Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Brewing: Russian Imperial Stout
I was chatting it up at Tired Hands in December when the man behind the bar asked what I like to brew. My response stuck with me as I thought about what was currently fermenting or aging or next up on the brew list. I thought about what I brewed throughout the year. I was a bit dumbfounded. "I tend to brew a lot of stouts and saisons," I said. Now when beer shopping I do not often buy stouts or saisons. I rarely buy Belgian beers in general and stouts are usually a few 22oz bombers of the Imperial variety. Every once in a while in the summer I see a big stout on tap and I can't wait to brew it. Saisons are always a toss up. A sweet saison is rough for me. They are pretty hard to get down when the yeast is more than overwhelming and the carbonation is lower than it should be. Conversely, a dry, effervescent straw-like Belgian drives me to brew saisons. I've been working on a dozen or so saison recipes over the past two years. I've dialed in one that I am happy with, but continue to work with different sugars, temperatures, and yeast strains that I will lead me from brewing these sweeter saisons that take up so much of my basement square footage.
But back to stouts. Although late in the year, I brewed a Russian Imperial a month back. I wanted to test my mash tun limit, but I did not think about water absorbtion as much as I should have when the false bottom sits so high up in the kettle. Going down from my usually 1.25-1.33 qts/gallon down to 1.15 qts/ gallon and 19 pounds of grain caused some chaos. The mash tun was nearly full and I still had a bit more grain to stir in, but I had no room. I drained off as little as I could to fit the last pound or so from the bucket. I do love the heat that holds in my mash tun when it is full though. I still do not recirculate, but direct fire when I need to. I keep a thermometer at arms reach and use the kettle's thermometer as well. Oh well. It is my method for now. Conversion went pretty well and OG was 1.096. I under shot only slightly from 1.100.
I racked off after 3 weeks. My starter was excellent, but I didn't think the blow off was going to be so vigorous. I lost just about one gallon. So with 4 gallons left I racked 3 into a 3 gallon carboy and 1 gallon into a 1 gallon vessel. I added Oak Chips that were in bourbon for 2 months. I have never used chips (as opposed to cubes or sprirals), so I am not sure what to expect other that what I have read on forums. I'm figuring on bottling the 1 gallon in April and see how long I want the rest to go.
Russian Imperial Stout
90 Min Boil
Pale Malt, Flaked Barley, Flaked Oats, Chocolate Malt, Roasted Barley, Crystal 120, Carafa III
Willamette and Chinook Hops
WLP 004 -Irish Ale
Bourbon soaked oak chips added to secondary. Aging for 3.5 months.