Mad Boris Russian Imperial Stout (and brewday walk-through)

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.

IMG_20170621_192703501

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.

IMG_20170621_192650050

Continue reading

Advertisements

Beer 33: Russian Hacker Stout with pH adjustments

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:

img_20161215_192141282

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

Beer 14: Epic Russian Imperial Stout and Finer Crush

Surprisingly taking only 5 days to carbonate, this beer is everything I want in a big Russian Imperial Stout (by the way, I’m pretty sure ‘Russian’ simply means high alcohol, like an Imperial Stout). Big, dark, malty, dry, bitter, roasty, with a lot of hidden alcohol. I really, really like this beer.

IMG_20151230_205503854.jpg

For this beer I started very differently. Normally I crush my grains at the beer store, which has been great. However, I wanted to have a much finer crush to increase efficiency. Also, I wanted to have the huge convenience of buying my grains ahead of time. Crush on demand; it doesn’t get any fresher. So I splurged on Cyber Monday and brought the Cereal Killer Grain Mill for 80 bucks. I adjusted the mill to credit card size and went at it. For this beer, I also increased my mash time by 10 minutes to a 40 minute mash, just in case (after all, this is 12% ABV). Everything else was normal: 30 minute boil and a slow 24 hour chill method in my fermentation chamber. Conventional wisdom says that, for high alcohol beers, you must use a starter and must aerate the wort before pitching the yeast. I said fuck no to both. This beer fermented well and it’s not sweet by any means. Which means it’s close to 12%. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing and can’t wait to brew it again. I don’t know if the finer crush or the 40 minute mash helped (I’m guessing the finer crush did), but I would stick to the same method.

As I said in my last post, recipe matters. I got this recipe from a trusted internet source: brulosophy.com, which I read religiously. Thank you Matt Waldron.

Russian Imperial Stout, 5 gal, 12%ish
16 lb. Maris Otter
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

Slow chilled for 18 hours, fermented at 65F for 7 days, cold crashed, added gelatin next day, bottled 9 days after brewday. In fact, the grain to glass time was 14 days only. Damn.