I have made 4 or 5 Russian Imperial Stouts since I first began brewing in 1991. I have always used charred dark oak spirals that had been soaked in bourbon and added to the secondary fermenter for up to 3 months. Every batch has produced very drinkable and enjoyable stouts. The last batch was one that I ignored for several years, the last 22 ounce bombers were 6 years old when consumed at the beginning of 2023. the beer seemed to continue maturing to the “not bitter end”! The complexity of flavors never ceases to amaze me. The last bottle was shared with a handful of folks at DECA Beer Company, the head brewer Cody was loving the slight molasses aroma, obviously from the use of brown sugar to prime the beers.
Beer lesson……priming homebrewed beers that that are bottles. I batch prime my beers when I bottle rather than add sugar to each bottle….a lot less messy. If it is not and Imperial Stout, I use corn sugar to prime. How much sugar? Well that depends on the style and and amount of carbonation desired. There charts galore out on the web to help new brewers figure out how much sugar, and yes, you can use many different fermentable sugars. How do I batch prime. I will take two cups of water….microwave it until it is plenty hot, add in the measured amount of sugar and stir to dissolve. I then cover sugar water and let it cool before pouring it into the bottling bucket. As the beer siphons out of my fermenter into the bottling bucket it mixes uniformly and well….the residual yeast in the beer eats up the sugar, adding negligible alcohol but primarily creates the CO2 required for the beer.
Many beers once primed and bottled can be ready to drink 14-21 days later. My Imperial Stouts take a lot more time, not necessarily to ferment, but to properly age and mature. Months and months down the road and continues to mature actually for years.
I would love to pick up a 5 gallon bourbon barrel for my home use. They can be found…..pricey maybe, but I think I will bite the bullet and attempt to really, really, barrel age my next batch. I would like to think that the depth and complexity of the beers will be amazing to say the least. I found this great guide that will help me out in that endeavor as well as give y’all a look at how it is done….lots of good info in the article and resources too. Enjoy……
I bottled about 5 gallons of the stout this week. It is inky black and for a beer that has yet to mature, it has great flavor….I giggled a bit when I wrote the title…..it is a bit of a reflection on me…..I consider myself to still be in maturing mode but some folks, including my wife, think my maturing was somehow mostly arrested many years ago…..my physical maturity has been marching along and has begun to make the downhill sprint…..if you can call it a sprint….LOL, into my “Golden Years”.
My Russian Imperial Stout was brewed with a grain bill that slightly exceeded the recommended maximum for my Grainfather system….20 pounds max and I went with 20 pounds and 8 ounces of grain….doesn’t sound like much, but trust me…..it was over the limit. The original gravity was a little lower than I expected…I was shooting for something in the 1.090 SG and hit 1.085. Final gravity was 1.019 SG so not too bad. 8.7% and was hoping for 9.3 %.
Once into the secondary fermenter I add some dark toasted oak spirals that had been soaked in Bourbon. Last 4 batches this was the procedure. Always loved the results. As noted above…..maturity will be somewhere down the road so……I gotta be patient….not my long suit. Most of the beer went into 22 or 20 ounce bottles. I bottled 6.75 – 12 ounce bottles that will be used to gauge the maturing process. I took the 3/4 filled 12 ounce bottle down to my local brewery, DECA, here in Porter, Texas. Surprisingly feed back from beer connoisseurs was positive, even though it has a long ways to go. I and everyone else was expecting the beer to have a hot taste, i.e., the taste of alcohol coming through but it was actually a pleasant taste. Note: the beer was primed prior to bottling with 3 ounces of dark brown sugar. It will ad to the beer’s complexity upon maturation.
The stout definitely turned out inky black and dark, albeit with great early flavor.
So now the schedule is set, one 12 ounce bottle every 3 months until the proper level of maturity is reached…..Obviously long before I reach my proper level of maturity.
Yesterday my buddy John dropped by as he often does for a cold beer. We alternate patio sitting so yesterday was my turn. I knew he would like a nice pour of my Simcoe SMaSH IPA……
I pulled two 20 ounce glasses out of the freezer, set one under tap number one featuring my “outstanding” Simcoe SMaSH IPA….there I go again with self congratulation! Mini lesson here, when pouring beer, always pull the tap handle into the fully open position. Why, a partially open valve creates a larger pressure drop at the tap and causes much more foaming of the beer than necessary. I sat the big glass under the tap, pulled it full open and dang it, just short of 14-16 ounces the keg ran dry. No problem, I give John the good beer and I will take a pour of the Session Ale. At about 2 ounces poured the Session Ale keg blew empty……dang it. Sorry John……no full beer for you. I took a portion of his and we had even amounts……sadly.
Well, now my brewing plans need revision! My kegerator is empty. Life is not good….I do have some options! When I built my kegerator system I bought a Sankey valve connector and added hardware to connect it with ball lock fittings. In simple terms it means I can pick up a commercial keg requiring a Sankey valve and hook it right up!!!!!!I have a special keg ordered from my favorite local brewery, DECA Beer Company, the Mosaic SMaSH…..cant wait till it is ready.
I need to shift gears and put a succession plan together for my empty kegerator. IPA’s are at the top of my list, my wife has slowed down on her beer drinking so I will likely focus on my tastes, my buddy John’s tastes, he is a fan of IPA’s and also some of the good lighter versions, and my beer drinking sons. My son Ben likes the Dank West Coast style IPA’s as do I. At my age, 72 and counting, I could probably benefit by having some lower calorie and less potent beers on tap. So, IPA’s of some sort soon to be brewed.
As for my Russian Imperial Stout, bottling day is on the calendar for April 23rd or thereabouts. Almost all will be bottled in 22 ounce bombers but 4 or so will be in 12 ounce glasses to help judge the aging process every 3 months. Progress notes will be coming…..I promise no more long hiatuses.
I have this beer on tap in my kegerator now and everyday that I walk into the garage it whispers to me……”Bishop, come closer and grab a frozen mug! Pour a pint and enjoy it!” It takes all of my willpower to resist…..not that I have a lot of willpower when it comes to very good beer……Yes, I am patting myself on the back. So, on or around February 8th or so….It really isn’t a memory problem, it is about me not adding the proper notes to my brew sheet!
I did make a note that original specific gravity was 1.061, alas no date. Yeast was pitched on 1/22/23, WLP001 California Ale yeast. Pat myself on the back for that. I will now have to trust my memory on the next important part, final specific gravity, my memory has it at 1.012, which calculates out to about 6.4% ABV……several tastings of multiple pints seems to confirm the ABV….LOL. My previous blog post pegs the transfer to the secondary fermenter on January 29, 2023……So kegging was around February 7-8. First photo of a pint+ sized was February 11th……so…… relatively close on my time line….I will add those notes to the brew sheet and ask for your support and not calling me a liar.
Tasting, although my good buddy John does stoke (wasn’t sure if I wanted to use the word stroke here so I opted for stoke so as to not hear some of your giggles) my ego once in awhile, he pronounced this beer in the top 3 or so of my beers brewed…..he has liked a lot of my previous beers so I will accept his compliment. It was slightly over carbonated, but after relocating my CO2 bottle outside of the kegerator the low pressure gauge seems to respond better and hold the set pressures better. It now pours with a beautiful head!!!!!!
Now on to bigger and better things……a very big beer that nearly overwhelmed the capacity of my Grainfather System. I is rated at 20 pounds of grain and I managed 20.5 pounds……so, it was a struggle. It is a Russian Imperial Stout with dark toasted oak spirals soaked in good bourbon. The beer is in the secondary now, this will allow the spirals to sit for 8 weeks and impart magical flavors and mellowness to the beer and then bottle it in 22 ounce bombers. I am not kegging this beer. It looks like it will be between 10% and 11% ABV. The story on this beer soon!!!!!!!
First the update. Yesterday on day 8, I managed to rack from the primary fermenter into the glass carboy secondary fermenter. I added 1 ounce of Simcoe hops for dry hopping. Even after 8 days the beer was still a bit busy fermenting, as indicated by the gravity of the beer. I had been expecting something in the neighborhood of 1.012 or less and the beer was 1.021. The primary still had a busy looking krausen …… I figured what the heck, rather than closing it up and waiting a few more days I went ahead and racked it over to the secondary with the understating that it would still be bubbling pretty actively. The sample I pulled to check the gravity was not wasted, slightly sweet on the backend but very nice aroma and color was perfect. Note to self here…..this beer will need serious cold crashing prior to kegging…..At my age that may require and reminder plugged into my smart phone,,,,,if I don’t forget!…… FYI – I added it to Monday February 6th at 1:00 PM. Yee Haw!
Wandering musings……some of you are craft beer savvy and you understand the term SMaSH. If not it simply means the simple process of brewing with a single malt(malted grain) and a single variety if hops. A little more……
The desired end-product affects the malting process, but the basic steps involved in malting include:
1. Harvest: Gathering, cleaning, and drying the grains is the first step in malting. Since ancient Mesopotamia, the most common malted grain is barley. Malt makers or maltsters can malt all kinds of grains, but barley remains a popular staple.
2. Soak: Soaking or steeping the grains involves submerging the grains in water. The enzymes activate and set off chemical changes as the grains absorb water.
3. Germinate: When the grains reach a specific moisture content, maltsters drain the excess moisture and sprouting begins. The starches in the grains convert into sugars, such as monosaccharide glucose, disaccharide maltose, and maltodextrin, among others. Specialized enzymes called proteases help break down the grains’ protein into different forms, including amino acids, that yeast can consume.
4. Dry: At a certain point, the maltster halts the chemical transformations of the green malt with air and heat. This preserves the germinated grain in its new, changed state with the right combination of starch, protein, and sugar.
5. Roast: Some malts, such as those for certain types of beer brewing, roast in an oven or kiln. This additional heating process creates further changes in the nutritional profile of the grain, affecting the fermentation process and altering the flavor of the finished product.”
OK, that may be TMI but I am sure someone may want to know. So now the term malted grain is established . Now for hops.
Last of the TMI stuff. Lets talk about my Simcoe SMaSH and a little more. This is my third or fourth beer brewed in the SMaSH mode. The first couple were Mosaic Hops and Marris Otter malt. Feed back from my buddies indicate that it was a very drinkable beer with good flavor and great aroma…..Yes! I selected Mosaic primarily because of the amazing aroma but also for the fact it can also be a good bittering hop used at the beginning of the boil. Subsequent additions are later in the boil so as to maximize the aromas as well as a dose of dry hopping in the secondary fermenter. If you need to know…..go ahead and google “dry hopping” my musings going forward will attempt to avoid too much TMI. Marris Otter malt is very flavorful, has a bit darker color than if using a pale malt and a slight malty flavor that my oldest son doesn’t particularly like….Children are to be spoiled……even at 32 years of age. So, I used Golden Promise malt for the Simcoe SMaSH ……hopefully the taste will be in Ben’s preferred flavor profile. My sample seems to meet that criteria. A musing of sorts. I assumed criteria was singular but I googled it and learned that it is the plural of criterion. Really old dogs can learn new tricks. And I am a really old dog!!!!!!
Let me wander a little further…..next up on my brewing list is a Russian Imperial Stout with whiskey barrel aging as part of the process. Deeper explanations in a future blog posting. Suffice it to say that it will be a higher ABV beer in the 11% or higher range, will not be worth drinking until it is well beyond a year old and will do nothing more than age very nicely just as the blog’s author…..smiling broadly, I do believe that I have aged well. My last batch was brewed in 2016 and bottled in 22 ounce bombers. The last two bottles were consumed very recently. An old neighbor and homebrewer shared one with his wife this past December and the very last one was shared with folks down at DECA Beer company along with a Russian Imperial stout brewed in 2017 by Cody Evans, Chief Brewer and he holds so many flunky titles at the brewery that I won’t mention them. We had been attempting the taste off and sharing for quite some time. Both beers received high marks from patrons and brewers alike. My beer had been primed with brown sugar which imparted a faint aroma of molasses and was surprisingly good. Keep you eyes open for more down the road.
I want to report out on the 2020 best beers according to Zymurgy magazine. Not familiar with Zymurgy? Zymurgy is the publication of the American Homebrewers Association. The 20 best beers are the opinions of American Hombrewers Association, AHA, members and may not reflect the opinions of drinkers of swill. Swill may be a harsh term but there really is a flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and quality difference for the beers in this list.
I am pleased to report that a handful of my go to beers, including 3 at the top of my list are in the top twenty.
Number 1…. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, from Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI. I was introduced to this beer on one of my many work trips to North Dakota and it is now being distributed in Texas…..yes, it is in my fridge. Two Hearted is brewed year round.
Number 2….. Pliny the Elder, from Russian River Brewing Co. It is a double IPA coming in at 8% but….. drinks very smooth with an incredible mix of aromas and broad but smooth bitterness. I have only been able to have this beer on three occasions and can probably give you date, time and location when I was able to enjoy this beer! It really is that good. Drawback, very hard to find……gotta know somebody! Available year round but…..only in limited quantities.
Number 3…… Pale Ale by Sierra Nevada. This was probably my first exposure to real beer nudging me away from my usual swill….the beer came out in 1980, it probably was late 1980’s before I was treated to the wonderful, bottle conditioned ale featuring, new at the time, Cascade hops. Confession, I did experiment with non swill in the late 70’s, Anchor Steam beer after it was reintroduced in 1971.
Number 4……..Heady Topper by the Alchemist in Stowe, VT. This beer has not blessed my lips, but…….I am on the hunt now. This is a double IPA and according to the recommendation printed on the can…..it is best consumed from the can. According to the review in Zymurgy that is to “allow your senses to enjoy the maximum hop experience.”
Number 5……. Hopslam Ale from Bell’s Brewery….. my go to Double IPA. It is best consumed fresh……..but I have hoarded it far into the year, hidden away from the local beer gnomes that raid my stash. Very high on my list. Mark your calendar, this beer is distributed in January and February……then the dearth sets in. Dearth, a beekeepers term when nectar is not available for the bees and also appropriate for this nectar of the gods hoppy beer. At 8% it will help make you toasty….nice!
Number 6 …….. Zombie Dust by Three Floyd’s Brewing Company, Munster, IN. Three Floyd’s describes it as “intensely hopped”. That description places it on my list of beers to hunt down. The Zymurgy review calls it “Insanely drinkable”….. sounds like a gotta have beer. Only 6.2%…..yum.
Number T 7……. Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, by Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO. Very nice beer coming in at 8% …..very good hoppy aroma and and hop flavors. I have been able to track this one down, although not in my top list I would never turn it down.
Number 7 T……. Kentucky Breakfast Stout, barrel aged, by Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI. It is a strong Imperial Stout that I find Rivals my favorite Imperial Stout, the barrel aged Parabola from Firestone Walker. It is 12.3 % and best shared in 4-5 ounce glasses with good friends. Complex flavors and aromas and really warms going down. Patting myself on the back, my home brewed Imperial Stout, also aged on toasted and bourbon soaked oak, is on par with this beer.
Number 9………Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR. This is a beer that almost always graces my fridge. Two of favorite hops are used for this beer, Citra and Mosaic, both during the boil and during fermentation. It is a very fresh and clean drinking beer.
Number 10…….Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA. I have had an opportunity to sample this beer and it is treat for the palate with wide variety of flavors and complex set of pleasant aromas. At 9% ABV it will warm you up nicely.
The remainder of the top twenty; Treehouse Julius, sounds delicious, Founders All Day IPA …..a go to session ale loved by me and my beer drinking partner, Focal Banger by Alchemist….I know nothing of this beer but need to hunt it down, Jai Lai by Cigar City….I have had it a couple of times and it is a very pleasant beer, Celebration Ale by Sierra Nevada…..damn good beer, I really like it! Pseudo Sue by Toppling Goliath, the reviewers were very complimentary of this beer – yep another one to chase down, White by Allagash Brewing, apparently a real nice example of the classic Wit Bier style, Sip of Sunshine by Lawson’s Finest Liquids, this is a NEIPA this is an 8% beer, Odell IPA, , been there, done that beer many times and bought the shirt, the Odell IPA knocked my socks off the first time I tried it! Very yummy! Hazy Little Thing by Sierra Nevada Brewing……I love this beer, great aromas and flavors…yum
I made a bee run this morning, feed a few and finish setting boxes for the 6 NUC’s I will pick up on Thursday. Now it’s time for a brew. Next last stop on my route;
I added a third Langstroth box at the end of the stand. It is now ready to receive it’s NUC on Thursday.
Now, enjoying my SMaSH IPA! So, any guesses where I might be? City, county, state or state of mind? Search the photo for a hint!
Another beer note, my Amber ale should be ready to bottle this weekend. Yee Haw, at the Crawfish boil On May 12th I will have my Russian Imperial Stout, my SMaSH IPA and my Sugar T—s Amber Ale. Could be an excellent day!
From the Beer Advocate website; https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/style/157/
“American Double / Imperial Stout
The American Double Stout gets some of it inspiration from the Russian Imperial Stout. Many of these are barrel aged, mostly in bourbon / whiskey barrels, while some are infused with coffee or chocolate. Alcohol ranges vary, but tend to be quite big, and bigger than traditional Russian Imperial Stouts. Most tend to have cleaner alcohol flavors, higher hop levels, and more residual sweetness. Very full-bodied with rich roasted flavors far surpassing normal stouts.
Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 7.0-12.0%” [ ? ]
My desire was for a beer at the 11-12% ABV range and mine comes in at a respectable 8.66% ABV. I used charred oak spirals that had been soaked in cheap bourbon. They sat in the secondary for almost 4 weeks. I bottled it today(Feb 21) and I am pleasantly surprised. The bourbon flavor is not overwhelming, my previous attempts took nearly 6 months before the heat of the bourbon flavor mellowed. A little bit of a coffee flavor is present as well in the sample I pulled for the gravity measurement.
Transferring the dark and yummy mixture into the priming tank.
Priming tank slowly filling. Sorry about the focus….the color is what is important…..yes very nice!
I bottled up 23 “Bombers” (22 ounce bottles) and 5 in 12 ounce bottles. The 12 ounce bottles will be sampled periodically to see how the beer is mellowing and aging. I will wait………maybe wait……..kinda sorta for 30 days to see how it goes! If I break down and pop a top early, I will admit my weakness and report out on the taste test!
B for Bombers of B for beer or B for Bishop or……… Can you spot my mistake?
I have reviewed my brewing process and definitely messed up the sparging. I made notes on the brewing worksheet and will see if I can do better next time…..
This all grain batch sure made the chickens at one of my apiary locations happy. I bagged up all the spent grain into individual 1 gallon zip lock bags. Every few days I pull one of the bags out and let it defrost. When i spread it out in the chicken coop they attack the pile of grains as if they were starving! Not sure the grains influence the flavor of the eggs, but “free” feed is a good thing……not really free but nothing goes to waste!
A lot of grain in this batch; 12 lbs. of pale 2 row malt, 12.2 ounces Caramel/Crystal malt 120L, 8.9 ounces Black patent malt, 8.9 ounces Chocolate malt, 8.9 ounces of Roasted barley, 8.9 ounces of Flaked rye and 8.9 ounce of flaked wheat.
This is a beer I make every couple of years and typically bottle in 22 ounce bombers. It usually comes in near 11% ABV, and is aged on toasted bourbon soaked white oak. It is what I call a “one and done” beer. Shared on special occasions with several friends. This batch…..well, it will be a little short on the ABV!
I will follow through on the aging process but my OG, original gravity was lower than expected. I had planned on something in the 1.090 range and wound up at 1.078. I just transferred the beer into my secondary fermenter and will add the oak shortly. I will say that the sample pulled for the gravity is tasty so, all is not lost. It now calculates out around 7.5% ABV.
Siphoning out of the primary fermentation bucket into the glass carboy for a little aging. Dark and yummy looking and yes, the sample was purty darned good!
Next up is a SMaSH IPA. Marris Otter malt and Mosaic hops. I will keep all y’all posted from my Kingwood, TX home brewery.
Yesterday my daughter Ashleigh turned 31! Well, I did the grilling for the event and, as most of the guests, we enjoyed some good beers. My Honey Blonde Ale homebrew was well received in addition to other craft beer offerings.
For this special night I broke out a bottle of an Imperial Stout from Marble Brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What a great beer to help Ashleigh celebrate her 31st! Love you Ashleigh! Black as night, great head and very warming.
We finished the evening sipping on my homemade Limoncello. I think that was a bit over the top for both of us! Very sweet, lemony and a hint of “Everclear” used for the base. It warms all the way down!