Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Courage RIS Clone Tasting "2014"

Rationing a delicious beer is always challenge, but offsite storage helps. I drink a single bottle of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone each year, usually while visiting my parents for Christmas (the remaining seven bottles are the last of my once impressive stockpile at their house). I missed my annual tasting in 2013 (I gifted that bottle to Ron Pattinson himself while he was talking historic beers at 3 Stars, the closest brewery and homebrewing store to my house). I spent Christmas 2014 in Montreal, and didn’t get around to opening my 2014 bottle until the cherry blossoms were out. I also needed something to write about this week when my phenol experiment didn’t prove worthy of another official tasting.

Courage Clone

Appearance – Coal-black body with the same tight mocha head it’s had for years. Pretty good head retention compared to other years. Not all stouts need to be pitch black, but I think imperial stouts should be!

Smell – What a nose! Figs, burnt-on coffee, and fresh toast. Saturated with dark malt and caramelized sugar. Just a hint of soy-sauce oxidation, not offensive yet. Dusty basement. A suggestion of clean ethanol, no fusel burn. Every last bit of what an English imperial stout should be in the nose.

Taste – Decadent. Sweet, intensely malty, clean roast, and lots of caramelized raisins. Nothing overtly funky, but it has a sooty complexity that age alone doesn't produce. Speaking of which, age and oxidation haven’t caused any structural problems so far. Time has mellowed the alcohol and increased the intensity of the dark fruit and burnt sugar. Any hop bitterness is gone, but at 1.020 it isn’t so sticky that the lack of hops leaves it unbalanced.

Mouthfeel – Rich, full, and coating. It has enough heft to back up the opulent flavors and aromas. Carbonation is medium, which is more than I need in such a big beer. Nothing ruins a dark strong ale like too much carbonation, but after a few swirls it falls in line.

Drinkability & Notes – I need to brew another batch of this recipe before I run out! Considering the Brett was killed before bottling, it has held up very well. The antioxidant sulfites might be part of the reason. The dark fruit has really come up since my last tasting in 2012 (when that was missing compared to the actual Courage).

It is challenging for me to be objective with this beer: I brewed it less than two years after I moved to DC, about two years into what is now ten years of homebrewing. The sort of beer that I like to sit, sip, and think with.


Steve Crawshaw said...

Mike, can you give a bit of detail about your approach with sulfites? I am considering using it for pale ales where I encounter repeated issues with oxidation despite my efforts to exclude oxygen from process. How much would you add per litre to protect a pale ale?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Take a look at the linked recipe post, it's got all of the specifics, but I added one campden tablet per gallon. I really added it to kill the Brett, the antioxidant effect is just a pleasant side effect.

Unknown said...

Mike, in regards to you're phenol experiment, would the Brett exhibit similar (theoretical) effects in high ester beers such as those fermented with English ale yeast strains? Would b-glucosidase activity of the Brett exhibit any effect on the esters typically produced in English ales?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I don't believe that b-glucosidase is involved in either phenol or ester production/destruction, it would be the esterase you're interested in. I know Brett's esterase works on isoamyl acetate, not sure about what it does to English-yeast esters. They tend to be so subtle I'm not sure you'd notice them behind all of the esters and phenols Brett produces. More esters wouldn't increase 4-EG or 4-EP production, if that's what you are asking.

kurineru said...

Courage 1914 is an amazing beer, isn't it? I am slowly working my way through a batch I brewed several years ago, but it's time to replenish my supplies. I think I'm going to split the batch this time, and bottle half with brett. Any recommendations on a strain?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The Wyeast Brett anomalus was great (but was discontinued years ago), but Brett claussenii would work well too. Both are more leathery than funky. Just be careful bottling it with Brett if it has much sweetness left. Best of luck!

Kostas Siozos said...

Greetings Mike,
If you rebrewed the recipe, based on the result, would you alter the water profile in any way?

Maybe increase the calcium by using calcium chloride and inevitably increase the chlorides, contributing to a (maybe) healthier fermentation and perceived maltiness a bit?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Nothing about the result is begging for water adjustments to my palate. The fermentation was healthy, and at more than 50 PPM I don't have reason to believe it would be more calcium would have any tangible benefit. I think the carbonate is much more important in a recipe that has that much black patent, but feel free to adjust to suit your tastes!