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.


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