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After six long weeks of fermentation (three primary and three secondary), it was finally time to bottle the barleywine and hot damn, it seems to be in rather fantastic shape right now. Add in a little carbonation and this stuff should be prime. Amazing caramel and dark fruit notes, and the bourbon oaked version seems to have taken on more of that character here than my RIS did... Speaking of which, I went with the same approach as the RIS. Primary fermentation was all together, but when I transferred to secondary I split the batch, leaving one alone and adding bourbon soaked oak cubes to the other. At bottling time, I bottled some of the plain barleywine, did a 1:1 blend and bottled some of that, and then the remainder of straight bourbon oaked beer. Also of note, the beer looked really pretty, especially when I held it up to light, a gorgeous dark amber color that isn't quite as prominent in the picture below, but it's still a nice looking beer.

Homebrewed Barleywine

Final gravity was somewhere in the 12.6 Bx to 12.7 Bx range for all three variants, which translates to about 1.023. Astute readers may remember that I had reported the gravity as 1.017 when I was racking to secondary, but I must have been reading the Refractometer wrong or something, because there's no way the FG should go up. Regardless, this still represents somewhere around 74% attenuation (and around 9.3% ABV), which is pretty good, and 1.023 should provide a nice rich and chewy mouthfeel without being too overwhelming. The RIS finished at 1.029, which seems awfully high, but which tastes really good, so we should be in good shape.

Like I said, this batch smelled and tasted rather awesome even this early in the process, so I can't wait for these to condition in the bottle. I figure I'm in for another 3 weeks or so before it'll be ready, though I'm sure I'll check one of the "transition" bottles (I separated the first couple bottles after each transition from straight barleywine to the bourbon oaked version because of the liquid in the tubing made for an inconsistent blend, though I'm sure the beer will be fine).

At this point, I'm unsure if I'll do another batch before the heat of summer really kicks in. If I do, it may just be a small 4% saison for the keg. Next fall, I'm planning on doing a Scotch Ale (perhaps with a similar bourbon oak treatment) and maybe something like a black IPA (or whatever the heck you call that stuff). I also want to give the Imperial Red ale another chance someday. But for now, I've got a few cases of barleywine and stout to work through, which should last me a while (and quite honestly, I'd much rather free up those bottles than scrape the labels off these other ones because damn, that's an annoying process).

Good news everyone! After three long weeks of primary fermentation, I transferred my barleywine to secondary yesterday. Fermentation was vigorous and I'm glad I used the blowoff tube, but it never quite reached the near catastrophic levels of the initial RIS fermentation (I was seriously worried that my fermenter would pop its top, and it probably would have if I didn't keep such a close eye on it). What's more, I did seem to get a really good, high attenuation ferment here.

Final Gravity was 11.6 Bx or about 1.017. This is a little lower than the goal, but that was expected given that my OG was a little lower than my target as well. High attenuation, as planned, but it should still have plenty of body. This should put us in 10.1% ABV range, which may very well be the highest ABV beer I've managed yet.

As planned, I split the batch into two secondary fermenters:

Secondary fermenters with barleywine

As you can see, the one on the right did not quite reach the full 2.5 gallon mark, so that will be the "regular" version. The one on the left got the bourbon soaked oak cubes. I used Eagle Rare 10 and this time around, I made sure to soak the oak in bourbon for a much longer period (about 3-4 months), which seemed to result in a much darker liquid:

Bourbon and Oak, sitting in a jar...

I used 2 ounces of Hungarian oak this time, which is supposed to be a little more mild than American oak, but more potent than French oak. It was medium char, but from what I can tell, it felt a lot less like a campfire than the American oak I used previously. The plan is to let this sit on oak for around 3 weeks, then bottle some from each fermenter, and a blend of the two treatments. I am greatly looking forward to it, while I believe the RIS turned out well, I think this one will be more refined. But only time will tell.

I still have not really decided what I'll brew next, but I'm definitely hoping to get one more batch in before it gets too hot around here. Right now I'm thinking of a 4ish percent ABV pale ale, highly drinkable. I might even use something akin to the recipe I used for the Earl Grey beer, just without the tea and using American hops instead of the British ones. Or, if I'm lazy and it does get too hot around here, maybe I'll hit up a saison recipe instead. More to come.

A sort of companion to my Russian Imperial Stout (which I named Bomb & Grapnel), this is another beer I'm hoping to clock in at ~10% ABV. As with the RIS, I'm going to brew up a full 5 gallon batch, then split the result into two secondary fermenters. One will simply condition, the other will get an addition of bourbon soaked oak cubes (just like the RIS). At packaging time, I'll bottle some of each, then a blend of the two. With the RIS, the blend actually came out the best, though maybe the bourbon oaked one will hold up better over time (alas, only one way to find out).

For the recipe, I used one of my favorite barleywines as a guide, Firestone Walker's §ucaba. Fortunately for me, Firestone Walker is pretty open with their ingredients. Unfortunately, they're not quite as open with their proportions! So I took a swing, and made some tweaks along the way:

Brew #15: Barleywine
April 5, 2014

0.5 lb. Crystal 40 (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Crystal 120 (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Munich Malt (specialty grain)
0.25 lb. Chocolate Malt (specialty grain)
9 lb. Briess Golden Light DME
0.75 lb. Turbinado Sugar
2 oz. Bravo hops (bittering @ 15.5% AA)
1 oz. East Kent Golding hops (flavor)
1 oz. East Kent Golding hops (aroma)
2 oz. Oak Cubes: Hungarian Medium Toast
16 oz. Bourbon (Eagle Rare 10)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Barleywine Ingredients

I'm shooting for something in the 10-11% ABV range here. Now, §ucaba is 12.5-13.5% ABV, but as I understand it, this is difficult to obtain for mere mortals like myself. Something about the laws of physics not operating the same in Firestone Walker's warehouses? Whatever, the point is that this recipe isn't quite the beast that §ucaba is...

I tried to keep my specialty grains reasonable as well. I think one of the reasons my RIS had such a high FG was that I included too much in the way of unfermentable sugars. So I toned that down here. I also added a small simple sugar addition, which should help keep that attenuation in check. Fingers crossed.

For the hops, it seemed pretty straightforward. Bravo for bittering and East Kent Goldings for late kettle additions, just like §ucaba. This puts the beer firmly in English Barleywine territory. According to my calculations, the IBUs should be somewhere in the 40-50 range, which is actually a little low, even for an English Barleywine, but then, §ucaba clocks in at 42 IBUs, so I'm actually on track.

For the oak cubes, I chose Hungarian Medium Toast (supposedly less intense than American oak, but more intense than French oak) and started soaking them in bourbon a couple months ago. I think one of the issues with the RIS was how long I kept the oak in bourbon, so hopefully the additional time will yield more complexity and less char (among other harsh tannins, etc...) Depending on how this goes, I may also keep this batch in secondary for an extra week as well (so 3 weeks primary, 4 weeks secondary).

Firestone Walker's house yeast is rumored to be similar to Wyeast 1968 (London ESB, same as WLP 002), but that has relatively low attenuation and low alcohol tolerance (which is yet another reason to question the laws of physics at FW). I ended up going with Wyeast 1028, which has a much better attenuation range and one of the higher alcohol tolerances (11%, which should work here). Also, since this is a big beer, I did a yeast starter. I've had trouble making starters in the past because I never took into account how much water is lost to evaporation. This time, I managed to get it almost right. Started with 1250 ml of water and 1/4 cup malt extract, and ended with about 900 ml of 1.042 wort (slightly high, but right around the 1.040 I was shooting for).

On brew day, the Original Gravity ended up at 22.3 Bx or 1.094, slightly lower than I was shooting for, but it should still be fine. I installed a blow off tube instead of the airlock, as I'm anticipating a pretty active fermentation.

So that just about covers it. This one should take a while, so I anticipate doing one more batch of something before the heat of summer makes brewing a bit more difficult. I'll probably do something sessionable that I'll keg, like a 4% pale ale or maybe a light saison for some summer drinking fun. Next up on the big beer front would be a Scotch ale, which may also get the oak treatment described above (though it'll likely also be lower in ABV)...

(Cross Posted at Kaedrin Weblog)

After ruining my last batch of beer with an overly ambitious yeast harvesting scheme, I've returned to a recipe that has worked in the past, and will no doubt work well again. Of course, I'm tweaking the recipe considerably, as I'm wont to do, but the basics are pretty well the same. As with last year, I'm brewing this batch of beer for a specific event in mid-March. It's called Fat Weekend, a annual gathering of portly friends from all over the northeast (and some points west). To be sure, we're not that fat, but as we like to say, fat is a frame of mind, and our caloric intake over the course of the weekend is easily 5-10 times our normal rate. Last year, we housed about half a case of my beer pretty quickly, so this year will be a full batch (as opposed to the 2.5 gallon batches I've been making). And again, there are some tweaks to the recipe and it is scaled up to a 5 gallon recipe, though I think it's pretty similar:

Beer #14: Fat Weekend IPA
Full-Batch (5 gallons)
February 8, 2014

1 lb. CaraPils (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)
6 lb. Muntons Light DME
12 oz. Turbinado Sugar
1.5 oz. Simcoe (bittering @12.7 AA)
0.5 oz. Simcoe (flavor)
1 oz. Amarillo (flavor)
2 oz. Amarillo (aroma)
1 oz. Amarillo (dry hop)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
Wyeast 1272 - American Ale II Yeast

Fat Weekend IPA Ingredients

This was perhaps a bigger change than I let on. Gone is the Vienna malt, and I only really scaled up the CaraPils (for body). The Crystal 20 remains the same, and the Turbinado sugar was only partially scaled up. Hop wise, I went with a Simcoe/Amarillo blend, with Simcoe providing the bulk of bittering (and just a a bit of flavor) and Amarillo pulling duty on flavor, aroma, and dry hops. And just to switch things up a bit, I went with the American Ale II yeast, which seems to be a clean yeast that will still provide a little citrus boost to the hops (so I hope). Furthermore, I'm planning to keg this batch and transport the results in growlers.

So it might be a bit disingenuous to give this the same name as last year's Fat Weekend IPA, but hey, I'm working on it. From a recipe standpoint, I'm thinking this is just about where I want to be. Last year, I really wanted to use this Simcoe/Amarillo hop schedule, but was stymied by a lack of Amarillo and fell back on Falconer's Flight and Citra to make up for the difference. The only real change I could see myself making next year is if the Conan yeast becomes more widely available (whether that be ECY 29 (Northeast Ale) or something else), but I'm definitely curious about this American Ale II yeast (from the descriptions I've read, it seems to have similar properties, though it's clearly not the same yeast).

And this is a first, I forgot to take an OG reading. What can I say, I've been fighting a cold and hadn't quite gotten over it on Saturday. The recipe should have yielded something in the 1.067 range, and given my previous experience, I probably hit something around there. I'm pretty confident that after two weeks we'll be in good shape (somewhere around 7.1% ABV).

Next up on the schedule is some sort of barleywine, which I'd like to give a bourbon soaked oak treatment to (or perhaps I'll go with something more exotic, like Port wine soaked oak, we shall see), then do the whole straight, oaked, and blend of straight and oaked versions. From what I've had of Bomb & Grapnel, the blend seems to be doing the best, so maybe I'll lean more heavily on that... After the barleywine, something light and crushable for summertime consumption (either a 4% pale ale, or a light saison). Then I plan to do something similar to Red Heady again in the fall, hopefully not screwing it up that time. After that, who knows? Maybe a redux of my Christmas Ale (a spiced winter warmer) or another batch of Bomb & Grapnel (with some slight tweaks). But now I'm getting way ahead of myself.

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

Adventures in Brewing - Moar Updates

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I've been making what I guess you could call "slow beer" lately, stuff that takes a while to express itself. To counter this, I made a batch of Red Heady, a simple, hoppy red ale, and it just so happened to align with the acquisition of my new toy:

My New Toy

Yep, I got me a kegerator, so no tedious bottling was needed for Red Heady. On the other hand, I totally screwed Red Heady up. It's terrible, and I'm 99% sure that it's the way I harvested the Heady Topper yeast. I'm pretty sure the OG of my starter was way too high for the weak, harvested yeast. The final result wasn't infected, per say, but it did have a taint to it that I associate with weak yeast. I'll have to brew up a more straightforward batch sometime. I still have a couple cans of heady, so I could try harvesting the yeast with a much lower OG starter as well. In the meantime, I need to get Fat Weekend IPA up and running (I'll probably just use American Ale yeast for that sucker, don't want to take any chances).

Kaedrôme Saison is coming along, but sure is taking its time to condition in the bottle. I'm getting inconsistent carbonation levels, and it's never quite reached the heights of the non-funkified version (which is still drinking pretty great these days, though I'm critically low on supply, with only 3 bottles left).

Finally, the Russian Imperial Stout I made a while back seems to be coming around... and I even came up with a name for it: Bomb and Grapnel. If you get the reference, I love you. As a hint, I will note that in the book(s), the Bomb and Grapnel is a pirate-themed hotel bar that is not as cheesy as it sounds. But it's an evocative name for a big, bold imperial stout, no?

Anyway, after 3 weeks in secondary, I bottled with a FG at about 1.029, which is pretty damn high for a finished beer, but after 6 weeks, I'm pretty sure it was fermented out. The Bourbon Oak version had a slightly higher FG as well. I managed to get about half a case of straight RIS, half a case of Bourbon Oak RIS, and about 20 bottles of the blended version, with 4 bottles of what I called "transition" bottles (i.e. when I was transitioning from straight RIS to the blend, I set aside a couple bottles that were presumably not as well integrated because of the liquid already in the tubing, etc... Ditto for transitioning from the blend to full Bourbon Oak.) I opened one of the transition bottles recently, and it appears to be in drinking order:

Bomb and Grapnel

Nowhere near as roasty as I was expecting, though I wasn't really going for super roasty either. Still, if I were doing this again, I think I'd remove the munich malt and add more roasted malt (or black patent). Still, it's drinking reasonably well. Sweet, but not cloying, and actually somewhat hoppy (not like one of them India Black Ales or whatever you call them, but the hops are there), it's working pretty well for me. When I was bottling, I didn't get much in the way of oak or Bourbon out of it, but I haven't opened one of those bottles yet either, so I guess we'll just have to wait and find out. I figure another month or two and I'll be ready to drink all three side by side and see how they're doing.

After bottling Bomb and Grapnel, I took the Bourbon and beer soaked oak cubes and put them back into a mason jar with a few ounces of Dad's Hat Rye, a local Rye whiskey that could probably use some more time on oak (they typically aged for 3 months or so in small casks). And I figure the added beer would also make for an interesting result. We'll check in on that experiment in a month or two, I think.

Next up on the Homebrew front is Fat Weekend IPA, a beer I'm making for the eponymous Fat Weekend, a gathering of portly individuals from all over the northeast (and some points west) which will be sometime in mid-march. I will hopefully be able to switch up the hop schedule a bit again - hoping to use Simcoe for bittering, and Amarillo for flavor/aroma. I'm also planning on making a full batch this time. After that batch, who knows? I do want to do something similar to the three variants of Bomb and Grapnel, but with a barleywine (though I'd like to learn a little more about how Bomb and Grapnel turned out before I really commit to anything there). And I also want to make a crushable pale for summer. And maybe, someday, a Scotch ale (perhaps with the bourbon and oak treatment).

As mentioned earlier this week, I've attempted to harvest some yeast from old cans of Heady Topper. It seemed to work, though I'm not sure how much I was actually able to grow the yeast. It seemed pretty lethargic to start, it took a few days to seemingly do anything, and while I could see the yeast had grown, I'm still not entirely sure there was enough to be viable for a full batch. I guess there's only one way to find out, eh? I've been toying with this recipe for a hoppy red ale for a while now, and I'm pretty excited to try it out. It's also a batch that doesn't require lengthy secondary treatments (like the RIS or Brett Saison), so this may be ready by Christmas (red ale for Christmas? Sounds good to me), though I'm pushing it a bit close for that. Anywho, let's get this party started:

Brew #13 - Red Heady
December 7, 2013

0.5 lb. Crystal 60 (specialty grain)
2 oz. Roasted Malt (specialty grain)
3 lb. Briess Golden Light DME
3.3 lb. Amber LME
1 lb. Turbinado Sugar
1 oz. Simcoe hops (bittering @ 12.7% AA)
0.5 oz. Citra hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Mosaic hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Citra hops (aroma)
0.5 oz. Mosaic hops (aroma)
1 oz. Citra hops (dry)
1 tsp Bitter Orange Peel
1 tsp Irish Moss
Heady Topper "Conan" yeast

Red Heady Ingredients

Nothing particularly fancy going on here. Very simple specialty grains for steeping, partly because I just went for the Amber extract (I suppose I could have stuck with all light DME and incorporated the Amber malt directly, but this was easier). The Turbinado sugar is pretty large, I guess, but I should get enough body from the Amber extract and Crystal 60, so that should be fine.

I'd originally planned for a Simcoe and Amarillo hop mix, but apparently Amarillo hasn't made its way to my homebrew shop yet, so I fell back on Citra and Mosaic. Citra has been growing on me of late, and Mosaic is relatively new (released in 2012). Mosaic is apparently the daughter of Simcoe, and it has Simcoe-like properties, but also apparently a wider range of tropical fruit aromas. I'm sure this will turn out fine.

Original Gravity: 1.065 (about 15.8°Bx). This is just about on target, and should yield something around 7% ABV if all goes well. I am a little worried about the yeast though, so I bought a packet of Wyeast 1056 in case things don't go so well with the harvested Heady yeast. Fingers crossed for a strong ferment!

Up next on the homebrew front is the RIS bottling (hopefully next weekend), and then I'm not sure! I definitely want to do a Barleywine in the same way I'm doing the RIS (split batches, with one bourbon oaked, etc...) And Fat Weekend IPA is also on the schedule. I'm starting to accumulate a bunch of unused ingredients, stuff that's just laying around. Maybe I'll make something called "Clusterfuck Ale" with whatever I have laying around. I definitely want to make an easy-drinking sessionable pale ale for the summer (around 4% ABV). After that, who knows? I may tweak the saison recipe to get more Brett exposure, maybe incorporate some oak into that too. So many ideas, so little time (and only so much liver).

Adventures in Brewing - Updates

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Homebrewing is not a hobby for the impatient, especially when you get a taste for stuff like funky saisons or oak aged beers. My last couple batches have been such beers, so it feels like I haven't gotten much done lately, though in about a month's time, I'll (hopefully) be awash in more homebrew than I know what to do with. I don't know how curious you are about this stuff, but updates on three batches of beer (two already mentioned, one upcoming) are below. Apologies if this isn't your bag, but hey, there's some pretty pictures you can look at too.

First up, Kaedrôme Saison, brewed wayyy back in June, I split the 5 gallon batch into two. Half was bottled in July, the other half was put into secondary and dosed with Brettanomyces, crossing the Rubicon of Funk. The first half, a "regular" saison, is drinking rather well at this point, though I'm running a little low on supply. I brought a bomber to Thanksgiving, and the relatively high carbonation and dry palate were perfect matches for the hearty meal. That second half had been slumbering in secondary for about 4 months, after which I figured it was finally time to bottle it.

Kaedrome Saison, post-secondary

Final Gravity came in at 1.003 (6.2bx), which was a nice decrease from the 1.007 of the "regular" saison. Tasting the uncarbonated stuff, it seemed relatively light on Brett funk, but very dry (as you might expect from gravity readings like that). I was a little worried about bottling this after 4 months in secondary. Would the yeast be up to carbonating this after so long? It turns out that my fears were unfounded. I bottled on 11/16/13, and cracked open a test bottle (that wasn't quite a full fill) on 11/27/13. It wasn't perfect, but it had carbonated a bit, and was very drinkable. Again, it's a little light on the funk for now, but we'll see how it conditions in the bottle. I plan on bringing this to beer club next week, so we'll see how it's doing then.

Now I just need to freak out about all the equipment that touched the Brett. I'm sure I cleaned it all well enough, but it could be a bit nerve wracking because everyone says that Brett is so hardy that it will find a way to survive, like those dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Life finds a way. You can't see me as I write this, but I'm Goldbluming right now. It's sad. Anyway, I've ordered up some new tubing and other fittings, so we should be all good. And the old tubing/fittings will be used the next time I feel like making a funky beer (which will probably be sooner rather than later).

Next, that Russian Imperial Stout that I brewed a few weeks ago! I checked the gravity on 11/16/13, about two weeks after brew day, and it was still at 1.034, which was much higher than expected (especially after that super vigorous fermentation over the first few days). I decided to give it another week in primary, and opted to bottle Kaedrôme that day...

On 11/23/13, I transfered to secondary fermenters. Final Gravity was 1.031 (14.1 bx), which is still excessively high, but I figure giving this another three weeks in secondary would bring that down to something manageable. I'm guessing it won't get down to 1.023, but if I can get it to drop a few points, I'll be pretty happy with it. As mentioned in the original post, I split the batch into two secondaries, one straight up, the other with bourbon soaked oak cubes. The plan is to eventually bottle some of each, then bottle a blend of the two, yielding 3 total variants. I'm super excited to see how these turn out, but I'm guessing it will need to condition in the bottle for quite some time.

I used Medium Toast American Oak, and soaked it for two weeks in Evan Williams 2003 Single Barrel Bourbon. I boiled the oak for a few minutes up front to sanitize and get rid of some of the harsher tannins, then put them in a mason jar with bourbon. Here's a pic of when I first put the oak in the bourbon:

Oak soaking in Bourbon

And below is a pic after a few days. Note how much darker the bourbon got. The comparison isn't super fair because of the cap on the mason jar and the fact that some of the oak was sinking as it got saturated with bourbon (both of which are blocking some of the light and making it seem darker), but even when I hold it up to the light, it's noticeably darker. That medium toast is doing its thing, I guess.

Bourbon and Oak, after a few days

This is shaping up to be my most interesting batch to date. Can't wait to see how it turns out, and I'm really hoping for great things. Bourbon Barrel Stouts have become a true favorite of mine, so being able to produce something like that myself will be great.

Finally, another mad scientist experiment. I had some cans of Heady Topper left over from Operation Cheddar. Heady is, of course, a damn near perfect DIPA, and while I'm sure their hop charges, sourcing, and selection are superb, I think the thing that really separates Heady from the rest of the world is its yeast strain, the fabled "Conan" yeast that supposedly emphasizes the juicy citrus flavors in the hops. For some ungodly reason, neither Wyeast nor White Labs have cultured this yet (and they don't have anything comparable*), so I thought I'd harvest the yeast dregs from a couple cans of the stuff and see if I could whip it into shape.

Yeast Harvesting Goodness

I was a little worried at first, as I saw no signs of activity for at least three days. But before I could properly despair, I started to see some bubbles (it turns out that this delayed start is common amongst those of us nerds who have tried harvesting Heady yeast). Soon, I could see that the yeast had grown, and the fermentation was visible. Score. I'm going to crash it tonight and give it just a teensy bit of extra wort tomorrow night to get it into shape for brew day on Saturday. I'm planning on making a hoppy red beer (planning on Simcoe and Amarillo as the hops, but we'll see what my local shop has in stock). Wish me luck.

So it's going to be an interesting few months. If this Conan yeast thing works out, I'll try using it for the annual Fat Weekend IPA as well. And if the oaked RIS works, I might whip up a barleywine this winter and do the same thing...

* East Coast Yeast makes a Northeast Ale (ECY29) that is rumored to be based on Conan, but it's hard to come by...

(Cross posted at Kaedrin Weblog)

Adventures in Brewing - Beer #12: RIS

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I tend to limit my brewing activities during the summer, but now that it's getting colder, it's time to fire up the brewhouse (i.e. my kitchen). I've been toying with the idea for this batch for a while now. The concept is that I will brew up a full 5 gallon batch of Russian Imperial Stout, ferment it out, then split the batch into two for secondary fermentation. One will simply condition as normal. The other will get an addition of Bourbon soaked oak cubes. Then! At bottling time, I plan to bottle some of the regular stout, some of the bourbon oak aged stout, and a blend of the two. This is most exciting, though I gather it will probably take a while for all of this to come together and condition well. Brewing is not a hobby for the impatient. So let's get this party started:

Brew #12 - Russian Imperial Stout
November 2, 2013

1 lb. Crystal 60 (specialty grain)
1 lb. Debittered Black Malt (specialty grain)
0.75 lb. Chocolate Malt (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Roasted Barley (specialty grain)
0.5 lb. Munich Malt (specialty grain)
9 lb. Briess Golden Light DME
2 oz. Columbus hops (bittering @ 16.3% AA)
1 oz. Cascade hops (flavor)
1 oz. Cascade hops (aroma)
2 oz. Oak Cubes: American Medium Toast
16 oz. Bourbon (TBD)
Wyeast 1450 Denny's Favorite 50

Ingredients for my Homebrewed RIS

Like my first attempt at a stout (which was nowhere near an Imperial, but still), the base of this beer is all light DME, so I'm getting all the color and flavor out of specialty malts, of which there are a lot. Indeed, this is the most malt I've used in a recipe since my second batch (a Belgian tripel), and this is a great deal more complex too. (I originally only planned on a half pound of Debittered Black Malt, but my homebrew shop was only selling it in increments of 1 pound, so I figured why not). Steeping the grains in 2.5 gallons of water (needed to add more because I was using so much grain), the wort got super black, almost like black ink, and smelled strongly of coffee. According to my calculations, this should come out at around 59 SRM (anything over 30 is generally considered "black", and my previous attempt at a stout was around 45 SRM).

Once I steeped and sparged the grains, I added 2/3 of the DME, adding the last 1/3 halfway through the boil. I actually had a bit of a boil-over mishap. Perhaps I started with too much water, which raised the level of the wort higher than normal (for me, at least). And it turns out that 9 pounds of DME takes up a lot of space too. In any case, I didn't lose too much liquid and the crisis was mostly averted, so all was well there (it just made for more cleanup, boo).

Aside from the amount and variety of malt, the other big change from my first stout recipe is a more well rounded hop schedule. I felt my last batch didn't have enough bitterness, and since this sucker is much bigger, I went with a high alpha hop in Columbus, and straightforward Cascade for flavor and aroma (not that those characteristics should or would be dominated by hops, but the Cascade should add some complexity, which is what I'm going for here).

Original Gravity: 1.098 (around 23.1°Bx). This is exactly on target, so I must have done something right! If all goes well, the ABV should wind up somewhere just north of 10% ABV, with enough residual sugar to stand up to the Bourbon and oak (FG should be somewhere around 1.023, assuming 75% attenuation).

Speaking of which, I used a Yeast starter for this batch. Yeast starters are not always necessary, but they seem to be a general best practice. All you do is pitch your yeast into a small amount of wort, which gets the yeast working and increases cell population dramatically, then you pitch the result into your full batch. For a beer this size, pitching more yeast is usually recommended, and will lead to a faster fermentation with less of a chance for off flavors or infection. This is my first attempt, and it seemed to go ok. Near as I can tell, I made a relatively small starter, and some recommend making a larger one, but I didn't really have time to keep stepping it up (I started it on Thursday night, and it was ready to go on Saturday). That being said, I'm guessing I significantly increased the amount of yeast I pitched, which is certainly better than just chucking one yeast packet in the wort (or paying another 6 bucks for a second packet).

Yeast Starter

So I figure I'll let this go in primary for two weeks, then rack to secondary (splitting into two three gallon fermenters) for an additional 3 weeks. As previously mentioned, I'll be adding bourbon soaked oak cubes to one of the secondary fermenters. Not sure which Bourbon I'll use for that task just yet (any recommendations? That Evan Williams Single Barrel in the picture is pretty good, but I might use something different) I also need to figure out if I'll need to reyeast after secondary (any ideas there? I see mixed reports out there...)

I'm really excited to see how this turns out, even if it probably won't be ready for a couple months (right around Christmastime). It should age really well too. In the meantime, I've still got that Brett dosed saison in secondary, and I think I'll be bottling that soon. And once the RIS goes into secondary, I plan to sneak in another batch of something less complicated. Perhaps that hoppy red ale I keep talking about...

Update: Fermentation is going strong. Since I was using a yeast starter, I began fermentation with a blowoff tube (instead of your typical airlock) and I'm glad I did. Within 24 hours, this sucker is fermenting like crazy. All was fine a couple hours ago, then I went out for dinner and boom, blowoff tube engaged fully. Otherwise, this thing might have popped the lid on my bucket, shooting yeast and partially fermented wort everywhere. Ha.

Blow off tube

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Weblog)

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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