Brewing a Russian Imperial Stout or an RIS is a bit of right of passage when it comes to homebrewers. It says to the world, hey, I can brew 19L of a ridiculously strong beer because I’m that kind of geek.
Until recently I’ve been pretty hesitant to brew a RIS. I had read a lot on them and knew that a lot of people suffered issues with stalling and keeping the yeasties happy. Despite my best intentions, most of these fears turned out to be a real thing for me.
My recipe was from the book ‘Brewing Classic Styles’ by Jamil Zainasheff. My recipe consisted of:
- 10.82kg Barrett Burston Ale Malt
- 0.85kg Bairds Black Malt
- 0.56kg Dingemans Special B
- 0.28kg Bairds Chocolate Malt
- 0.28kg Thomas Fawcett Choc Pale Malt
- 0.28kg Caramunich III Weyermann
- 90g Horizon (60mins)
- 90g East Kent Goldings (Cube Hop)
- 90g East Kent Goldings (Dry Hop)
I mashed for 60mins at approximately 69 degrees. The problem I encountered however is I miscalculated my water and ended up putting another 5L in, meaning my mash tun was literally overflowing. I was expecting a efficiency of 55% putting me at a OG of 1.098 but ended up at 1.105. My efficiency is really low and we will talk about that in another post.
I was meant to have 29L of 1.085 post mash but instead had 34L at 1.074. This meant I had to boil the crap out of my wort to evaporate down to the 29L, 1.085 mark.
Overall not a smooth brew day but we got there in the end. Fermentation on the other hand was not what I expected. My usual method of ‘aerating’ the wort is to drop the cube into the fermentor at height. This seems to be an effective strategy for lower gravity beers but I suspect this didn’t cut it with the RIS. Next time I might shake further and again 12 hours into the ferment, or otherwise consider getting an oxygen set up.
I rehydrated 2x 12g packs of US05 and pitched into the fermenter at 19 degrees. Fermentation took off within 24 hours as usual and whilst was vigorous, was a bit less than I expected. I started doing gravity tests as fermentation died down and my RIS was stuck at 1.038. I consulted by beer smith recipe which was telling me I should expect 1.026 which wasn’t good.
After a quick post on ‘Aussie Home Brewer’ a helpful person alerted me to the fact that the Beersmith estimation is way off and if you go by Jamil’s book, I was pretty much spot on in terms of final gravity. In hindsight if I did it again I would either pitch more, or do a starter.
I ended up kegging the beer for fear that I would end up with bottle bombs but may end up bottling a few from the keg as 19L of a 9% beer is going to take some time to get through!
I’m hoping this beer will be a staple in my household over the next winter to keep me warm during those long, arduous Queensland winters where temperatures sometimes drop below 20 degrees. Queensland is not a place for the weak willed.