It’s the Mayan Apocalypse (Stout, that is)!

J – In celebration of the Mayan Apocalypse, I decided to brew a Mayan Apocalypse Stout. It’s modeled after Mayan hot chocolate or Mayan espresso (my favorite) – chocolate, honey, cinnamon, flavors of coffee in the case of the espresso, and – most importantly – cayenne pepper. Many stouts have strong flavors of coffee and chocolate, so the trick was really balancing the honey, cinnamon, and cayenne. Honey in beer can be tricky – it is nearly 100% fermentable, so if you add it too early in the process, all of the honey will be fermented and instead of the sweet honey flavor, you will be left with a dry beer. This can be good, but isn’t what I’m looking for. Cinnamon, likewise, if added too early in the process will quickly fade. However, if added too late in fermentation, it can quickly become overwhelming. Cayenne pepper, though, is the worst. Pepper beers are notorious for being overly-peppered and spicy, and especially stouts, which tend to be thicker, can become nothing more than a spice bomb.

So, here’s my plan: first, I am using a lot of chocolate malts in this beer to impart that natural chocolate, espresso flavor stouts are known for, in addition to a honey malt to impart that honey flavor that can so easily be fermented out. Second, I am going to add a LOT of things into this beer just after primary fermentation is finished (when the yeast are finished going crazy and have converted most of the sugars to alcohol already): 3/4 lb cacao nibs (these add the bitterness and chocolate aroma of pure chocolate without the off flavors that baker’s chocolate or chocolate powder can impart), 3 cinnamon sticks, and 1lb of honey. The cacao nibs and cinnamon will be soaked in vodka for 3 days or so to draw out the oils and then this whole mixture will be tossed in the fermentor, while the honey will just get mixed in on its own – some people prefer to pasteurize their honey, but I think this can very easily cause you to lose the honey aroma and honey does not have enough water content to support bacterial growth anyway – it’s pretty safe to just toss in there.

Finally, the cayenne – Right before kegging this beer (more on that later!), I’m going to add vodka that has been infused with cayenne pepper (just by soaking cayenne peppers in vodka for a few days) in small increments until I get just the right taste, hopefully avoiding over-peppering the beer – we’ll see. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe and and some photos:

Grain Bill:

  • 8 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 1 lbs Honey Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Midnight Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate Rye Malt
  • 0.5 lbs Chocolate MaltWP_000177


  • 1 oz Willamette @ 60 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Northern Brewer @ 45 minutes
  • 1.0 oz Willamette @ 15 minutes


  • 1 lb Lactose added at the beginning of the boil
  • 2 cups table sugar + 4 oz honey added at flameout (to boost gravity)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, crushed, added after primary fermentation
  • 3/4 lb cacao nibs, added after primary fermentation
  • 1 lb honey, added after primary fermentation
  • Cayenne pepper tincture, to taste

I mashed in at 154.4 F in about 5 gallons of water:

WP_000178WP_000180As usual, I’m doing brew in a bag (hence, the bag). My target mash temperature was 148 and I managed to hover around there for the full 60 minute mash. I did mashed out at 168 for 5 minutes, then sparged with 2 gallons of 155 F water

WP_000183Yes, that is a roasting rack. How astute! I raise my wort to boiling during the sparge, so I use the full 20-30 minutes it takes to get to a boil on my stove to sparge slowly, and I usually get a much higher efficiency because of it (just another quick of BIAB brewing). After my hop additions and a simple 60 minute boil – nothing fancy here, I cooled, whirlpooled, and pitched.

WP_000184 WP_000185 I’m using English Ale for this brew – Irish Ale may have been a better choice, but I’m actually trying to avoid strong yeast flavors in this stout – I’ve already got plenty of strong flavors floating around. English Ale yeast makes a VERY sticky trub – it’s a pain to clean, but it means that your finished beer will be very clear. Word to the wise – it is extra important to make a starter with this strain. It is a little slow to start and if you under pitch, it’s not going to like it one bit. WP_000187

I ended up with about 4.5 gallons of wort and added in a gallon to top it off to 5.5 before pitching. The gravity is a little low (1.040), but since I’m planning on adding 1 lb of honey in about three days, it should be fine. I’ll keep you posted throughout the process!

Ines got me a kegging kit for Christmas (because she’s literally the best), so this beer will be the first to live in my new keg. I’ll post more about that later, but for now – Merry Christmas and Happy Post-Apocalypse!


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