20. American Porter and Stout

Mom and Dad

(Russian Imperial Stout, 13F) BeerSmith Recipe File

This beer scored a 35.5 and earned a silver certificate in the NYC Region of the 2014 National Home-brew Competition!

Formulation

Oh, the 80s...
Oh, the 80s…

This is a beer that is near and dear to my heart.  I have been brewing a version of this beer every year since I started all-grain brewing.  My folks are huge craft beer nuts, and have supported my hobby with thirsty palates from the beginning.  So, I brew this beer in their honor every year.  I  slap labels on it, wax dip it and send it out to lucky family and friends for the holidays.  This year, Mom and Dad is pulling double duty as both holiday gift and blog launch party beer (1).  Previous recipes have varied year to year, as I’m never completely happy with the final product.  This year is another major revision.  I’m using less chocolate malt (last year, the chocolate dominated), switching from Irish Ale yeast to WLP090, and using all American hops.  The last choice is more because I have fresh 2013 harvest hops and why not use them.  This has taken the beer from a somewhat English style to a firmly American style Russian Imperial Stout.

 

Recipe

10 lbs Pale US 2-row
2.5 lbs Roasted Barley
2 lbs White Wheat Malt
1.75 lbs Chocolate Malt
0.85 lb. 120L Crystal Malt
0.5 lb. Black Barley
1.6 lbs Light DME
0.5 lb. Dextrose (corn sugar)

Mash @ 149° for 90 minutes (1.3 qt/lb).  Sparge with 3.2 gal.

Boil for 60 minutes

6 mL CO2 Hop Extract boil for 60 min
1 oz Centennial (10.5%) boil for 20 min
1 oz Mosaic (12.0%) & Calypso (15.6%) boil for 10 min
1 oz each Mosaic, Centennial & Citra (14.1%) @ flameout, steep 10 min

WLP090 3 vials (no starter)
Fermentation Temperature: 62°-68° (sidewall)

OG: 1.086
FG:  1.023
ABV:  8.96%… let’s just call it 9%!
IBU:  78.2
SRM:  76 (calculated)

 

Brew Day

Preparing to Sparge
Preparing to Sparge

So this is going to be a long story, sorry.  I originally brewed a batch of this exact recipe (with 15 lbs base malt and without the DME & dextrose), mashing at 154°.  This, admittedly, was a huge oversight on my part, as all previous batches of Mom and Dad have been mashed at 150°.  As I was preparing for this brew, as with all others, I did my reading of various article and book recipes.  Here, one of the pro tips was to mash between 152-158 for “complexity in the mash”.  Now, previous batches of Mom and Dad did in fact lack complexity, the most recent batch being chocolate dominant with little roast character coming through.  I don’t want to say that 152-158 mash temps for RIS is a bad tip, but I will say this:  good luck getting that wort to attenuate.  Keep in mind that The Guidelines cap FG for this style at 1.030, and I think for good reason.  Sweeter than that is just too sweet.  Even with a massive WLP090 slurry from EPS, this batch stopped at 1.033.

So, I decided I’d brew another batch, mashing at 149°.  The second batch would attenuate more and I would blend the two results to achieve a beer that wasn’t too sweet.  Plus, having too much Russian Imperial Stout isn’t a thing.

So, you’ll notice that in this recipe, my base malt is a little low, and the recipe includes DME.  This was a last minute brew day mistake, as I thought I had more base malt left than I actually had (I was short 5 lbs used in a previous batch).  I thought I should have 15 pounds of base malt left in my 50 lb sack, didn’t bother weighing it and just crushed it.  I mashed in, and thought, boy this is darker than it should be, and then realized I was short 5 pounds of base malt.  Of course my mash temps were off, but I corrected with cool water and nailed 149°.  Mash pH didn’t seem to be different, which is odd but ok… (this really just shows the massive buffering capacity of malt).  To make up for the inevitable loss of sugars, I had a brew day panic and added all the DME and dextrose I had.  By some sort of Christmas miracle, the OG of this batch was 1 point off from the previous one.

Darkness!
Darkness!

 

Fermentation

The fermentation profile for both of these beers was the same.  I pitched the yeast @ 65°, and waited for activity.  When I saw activity start to get vigorous, I lowered the temp controller to 62°.  When activity started to wane, I raised in 2 degrees every 12 hours to 68°.  In both batches, FG was reached in 5 days, but I left the beers on the lees for another 3 days before racking.

The FG on this beer was 1.023, a full ten points lower than the 154° batch.  Of course, the dextrose helped drive that some, but this difference really does highlight how important mash temperature is.  For a  beer as huge as RIS, I think a mash temp above 154° is asking for an under-attenated, overly sweet beer.

Now, I was planning to blend these two batches.  As I was racking the 1.023 batch to a keg for conditioning, I tasted the batch.  There are times when you have to throw your plan right out the window when your palate tells you to.  This was one of those times.  This batch tasted fantastic, and reminded me of Yeti with a fruitier hop profile.  I couldn’t blend this; the results would just wouldn’t be as good.  So, this weird batch with DME and corn sugar was going to be this year’s Mom and Dad.  The 1.033 batch?  It has been re-assigned to REDACTED for duty.

 

Packaging

So, since I’m serving this beer at the blog launch party, I began carbonating to 2.3 volumes, and was letting the beer essentially lager at 36 degrees for 3 weeks.  Now, anyone who has owned a keg system for any amount of time is going to feel my pain.  About 1 week into the aging process, I decided to bottle a few bottles to send to friends and family, as well as bottle The Stig’s sample.  I found my entire CO2 system to be at 0 psi.  A leak.  Chasing CO2 leaks has proved to be, for me, the most annoying and frustrating part of home brewing.  Slow leaks are painfully hard to find, and they’re often the ones that strike at the worst possible time.  Just invited 10 friends over for fresh home brew on tap?  Nope, you have 5 gallons of flat beer and no way to serve it, sucker!!!

My system has a manifold for 3 kegs, two taps and a 5 lb CO2 bottle.  Relatively simple really, but I have found I often develop some kind of leak once every other month, which is about once every other month too much!  This time it was where the gas line meets the manifold, a leak so slow I barely noticed the bubbles from spraying sanitizer on it.  I literally would not have found it had I not had my head inside the fridge.  I think the main problem is that when the fridge is really cold, the hoses are stiff and I have to really torque them around when I’m moving kegs into/out of the fridge and this eventually leads to enough stress to slightly loosen one or more fittings.  So, I’ve resigned myself to checking/tightening every single connection in my system once every two weeks.  A minor hassle to prevent a major one (and yes, I have the proper washers and teflon tap EVERYWHERE in my system).

 

My Take

Beautiful!
Beautiful!

I really like this beer.  It is still very fresh, so there is a nice noticeable hop flavor and aroma.  I don’t think this beer tastes like Yeti as much as I had originally thought, but I is a damn-tasty RIS.  Not as roasty or as huge as most examples, but VERY drinkable.  This beer doesn’t murder your palate after half a glass.

 

The Stig

And now it’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber.  Some say a baby’s bottle full of Russian Imperial Stout helps him sleep at night, and that He has recently annexed a certain piece of land in the Black Sea… all we know is, He’s called The Stig!

Aroma: Dark roast coffee, molasses, vanilla bean, powdered cocoa,
spruce like hop aromatics, subtle char and black tea, as well.

Appearance: Pitch black with cappuccino tinged head. Tightly beaded
with some spotty lacing and retention that consists of a patchy film
over the top of the glass and a persistent ring of foam along the
edges, 75 degrees SRM.

Flavor: Delicately roasty, not at all acrid coffee flavors. Deep,
bittersweet chocolate that melds into sweeter mid-palate flavors akin
to fudge, and finishes with a hemp tea-like, nutty bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth, creamy, coating, but not viscous. Dry,
approachably bitter, with a moderately warming finish.

Overall: Very well done. Perhaps more of an imperial porter than an
imperial stout in terms of body and strength, but that is really
splitting hairs since imperial porters can certainly win imperial
stout categories at competition. Refined and elegant for an imperial
stout, great take on the style.

 

Reaction

YES!!!  After EPS baby-puke, I needed a win.  Man it feels good, but this beer is kind of a fluke isn’t it?  It certainly isn’t the beer I had intended to brew, with DME and table sugar.  But the beer is Stig pleasing, so I’ll take it!  To be completely honest, I have no idea how this beer came together so well from a mash chemistry perspective.  The beer went on to earn a 35.5 in the NYC region of NHC 2014, and received nothing but good comments from the judges.

 

Mom and Dad!!!
Mom and Dad!!!
(1)  In case you’re wondering, we begin brewing a beer for this blog 5-6 months before it eventually becomes an article for you to read.  This is so we can release complete articles consistently, which I hope you appreciate.  So this beer was brewed in early December, 2013 and the blog launch party was January 31st, 2014.  Sorry we didn’t invite you.

 

Books I referenced for this recipe:
Zainasheff & Palmer. Brewing Classic Styles. 2007.
Palmer & Kaminski. Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers. 2013.
Oliver, Garrett (editor). The Oxford Companion to Beer. 2012.
2008 BJCP Guidelines.