Thursday, January 11, 2018

10 Year Old Courage RIS Clone

A torch passing of sorts. With the bottles of my 2007 batch of Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone running out I rebrewed the recipe (with a few tweaks) in 2015. I’ve labeled the caps from 2017 to 2050, so this marks the extension of my now decade-long Christmas tradition!

Watch me drink the two beers, or read my thoughts below. If you've got any comments on the videos (other than my microphone induced v-neck) let me know!

Courage RIS 2007

Smell – Fantastic mixture of deep/dark Port-like fruitiness and rich caramel. Roast is subdued, more coffee than a Quad or Belgian Strong Dark, but not by much. Brett provides subtle leathery notes, but it isn’t obvious with everything else going on. I could pass it off as "age" if I hadn't brewed it.

Appearance – The head is soap-sudsy, the bubbles are larger than expected. Nearly pitch-black body. When I returned for a second pour it came with hard bits of desiccated yeast. Should have poured it all to start!

Taste – Similar to the nose, rich and full of plums, figs, caramel, and light roast. The Brett lingers softly in the finish. Leather, and maybe a little cherry. Harmonious, really balanced thanks to the added attenuation by the Brett. Minimal hop bitterness thanks to the aging. Still tastes remarkably fresh compared to big stouts I’ve brewed more recently, thanks to the metabisulfite.

Mouthfeel – Smooth and full, without being sticky. Low carbonation, perfect for a big dark beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Would have opened another bottle if it was an option. One of my favorite batches of homebrew to date.

Changes for Next Time – As close to perfection as I can imagine creating in a big-dark-funky-fruity-historic stout! I don’t know what Courage Russian Imperial Stout tasted like 100 years ago, but I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t this good!

Courage RIS 2015

Smell – Fresher and more apparent English-maltiness. That brown malt provides a coarse toasty note that clashes with the bolder Brett funkiness. Comparatively mild caramel and dark fruit.

Appearance – Darker, denser, creamier, longer-lasting head. Part of that is higher carbonation, and the rest is likely freshness.

Taste – Coarser, with burnt toast, Brett-funk, and oak competing for attention. There are some nice flavors there, and the fresher-brighter-cleaner biscuity and roasty notes are pleasant. Hopefully with time the oak will mellow and the Brett and malt will balance.

Mouthfeel – The carbonation disrupts the smoothness, especially when combined with rough tannins from the oak. Hopefully the latter will mellow, and swirling helps with the former. Not sure if I was unsuccessful at killing the Brett, or if I simply over-primed (or had attenuation from the bottling strain).

Drinkability & Notes – It’s OK, but still young, rough, and discordant. It has a lot of time to improve, and I'll be disappointed if it doesn't!

Changes for Next Time – Hopefully time is all that is needed, but would be hard not to revert to the original recipe if I were to brew this again… especially on a larger scale!


  1. I made a dark beer with Brett (TYB 261) and at nearly 5%, none of the special B makes it through. Would you recommend dark candi syrup to attain that sort of figgy, raisin, dark Belgian flavor? I was going to up the special B and add some crystal 120 this next time...

  2. I think the combination of dark crystal and candi syrup is a good way to get those flavors. They reinforce each other and lend depth.

    1. Hm, ok. I may end up having about 4% of the bill be some Candi syrup then. For those flavors, does the 90 do the job?

  3. nice subliminal advertising, on the barrel head... :)

  4. Any reason for using Candi instead of brewers syrup as talked about in Ron Pattison's vintage beer book? To my taste they're similar, but brewer's invert is a bit different at similar darknesses.

  5. The first time I brewed the recipe I wasn't aware of brewer's caramel. It worked so well with candi syrup, and I was planning to age the new batch so long that I was reluctant to change things too much. Certainly would be fun to try it with the more authentic sugar though!

  6. Hy Mike!

    I have a constant problem with storing beers at room temperature. After 2-3 months they are become bad, with the exact symptoms of Pediococcus infection. I changed all my cold-side plastic equipments to brand new, and have a proper sanitating process with StarSan, but I can't store the lighter beers in bottles, nor in kegs longer than 2 months at room temp, though I never had an infection when fermenting aforementioned beers.
    I started thinking about using Campden against these bacteria as winemakers do and I just read that you successfully killed off Brett with it.
    Do you think it might help with my problem and if it worth a shot, when should I add them into the beer?

  7. It wouldn't hurt, but I'd try to get to the root of the problem. More important than sanitation, is cleaning. Start doing a long-hot soak with PBW (or an equivalent cleaner), then rinse, inspect, and only then sanitize. Make sure none of your plastic gear is scratched.

  8. That's what I always do (not PBW but with an equivalent oxygen-based cleaner) and all plastic was changed to new ones 3 months ago. The fermeting process was without problems, but still can't store light beers for extended time.

  9. Awesome, and inspiring. I have a commercial release of a brett imperial stout that we have also stabilised, and that was matured in a blend of red wine barrels (French oak), and supplemented with some time on medium toast American oak and maple cubes. The brett was entirely from the barrels, no commercial pitch. The wine-maker from which we sourced these freshly emptied barrels (one of South Africa's best) was surprised to learn of brett, but I think at 14% ABV, the wine almost completely subdues brett activity, and being 5th fill barrels, brett existence was probably inevitable. I'm super excited about how this beer has progressed. Probably releasing some time around May 2018, and I'll make sure to get some bottles shipped to Sapwood Cellars. You guys rock, and are my single biggest influence in our specialty program, at Frontier Beer Co., South Africa.


  10. Hi Mike

    I'm a bit confused about using the metabisulfate. Doesn't it kill the Brett? You dont want it to keep working?

  11. Brett would keep working, drying the beer out. I wanted to preserve some body and mouthfeel, so I killed the Brett!

  12. OK makes sense. It would be bone dry after 10 years. How do you determine when to dose then? I'm assuming the Brett needs to do some work for awhile.

  13. It was based on taste and gravity. If you haven't already, go back and read the recipe posts. They have all of the details.

  14. Hey Mike, was looking for a recipe for a bourbon barrel I am going to fill this summer - picking one up from One-Eight Distilling in the District. What do you think of this Courage
    recipe for the barrel?
    Thanks - Sean

  15. I think it could work, especially without the Brett. That said, I'd tend toward something with more caramel to play with the vanilla notes from the barrel. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

  16. Mike, long time no post. My RIS clone from 2008 is an 11 year old now. Pours with a 3/4 in head, light brown. Nose is subdued, but coffee and a port-like note shows. Mouthfeel is spectacular- smooth as dark glass, not sticky or cloying. A wonderful blend of chocolate, a mildly bitter note, similar to coffee. A finish of ~10 sec. which seems short, but it’s a hell of an 11-12 year old beer. I retire this August, and have five more of these! Thanks for the original recipe & Happy New Year!

  17. Cheers, congrats, and thanks for the update!

    We've got two oak barrels of this one aging with Brett at Sapwood. Hopefully I'll be enjoying bottles of it for a long time once it is done!