At the end of 2020, I wanted to brew a really big beer. When I state, “big”, I mean, a beer high in of alcohol content. I had tried to brew these kinds of beers in the past but had a hard time hitting my target starting gravity.

The main roadblock I ran into when brewing these beer was the size of the grain bill. Not necessarily the number of grains, but the overall weight of the bill. My homebrewing system wasn’t large enough to mash the grains. Thankfully, with advice from our audience and some extra planning, I was able to tackle it this time around.

With a notion of cleaning out my fridge of leftover grains and a bag of black cocoa powder supplied by Olive Nation, I was ready to brew. This post showcases the recipe and the first tasting of this beer after it conditioned in the bottle for about a year.

Always Dark Before The Dawn Imperial Stout Recipe

Grain Bill

This first part has all the base grains:

7.5 pounds of Great Western Premium Two Row Malt – 3.4 kg – 31% of bill
6.5 pounds of Stone Path Gold Ale Malt – 2.9 kg – 27% of bill
5 pounds of Rahr Standard 2-Row Malt – 2.3 kg – 21% of bill

This second part has all the specialty grains:

2 pounds of Flaked Barley – 0.9 kg – 8% of bill
.625 pounds of Caramel 120° Malt – 283 g – 2% of bill
.5 pounds of Roasted Barley – 226 g – 2% of bill
.5 pounds of Carahell Malt – 226 g – 2% of bill
.5 pounds of Chocolate Malt – 226 g – 2% of bill
.5 pounds of Caramel 40°L Malt – 226 g – 2% of bill
.3125 pounds of Caramel 60°L Malt – 142 g – 1% of bill
.25 pounds of Barke Munich Malt – 113 g – 1% of bill


1.5 ounces – 43 g – Cascade hops – 6.1% AA – 90 minutes to go in the boil
1.5 ounces – 43 g – Centennial hops – 9.5% AA – 90 minutes to go in the boil
2 ounces – 56g – Cascade hops – 6.1% AA – 20 minutes to go in the boil


Filtered tap water


SafAle US-05 American Ale Yeast – pitched from a previously brewed beer

Mash Schedule

All base grains were mashed overnight – starting mash temperature was 150°F/66°C in my 10 gallon orange beverage cooler (6 US gallons/22.7 liters of water)

The special grains were steeped for 90 minutes in 2.5 US gallons/ 9.5 liters of water)

Collected enough wort for a 7.5 gallon boil size (28.4 liters)


Fermented for 2 weeks at 68°F/20°C

Secondary Conditioning

Racked to a secondary fermentor with .5 pounds (226 g) of black cocoa powder and let it sit for another 2 weeks


Bottled with Lallemand’s CBC-1 yeast along with 115 grams of corn sugar for bottle carbonation and conditioning


Starting gravity: 1.100

Final gravity: 1.025

%ABV: 9.84%

First Tasting Notes

This beer tasted like a big beer with lots of dark fruit notes. Mike liked the chocolate graham cracker aroma. Along with the fruit, there was a strong milk chocolate taste along with caramel malt flavors.

The color was the darkest brown you could imagine. With more roasted barley, we would have had a black color. I was trying to get the color I wanted with the black cocoa addition, but it didn’t have as strong of an influence.

If I were to do this again, I would triple the amount of the roasted barley and I would choose one caramel malt. It’s not really an Imperial Stout – more like an Imperial Nut Brown Ale with Cocoa. I think this beer will continue to improve over the years and I can’t wait to drink it again in late 2022.