopped); B = 6.6 lbs John Bull dark
(unhopped); C = 8 lb Mountmellick Stout (hopped); dex = dextrose; amber =
amber DME; light = light DME.

I really don't think that the specialty grains would markedly influence the
head color, but still I figured I should consider the possibility. And,
looking at the above table, it seems I'm probably correct that they don't:
Flaked barley, chocolate malt, and oats all went into one brown beer, but not
the other; roasted barley and crystal both went into one white beer, but not
the other (and similarly for the yeast and the priming sugar). I suppose
there might be some kind of synergistic effect (e.g., crystal in the presence
of roasted barley leads to brown heads but otherwise the head is white), but
somehow that seems unlikely to me. So really, the only thing left that might
account for the difference is the extract: Mountmellick and John Bull giving
brown heads, and Muntons syrup and DME without syrup giving white heads. Is
this correct? If so, what in the extracts accounts for the differences? I
would really like to know.

And now, on another subject: Looking at the table, you have a pretty good
idea of how I've brewed my stouts and porters (ok, you don't know about hops
or procedures, but still....). If you have any suggestions, let me know. I'm
on a quest to duplicate the many pints of Guinness I had in Dublin a few years
ago. It's probably an impossible task, but trying, I'm sure, will make me a
better person.

- --frank

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