Our Local contest has a “special” category each year. One that forgoes any style guidelines, and is judged solely on taste and impressions.
This year,, 2017,, is Russian Imperial Stout.
And once again I’m a bit behind. But still a good 6 months out so If I can get it in the can now,, we should be alright.
(this is how I thought it out and came to my recipe after a few trials and errors)
Now this is a style that I am familiar with. Familiar with,, not expert with. These bigger beers are a tough brew. Its very easy to over compensate. Especially when you read the descriptions of this RIS
“Overall Impression: An intensely-flavored, big, dark ale
with a wide range of flavor balances and regional
interpretations. Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried
fruit flavors, and a warming, bittersweet finish. Despite the
intense flavors, the components need to meld together to create
a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.”
A lot of people see the “intense” and “roasty burnt”, but don’t see that last part,, meld together. The most often overlooked part of the entire guideline. So many Imp stouts I’ve had are ashtray roasted grained to deth, or hop bombed, or sickening sweet. All of that needs to play together not one standing out over the other. All while being it stouty self.
And I think most of those things are interconnected. Mostly starting with the over sweetness. These beers have huge starting gravities. 1.075 and usually alot higher. This means that even though the alcohol is high, so is the final gravity. 1.020 to 1.030 or even higher! That’s a lot of sweet left behind.
But when one reads the guidelines you will see it reads,, full or extremely full body,, and try to equate this to high mash temps when there really is no need to. Those high final gravities are more than enough body. The high mash usually leads to that over sweetness. Keeping mash temps in the 150 range really helps the sweet problem with not much worry about being thin.
So now that the sweet is under control, you don’t need to boost the roast to overcome it.
While the black malts will still be used more than your average low baller like a Dry Irish stout, they don’t need to rip your face off. And the kind of black malts does make a difference. Especially in a beer like this that’s going to aged for a while.
Normally I wouldn’t use much, if any chocolate malt or black patent in my every day stouts that are drank fairly quickly because they tend to be overly harsh and sharp tasting in the short term. So I prefer to use roast barley in with those young beers.
But ones that are gonna sit a few months I personally think you need those other black malts. Maybe not a full replacement,, but in greater percentage anyway.
Over a few months of aging the roast seems fall out a bit. Not disappear, but lose its edge a bit and be “softer” Roast barley starts out much “softer” to begin with, so when it drops out, you notice it.
The harsher black patents and chocolate malts drop out somewhat as well, but they do keep their burnt characteristics much better. So over the course of aging you’ll still have a bit of those coffee and burnt notes.
So I need to be a bit more aggressive with the roast, but still cant go overboard or I find a wet charcoal flavor.
Hops are a bit easier to figure on such a big, roasty beer like this. Easier because during the aging they really drop out of contention. The bittering level may round off slightly to be smoother with less bite, but will still be there. Its the later hops that do most of the changing.
I personally use very little in the flavoring range (10-15 min) and put the majority of late hops in at flame out to steep for 15, plus a day or two of dry hopping, if you want any kind of hop character at all. Those roasted grains do cover up alot of the hop aroma, so late hopping is what I want.
Now yeast is you biggest concern. You need your yeast to be ready and roaring to go. You dont want it stalling out or dying off and leaving you with black syrup. If you havent mess with starters,, you might wanna think about them here. Or pitch a couple packs of dry yeast.
Or like me,, brew a smaller beer a couple of weeks a head. Keg that beer same day as your brew day and put the stout right on top of that yeast cake. (Warning! Doing this also make for explosive fermentations. Be prepared).
I prefer a British style yeast, but that is personal choice. I usually use Windsor, but have also used US-04.
I usually make 5 gallons of this,, but I am going 3 gallons this time.
Imperial Disruptor Stout. 3 gallon: ABV 11.36%, IBU 80, OG 1.106, FG 1.021
- 10lbs pale malt
- 12oz roast barley
- 8oz chocolate malt (or black pat)
- 4oz carapils
- 4oz crystal 80 (just because I put 80 in nearly everything)
- 1.5oz centennial @60 min
- .5oz centennial @10 min
- 1.5oz centennial@ FO
Mash @ 150 Windsor yeast cake