First off, I started with 6.5 gallons of water, as opposed to 5.5 or 6, which is my usual starting point. As a result, this stout (though by no means a BIG beer) is perhaps not quite as “big” as it ought to be.
Second, in addition to a massive amount of specialty grains and a pound of Belgian Candi Syrup (from beets and dates, as I recall), this kit contains a full pound of French roast coffee. The instructions say to crush the whole beans coarsely and add them to the wort, which I did. They do not say whether or not to remove them – I used a wire colander to scoop all that I could back out of the wort at the end of the boil, but some remained for the length of primary fermentation.
The result? Northern describes their brunch stout this way:
Brunch: a portmanteau of "breakfast" and "lunch". Brunch Stout: a collision of brunch as a particularly indulgent meal time, and a particularly indulgent stout. 60 IBUs, loaded with sumptuous malt, acidic and tangy coffee, and wildly fruity Candi syrup, this is a stout that does not know when to stop. There's something here for every interpretation of this decadent mid-cycle ritual, from the sweet to the savory, the simple to the intricate. Explore the limits of American-style stout as you know it with your new deviously delicious companion.By contrast, what streams from my tap is a nice coffee stout, nearly black with a creamy mocha head. The flavor, to my palate, is almost exclusively strong black coffee and dark roasted malt, with more French-roast bitterness than hops. A pint left to warm a bit acquires some dark fruit hints as it approaches room temperature: blueberries and plums, perhaps, but they’re subtle. It reminds me of Guinness Foreign Extra or Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout – a great stout, but not quite the multilayered egg-bake of a beer described.
Next time: Less water, and the coffee goes in a hops bag – plus I might screen it as it goes into the primary fermenter.