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Style of the Week: Russian Imperial Stout!

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December 12, 2014 by fhsteinbart


RIS

This is what I’m talking about! While the Courage brewery may have been the first to brew this beer, there are so many versions of this style to last any taster many years of extreme pleasure just to taste them all.

This beer style is arguably one of the strangest. It was created as a consequence of a contract between a British brewery (John Courage & Sons originally) and the Royal court of Russia. The resulting beer was made to a higher than normal (at least for Stout) gravity, and hopped well too. There really aren’t any upper limits to this style, just minimums. What the real key in producing one of these fine beers involves is the balance of the finish. While some will say it is more a dessert beer, and should be with the sweeter versions like Milk Stout, Oatmeal Stout, and Foreign Extra Stout, the very best examples are well balanced between the sweetness of the residual extract, the roasted malt character and the hopping level. All that can be really said is that it is a dark, strong, malty, roasty, hoppy beer, with a balance towards the sweeter side, yet without any cloying sugary notes. Below is a recipe of mine that makes for a well balanced, and eminently quaffable beer.

Extract version:

OG: 1.090 FG: 1.015

10 lbs. Light DME

½ lb. Black Malt

½ lb. Crystal 150L

½ lb. Chocolate Malt

½ lb. Dark Roast Barley

15 AAU’s Magnum hops for 60~90 minutes

10 AAU’s Golding’s hops for 20 minutes

1 Whirlfloc Tablet or ½ tsp. Irish Moss at last 15 minutes

10 AAU’s Willamette hops for 7 minutes

¾ gm. Calcium Chloride Salts per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in boil

Wyeast 1056, WLP001, or US-05

Procedure:

  • Heat 2-5 gallons of water to 165°F.
  • Add steeping grains to kettle and steep for 30 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and add malt extract, stirring until fully dissolved.
  • Return to Heat, bring to boil for 5 min. then add bittering hops.
  • At 20 minutes remaining, add the flavor hops.
  • At 15 minutes remaining, add the Whirlfloc tablet or Irish Moss.
  • At 7 minutes remaining, add the aroma hops.
  • At knockout (0 minutes), turn off the heat, cool the mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or use a wort chiller. Add the mixture to the fermenter, removing the hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using distilled, bottled, or filtered tap water.
  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well).
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 65°F to 70°F for up to two weeks.
  • Allow to age an additional 3 to 4 weeks before packaging up as usual.

All Grain version:

OG: 1.090 FG: 1.015

16 lbs. British Pale Ale or ESB Malt

½ lb. Black Malt

½ lb. Crystal 150L

½ lb. Chocolate Malt

½ lb. Dark Roast Barley

15 AAU’s Magnum hops for 60~90 minutes

10 AAU’s Golding’s hops for 20 minutes

1 Whirlfloc Tablet or ½ tsp. Irish Moss at last 15 minutes

10 AAU’s Willamette hops for 7 minutes

¾ gm. Calcium Chloride Salts per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in boil

Wyeast 1056, WLP001, or US-05

¾ gm. Calcium Chloride Salts per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in both mash and boil

Procedure:

  • Infusion mash at 148°F for 90 min with the Brewing Salts.
  • Sparge until 6~6½ gal wort has been obtained.
  • Add the rest of the salts after the boil commences.
  • Boil for 1 to 1½ hours total time.
  • Add the bittering hops after 15 minutes boiling and continue to boil for 60 more minutes.
  • Add the flavor hops at 20 minutes remaining to the boil.
  • Add Whirlfloc or Irish Moss at last 15 minutes.
  • Add the aroma hops at 7 minutes remaining to the boil.
  • Gravity may vary depending on system efficiency, so adjust accordingly.

Package up as usual; bottled versions should use 90 gms. corn sugar (approx. 2/3 cup), or kegged to 12 psig, and allow two weeks to come into condition. Serve at 45~50°F in a Tulip glass, share and enjoy! This beer will continue to evolve and change over the coming months, so make enough to last you through your next brew.

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