What to Wear ? (Part 1)

I was recently approached by a neighbor from across the street. They happen to be good friends with Southern Tier Brewing Company in New York, and as such they were approached by the community charitable foundation to “help” with a craft beer tasting fundraiser. And by help I mean they wanted to get Southern Tier to participate.  Somehow the topic of home brewing came up and the organizers of the fundraiser were interested in having a few homebrewers serve, too.  With that my neighbor suggested my name and of course being humbled I could not refuse the offer (there is always an upside to giving neighbors home brew).

Talking with the organizers, they were looking for about 150 servings of a couple of beers, which works pretty well with a 5 gallon corny keg.  They left it up to me to decide what to bring.  My first thought was my saison, as it has won a gold medal in the local competition as s generally liked by those who try it.  What about a second beer?  I recent made a very delicious Kolsch style beer, but I was concerned that the light flavor of a Kolsch would not stand up well to the strongly flavored beers one might find at a craft beer tasting.  I thought about an IPA or such, but no recipe I had really jumped out as being interesting.  Then it hit me: a Russian Imperial Stout!  A well made RIS will easily stand up to any other beer that it is served with.  One challenge is that these beers stand up to aging very well, and often are better after weeks and even months of aging.  I had to get busy.

I had recent made a RIS and entered it into the local TRASH competition where it scored just OK.  It was criticized for not being “imperial” enough, which surprised me as I thought it had great flavors.  What flavors should it have?  The BJCP guidelines call for flavors that are complex and intense: roasted grains, fruity esters, hop bitterness, chocolate, cocoa, and or strong coffee.  Jamil Zainasheff recommends combinations of three roasted and three caramel grains to achieve these flavors. In my first attempt I used roasted barley and two types of chocolate malts for roastiness and caramunich, Special B , and Crystal 160 for the caramel malts.  All together, the specialty malts comprised about 20% of the grain bill.  Not “imperial” enough?  Well then, up the ante to 23% as shown below:

The Rus’ II

Grains Amount Percent
Munton’s Maris Otter 7.23 kg 77%
CaraMunich Malt (48L) 0.32 kg 3%
Special B (147L) 0.40 kg 4%
Crystal 160 0.32 kg 3%
Roasted Barley 0.56 kg 6%
Belgian Chocolate Malt (347L) 0.30 kg 3%
Kiln Coffee Malt 0.30 kg 3%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
Nugget (13.5% AA) 70 g 60 min 68
Columbus (13.9% AA) 20 g 5 min 4
Original Gravity 21.0º P (1.087)
Final Gravity 6.1º P (1.024)
Apparent Attenuation 72%
Estimated ABV 8.1%

The new addition to the grain bill is the Kiln Coffee Malt, a product I saw advertised by Northern Brewer. It has a great roasted coffee aroma, hopefully it does the job here. I mashed at a moderate temperature (65 to 66 °C) but used my heat stick to get that to 70 °C at the end of a 70 minute mash.  I added 10 grams of chalk (CaCO3) and 3 grams of baking soda (NaCO3) to the mash to compensate for the dark roasted grains.  I also added 3 grams of calcium chloride as the local water is low in both calcium chloride ions.  I batched sparged and achieved 70% overall brewhouse efficiency, not bad with a 20°P beer. I boiled for 75 minutes.

This batch was fermented with 20 grams of Safale US-05 yeast, rehydrated and pitched with pure oxygen. US-05 is a workhorse and it is so easy to use in dry form I am not sure why anyone would want to mess with liquid cultures. The 72% attenuation is lower than normal, but this was a very strong beer with lots of specialty malts so I am not dismayed by that performance.

This beer has been sitting cold (5 °C) for almost four weeks, it will be six by the time the tasting arrives.  That should be about right if I have done my job correctly.

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