Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Courage Russian Imperial Stout

Yet another clone of a beer that I have never had, the iconic Courage Russian Imperial Stout. The original Russian Imperial Stout, and a beer that is supposed to age gracefully for as long as 30 years.

We based the recipe on the one found in Brew Your Own British Real Ale at Home, and a brew log (below) for the Barclay Imperial Brown Stout from 1937, which evolved into Courage RIS, that was emailed to me by Ron Pattinson. I then made some changes based on other research, I used Dark Candi Syrup instead of the caramel that some recipes mention because I know it is a form of caramel and also highly fermentable. I also decided to add Some Brettanomyces and oak, both of which Michael Jackson mentions were found in the original. The Brett will hopefully provide the leather aroma that some people mention in reviews. I used Brettanomyces anomolus which Wyeast lists as originally coming from an English Stout in the 1950's (sadly this strain is now discontinued, but Brett C from white labs would be a good substitute).

This is also an interesting recipe because although it is a stout the only dark grain it has in it is Black Patent, which is generally associated with Robust Porters and a charcoal flavor. I was amazed how smooth both the wort and the uncarbonated beer tasted. I think this is in large part due to the adjustments I made to my water, adding plenty of (bi)carbonate to counteract the acidity of the BP. In fact Courage RIS is not the only stout made without Roasted Barley, both Sierra Nevada Stout and the new Imperial Oat Stout from Southern Tier get all their blackness from Black Patent.

One of the big procedural difference between this beer and my Funky Old Ale is that once it hit 1.020, I attempted to kill the Brett to prevent the wild yeast from making the beer too dry. First I chilled the beer to stop the Brett, then I fined the beer with gelatin and let it sit cool for a few days. Once the gelatin settled I transferred it to tertiary with 3 crushed up Campden Tablets (potassium metabisulfite). K-meta is often used in wine and cider making to kill wild yeast and bacteria before fermentation, but in this case I hope that it was able to kill whatever Brett was left over after the beer was fined. After waiting a few weeks for the SO2 to leave the beer I bottled with priming sugar and some rehydrated US-05 dry yeast. Hopefully the Brett is dead, or I may have some exploding bottles in a few months.

Courage Russian Imperial Stout Clone

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.94
Anticipated OG: 1.101
Anticipated SRM: 55.0
Anticipated IBU: 50.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68 %
Wort Boil Time: 95 Minutes

6.00 lbs. Golden Promise
4.00 lbs. Maris Otter
3.00 lbs. Amber Malt
1.50 lbs. Dark Candi Sugar Syrup
0.94 lbs. Black Patent Malt
0.31 lbs. Cane Sugar
0.19 lbs. Brown Malt

1.39 oz. Target @ 90 min.

.65 Oz Medium Toast French Oak Beans for 60 Days

WYeast 1028 London Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Courage RIS

Calcium(Ca): 58.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 11.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 81.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 62.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 48.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 247.0 ppm

pH: 8.34

Mash Schedule
Sacc Rest 90 min @ 155
Mash Out 10 min @ 166 (pulled 1 gallon of wort, heated to a boil, then returned to the mash)

Brewed 7/14/07 with James

Made a 3 pint starter the night before, probably not ideal but I've gotten by with worse, I won't be pitching until the morning after the brewday anyway.

Starting with DC tap water filtered through a Brita, 8 gallons of water with 6g Baking Soda, 1 g Chalk, 1g salt, and 1g Epsom salt.

6 gallons of 1.075 wort collected, including the sugars that were added while the sparge was going. Boiled down to about 3.5 gallons @ 1.115, with the starter and about 1 qrt of boiled and chilled water added the effective OG is 1.101.

The next morning, after a night of cooling in the freezer it was down to 65 degrees, I pitched the now mildly active starter and about a quart of boiled and chilled water.

Solid layer of krausen by 8 hours later, glad I made the starter.

Blow off tube needed by 12 hours, I needed it for about 24 hours.

Fermentation seemed to wrap up after about a week between 63-65 ambient.

Transferred to Secondary after 2 weeks, gravity around 1.030 (70% AA)

8/30/07 Added 5/8 oz of briefly boiled StaVin medium toast French oak cubes and a tablespoon of Brett A slurry (saved from my 2nd Mo' Betta clone). Left in a 5 gallon better bottle with airlock.

9/24/07 Down to about 1.025, mild Brett flavor/aroma

10/13/07 Down to 1.022, Brett seems to be very smooth.

10/28/07 1.020 (80% AA, 10.8% ABV) time to kill it.

10/29/07 Dissolved 1 packet of Knox gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water, then mixed in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Added it to the beer and stirred/swirled to distribute, then chilled to 62 in the freezer to encourage precipitation of the yeast (not much did).

10/31/07 Racked to bottling bucket, cleaned/sanitized fermenter, then racked back with 3 crushed campden tablets. About 3 gallons of beer remain. No sign of the gelatin, no idea if I just don't see it or if I screwed up somehow. Slight foamy head, probably just from the campden releasing SO2. Left at room temp.

11/09/07 Bottled, yielded 3.25 gallons. Added 2 grams of US-05 rehydrated in warm water, and 2.5 oz of corn sugar. Aiming for 2.2 volumes of CO2. FG still 1.020 (80% AA, 10.8% abv), good sign hopefully all of the Brett really is dead.

5/01/08 Still has moderate carbonation, looks like the campden tablets did their job and killed the Brett.

1/29/08 1st Tasting

12/28/08 Christmas 2008 Tasting

1/02/10 Christmas 2009 Tasting

12/23/10 Christmas 2010 Tasting

12/27/11 Christmas 2011 Tasting

12/27/12 Tasting next to bottles of 2011 Courage RIS and 2009 A. Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout. Happy with how ours compared!

4/14/15 Delayed 2014 tasting. Really hitting its stride (caramel and dried fruit coming out), probably time to rebrew soon...

1/4/16 Christmas 2015 Tasting

1/11/18 Christmas 2017 Tasting


Anonymous said...

Do Campden Tablets leave any taste? How did they kill the brett in the 'old days'?

Love your blog!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Dissolving Campden tablets adds sulfite to the beer, some of the sulfite leaves as sulfur dioxide the rest stays in the beer. Sulfite used to be a rather common thing to use in beers both for their preservative power and the fact that they protect against oxidation. Wines naturally contain some sulfite, but many wineries add more. If a wine has extra sulfite added it must be labeled as such because some people have negative reactions to them (particularly asthmatics). Wine can contain up to 350 ppm of sulfite, it is often added every time the wine is racked, in contrast this beer should have less than 50 ppm by my calculations ( ).

Sulfite may leave a minor residual flavor, but I really won't know for sure until the beer has some age on it. It did taste a bit rougher after the Campden tablets were in it, hopefully that will go away with some age.

Historically, there is some chance that they used sodium metabisulfate, but I am completely unsure of that. From my reading it sounds as if Courage RIS was bottled with a gravity in the mid 1.020s and bottles often had a low level of carbonation, so it doesn't sound like there was much Brett activity in the bottle. It could be a situation similar to my accidentally infected mild, which got funky, but did not drop in gravity. I was hoping that might happen in this one, but when the gravity kept dropping I decided to give this way a try.

Anonymous said...

Have you had any bottles explode yet? Opened any? I'd love to give this recipe a go soon!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Luckily no explosions yet, but I have no idea how long I should wait until I’m sure that I’m in the clear.

We opened a couple bottles at the sugar experiment tasting in December (about a month after it was bottled) and they were nicely carbonated, right about the level I want them to stay at. It still tasted too young to really give a thorough review, but it definitely had a nice flavor complexity and a mellow enough funk that everyone seemed to enjoy their taste of it.

I would suggest that you brew it, since it will be at least 4 months before you bottle it anyway. By then I should be able to give a better informed opinion on if the campden tablets did their job. If you were worried you could leave the beer in secondary/tertiary for a few months after you added the tablets, if fermentation didn’t pick up again in that time you would know it was safe to bottle.

Please let me know if you brew it, and of course how it turns out.

jemphd said...

I brewed this in January 2008, and will be opening one bottle each December to countdown to retirement. The bottle this time showed an ultra dark brown color with a cocoa colored head of about .5 in. The nose is one of a latte with chocolate shavings and a trace of Scotch induced sherry like notes. The mouthfeel is sublime, being just full enough to coat the tongue without being oily or chewy. The chocolate and roast flavors are balanced by the sweetness of the licorice and the sherry notes. Not very complex, the roast chocolate lasts for over a minute. No sign of the oak, but I'll enjoy tasting this over the next fifteen years and expect to have it emerge. Beautiful balance.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Great description!

I'm really looking forward to my next yearly bottle in a little less than a month.

Anonymous said...

How is this aging after 2 yrs? I brewed a couple of weeks ago and it is now in secondary with the Brett.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It is doing very nicely, I just did my annual tasting and will post it today or tomorrow. Still no sign of oxidation or over-carbonation, and the depth of roast and Brett character is only growing.

Anonymous said...

I notice you say Courage Imperial Russian Stout is supposed to age gracefully for up to 30 years... I have two bottles from 1973, do you think they are still drinkable?

Unknown said...

Only one way to find out, give one a try. It will depend on how it was stored, moderate temps etc... Let us know how they are.

John @ West Canyon said...

I was reading on your blog about the 30 year shelf life. I'd like to share this story with you.

Stopped at a bed and breakfast in Moab on our way to the Grand Canyon. Brought my own homebrew along for the trip..

This great bed and breakfast was run by an Italian fellow and his American wife. Sitting around the camp fire the owner and other guests really liked the home brew. The owner told me (as he was drinking his 'Blue Ribbon') That he used to home brew all grain beer.

A short time later his wife whipped out a couple beers he had brewed. The husband did NOT know he had any left. His wife stashed about a 12 pack and she felt this was a 'special occasion'. The beer was 10 year old 'hickory stout'.

I'm hear to tell you that was one of the best beers I ever had. Nothing funny or extra added to this stout for aging BTW.

My 'dream' as a home brewer would be to build a 'beer cellar' for aging craft beer. IMO, aged home brewed beer is not only the best beer it beats many well crafted micro beers as well.

I age beer on a very small scale only a year and a half sometimes two years max BUT, it is some of the best beer I have had.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds like a blast. This one is still holding up well at almost five years, surprising how well a big dark beer can hold up.

jemphd said...

Opened another of my series yesterday, after losing my notes last year and being too sick the year before. Almost five years old, this pours a very dark brown with a thin cafe au lait head that dissipates after 20 sec. Roasted notes are clear from the aroma with a little chocolate along side. Flavor is clearly a roasted/leathery flavor that complements the malt nicely by balancing some sweetness. Mouthfeel has thinned somewhat but is still very pleasant. Not particularly complex, but a very soothing, balanced RIS. I like this better than the recent commercial revival. No oak or scotch apart from the toasty/leathery above. This is becoming a great December tradition -thanks, Mike, for the recipe and idea!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Cheers! Sounds delicious! Planning to do a side-by-side-by-side of mine with Courage and Le Coq in a few days.

Nico said...

I just brewed this and a barleywine modeled after this recipe this week, and I'll be adding White Labs Brett C to each of them in the secondary in a few weeks.

Would you recommend making a starter from those vials? I've never used Brett before, and I noticed you only used a tbsp of your slurry, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

A small starter wouldn't hurt if you are splitting a single tube into 10 gallons, but honestly isn't necessary. This isn't a situation like a 100% Brett beer where you need quick action, the Brett will get the job done eventually either way.

Nico said...

Great thanks!

Unknown said...

Hope it's not too late to jump in here - I made a very similar beer a few weeks ago, based on Harvey's LeCoq RIS (I live just down the road from the brewery in East Sussex). I split a 20 litre batch in two, bottling one half after secondary was finished and laying down the other half to secondary with Orval dregs. I added the dregs of one bottle to 10 litres but after 4 weeks there is no sign of any activity - no airlock action, no drop in gravity, not difference in taste. Could it be that the 9.5% Abv was too severe for the brett added without starter? The FG was 1.030 so there should be plenty of sugars for the brett to consume. Or am I just being impatient?


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think your last point is it, give it another few months. Brett is usually fine at 9.5% ABV, but adding dregs aren't the healthiest cells. They'll acclimate, reproduce, then get going. It's not going to be a huge burst of activity, but you should see some airlock activity, surface activity, and a gravity drop. Feel free to add another bottle or two of dregs if you have them for insurance. Best of luck!

Unknown said...

Hey there. I brewed this beer a month ago and I have some questions about how to proceed. The beer is currently sitting at 1.030ish and I am getting ready to add the Brett. However I already put the oak cubes in and I am worried that the sulphite will not kill the Brett if it gets into the wood. I cannot transfer the beer away from the oak as I have only 2 conicals and the other one is full of a beer that also needs some time yet. Should I a) proceed like normal and pitch Brett, and hope the sulphite kills the Brett in the wood, b) I was considering moving a portion (maybe 20%) of the beer into another smaller container and let the brett take it all the way down, then kill it and add it back, or c) something else? Thanks

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Oak is certainly a concern, as is a big pile of yeast and trub at the bottom. You want nowhere for the Brett to shelter.

Brett-ing a portion of it is certainly a decent option, and would give you some control over the final result. Good luck!

Stephen said...

Hey, is there a 2013 tasting, or did you drink all of your reserve up? I'm going to try your Kate the Great clone and then this.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I brought my annual bottle down to DC, intending to drink it. Then Ron Pattinson himself came to town (for an event at 3 Stars Brewing 1/2 mile down the road), so I gave him the bottle.

kurineru said...

I've brewed Ron's Courage 1914 recipe before and had great results. I'm getting ready to put together a new batch in the next couple of weeks. I've been thinking about setting aside some to bottle with Brett after a long secondary. That's a little different than what you did with your Brett batch. Any thoughts? Advice?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Adding Brett at bottling, especially to a big-sticky stout, is a substantial risk. For every .001 drop of the FG thanks to Brett, you'll get an extra .5 volumes of CO2. I'd suggest pitching Brett in a portion of the batch and holding it in a small fermentor with an airlock until the gravity stabilizes, then bottle. If not, put the bottles somewhere they won't cause any harm if they explode, and sample often!

Chris said...

I happened to brew this beer (using the Corage Stout recipe from Ron's site. I didn't add the Brett but somehow when I sent to bottle it it looks like I might have got a spontaneous Brett (or Lacto) infection. Can't decide if I should even bother bottling it.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

How does it taste? If the gravity is still dropping, I wouldn't bottle until it is stable. Nothing worse than an over-carbonated roasty beer!

UltraSaha said...

Hi Mike, i would like to brew a similar recipe to this (at least in concept) my recipe on imperial stout adding brettanomyces to secondary (maybe clauseni or bruxelini i'm not sure). If i brew it adding lactose, I would like to know if brett is able to proces this kiind of sugar. My idea is to have body in the beer, but i'm studing alternatives to using metabisulfite of potasium.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Some strains of Brett produce beta-glucosidase, which allows them to ferment lactose. Sadly there isn't a great list of which strains do and don't. More B. claussenii do than B. bruxellensis, but that's no guarantee. Trial and error!

jemphd said...

2015 tasting of the 2008 effort. Pours as nearly black with minimal head which is cocoa colored. Aroma is dark fruits and a trace of leather notes, undoubtedly due to the Lagavulin influence. Ultra smooth, unctuous mouthfeel brings coffee, roasty flavors, again dried a bit with the Scotch traces. This is the best integrated presentation of this beer and makes me look forward to the next six years of this beauty I have left. Thanks for the inspiration and recipe, Mike.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Cheers! Looking forward to my annual bottle later this week!

Unknown said...

Real quick question, maybe kind of silly (I might be totally missing something)...

The pH (I'm assuming of the mash) is listed as over 8; is that a typo, or was the pH really that high?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Where are you seeing this? Somewhere on the old brew sheet?

Unknown said...

It's in the main body of the post, right under the list of mineral additions.

Unknown said...

I should say, since I don't have a registered commenting ID, that my name is Phil, and I live in San Diego. Blazing World is pretty much my favorite local beer.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Ah! That is simply the estimated starting water pH that ProMash spits out, you can safely ignore it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,
I got some great advice from you a few years back brewing this recipe in Aus, I am rebrewing soon because I am running out of bottles, I want to spike this time with Brett, I have Wlp Brett Anomalus - is this strain even closer to Wyeast Aomalus? Or definitely go Clausennii

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It's almost certainly a different strain, the Wyeast one was pulled because it turned out to be Brett Brux. Use whatever strain has a description you like, and best of luck!