Can You Design Beer Recipes With The BJCP Style Guide? (Oatmeal Stout Case Study)

After mastering basic brewing techniques, the next useful thing to know is how to design beer recipes. Here I show you how to do just that using the BJCP style guide.

Designing beer recipes - oatmeal stout - using the BJCP style guide.


My usual approach to designing beer recipes is:

  1. Decide which beer I’m interested in;
  2. Think of commercial examples;
  3. Hunt for recipes online and in books.

Then, using my best judgement, I edit this research and produce my own hybrid version. To date I haven’t followed a recipe verbatim.

The resulting beers have, on the whole, been great, but I’ve started wondering if I’m unnecessarily limiting myself with this routine.

To break out of it I’ve decided to invent a recipe following a different, methodical approach. I’ll use the BJCP style guide to brew a beer I’ve never tasted before: oatmeal stout.

The style guide lists statistics for beers from around the world. As well as target IBUs and gravities it also offers brief histories and indications of constituent ingredients.

I’m going to explain how I used the guide to develop my oatmeal stout recipe.

General Notes on the Style

Firstly, let’s look at the overall characteristics of this brew:

“A very dark, full-bodied, roasty, malty ale with a complementary oatmeal flavor”

This gives us some clues as to what I should include in the recipe.

I need to provide body, so will aim for a wort with some unfermentable sugars. Highly roasted malt will help me achieve this, as well as adding the requisite roasty taste.

Adding more protein is another way to increase body; handily the oatmeal is perfect for this job.

I now have an idea of the kind of grains I need, but to make a recipe more detail is necessary.

Malt and Adjuncts

The guide gives fairly specific advice on the grain profile:

“Pale, caramel and dark roasted malts and grains. Oatmeal (5-10%+) used to enhance fullness of body and complexity of flavour”

From this I can deduce that pale ale malt is an appropriate foundation for the brew. I also know that caramel and roasted malts are suitable additions.

To get the malty flavour I’ve decided to use Munich malt. My grain bill is now taking shape:

  • Pale ale (base)
  • Munich (malty)
  • Crystal (caramel)
  • Black Patent (roasted)

The final element to throw into the mix is the essential oatmeal. BJCP help me out with this as well:

“light use of oatmeal may give a certain silkiness of body and richness of flavour, while heavy use of oatmeal can be fairly intense in flavour with an almost oily mouthfeel”

5% is considered light while 10% is heavy. Silky sounds more tempting to me, so I’m going for 5%.

Original and final gravities are specified in the ranges of 1.048 – 1.065 and 1.010 – 1.018 respectively.

Designing beer recipes using BJCP target gravity ranges

Click here if you want to know more about original and final gravities.

Having settled on my component ingredients and target gravities, I used Hopville [a website no longer around] to adjust the amounts until I was on track to achieve the recommended gravities.


The proposed range of colours is fairly large, between 22 and 40 SRM:

Designing beer recipes using BJCP target colour ranges

(Image taken from this guide to beer colour).

These are all in the ‘black’ zone of possible beer colours.

I kept an eye on the expected SRM value while adjusting the malt quantities on Hopville, which is how I settled on Crystal 60L malt.


Hops are not a prominent feature of stout.

The BJCP guide suggests that hop flavour in this beer should be “low to none”, and that “UK varieties [are] most common”.

Similarly, bitterness is also restrained: “medium hop bitterness with the balance toward malt”.

IBUs are in the target range of 25 – 40:

Designing beer recipes using BJCP target IBU ranges

(Image taken from my illustration of beer bitterness for all beer styles).

Given that hop flavour is minimal I’ve opted for no late addition (which would add aroma). I’ll add hops at the start of the boil for bittering, and aim for a little residual flavour from an extra measure 20 minutes before the end of the boil.

Again, I used Hopville to calculate the bittering units.

I chose Fuggles and Kent Goldings, two classic UK varieties. Here I cheated slightly and copied the hop varieties from a successful porter recipe I recently brewed.


The guide doesn’t offer much advice about yeast for oatmeal stout, simply saying “ale yeast”.

Danstar Windsor Ale Yeast seems a reasonable choice.

The Recipe

All of the above has led me to the following recipe:

Recipe Volume
14 litres

Pale Ale: 2.4 kg
Munich: 0.8kg
Crystal 120L: 0.4kg
Black Patent: 0.2kg
Oats: 0.2kg
(O.G.: 1.052, F.G.: 1.015)

Mash Time
90 mins

Mash Target Temperature

Fuggles (4.8%): 20g for 60 mins
Kent Goldings (5.3%): 25g for 20 mins
(35 IBUs)

Danstar Windsor Dry Yeast

Assumes 60% efficiency

You can read about brew day here.

What do you think? Is this a good way to approach recipe design?

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