Monday, November 5, 2012

Malt Whisky Barrel Rye Stout Recipe

Small dot of concentrated malt whisky, pushed out of the oak staves by the pressure of the CO2 inside.With the spiced Rumble-barrel-aged Imperial Oatmeal Porter filling the role of something rounded, sweet, and dessert-like, I wanted to barrel-aged another dark beer that would be sharper and more aggressive. For the second fill of the Balcones Malt Whisky barrel I brewed an Imperial Rye Stout. It includes a firmer hop bitterness (despite similar IBUs), and some really dark grains to provide a sharper roast.

The pressure inside the barrel from the dissolved carbon-dioxide of the beers has pushed some concentrated spirits from the wood. It forms small dark spots of sticky liquid on the exterior of the barrels. This is something I first read about on Sean Paxton's blog years ago, but didn't see for myself until recently. Their flavor is amazing, like a condensed whisky extract (oak, vanilla, and char), minus the alcohol.

One of the things that really gets me excited about a big stout is a full, creamy, oily, and viscous mouthfeel. The Russian Imperial Stouts that achieve this through dextrins alone tend to be too sweet for my tastes, especially after a couple years of aging cuts their hop bitterness. To ensure that wouldn’t be the fate of this batch, I added two pounds of flaked rye, which provides body without excessive sweetness. This will be especially valuable as at 1.080 this beer actually started with slightly less carbohydrates than some vintages of Three Floyds Dark Lord finish with (I’m not kidding).

Rye malt on the left, pale barley malt on the right.Rye is one of those ingredients whose flavor is hard to describe. The Bruery's Rugbrød has one of the most intense rye flavors of any beer I have tasted, but all that means is that it has a particular toasty character. I find rye malt (pictured next to pale barley) to have a more intense flavor contribution than un-malted rye, but this recipe also includes chocolate rye. Despite it's name, this roasted malt is much paler than standard chocolate malt and dehusked, giving it a mellower flavor contribution.

I moved the Rye Stout to the barrel as soon as I determined the Weizen Trippelbock that was its first resident had extracted enough oak and booze (three weeks was already pushing it). This is the last of the four clean beers that will be aged in these two 20 L barrels before I turn them sour (White Labs new WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend arrived today). All told I’ll end up with about nine cases of barrel-aged strong-beer, which should hold me over for at least a few years. I’ll certainly be ready for the DC Homebrewers February High Gravity meeting, if not 2013 then definitely by 2014…

Whiskey Barrel Rye Stout

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 20.50
Anticipated OG: 1.080
Anticipated SRM: 45.4
Anticipated IBU: 63.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 120 Minutes

75.6% - 15.50 lbs. American Pale 2-Row Malt
9.8% - 2.00 lbs. Flaked Rye
4.9% - 1.00 lbs. Briess Roasted Barley (300 L)
3.7% - 0.75 lbs. Chocolate Rye
3.7% - 0.75 lbs. Crystal 120L
1.2% - 0.25 lbs. English Chocolate Malt
1.2% - 0.25 lbs. English Roasted Barley (550 L)

3.00 oz. Palisade (Pellet, 7.35% AA) @ 60 min.

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 156 F

9/28/12 Made a 1.6 L starter on the stir-plate.

9/30/12 Brewed by myself.

Borrowed Pete's Barley Crusher because mine had been having problems feeding grain.

Room temperature pH of the mash was 5.1, so I added 3 g of baking soda (enough to raise the mash water by 72 ppm Carbonate and 27 ppm sodium), and raise the pH to 5.4.

Batch sparged (unaltered water). Collected 8.5 gallons of 1.063 runnings. A bit quicker boil-off than expected, added 1 qrt of water with 15 min left in the boil to compensate.

Chilled to 64 F and pitched the un-decanted starter. Left at 62 F to begin fermentation. Good activity by the following morning.

10/28/12 Racked to the triple-near-boiling-rinsed Balcones Malt Whisky barrel (post-Trippelbock). Left at basement temperature, ~65 F, to age. Finished at 1.024.

11/25/12 Has developed some excess carbonation, switched to an airlock.

12/30/12 Bottled with 2.25 oz of table sugar. Ended up all the way down at 1.015. A bit thin, but otherwise tastes pretty good.

3/20/13 Tasting of this young brash stout. Moderate barrel character, firm roast and hop bitterness. Should age nicely.


  1. Why the 2 hour boil?

  2. With stronger beers it is nice to collect a bit more wort, and boil a bit longer to increase the efficiency. I don't think it changes the flavor much unless you boil really long and concentrated.

  3. I just got the WLP665 in mail as well. what do you plan on making with it? Do you know about it's origins or any info other than the vague description White Labs puts out?

  4. My plan is to brew 11 gallons of brown/red wort. I’ll be fermenting with a blend of yeast and bacteria, and then racking into the two third used barrels. When they get enough wood/oxygen I’ll go into carboys. Maybe onto fruit (raspberries for rum, cherries for whisky). Maybe save some of each plain, we’ll see.

    I suspect the new White Labs 665 Flemish blend is just a combo of other strains they already had (similar to Wyeast’s Roeselare). Obviously trying to mimic the mixed culture used at Rodenbach. Unlike the Wyeast blends, White Labs don’t have enough brewer’s yeast for an un-aided primary fermentation. I’ll be pitching some clean yeast as well.

    Interested to see how it does.

  5. any reason you chose to go with an American ale yeast instead of an irish ale?

  6. Either would have worked, but I wanted this batch to finish a bit drier than Irish ale would have gone without pretty low saccharification rest.

  7. This sounds amazing. Is it difficult to get the barrels you use? Can you reuse them?

  8. Barrels from Balcones are available from online homebrew stores (such as Adventures in Homebrewing) for about $90. This is my second fill of this barrel, which is as far as I'll push it with clean beers. I'm going sour with both of them when these beers are ready to bottle.

  9. I decided to try and brew a lambic using all dry malt extract (at the parents house) using the WLP665 but I'm still undecided about whether to pitch neutral ale yeast or not. Will the beer be funkier without using ale yeast and pitching just the vial because of the small amount of stressed saccharomyces will leave more sugars for the brett and bugs? Or will the brett eat up the off flavors from the underpitching? A combo of the two?

  10. White Labs suggests pitching straight, but their blends only have ~7 billion cells. I like to pitch some healthy ale yeast to get things going, and avoid the problems associated with a slow/lazy primary fermentation.

    If you want to leave more sugars for the bugs, pitch a low attenuating strain, mash hotter, or adjust the grain bill. I don't think an ugly Saccharomyces fermentation is a good solution.

    Good luck!

  11. I have recently joined a brewing group that just began experimenting with a buorbon barrel. I missed teh first batch which was a Imperial Stout. The guys that bottle aged it are not getting good carbonation. This Saturday we will be pulling out 5 gallons of a Wee Heavy aged 3 months. I am going to bottle this and don't want under-carb. You mention a champange yeast for the bottling. Any particular one? One packet for the 5 galons?

  12. A bigger issue than the lack of bottling yeast (although that may be part of the story) is the lower residual/dissolved carbonation in barrel-aged beers. Priming calculators assume that there is already a fair amount of CO2 in a beer even before priming (~.8 volumes, depending on the temperature). In the case of barrel aged beers that amount is often much lower, say .4 volumes. As a result we over-prime barrel-aged beers targeting a level of carbonation about .4 volumes higher than we actually want. You probably want CO2 in the low-2s for a big beer like that, but you’ll need to add enough sugar for mid-2s to get there. Pro-brewers have meters that allow them to measure the amount of CO2 in a fermented beer, and many will force in some carbonation to get the young beer part way before getting the last bit from bottle conditioning.

    It doesn’t take much yeast to adequately repitch, just a gram or two in five gallons, rehydrated in warm/sterile water, and then stirred in with the priming sugar. Luckily wine yeast isn’t good at fermenting complex sugars, so as long as primary fermentation finished as a result of nothing for the ale yeast to eat and not too much alcohol, you’ll be fine.

    Hope that helps, best of luck!

  13. I brewed this recipe over the weekend. I was looking to do a strong imperial stout/porter/barleywine beer for my 60th homebrewed batch. This recipe looked perfect (and I already had all of the ingredients on hand).

    Mine og gavity sample came in at 1.085 and tasted very, very chocolatey. I dont have a barell to put it in, so maybe Ill put in some french oak I have aging in some scotch right now...


  14. Very cool, let me know how it turns out! I'd tend towards heavy toasted American oak, I think a stout would benefit more from the sweeter vanilla of it than it would from the spice of French oak.

  15. Would adding some flked rye give this more body. I would love to brew this ale but could add some flaked rye if it would help with the body,

  16. There ARE two pounds of flaked rye in the recipe already. I wouldn't go much higher than that. It was pretty full before the lager yeast left in the barrel dropped the FG lower than I intended. It is still fine, but my goal was slightly-syrupy (without excessive sweetness).

  17. Hi Mike,

    I just acquired the same 5-gallon Balcones barrel and am interested to hear how you prepped it. I know the barrel was not recently dumped. I'm concerned that since it's been dry, there may be some noxious bacteria in the wood that I don't want. I also would like to avoid putting hot water inside it because it'll reduce the whiskey flavor imparted on the beer. What did you do?

  18. I didn't do anything to prep the barrels. You could fill it with cold water to see if it leaks right before you fill. The liquor that soaked into the wood should leave it relatively sanitary, if something did get in, there really isn't any way to completely remove bacteria once it is in the wood.

  19. Reaching back a while, I realize, but can you reference your actual OG on this brew? What about post-barrel gravity?

  20. The "Anticipated OG" is the actual OG, that's just how ProMash spits it out (I take SRM/IBUs as estimations so I just don't bother to edit it out). I didn't take an official FG for this batch, but I remember seeing it around 1.016 either before or after bottling. It shouldn't have dropped, but the lager yeast in the barrel from the previous beer went to work on it.

    1. As an interesting aside, I wasn't able to drop the gravity prior to racking with a simple shake up, but after racking I am seeing a secondary fermentation. Contrary to your thread here, I did not have a previous brew residing in this barrel. Do you feel that the residual yeast in suspension after a 1 month primary in glass, is now working on the presence of the bourbon within the staves? I racked my beer at 1.024, almost a week ago, and have twice needed to clean the airlock due to a very active fermentation. Perhaps it's gone the way of the bugz!

  21. Went with WLP007 with a predicted 80% attenuation and, contrary to all the accolades and a well tracked temp controlled fermentation, I just registered a 1.030 after 2+ weeks. I split the 2L, undecanted starter between 2, 6 gallon and 1, 3 gallon carboy; totaled 14 gal at the acceptable OG of 1.070. Plan to play with 4 gallons while 10 go into a bourbon barrel I acquired from a local distillery in New Engalnd. 0ne of the 6 gal carboys registered you think I blew it on the share of yeast for each carboy? I purged the headspace on each and gave it a good shake but, considering the chunky floc that this yeast seems to produce, worried (not worried, rather curious) about why this one is "stuck". Thoughts?

  22. 2L doesn't sound like enough of a starter for 14 gallons of 1.070 beer to me! Even with a stir-plate and a fresh vial, 4L would be cutting it close! Not sure why the difference on the FG, could be an uneven split on the pitch, or slight differences in temperature.

    Why purge the head space before fermenting? If anything you want to shake some oxygen into solution to help the yeast grow.

  23. Impossible to know for sure. An initial blast of CO2 might just be nucleation from the wood. There shouldn't be much in the way of fermentable sugar from the wood or residual spirits. Give it a few weeks, take a gravity reading and taste to see how it is doing (and report back!).

  24. Fermented all the way down to 1.010, from 1.012 last week. Apparent attenuation at 86%! (OG was 1.077, not 1.070). Clean beer full of vanilla and bourbon after about two months in the first use barrel.

  25. Yikes! That is shocking attenuation given the strain and malt/mash. Glad to hear it tastes clean!

  26. Mike, back for an update...

    Half that 10 gallon batch sat on whole bean stumptown coffee for 2 days and has conditioned since February. That beer just scored a 40 at the 2016 Best of Boston to take 3d place in the Smoked/Wood Beer combined category. It's un-beaned version scored 37.5. Pleased with those scores, for sure.

    In fact, after about a month of primary, the second run at it has already attenuated 78% (second generation yeast repitched). It will be racked into my newly acquired 15 gallon rye barrel next week, if the SG doesn't change.

    Great recipe!

  27. Always great to hear when my recipes work for other brewers (or spark their own variations). Congrats!