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I figured it’s probably about time I explained who the “we” I sometimes refer to are. Though I’ve been known to be a bit bossy, it’s not the royal “we” I’m using; there’s me (Meagan), the main writer behind this operation, and the one for whom the blog is named, in a manner of speaking. And then there’s Ben, who does much of the real brewing work (including all of the heavy lifting), at least half of the beer tasting, and most of the science and maths.
In my Russian Imperial Stout post, I promised an update on our attempt to brew the style. Now, almost four weeks after brew day—2-3 weeks in the fermenter, and about a week carbonating in the keezer—the results are in. And I really must say, I’m quite pleased. Though I’ve been the assistant home brewer for a while, this is only the third all-grain brew that I can really call mine. Incidentally, my heightened interest in making my own brews coincided with Ben acquiring a Zymurgy magazine subscription. Go figure. And given how much I loved Old Rasputin, it makes sense that I used a clone recipe that I found in the Zymurgy archives. We departed from the recipe in a couple of places, and I’ll tell you all about them. But first, the beer.
The thing that struck me most about Old Rasputin was its wonderfully smooth taste. It’s not exactly easy to achieve that with dark beers, or with big beers, and I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t hit that target. But we did. My Russian clone tastes like a stout should, has a pretty similar ABV—around 9%—to the actual North Coast version, and looks about the same in the glass. Like its forebear, it pours thick and dark, and has a tan head that subsides fairly quickly. As you can see, the head was already beginning to fall when I took the photo. The nose is rich and malty, with hints of coffee. The hops are definitely there too, but strongest in the aftertaste. In short, we achieved almost exactly the product we were looking for.* Along with the beer itself, that gives me some warm fuzzies.
Earlier, I mentioned some departures from the recipe, so I’ll talk about them now. First off, Amahl Turczyn Scheppach’s clone recipe calls for American or California Ale yeast, a.k.a., “Chico.” But I am particularly fond of using Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast for stouts. Scheppach advises that imperial stout’s high alcohol content makes it a good style to pitch the trub from another batch into. I was already planning to do that, so his opinion on the subject was welcome. We’d saved the Wyeast 1084 from a recent batch of oatmeal coffee stout, and that’s what we used for the Old Rasputin clone.
Second, I made a couple of grain and hop substitutions, including trading the called-for pound of Carastan malt for CaraAmber, since I couldn’t find Carastan at my local homebrew store.
Also, the maths from our proposed grain bill showed that the beer would end up at a lower ABV than desired, so I added two pounds of dextrose to the boil. This gave the yeast plenty of sugars to munch on and make a nice strong brew. Unlike some other strains, 1084 has a high alcohol tolerance, up to 12% ABV. It tends to produce a dry stout, but thanks to that extra sugar, we wound up with a pleasant hint of residual sweetness. Next time, I might try formulating my own recipe, and it might be fun to experiment with adding cocoa or maybe spices. But all in all, I’m really happy with my homebrewed Russian Imperial Stout.
*Update: After some ageing, my Russian Imperial seems to have thinned out a bit, and is no longer as full-bodied as I would like. We’ll try it with Golden Promise or Maris Otter as the base grain next time, to see if that gives it the thicker body that an Imperial stout should have.
Turczyn Scheppach, Amahl. “North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout Clone.”Zymurgy July/August 2007: page 25.
“YEAST STRAIN: 1084 | Irish Ale Yeast” Wyeast Laboratories. Irish Ale™ 1084. Wyeast Laboratories, Inc.