Sunday, March 28, 2010

Russian Imperial Stout

Black...devoid of light My friend Tom is starting to think about heading back to the USA.  After being here for over 2-years now, unless he gets a local contract in France, he is supposed to head back at the beginning of 2011.

If that turns out to be the case, a pot d’depart or going-away party is certainly in store!  Since I’ve been in Paris brewing beer, Tom has been a big supporter and is always eager to try my latest brew.  As Tom and I talked about this, he suggested that maybe I should make a “theme beer” or just a special beer to be consumed at this going-away party.  “Excellent idea!” I said.  I had just the beer in mind.

I’ve been looking at some higher alcohol barley wines and also stouts as both styles I have yet to try.  Over at Home Brew Talk, there is a recipe posted by BrewPastor called “Dark Night of the Soul Russian Imperial Stout.”  The name really caught my attention and the challenge of brewing such a wicked brew got me interested.

Here are the specs posted online for a 10-gallon batch:

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: Wyeast 1272
Yeast Starter: HUGE
Batch Size (Gallons): 10
Original Gravity: 1.1324
Final Gravity: 1.020
IBU: 178
Boiling Time (Minutes): 90
Color: void of light
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 1 week
Additional Fermentation: eternity
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 4 weeks
Dark Night of the Soul
A ProMash Recipe Report
Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 10.00 Wort Size (Gal): 10.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 48.00
Anticipated OG: 1.13245 Plato: 30.668
Anticipated SRM: 53.3
Anticipated IBU: 178.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes
% Amount Name Origin Potential SRM
83.3 40.00 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row) Great Britain 1.03800 3
5.2 2.50 lbs. Roasted Rye France 1.03000 95
4.2 2.00 lbs. Chocolate Malt Belgium 1.03000 500
4.2 2.00 lbs. Crystal 150L Great Britain 1.03300 150
3.1 1.50 lbs. Special B Malt Belgian 1.03000 120
Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.
Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time
10.00 oz. Columbus Pellet 15.00 178.8 60 min.

Notice that HUGE Original Gravity (OG) and low Finish Gravity (FG).  Just to sum things up, this is a BLACK BLACK BLACK beer, really bitter, and really high in alcohol.  Calculating out the numbers gives an expected ABV of 14.8%.  That is really strong and contains more alcohol that most wines.

So, the recipe looks good, the reports on the forum seem to point that this is a unique, interesting brew, so I think it could be an interesting challenge and provide a nice going-away beer for Tom’s party.

First order of business is cutting down the recipe.  I wish I had the equipment to brew 10-gallons of beer using just grain, but that is just not the case in my Paris apartment.  If you read the posts below, I’m not in possession of a barley mill and I’ve adopted the BIAB (Brew in a Bag) technique to allow me to do all-grain beer on the stovetop.  Since this is such a “serious” and strong brew, I didn’t want to make too much either as 1) It is really strong and you can’t drink too much at once 2) It is tricky to brew and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out.

Type: All Grain

Date: 3/28/2010

Batch Size: 3.00 gal

Boil Size: 3.61 gal

Boil Time: 90 min

Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00


% or IBU Amount Item
86.54 % 13.50 lb

Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (1.5 SRM) Grain

4.81 %

0.75 lb

Chocolate Rye Malt (250.0 SRM) Grain

3.21 % 0.50 lb

Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain

3.21 % 0.50 lb

Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) Grain

2.24 % 0.35 lb

Special B Malt (200.0 SRM) Grain

167.1 IBU 3.25 oz

Magnum [15.10 %] (60 min) Hops

  1 Pkg

American Ale II (Wyeast Labs #1272)Yeast-Ale (2.5 liter starter made with XL pack)

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.130 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.116 SG

Est Final Gravity: 1.031 SG

Measured Final Gravity: 1.026 SG

Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 13.11 %

Actual Alcohol by Vol: 11.86 %

Bitterness: 167.1 IBU

Calories: 555 cal/pint

Est Color: 54.1 SRM

So, I basically started with about 15-lbs of grain—which would make a pretty high ABV 6-gallon batch of beer and used half the water to make a 3-gallon finished batch.  I had to adjust the original recipe just a little bit as I wasn’t able to buy all the exact grains here in France.  It seems to have matched up pretty well with the original recipe.


I started the morning with toasting the rye as I couldn’t find the Roasted Rye specified in the recipe.  I baked it for about 30-minutes at 180°C, until it looked about the same darkness as Crystal 120.  I’m not sure if it was enough or not, but I didn’t want to burn it.  The aroma through the apartment was wonderful!!  I would honestly buy a scented candle if they made one with this aroma!DSC_1439Here is a small shot of the toasted on the left and the untoasted on the right.

Next, everything was ground up in the new Barley Crusher.  It only took about 10-minutes of hand cranking to make my way through the 15-lbs of grain.DSC_1440

Here is all the grain sitting in my 25-liter poly bucket ready for the mash.  That’s a lot of grain for 3-gallons of beer.  I mashed at 150°F to keep the fermentables up and help ensure that I could come close to this beer finishing out.

I did not sparge the grains, just took the first runnings from the BIAB process.  Here is an interesting set of shots from the wort in the boil kettle and the heat coming on.  I’m using a gas range and as the flames begin to heat the wort, they stir the trub up on the bottom.

DSC_1453 DSC_1456 DSC_1458 DSC_1462 DSC_1466

As you can see from the first shot, this beer is BLACK.  I can’t wait to try it!  Here is the hop addition---Lupulin goodness!


After cooling the wort, I measured the OG at 1.116.  It is lower than the recipe called for, no doubt from a little lower efficiency from the BIAB without a sparge.  But, the ABV shown above in my recipe is based on this OG of 1.116 and a measured FG (not quite the end) at 1.026.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

It’s all-grain time!

I am giddy with excitement! Because of this:

Finally, I can grind up all of the grain that I’ve been stockpiling.  The folks at BC Products were nice enough to send me one from all Barley crusher!the way in the USA.  I paid them of course, but they sent me one and it arrived in good shape.  I checked the European distributors here before I ordered from the US and with the exchange rate (crappy, but getting better) it was cheaper to order from the USA and pay for absurd shipping.

Don't put your fingers in here (duh)So, I ran about 1/2 pound of grain through the mill to clean it up and get an oil off the rollers that might be lurking.  I don’t have any feeler gauges, so I just left it at the factory setting.  I guess it looks okay.  Since I’m doing the brew-in-a-bag method described on this blog and other places, I don’t have to worry much about stuck sparges.  So, I guess I don’t really care if the grind is too fine.  But, honestly, it looks about like the other grain I have gotten “pre-ground” from homebrew shops.  Maybe a little too fine?  (Comments?)


I have to tell you though, I really hated “wasting” this 1/2 pound of malt! : )  Looking forward to brewing some nice beers this weekend.  After I bottle this next batch, I’ll have 3-fermenters open and ready for beer.

 Crushed grain

Monday, March 15, 2010

Some older posts

So tonight, I uploaded some old posts from a “blog” I started when I first arrived in Paris.  They are old, from 2008 and reflect some of my first thoughts and experiences, and mistakes while here in Paris.  I never really kept up with the regular updates of all the things I found strange and all the things I did wrong.  I kind of wished I did, but it is about as tough as keeping this blog up to date.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Beer Bottles

I can’t tell you how much I hate to wash beer bottles. DSC_0972Here is what me and about 8 friends took care of last night.  Not really that much (only about 6-liters of beer), but if I didn’t wash them today, they would just sit around and accumulate until my lovely wife reminds me they need washed. : )   And, I usually let quite a few stack up until I wash as I really hate to wash bottles.  I am really looking forward to when I am back in the US and will get a keg setup.  Not that I am going to completely give up on bottles forever, but the bulk of my beer I would like to keg.

10-minutes in the pressure cookerI have been using Fischer bottles now for sometime.  In fact, I drank a LOT of Fischer beer so that I could get my first set of bottles for my first batch of beer back in April 2009.  But, I’ve been getting concerned thatFischer Swingtop I’m not getting the swingtops and the gaskets sanitized well.  I think this is the third or maybe four batch of beer bottled in these same bottles and I’m starting to worry that I’m not getting everything clean enough when washing bottles.  So, I recently picked up a pressure cooker to try some new meals and I thought I would try removing the swingtops from the Fischer bottles and running them in the pressure cooker to autoclave them.  My new pressure cooker is only an 80 kPa model, so it only does about 12 psi.  So, I’m thinking I’ll need about 20 minutes in there to completely sterilize them.  The photo above is the first test I ran.  Since the top is plastic and the gasket is just rubber, I was a little worried that the top would melt.  But everything turned out okay.  I still need to run a 20-minutes cycle to make sure that everything will be okay, but right now, it looks okay.  Before my next bottling session, I’ll remove all the swingtops from my Fischer bottles and sterilize them all.  I post this as some of the folks on Homebrewtalk were worried about the tops melting.  For now, I think it will be okay.  I’ll keep you posted after I run a batch for 20-minutes.