Monday, May 9, 2016

Courage Russian Imperial Stout: Second Attempt

For the last nine Christmases running, while visiting my parents in Massachusetts, I've opened a bottle of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone stored in the closet off their garage (or bring one back with me to share). My friend James and I brewed it in 2007, and considering we split four gallons, I'm amazed it has lasted this long! Sadly, with two bottles remaining I needed a replacement to maintain the holiday traditional that has now spanned more than a quarter of my life!

I coordinated with my friend Scott to brew and split a 10 gallon batch, but at the last minute he had a family emergency... the result is a whole lot of strong/dark beer for me! Thankfully I had a second set of hands provided by Chris, an NYU grad student who was visiting to work on a profile of me for a class and potential magazine article.

The base beer was only slightly tweaked from that original batch: more brown malt, dropped the white sugar, and a couple convenience adjustments to base malt and hops. With five times as much beer as last time, I also decided to split the batch: half bottled clean, half with Brett prior to bottling.

Not what Brett anomalus dregs should look like.I attempted to grow up the Wyeast Brettanomyces anomalus dregs in the last bottle of 100% Brett beer I brewed with the same pack that went into the original batch. Wyeast discontinued the strain soon after because it was miscategorized (likely B. bruxellensis). Sadly the nine-year-old dregs didn't grow anything suggestive of Brett, just some mold(?) after a couple weeks. The beer itself was nearly as disappointing, oxidation was the primary flavor.

Then I got a Tweet from Ron Pattinson letting me know he'd sent an old bottle of Courage RIS to White Labs to have them attempt to isolate the original Brett! I checked with Kara Taylor, White Labs' Analytical Lab Manager, but sadly all they got (oddly) was Saccharomyces. So, I opted for my final resort: White Labs Brett claussenii, which I enjoyed it in a similar role for my Funky Old Ale... nearly ten years ago!

I'll be following the same process I used for that first batch of Courage: waiting until the beer reaches 1.020, then fining with gelatin, racking, and killing the Brett with potassium metabisulfite (campden tablets). The brewer's yeast stopped at a higher gravity than the first batch's 1.030, spot on the 1.040 Ron reported for Barclay Perkins 1924 IBS Ex in his recipe-dense The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beers. More on why that's relevant, and the history and rebirth of this beer on his blog.

Rather than chemically-Pasteurize the whole batch, I may even leave a gallon with live Brett to see how far it will dry it out. I'll be interested to taste the different between the two (or three) versions as they age for decades to come!

Kegs are great for aging... but don't make for great photos.Courage Russian Imperial Stout #2

Recipe Specifics
--------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 11.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 45.25
Anticipated OG: 1.106
Anticipated SRM: 58.3
Anticipated IBU: 54.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 80 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
---------------
66.3% - 30.00 lbs. Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter
13.3% - 6.00 lbs. Crisp Amber Malt
6.1% - 2.75 lbs. Crisp Brown Malt
5.5% - 2.50 lbs. Simpsons Black Malt
4.4% - 2.00 lbs. Candi Syrup, Inc D-90
4.4% - 2.00 lbs. Candi Syrup, Inc D-180

Hops
-------
4.00 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 10.50% AA) @ 75 min.

Extras
--------
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.

Yeast
-------
WYeast 1028 London Ale

Water Profile
----------------
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
------------------
Sacch Rest - 40 min @ 158F

Notes
-------
2/13/16 Made a 4.5L stir-plate starter with one three-month old pack of WY1028. Crash chilled after three days.

2/20/16 Brewed with Chris. Started with 16 gallons of filtered DC tap water. Mash pH 5.38. Added 4 grams of baking soda. Sparged with 3 gallons filtered DC tap.

Collected 14 gallons of 1.096 runnings, including candi syrup (D-90 and D-180) added to the kettle during run-off.

Chilled to 65F. 60 seconds each of pure O2, followed by pitching the decanted room temperature starter. Left at 58F ambient to begin fermentation.

2/25/16 Raised ambient temperature to 65F, fermentation visibly slowed.

3/23/16 Bottled 5.5 gallons with rehydrated Pasteur Blanc and 95 g of table sugar. FG 1.040 (8.8% ABV, 62% AA). Racked the other half to a keg, waiting on Brett.

5/16/16 Pitched a tube of WLP645 White Labs Brett C and 4 Xoaker Medium Pus Toast French Oak balls (.75 oz) into the keg. Left at 65F to work for a few months.

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12 comments:

Deviant said...

Wow, 1.040 is really high... I just brewed 40Ltrs of the Barclay Perkins blog recipe. Less than two weeks and it's sitting @ 1.022, seems to be still going.. expecting it to hit 1.018 or there abouts in the next day or so.
That was wlp007 Dry English ale yeast with a massive starter (2 vials into 5 liters)..
I'm tossing up bottling half and bretting the other half as you have done. Looking forward to reading your updates :)

Deviant said...

this recipe..
http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/lets-brew-wednesday-1914-courage.html

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Interesting! The hotter mash, higher OG, and lower attenuating strain likely explain the higher FG on mine (although you'd think 10% candi sugar would have helped more). Doesn't taste excessively sweet with all of that roast, and no crystal malt.

kurineru said...

Mike--thanks for the reminder. I just went and checked my stockpile and, with a pair of bottles for my wife and I at Christmas, I only have a couple of years of Courage 1914 left (from Ron & Kristen's recipe). I have a couple of other things in my summer brewing pipeline, so maybe I'll schedule this for a nice day in early fall.

Curtiss Gulash said...

I assume you're using oxygen barrier caps in order to help the bottles keep for so long? Any other recommendations for long long long-term aging?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Always good to start another batch before the previous one runs out.

I've never seen a study on the effectiveness of oxygen barrier (or absorbing) caps compared to the standard ones, but I tend to buy them anyway. Otherwise it is about temperature and limiting dissolved oxygen at packaging. The colder you store a clean beer, the slower it will age (I tried the terrific Owen's Russian Imperial Stout at Selin's Grove that had been aging in the walk-in for ten years at the time). However, with live Brett you might have better results at cellar temperature where the Brett will be active and scavenging oxygen. Metabisulfite is also a powerful antioxidant (part of the reason red wines age so well), might be one reason that first batch has aged so gracefully!

Michael Kelly said...

Hello! Quick question here... How much Brett are you planning to add to the kegged batch? I'm trying to recreate your recipe in BeerSmith to scale it for my equipment. Thanks!

EDIT: I'm also noticing that my calculated ABV is much higher... 11.5%? Do you think that's just do to the differences in our efficiency numbers or were you really surprised by your 8.8% measurement?

Thanks!

Gary Sharp said...

Why Columbus hops? I thought for a beer that you wanted to age, it's better to have a higher beta acid hop and a low alpha/beta ratio.

Ron Pattinson said...

I was disappointed when they didn't find any Brettanomyces. But I just needed to be patient - eventually they did manage to culture some. I assume it;s some type of clausenii.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I pitched a "whole" tube of White Labs 645 tonight. It actually appeared to have a lot more slurry than than usually do! Likely BeerSmith is predicting higher attenuation than I witnessed, assuming your original gravity is the same.

The Columbus hops were just for IBUs, I don't think the character of the bittering hops in a beer like this are all that important. Beta acids come into play when the hops are aged prior to adding to the beer, never heard that they were valuable for beers that are aged. Got a source?

Interesting, they mentioned they thought they had a Sacch. If you ever get a sample, I'd love to hear how it does!

Gary Sharp said...

There was a nice chapter in Vintage Beers about Alpha/Beta acid ratio. I'm not sure what his sources are, but it makes sense to me. Excerpt here and I'd recommend a purchase to anyone that finds it interesting.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Honestly that doesn't line up with the brewing science I'm aware of. Beta acids are insoluble in wort and do not isomerize into more soluble forms like alpha acids (and thus do not contribute bitterness). They only become important when they oxidize into hulupulones, become soluble and bitter in the process. That is to say they are important when talking about aged hops, but not when talking about aged beer.

On top of that, I can't find any literature connecting alpha or beta acids to trans-2-nonenal. Beer Sensory Science has a post A Review of: “The chemistry of beer aging – a critical review,” which mentions that degradation of iso-alpha-acids can produce precursors for some "staling esters," but not trans-2-nonenol. Didn't have the effort to read through the original paper, but couldn't find anything other than "The exact degradation mechanism for hop acids and the chemical structures of the volatiles formed, have not been completely elucidated."

All of that is to say I don't look at the alpha-to-beta acid ratio when formulating a beer for aging.

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