Setting up the Imperial

Russian Imperial–

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The strong ale

Got the British Strong ale brewed yesterday. Had no issues withe the actual brewing. But had to do some quick mods to it. 

I lost like about 1 1/2 pounds of grain in the back seat of the jeep. (Just the Maris Otter. I had the other grain in separate bag.) I had no other grain to make up for it, so I went with less volume. 

I ended up with about 4 1/2 gallons into fermenter. But the numbers were on. Looking at an OG of 1.070

The Windsor yeast explodes in to action as usual. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Up next.. Brit Strong Ale

Coming up on the next brew. The British Strong ale.

When this category first hit the books for the 2015 styles, I was anxious to brew one. But with no examples to be found, I had to go by the written description only. Which is a fairly non specific scribbling.

Mmmkay.  So, as long as its strong enough, and is “British”-y enough we are good. I have taken all of this to mean something that’s in between a bunch of other beers. Something stronger than a brown ale, well hopped, but not as hoppy as an IPA, and not as strong as a barleywine.

Along the lines of an ESB, but with much darker flavors, (slight roasts, raisin, figs…) But fresh.

So like an Old ale, that’s not aged.  The name is Strong Ale, but by todays standards it more a medium ale. 6-8% with mid range bitterness 30-60.

My first attempt at this beer last year gave me some insight on how some of those flavors work earlier on in the life of a beer. Because normally when I have brewed “old ales” I plan for the long haul.Over hopping and over dark graining a brown ale, because I know by the time the aged qualities start to happen, the hops and some of the malt flavors will have started to fall out.

But keep in mind that unlike an old ale, this is supposed to be drank sooner than later, we needed to subdue some of that. Crystal 80 instead of 120, Lower srm chocolate malts instead of black malt for restrained roasty. Less late hops over all, and moving them twards the flavor zone rather than flameouts. And moving the mash temp down a few degrees as these will be consumed before the body starts to go.

And the biggest improvement is going to be using a British yeast. I used a clean yeast the first time around. But that was mostly on purpose. As I wanted to be able to see which way I needed to adjust the malts, as I was surely expecting for such a little amount of the 80L to have such an effect. But surprisingly I was happy with the result across the board. So I am going to keep things the same except a bit higher mash temp and good old Windsor yeast.

Akatosh- British Strong Ale 17A  6.5% – 55 IBU

  • 10lbs Maris Otter
  • 12oz 80L
  • 1lb aromatic
  • 1oz chocolate malt (350L)
  • 1oz galena 60
  • 2oz east Kent goldings 10
  • Windsor yeast
  • 156 mash temp
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time for the Woot!zenbock

Back in March I brewed a weissenbock.  Been waiting patiently for this one. During OKTOBERFEST this year I finally got into it. 

The last time I made this beer it took quite a few months to develop its profile. 

Did a few tweaks to it this time. Tweaks is a bad word  because most changes were pretty big. Including using all malt instead of half extract. And yeast change. Used S-23 instead of Munich yeast. 

This beer turned out very good. Malty but not over sweet. Just enough hopping to barely notice them. But I think I should go back to the Munich yeast. This S-23 just don’t have the right taste for a bock. 

Still doesn’t have a pronounced wheat to it. And am now considering going rye or partly rye to get some of that bite. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Halloween beer

Finally got around to brewing after a few months. Had to get the backyard hops used. But I may have waited a bit too long.  But Halloween is closing in and this beer needs to get done one way or another. 

They are a bit dry but not bad and still smell very good. So I picked about a half of a 5 gallon bucket to use as the late hops. 

Backyard IPA. 

  • 1o lbs pale
  • 1 lb 60L
  • 1.5 Oz magnum @60
  • 1/2 bucket of the Mt Hoods @5
  • 1 Oz falconer flight at flame out
  • 05 yeast and mashed at 158

Always hard to get a read on how much extra water to add with homegrown hops, so I used 3/4 gallon more. 

And seemed to be pretty close. Just a tad too much. But shouldn’t be bad. 

Ended up with an OG of 1.058.  And will be ready for Halloween. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fresh hop

Need to get back brewing soon. Its been a long hot summer. Too hot brew really. But have a few events that I usually brew for coming up.
Halloween. Used to brew big ass beers for this. Imperial Stouts, Double this or that, but tradition is changing it a bit. I have been going with a wet hopped for the ol’ garage concert of Halloween.
I usually get enough of the back yard Mt Hood hops to end up with about a pound or more dried. Which sounds great! But the amount of work involved no where near makes it appealing to me any more. Picking, finding drying space, packaging… bleh. No more.
What I do now for the wet hopped now is pretty straight forward. Take whatever recipe I plan to use and add more water to it. Like alot more. And figure to use your regular bittering hop and mid boil hopping. Your fresh hops will all be going in at the last minute.

I pick as many hops as I can during water heating, mashing, and boil. Then right at the last minute of boil I put them in my big mesh bag and put them in. Flame out, and let them sit for 15 min. Then start cooling.
I usually get around a 5 gallon buckets picked in that time. And I have also found that picking during the brew is better. With the wet hopping, all your really trying to get is some flavor and a lot of aroma.  But when I used to pick them before I brewed, every time you walked by them you could keep smelling them as they were losing their potency.
Plus is sound better when you say the hops in there are 5 minutes old.
Back to the water. I know some people (Tim) dont like guessing at volumes,, but when you are adding more water to the boil to accommodate the amount of water these hops are going to soak up, you pretty much have to. And its a lot. 1-2 gallons a lot. I dont have much advice here as I do it by feel, but the of course the drier the hops appear to be, the more water you’ll need.
And yes I tried adding my water after the hops have soaked up, but then you really should re heat back up to sterilize. And again,, while doing this, you can almost see those volatile aromas burning off.  
A word on the beer its self. I personally have found that these wet hopped beers taste profile change greatly in a short amount of time. At first the aromas will be up in ya and cover everything else up. But within a few weeks those aromas start to dissipate leaving the tastes behind. And remember there was a 5 gallons of hop taste put in there.
(And while have no proof,, it feels like they dissipate way faster than pelleted hops.)
I would assume each hop variety would vary in the long term taste that that amount leave behind, but I have only ever used just mine, and my Mt Hoods seem to break down into almost a maraschino cherry flavor during long term storage.
So get your wet hopped beer plans ready,, and make sure to drink it now, but save some for different stages of age.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A National Homebrew Day scorcher

May 7th 2016 is National Homebrew Day! So I guess I gotta brew something.
I have bits of grain stashed everywhere from over the winter. Plus some of the bulk hops I have are getting to be a year old in the freezer. Time for a clean out brew.
After collecting all the loose ends and getting them weighed up, this is what the final recipe was.
Loose End Basement Brew 2016 – 3 gallon Double Rye IPA?
6 lbs 2 row
.5 lb 80L
2 lbs rye malt. (not flaked rye)
1.5 lbs Flaked barley
1 oz Magnum @ 60
2 oz Willamette @ 10
1 oz Chinook @ flameout 10 minute stand
1 oz Centennial @flameout 10 minute stand
Nottingham yeast mashed at 150
I was briefly worried about a stuck sparge with all the rye and flaked. But I took the batch sparge a bit slower than usual and didnt have any problems. 
Beersmith has been calculating my temps and volumes a bit low on the 3 gallon batches, so I upped them slightly. This helped get everything right on the numbers.
With an OG of 1.082 I was a bit worried that the one pack of Nottingham might not be enough. But holy crap did it take off. Almost like the Notty of old. 
But we did have one problem. But I’m not even sure it is a problem yet. 

didnt run it dry. I tasted the beer and no signs of burnt taste or smells. 
I would assume this is caramelized sugars,, but never had anything even remotely like this before, even with bigger beers than this.
Maybe all the rye and flaked barley? Gonna keep eye on this one.
How do I clean this? Maybe just replace them. 
Posted in Homebrew, homebrewing | Leave a comment