Monday, January 9, 2017

Courage RIS (No Brett): Tasting

Courage Russian Imperial Stout Clone: No Brett or Oak.
The continuation of my Christmas eve tradition of drinking homebrewed Courage Russian Imperial Stout was beginning to look in doubt. After 2015 I was down to three bottles, so February 2016 I rebrewed a tweaked 10 gallon batch (recipe). Originally the plan was to give half the wort to my friend Scott, but when his plans changed at the last minute I split the batch with myself instead: half clean, half with White Labs Brett claussenii and oak spheres.

The funky-oaky half is ready to bottle this week. As with the original batch from 2007, once the gravity reached 1.020 I transferred the beer to a clean fermentor with one campden tablet (sodium metabisulfite) per gallon. This additional 20% apparent attenuation from Brett isn't guaranteed. Mike Karnowski, the brewer/founder of Zebulon Artisan Ales (and author of Homebrew Beyond the Basics), homebrewed a similar recipe a couple years ago and split it between five commercial Brett strains, but didn't see significant attenuation from any of them (not a bad thing) - I got to taste a sample of each at a bottle share while I was in town for the Asheville Homebrewers Conference!

Courage RIS 2016: Base

Smell – Expressive clean roasted nose. Charred cocoa, fresh bready malt, a hint of ethanol. There is a subtle dark fruitiness from the candi syrup, but not nearly the intense-raisin that many year-old dark-crystal-malt dependent imperial stouts fall. No noticeable oxidation. No hop aroma, unsurprising given the single early Columbus addition.

Appearance – Beautiful, opaque, black body. Voluminous mocha head (bigger than I like to see on what should be a low-carbed beer). Great retention despite the snow landing on it.

No better day than a snowy day for Imperial Stout!Taste – Flavor is a delicious blend of 85% cocoa chocolate bar, richly toasted malt, and subtle English ale fruitiness. Enough bitterness (hop, roast, alcohol) to balance the plum-sweetness in the mid-palate. It doesn’t taste like a 1.040 FG beer, but then it may grow sweeter as the bitterness drops off with time.

Mouthfeel – Thick, coating, rich. Carbonation is elevated from my preference (and the 2.1 volumes I targeted), but I wouldn’t call it over-carbonated in general beer terms.

Drinkability & Notes – Surprisingly drinkable for a beer this big in alcohol and sweetness. It maintains a fresh malt flavor from the Maris Otter and amber malts that plays off the firm Black Patent roast wonderfully. Without Brett the malt is much more in focus.

Changes for Next Time – This is it for me other than the carbonation (which is easy enough to swirl out). As big as it needs to be, with an intense maltiness that I don't think would be possible in a smaller stout. At 9% a 12 oz bottle is a reasonable serving, something I can't say for the many commercial stouts that don't achieve this flavor-saturation with 12-16% ABV!

Hopefully the next few years are kind to the remaining case and a half!

I drank my third-to-last bottle of the original on Christmas eve. Not much had changed since last year so it didn't seem worth writing up the full tasting notes. Carbonation was still pleasantly low, big dark fruit, gentle funkiness, no sign of impending oxidized-doom for the last couple bottles!

One of the last glasses of one of my favorite beers.


CJD said...

You mentioned that the carbonation was too high on this beer. I find I actually like a moderate to high level of carbonation with some high FG stouts, as it balances the residual sweetness. Do you find that the carbonation makes the beer too harsh or just that it takes the beer out of style?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

In general I tend to like lower carbonation than most people. I find it disruptive to the coating, lingering, richness.

jordan hamilton said...

Very good news. I love taking your beers and trying my own spin on them. Sometimes they're pretty close to your recipe, and other times they're just a spin on what I think you're idea was. This is a beet that I'm very excited to use as inspiration. Thanks for keeping me motivated!

Jason Diggs said...

You mentioned using a campden tablet in the funky oaky version. Do you re-yeast before bottling? The campden tablet doesn't prevent re-fermentation the way Potassium Sorbate does?

Gary Sharp said...

Did you add metabisulfite to the non-brett version for the antioxidant properties?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I do reyeast with a wine strain (they tend to be more sulfite-tolerant). All those details are in the notes in the original post.

No campden in this half, although I've toyed with the idea both for beers I intend to age and for hoppy beers.

Anonymous said...

Was the FG 1.020 or 1.040? Later in your post you mentioned 1.040.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, this batch was split two ways. The way I understand the post, the brett-infused version made it down to 1.020 (at which point he added sodium metabisulfite to halt fermentation), while the version without brett finished up at 1.040. This post contains the tasting notes for the non-brett, 1.040 version.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Correct Anonymous #2, the clean version I tasted here is at 1.040, the Brett'd version got down to 1.020.

CRUSADER1612 said...

SOunds tasty - looking forward to the notes for the brett version. (I brewwed something similar, but used the WLP670 yeast cake from awehile back. ashy rich flavor - really nice
cheers for the inspiration.

I do have a question though, have you thought about adding fruit (cherries come to mind) when addingthe brettanomyces? it seems like it would be a really good addition ?

Zee Germans Brewery said...

I've had problems with RIS becoming overcarbed over longer lengths of time even when using a beer gun from the keg. Would campden tablets help do you think?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've added cherries to funky dark beers (Bourbon Cherry Porter) before and it does work nicely! I'd probably add the fruit until closer to packaging, but longer/early contact can produce some deeper/jammier flavors.

Sounds like either you are having an incomplete fermentation (focus on yeast health, pitching rates, proper aeration etc.) or there are unwanted microbes getting into your bottles (make sure the BeerGun and everything else is fully cleaned and sanitized). Either way, I don't think metabisulfite would be a great solution... but it couldn't hurt and would help fight oxidation.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you've answered this before but batch size means how much went into the fermenter, correct? So 11.50 gallons in the fermentor but probably closer to 10.5 into bottles? Thanks, Mike.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Correct, I use the end of boil size for the batch (as that is what affects hop utilization). In this case maybe 9.5 gallons after losses in the kettle and fermentors.

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