Although I really like the Russian Hacker Stout, which I’ve made twice now, I opted for a new recipe from Brew: the foolproof guide to making world class beer at home, by James Morton. Simplified, here’s the recipe.
Mad Boris Russian Imperial Stout
15.5 lb Maris Otter
1.5 lb Carm/Crystal 80
1 lb Amber malt
1 lb Chocolate malt
1 lb Brown malt
1 oz. Magum (FW, 30 minute boil)
1 oz. El Dorado (FW…had it lying around)
US-05 (two packs, just in case)
My brewdays are usually weeknights after dinner, or after my wife and I put our 3-year-old to bed around 7pm. I start by connecting an RV filter to my garden hose (carbon filter). I fill up the pot and crank the heat while it’s filling. Putting the lid on speeds up things, a lot.
While waiting for the water to reach 150ish, I mill the barley very fine (all 20 pounds for this beast). It falls into a plastic bucket beneath the mill.
In the meantime, I get out my equipment:
Not long after, the water is at mashing temp. I put the brew bag in the hot water, stir in the grain, and proceed to mash for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
As you can see, even a 13 gallon pot has it’s limitations. This beer has 20 pounds of grain, but 25 would probably be the max. Starting with 9 or so gallons of water, the mash was full and thick. And the bag was super heavy when I lifted it out. A nice thing about “squeezing the bag” instead of sparging is that you can stop squeezing whenever you want. If you need more liquid, keep squeezing. If not, set aside and move on.
After discarding the bag, I quickly crank up the heat, add First Wort hops, and put the lid back on. Waiting for the boil seems to take about 8 minutes or so. I then proceed to boil for 30 minutes.
During the boil is when I “clean up,” which means throwing away the spent grains, hosing down the brew bag, and putting everything back. It’s nice to be done cleaning before the boil ends.
My pictures end here, probably because of…
Anyway, during the boil I set up my immersion chiller. Conveniently, my garden hose attaches to the chiller and reaches to where I’m brewing – in the garage, saving my back some lifting. I place the chiller next to the pot, cut the heat, place the pot away from the burner, and proceed to chill – the excess water from the chiller spills onto my driveway. I stir frequently for about 8-10 minutes, which is crucial for fast chilling. After 10 minutes, I place the pot (lid on, no airlock) into my cold fermentation chamber. If the beer is around 80 degrees, I’ll pitch the yeast immediately. If not, I’ll let the fermentation chamber do the rest for a few hours. This is the end of brewday and, after hosing down the chiller, clean up is done. I got inside and watch TV with the wife before bed.
As this particular beer was fermenting, I went on vacation to the Upper Peninsula. I don’t know about you, but I get a great feeling when I’m fermenting a beer while away. As I take the ferry across Lake Michigan, it’s as if I’m working.
When I got back, the beer was reading 1.016, quite low and probably done. I raised the temperature to 72F, for a “diacetyl” rest for two days. Then, I lowered the temperature to 32F for two days to cold crash and clarify. Now it’s time to transfer to a keg. I clean my kegs immediately after I drink the last pint from them, which involves hosing them down and letting them soak in StarSan. To clean the picnic tap and tube, I pressurize the keg with StarSan and let it flow for a minute. So after emptying the StarSan solution from the clean keg, they are ready to go. I attach clear plastic tubing to the spigot and let her rip. Mysteriously, I have to suck on the hose to get it going – not sure why gravity doesn’t do all the work there. The beer flows from the pot into the keg, which takes about 5 minutes tops.
I “purge” the headspace, set at 45 psi for about 15 hours, release the pressure, set the beer to 12 psi, and proceed to drink.
The aroma is surprisingly chocolate and it’s the star of the show: chocolate jumps off the glass even when your nose is at a distance. It reminds me of a malted milk ball (e.g. Whoppers). It’s very malty, not bitter, and (to me) has barely a hint of alcohol. I don’t get a lot of roasty, coffee character – which makes sense because the recipe has no roasted barley. I would describe the beer as “soft and brown.” The Brown Malt seems to shine through. If you take a good slug, you get more alcohol. It’s got the residual sweetness you’d expect from the grain bill (and the BIAB no sparge), but it’s not too sweet. This almost reminds me of an imperial brown; even the color isn’t pitch black. Russian Imperial Stouts tend to be bitter, very roasty, in your face, with a more pronounced alcohol presence. I would like to rebrew this beer with a proper mash pH; I think more acid in the mash water would improve the beer. And just a bit more bittering hops. In the end I prefer a more bitter, harsh, and black RIS.