Roots and Branches

Twenty or so years ago, I began homebrewing. The first book I used was the classic “Brewing Quality Beers”, by Byron Burch. It’s still the book I recommend for beginners, with its down-to-earth, practical and simple instructions, descriptions and recipes. No-nonsense advice and clear step-by-step directions are the book’s hallmarks.

I know a lot of homebrewers who swear by a different book – The Joy (or Complete Joy or New Complete Joy) of Homebrewing, by Charlie Papazian. Charlie has been at the forefront of homebrewing for almost 30 years, as president of the American Homebrewers’ Association, among other things, and this is probably the best known of all brewing books. Problem is, it’s overwhelming to the novice, despite Charlie’s frequent repetition of his mantra “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew…” I think that Charlie is such a good natural brewer that he jumps over the nuts and bolts too quickly, dashing off into esoteric recipes that are all over the map in terms of style… It’s a great read, once you’ve brewed a few batches, but to hand that to someone who has never brewed before is unfair, and may scare off more brewers than it attracts…

That said, “Joy” was the second brewing book I got, and I did indeed brew many of Charlie’s recipes over the years. Since getting involved with the homebrew shops that I have managed, and writing the manuals that I have written, my copy of “Joy” has lain unopened and neglected on the shelf. Until today.

Last week we had a terrific thunderstorm, accompanied by hail and high winds. One result of the storm was the loss of a large cherry tree between the house and barn. A Montmorency Cherry tree, the fruit was about a week shy of fully ripe. Sorta like when life hands you lemons, life handed me cherries. Instead of immediately cutting up and hauling away the tree, we left it there. Sure enough, the cherries did ripen and we managed to pick eight or nine pounds of them. I knew I had to brew with them, more or less right away. Then I remembered one of Papazian’s recipes that I had always meant to try, Cherry Fever Stout. Digging out my copy of “Joy”, I adapted the recipe to be more of an Imperial Stout, and changed the extract-based recipe to an all-grain version, and voilà – Montmorency Falls Stout.

Montmorency Falls Cherry Imperial Stout

5 gallons, all-grain with fruit


  • 10 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 1 lb. Belgian Special B malt
  • 1 lb. cara-amber malt
  • 1/2 lb. roasted barley
  • 1/2 lb. Carafa I malt
  • 1 oz. Northern Brewer hop pellets (@12.3% aa)
  • 1 oz. Willamette hop pellets (@4.8% aa)
  • 5 lbs. Montmorency cherries (whole)
  • White Labs Essex Ale yeast (WLP022)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)


Crush grains. Heat 16 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold 90 minutes at 152°F. Heat another 16 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 28 quarts of sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Northern Brewer hops. Boil 60 minutes, add Willamette hops, boil 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and add cherries. Steep covered for 15 minutes, then chill to 80°F, cherries and all. Take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Add yeast, ferment at 68 – 70°F for ten days, leaving the cherries in the fermenting beer. Rack to secondary (removing cherries at this point and adding, if desired, a cherry wine flavoring extract or a bottle of Knudsen’s Black Cherry Juice concentrate), age three weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition for three weeks or more.

OG: 1072

IBU’s: 66.8

3 Replies to “Roots and Branches”

  1. Hello,
    How did this beer taste once conditioned? I was hoping to make a similar beer but then age it with brett, do you have any thoughts on that? Is the cherry wine flavoring extract or cherry juice concentrate necessary? Also what was your total batch size in the end from the 28 quart wort volume?
    Thanks, Blake

    1. Hey Blake – this was one of the better attempts I’ve made, in my opinion, to get a lot of cherry flavor into a beer – in a big stout like this, it had to be packed with cherries and/or juice, hence I did both. The more cherries you get in there, the less you will need an extract or juice in the end, but the more you also risk jamming airlocks with fruit debris etc… I think it would work really well with a Brett component, sort of a Stout Kriek lambic style, right? My recipes, unless otherwise noted, are all formulated for 5 gallons; in this case I had to boil off nearly two gallons (which took about 45 minutes) before beginning the hop program. Hope that helps!

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