A year ago I made a really good Russian Imperial Stout. I said: “this beer is everything I want in a big Russian Imperial Stout…Big, dark, malty, dry, bitter, roasty, with a lot of hidden alcohol. I really, really like this beer.” I also said “I honestly wouldn’t change a thing and can’t wait to brew it again.” Well, a year later, I didn’t change a thing. Using basically the same recipe, which came from brulosophy.com, this beer is just as delicious – perhaps more so. Nice brown head, perfect carbonation, chewy, big bodied, smooth and drinkable, packed with flavor but certainly not too sweet. The bold, dark flavors are really impressive and pop out – coffee, chocolate, hint of raisin. When it’s 12 degrees outside, there’s nothing better than this:
If you look at the ingredients, I’m convinced that the pound of “Special B” malt matters and shines through. Special B description: “heavy, dark caramel taste with more subtle notes of burnt sugar, raisin, and dark dried fruits such as cherries and plums. It can also deliver some of the softer roasty notes of a chocolate or black malt but without the astringency or bitterness.”
Sans cherries, sounds about right to me. It’s a shame because I have so many other Imperial Stout recipes that I want to try.
Mind your pH?
Slowly, I’ve become convinced that water matters, and pH levels of the mash – which is a water chemistry issue – probably matters too. I wouldn’t care but someone gave me a really expensive pH meter, so I figured it was time to bust that bad boy out. When it comes to the pH of beer, there is a sort of ‘Goldilocks’ zone, an ideal range that beer should be in (google it). This allegedly contributes to clarity, hop expression, and overall quality. Logistically, there are different methods to deal with pH, ranging from building your water profile from scratch (RO water), to…the way I did it. The beginning of my brew day was the same as always – same recipe, same water from the tap, same amount. After putting the crushed barley into the hot water (mash), I took a pH reading. Surprisingly, it was quite high (out of the Goldilocks zone). Now is where you adjust. You need to add some sort of acid, which bring the pH down. So I added about 6 ounces of acid malt, available at any home brew store, which brought the pH down. That’s pretty much it. You can also use a liquid acid – like phosphoric – which is more potent and efficient and easier to store.
I cannot say whether this had any impact on the finished beer. Without a blind tasting of both stouts, it’s too hard not to be biased. And yes the stout from a year ago is gone. I also think pH is probably more important with pale beers and IPAs.
Russian Hacker Stout, 5 gal, 12%ish
10 lb. Maris Otter
6 lb. 2-Row
1 lb Crystal 60L
1.5 lb Roasted Barley
1 lb Special B
.5 lb Chocolate malt
~2.5 oz Warrior hops FW (30 minute boil)
2 packets of Safale 05