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Brewer’s Best Russian Imperial Stout : Batch 7

Looking forward to the cold MT Winter months, I wanted to brew something dark and hearty. I’d also brewed several batches back-to-back, and had the luxury of making a beer that could sit and age for a while. When I went down to my local homebrew shop, I asked about the various dark beer kits they had for sale. The guy working told me about several dark beers before getting to the Russian Imperial Stout. He said “this one is the thickest, darkest, nastiest beer kit we sell.” Sold. If you’re gonna go big, go BIG. I’ve since learned a little bit about the beer at hand… Russian Imperial Stouts are the king of stouts. They boast a high alcohol by volume, plenty of malt character, and low to moderate levels of carbonation with huge roasted, chocolate and burnt malt flavors. There are usually high amounts of hops in the Imperial Russian Stout, but the malt, chocolate, and coffee flavors balance out the flavors.

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Brewing & the Dead Yeast

Learning about this beer made me even more excited to brew it. While I don’t love dark beers, I did want to see how such a drastically excessive beer would turn out! I performed the boil for this beer on August 8th of 2009. I filled up my brew pot and added the grains to be steeped. The grains sat in the water as it warmed to 170 degrees, then a little bit longer, for a total of about 30 minutes. As I steep the grains, I like to have a second pot of boiling water going for the cans of liquid malt extract (as you can see in the picture). This Stout had one of the best smelling boils of any batch I’ve made. The chocolate and coffee smells are amazing. As you can see from one of the other pictures, the pot had a frothy top on it as it bubbled.

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After boiling for about an hour, I cooled the wort, then transferred the mixture to my fermenting bucket. I’d purchased a strainer since my last batch, and used it here to remove most of the hops pieces. Next, I took the original gravity measurement before adding the yeast, that came out to 1.076. Right where it was supposed to be! Next I added in the yeast, capped the bucket and started the wait. Turns out, waiting was I that happened. When I checked the fermenter the next morning, there was NOTHING happening. No bubbles at all. I’ve ready plenty about not worrying, so I stayed calm and waited. The next morning… still nothing. At this point I figured it was time to add new yeast. When I went down to my homebrew shop, the guy told me that several of the Brewer’s Best kits from their most recent shipment had apparently contained dead yeast. He was nice enough to give me a couple of packets of Fermentis yeast free of charge. I went directly home, added the new yeast packet, shook and swirled the bucket to aerate the mixture, and then started the wait again. The next morning… bubbles! Turns out that my replacement yeast was working great.

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Fermentation and the Secondary Fermenter

I let the replacement yeast work for 7 days. At this point it was time to transfer the fermented beer to my new carboy. Since brewing my last batch, I’d purchased a 5 gal. glass carboy. This was the first time I’d had the chance to use it. Nothing special, just siphoned the beer from my fermenting bucket in to the carboy. I then put in the plug and the airlock and put it back in to my beer fridge to sit at about 68 degrees. The amount of trub in the bucket seemed to be less than usual, but I think straining out the leftover hops pieces made a big difference there.

I let the beer sit in the secondary for 2 weeks. At this point, I added priming sugar and bottled the beer as I normally would. I was curious to see how much additional settling would occur in the carboy. There was a little residue left in the secondary, but really not very much.

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Notes and New Equipment

A few things worth noting.  I was able to add a few new items to my process on this batch.  First, I bought a great wide strainer.  Instead of metal mesh, which I’ve read can hold contaminants, I bought one that has a white coating.  It works great for removing the leftover hops pieces after the boil.  Next, my new 5 gallon carboy to use as a secondary.  This will be used on every batch from here on out.  Finally, this was the second batch that made full use of my beer fridge!  I bought a temperature regulator for an old fridge I obtained from a local auto repair shop.  It’s GREAT, and removes a lot of the worry I’d had over temperature fluctuation.

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Final Results: Russian Imperial Stout (aka – Black Death)

I gave this beer about a month in the bottle before I started drinking it. I’m honestly really pleasantly surprised with this beer. I expected dark, think, strong, and nasty, but it’s really not. Yes, it’s dark, but it’s actually pretty smooth with great flavor. You might not drink more than one of these at a time, but it’s a perfect one at a time, cold weather beer. I unveiled “Black Death” at a wintery tailgate gathering a week ago to very good results. Many people who don’t especially ‘like beer’ admitted to liking the brew. Also worth noting, the beer went great with a maduro cigar!

Next up – Dunkelweizen
Previous batch –
German Oktoberfest

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