Tasting: #67 Koschei Imperial Stout

Eureka, its time for a beer tasting. Happy Holidays to everyone. Today’s beer was brewed in October 2012, filled in a Whisky barrel in late October and bottled/kegged 5 month later (in March 2013). Now, the beer spent roughly nine month in kegs/bottles and its time now for an official tasting. It’s the one and only Koschei Imperial Stout clocking in at a 12.3 ABV.

koschei_in_glasAroma: Mellow vanilla nose with hints of oak and Bergamot. Some alcohol in the nose. Hint of roasted coffee, coconut, honey and chocolate. Nice!

Appearance: Very viscous, dark black, clear with slight head (tapped from a carbonated keg). Nice lacing as well…

Flavor: Licorice, marzipan, dark chocolate, very subtle roast character. However not too much going on

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, low carbonation level, finishes with lots or roasted malts, coffee, slight astringency and a nice, balanced bitterness

Overall Impression: This is a nice beer but too light on the palate in my opinion. The alcohol kind of shines through too much (really hate the nose burning alcohol sensation). However, I already fixed this in subsequent high ABV beers which turned out great. Was it worth maturing this beer in a barrel? I actually don’t know. Comparing this beer with beers matured on wood chips only, there isn’t a specific barrel character to pick up in this beer that is not present in wood chips matured beers. I for my part will only mature beers in barrels to strip the aroma character from the barrels to later on mature sour beers.

And to proof that I am not simply writing up nice words and praise our beers to the highest, the corresponding ratebeer ratings: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/blackwell-koshei-imperial-stout/234334/. The second of this batch turned into a black Berliner Sour and is rated as well: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/blackwell-saurerstoff/227882/

Since this is probably the last post for this year, I wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Prost to good beer and Prost to the new year to come!

#68 Dark Berliner Sour

Eureka, its time for another recipe. Actually this one is not as straight forward as you might expect from my previous recipes and might be hard to reproduce. The idea for this beer came up during the lautering process of my #67 Koschei Imperial Stout batch. Brewed 51 L (13.5 gal) of Imperial Stout and could not throw away the second runnings which still had a gravity of 12°P (1.048). I therefore used the runnings as a base for this recipe and went from there.

I collected the runnings up to a total volume of 10 L (2.6 gal) and added a package of Wyeast’s Lactobacillus delbrueckii to the unboiled mash as the mash reached a temperature of 40°C (104°F) and let the mash sit at 40°C for a three days until the sourness was at a good level. I then let the wort cool down to around 20°C (68°F) and added the unboiled, per-soured wort on top of a Wyeast’s 3191 Berliner Weisse cake. I left the beer on the Berliner Blend for nearly two months and kegged the soured Stout into a small keg. Kegged the beer on the 9th of December 2012 and left the keg at a relatively warm place to mature. I then forgot about this beer for a while…

This changed in late Spring of 2013. I re-discovered this particular keg in my cellar during an inventory and was quite excited to try a first sip of this beer. The ABV for this one is around 5 %. For a style, it should be something like a dark Berliner Weisse. Since Weisse originates from white in German, it would not much sense to call it a Dark Berliner Weisse. I therefore simply call it a Dark Berliner Sour. Or maybe there is already a suitable beer style for this kind of beer. Let me know if there is a matching beer style for my beer.

DarkBerlinerWeisseAroma: Smells like a cold brewed coffee gone sour with a touch of lemon, dark chocolate and bonfire smoke. Can even detect a hint of gingerbread. Impressive aroma profile and really interesting aroma combination.

Appearance: Deep black color, clear with lots of bubbles rising to the top. Not very long-lasting off-white head

Flavor: Hint of dark chocolate, very subtle roast character and a nice level of sourness. Even some red grape and wood character like in certain wines. Tobacco is there as well. The sourness and the flavors from the roasted barley really go along really nice.

Mouthfeel: Light body, average carbonation level, very dry but not too thin, silky and lightly sour finish. Detectable astringency. Very refreshing. Leaves a smoky impression on the tongue like you get after smoking a cigar.

Overall Impression: Quite impressed how this one turned out. Despite the roast character, this beer has a lot of flavors common in red wines. Not only that, it reminds me of Jolly Pumpkin’s Madrugada Obscura. With the exception that this one is not really funky. I am further surprised how the sourness plays with the roasty, astringency characters. The play along really nicely.

I expected to get a huge mess of a beer. Simply because the grist of the Imperial Stout was not really destined to turn into a sour beer. Nevertheless, the beer turned out to be way more complex than expected and is a very interesting one. Maybe not the kind I would drink for a whole evening but I have others that drink this one in pints. I might brew another batch of this one in the future and mature it in my Whisky barrel to see how this one turns out after some time in a wooden barrel. Cheers and thanks for reading

#78 Shishiga Universal Stout

Eureka, I would like to publish another dark and evil recipe. The recipe of today is for a massive Imperial Stout (OG 1.146) and a measured/calculated ABV of 17.6%. 17.6% is my current record in terms of ABV (but it won’t be the record holder for long). Because this beer doesn’t fit the BJCP 13F category for Russian Imperial Stouts, I call it a Universal Stout.

The recipe below should get you a wort of roughly 24°P (1.099). Don’t try to get higher original gravities than 1.100 or you might stress the yeasts too much. Let the yeast start the fermentation at lower gravities and increase the gravity step-by-step during the active fermentation by adding further fermentable sugars. Second, use a yeast strain that is able to deal with higher alcohol levels. I chose White Labs WLP099 Super High Gravity yeast strain for this purpose. According to White Labs, this strain should be able to deal with alcohol levels of up to 25% (White Labs WLP099).

Recipe: Shishiga Universal Stout
Numbers: Volume [L] 16 (4.2 gal)
Original gravity 34.5°P (1.146) (measured, see text)
Terminal gravity 6.2°P (1.024)
Color Around 200 EBC
IBU 120 IBU
ABV 17.6% (v/v)
Grains: Pale malt (6.5 EBC) 6 kg
Wheat malt (4 EBC) 0.9 kg
Roasted barley (1150 EBC) 1.1 kg
Carafa 1 (900 EBC) 1.1 kg
Caramunich 2 (120 EBC) 0.4 kg
Toasted oats (around 100 EBC) 2 kg
Whisky malt (20 EBC) 1 kg
Hops: Northern Brewer (10% AA) 100 g and boiled for 60 min
Magnum (15% AA) 63 g and boiled for 60 min
East Kent Goldings (6.7% AA) 50 g and boiled for 10 min
East Kent Goldings (6.7% AA) 10 g and boiled for 1 min
Yeast: Wyeast #1098 British Ale
White Labs WLP099 Super High Gravity Ale
Water: Burgdorf Mash: 31 L (8.2 gal), sparge: 30 L (7.9 gal) @78°C (172°F)
Rest: Mash in @66°C (151°F), 90 min @66°C (151°F), 10 min @ 78°C (172°F)
Boil: Boiled for 60 min
Fermentation: Primary 4 weeks @20°C (68°F) in plastic fermenter, starting gravity of 24.2°P– 4 days into fermentation: Added WLP099 and yeast nutrients– 6-14 days into fermentation: Added 0.9 kg of candy syrup, 0.5 kg cane sugar, 1 kg cane sugar, yeast nutrients in daily small additions
Secondary 3 weeks @15°C (59°F) in plastic fermenter on Rum soaked wood chips (50 g medium toasted French oak chips, 50 g medium toasted US oak)
Maturation: Carbonation (CO2 vol) 2 (force carbonated in keg)
Maturation time Years

03.29.2013: Toasted some oak flakes in my oven at 120°C (248°F) for 20-30 min until the flakes had a brownish color and smelled like popcorn. In then crushed all the malts and mashed everything in at 66°C (151°F). I then left the mash rest for 90 min. Then sparged at 78°C (172°F), collected the wort and added the hops according to the recipe. I further on collected the second runnings for a smaller 12°P (1.048) Stout. I cooled the wort down to 20°C (68°F) and added a massive amount of WY1098 British Ale yeast according to the common pitching rates. The fermentation took off within a couple of hours.

04.02.2013: Four days into the fermentation. Added 200 billion WLP099 yeast cells with a small yeast nutrient addition. Gravity was already down to 8.7°P (1.034). Well done British Ale yeast.

04.06.2013: Added 0.9 kg of homemade candy syrup, 0.5 kg cane sugar, 1 kg of white table sugar, yeast nutrients over the next four days in small, quarter-daily additions.

04.10.2013: Last sugar additions.

04.27.2013: Racked beer of the yeast cake into a secondary fermenter. Added 100 g of a 50:50 blend of medium toasted French and US oak chips that have been sitting in some rum for a couple of months.

06.19.2013: Kegged the beer and force carbonated it to a carbonation level of 2 vol of carbon dioxide. And now its time to wait for the first tasting. Concerning the alcohol measurement. I calculated an original gravity of 34°P. One way do evaluate the ABVs is to measure the beer’s terminal gravity with a hydrometer (6.2°P in this case) and measure the Brix using a refractometer (18°Brix in this case). From these two values, one can calculate the actual original gravity. I use “Die Kleine Bieranalyse” for that purpose. In my case, the original gravity was 34.5°P I calculated an ABV of 17.5% from these two values.

I am really happy how this batch turned out. Luckily, it was no problem to ferment this beast and the terminal gravity is not too low nor too high. Judging from the first preliminary tasting, the wood character is way better than the beer I matured in an actual Whisky barrel. Will see how this beer develops over the next couple of months. Cheers and stay tuned!

Tasting: #35 Rusalka Imperial Stout

Eureka, it’s time for another tasting post. I would like to share some tasting notes of #35 Rusalka Imperial Stout brewed in May 2011. Bottled on the 18th of June 2011. We tried this beer from time to time to see how the profile changes.

RusalkaOfficial tasting number 1, (08/30/2011), two months in bottle

Aroma: Wood character, lots of coffee and roast character. Some alcohol detectable as well.

Appearance: Black, brown creamy head, nice lacing

Flavor: Lots of roast character again, coffee character, warming alcohol detectable

Mouthfeel: Medium body, low carbonation level, light sweet and warming aftertaste, light astringent finish as well

Overall Impression: Not bad, however a lot of rough edges and alcohol shines through. Further maturation needed

Official tasting number 2, (02/27/2012), eight months in bottle

Aroma: Chocolate, smoke, hints of raisins, light sweetness, licorice. No alcohol detectable.

Appearance: Black, 1 finger brown head, frothy and creamy head, lots of lacing

Flavor: Smoke, chocolate, heavily roasted coffee

Mouthfeel: Light – medium body, average carbonation level, light bitter and roast driven finish. Not astringent anymore. Kind of watery… (not the body one would expect from such a beer)

Overall Impression: Improved a lot compared to the first tasting. However, it gets obvious that this beer lacks in-depth. Meaning, the body of this beer is a bit too low to counterbalance the flavors. To change that, either increase the alcohol level and/or add further unfermentable sugars to make it rounder. This was the official tasting before entering this beer in a homebrewer’s contest. Well, we can’t be too upset about this beer since it won us the first prize in the Dry Stout category (there was no other more suitable category to enter this beer).

Official tasting number 3, (01/06/2013), 19 months in bottle

Aroma: Lots of dark chocolate, roast character, coffee, reminds me of milk chocolate. Some alcohol detectable

Appearance: Dark black, creamy head, nice lacing

Flavor: Dark chocolate, roasty character, sticky and decent level of bitterness still

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level, chocolate finish

Overall Impression: Pretty neat! In my opinion, the body of this beer is now spot on. I have no idea how/why this is the case after further maturation.

I can’t complain about this beer at all. First, it was my very first Imperial Stout (however a bit short for an Imperial Stout) and second, it won us a competition (first as well). A very neat base for further improvements which are already going on. The second batch was brewed in September 2013 (#66 Rusalka II Imperial Stout) with some minor changes such as increasing the original gravity a bit to get to an ABV of roughly 8% to be at the lower end of the Imperial Stout category style description. And we matured the second batch on some Whisky soaked wood. A third batch will follow in Fall 2013. Future changes of the original recipe will include changes to increase the body of the beer as well as hiding the alcohol.

This batch gave us a lot of great experiences brewing higher ABV beers and getting an idea how such a beer changes over time. We are now able to brew big beers up to ABV levels of 12%. The next big Imperial Stouts in our pipeline should get past an ABV level of 15% (Without any sugar additions!) Cheers!

Tasting: #36 Vanilla Infused Rusalka Imperial Stout

Eureka, it has been a while since I posted any tasting notes. I would like to reveal the tasting notes of batch #36 Vanilla Infused Rusalka Imperial Stout today. This is a batch brewed in 2011 and bottled in mid June in 2011. It finished with an ABV greater than 12%, fermented with Safbrew S33 and infused with two vanilla beans and some raisins. By the way, we previously used some of this batch for our beer-based candy syrup which turned out really well.

IMG_42452(Actually, the beer shown in the glass above is not this batch of Rusalka rather than the first batch of #35 Rusalka). However, all our Imperial Stouts look very similar (black).

The beer matured for 1 year and 8 months. I store all these high ABV beer in a cellar at around 12°C (54°F).

Aroma: The first thing we notice is: umami. This is hard to explain but this beer’s aroma is somewhat between salty and spicy. This umami taste is not off-putting in any means. I would not call it an off-flavor. Maybe the umami comes from yeast autolysis? Some pepper notes as well, chocolate, slight coffee character. Bit of vanilla. No fruitiness. No alcohol detectable as well.

Appearance: Black, decent tan head, nice bubbles rise to the top, nice lacing as well, clear with a nice yeast sediment in the bottle.

Flavor: Milk chocolate bomb, some roast and coffee character with a decent bitterness level. Some molasses as well. In one word: milk-chocolate-infused-cold-coffee.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, low carbonation level (bottled to a carbon dioxide level of 2 vol), long-lasting dark chocolate finish. With nice bitterness in the aftertaste. Warming sensation from the alcohol. However not burning.

Overall Impression: This is a really nice beer. The typical Imperial Stout character is definitely there. However, the vanilla and raisins are really in the background. We could not detect any raisin character. I would suspect those flavors to decline over time anyway and maybe we sampled the beer at a point where those flavors were below our tasting threshold. What I like most about this brew is that the alcohol is well hidden. There is no boozy aroma nor a burning aftertaste. The aroma is really nice as well. We tried this brew from time to time and it improved a lot during further maturation. All the aroma and flavor components really mellowed out, the bitterness level decreased significantly and the astringent character from the roasted malt disappeared as well.

What would I change recipe-wise for a future batch? The base of this beer is quite solid in my opinion. If one wants to get a stronger vanilla and raisin character, one should consider maturing this beer in a keg first and add vanilla and raisins just a few weeks before taking the first sip. Key components in making this beer are for sure a long maturation time to give the beer enough time to mellow out. Cheers!

#65 Smoked Oatmeal Stout

Eureka, today’s post is all about one of our most improved recipes so far. As a fan of Stouts I really wanted to create an excellent example. This is basically the next improvement step of the #49 Belgian Oatmeal Stout. Although the #49 recipe gives you a great Stout, I still wanted to keep on improving the recipe to a next level: Adding a Islay smoked twist to it. The recipe is very similar to the previous version but I used a different yeast and some Whisky malt instead. The previous version was quite well made in my opinion and I saw no need to change the grist any further. Lets go through the recipe.

Recipe: Wellington Boots Smoked Stout
Numbers: Volume [L] 19 (5 gal)
Original gravity 13.9°P (1.055)
Terminal gravity 4°P (1.015)
Color Around 69 EBC
IBU 31 IBU
ABV 5.4% (v/v)
Grains: Pale malt (6.5 EBC) 4.3 kg
Flaked oat (0 EBC) 0.45 kg
Chocolate (700 EBC) 0.34 kg
Roasted barley (1150 EBC) 0.23 kg
Cara Crystal (120 EBC) 0.23 kg
Whisky malt (10 EBC?) 0.6 kg
Hops: EKG (5% AA) 51 g and boil for 60 min
Yeast: Wyeast’s #1084 Irish Ale
Water: Burgdorf Mash: 14 L (3.7 gal),
sparge: 19 L (5 gal) @78°C (172°F)
Rest: Mash in @66°C (151°F),
60 min @66°C (151°F),
10 min @ 78°C (172°F)
Boil: Total 60 min
Fermentation: Primary 13 days @20°C (68°F) in plastic fermenter
Secondary N/A
Maturation: Carbonation (CO2 vol) 2 with sugar addition
Maturation time > 3 weeks

09/09/2012: Batch number 65. All the grains and flakes went into the water at 66°C and rested for one hour at 66°C. Then increased the temperature to 78°C for mash-out. Then did a fly sparge as usual and collected the black wort. 65_1After all the runnings were collected, I waited for the first signs of boiling to occur and added the hops as mentioned above. I always like to brew dark beers not only because they taste great but because some beautiful things occur during the brew day such as the surface shown in the wort kettle before reaching a boil.

65_2After a 60 min boil the wort was cooled down to approximately 20°C (68°F) and a healthy amount of freshly prepared WY1084 Irish Ale yeast was added.

09/22/2012: After 13 days of primary fermentation the beer was bottled already. No secondary fermentation because we planned to store the beer for some time in the bottles anyway. Another thing we changed to the previous recipe was the amount of carbon dioxide. This time we went with a traditional Real Ale carbonation level of 2 vol of carbon dioxide. In my opinion Stouts with a lover carbon dioxide level are more drinkable and therefore easier to enjoy.

01/07/13: First official tasting after a maturation time of nearly three months. We tasted the Stout before but never put it on paper.

Aroma: Very phenolic and smoky. The Whisky malt gives this brew a really nice aroma profile. All other typical Stout aromas such as chocolate, coffee or any roasted notes are somewhat in the background and nearly not detectable.

WellingtonBootsInGlassAppearance: Pours in a black color, 1 finger tan and creamy head, some bubbles rise to the top. A typical Stout appearance in my opinion.

Flavor: First thing you notice are the roasty, chocolate notes. Followed by the peaty, smoky character of the Whisky malt. Incredible what the low amount of smoked malt can already contribute to such a beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with a low carbonation level. Rather dry and smoke and silky. Really palatable.

Overall Impression: This beer has to be enjoyed at a relatively warm temperature. Otherwise the character of this beer is rather boring.

Quite interesting what 10% of Whisky malt can contribute to such a beer. The smokiness is well-integrated and not overpowering. I gave this beer to friends and used it for a tasting and a lot of people liked it. And some of them do not drink beer on a regular basis. But some of them are Islay Whisky lovers and therefore really like the peaty notes in this beer. The level of smoke seems to be just right. Some told me that a higher smoke level would be less enjoyable. Although I would love to further increase the amount of Whisky malt to see what happens. All in all I am quite satisfied how this brew turned out. What I learned is that Stouts work better at lower carbonation levels and 10% of Whisky malt lead to a well incorporated smoke level.

I am quite certain that this is not the end of my journey to improve my Stout recipes. For now it seems that I am on the right track. However, I haven’t decided yet what to further improve here. Luckily there are some other recipes in our pipeline which need further improvement. Thanks for reading