My first Russian Imperial Stout

Russian Imperial Stout

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.



  1. Sean · February 25, 2016

    Sounds like it wasn’t that much of a disaster. If Jamil’s estimated FG is where it should be then hopefully it will turn out a goodun, though the BJCP guidelines say 1.018-1.030 for imperial stout. 69 seems a high mash temp to get such a big beer down, and in my attempts to make a full-bodied midstrength I also read that short mash times might reduce fermentability; i.e. in your case, perhaps a longer mash would help increase fermentability next time.


    • benbrett · February 25, 2016

      I tasted this last weekend as its coming up to about 8 months after brew. It actually tastes amazing. I’ll be sure to do a blog on it


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