Saturday, January 16, 2010

20% 21.5% ABV Imperial Stout

I don't really drink many high alcohol beers, in fact I prefer keeping the alcohol pretty low, say 4% or less. This way I can have a beer or two without getting a buzz, or getting dehydrated. Both of which can give you pretty bad headaches living in the heat of Phoenix.

However as long as Ive brewed Ive enjoyed the challenge of brewing different beers using different techniques and trying to pull off tricky flavor profiles. There's something in the challenge of a new beer style or a very difficult technique that interests me. Now Ive just about brewed every BJCP style there is, I havent pulled them all off, but Ive yet to event try to brew a huge OG beer. So far probably the highest starting gravity of any beer Ive brewed was roughly 1090's (didn't keep good notes back then) and the beer didn't turn out too well (I pitched a bit too warm, and onto a yeast cake). I still have most of the batch left, its mellowed some, but is still fairly hot and after ~3.5yrs an I'm starting to think of dumping it.

Another reason this has interested me recently is Ive tried a couple other peoples huge beers that are either still fermenting or bulk aging. One friend has a barleywine that is unbearably caramelly and sweet right now, another brewed a porter-type beer and it has a great maple flavor that if he gets it to attenuate a bit more will be a nice beer, and the final one had a great 18% beer but over oaked it. So the road to finished product is fraught with potential mistakes, and it will be a challenge to pull it off, and this is something that really interests me.

Now I have already started this beer, and its been going for a couple weeks now so I thought it was time to do a write up. I planned on starting the beer with Wyeast 9093 Imperial blend, and finishing it with either WLP099 or Wyeast 4347 Eau de Vie. I was never able to get a hold of the White Labs yeast so I went with the eau de vie to finish things out. However, to my astonishment about the time I was ready to pitch the eau de vie, i check the gravity and somehow 9093 took the beer to nearly 17%abv!!! I was tempted to let it go to see where it stalled but the 4347 was ready to go so I pitched away.

A couple things I did to get the beer to attenuate as far as it has are
1. Pitched onto a huge yeast cake
2. Oxygenated with pure O2
3. Added a lot of nutrient to the wort
4. Incrementally added sugars/wort along with nutrient
5. Oxygenated with every sugar addition
6. Swirled up the yeast every so often
7. Fermented very cool
Now to anybody that reads about big beers this isn't anything new. But it seemed to work pretty damn well. Almost too well, when I tasted it last (1057) the alcohol was pretty noticeable. Although I guess it should be at 17%. Hopefully with the last few sugar additions things will continue to attenuate and I wont worry. Its too early to worry with this big of a beer, and I kinda feel like a greenhorn with how I'm worrying.
Eventually the beer will be force carbonated and bottled in 6oz bottles. I haven't decided yet, but some may see some oak, coffee, or chocolate. I guess Ill have to taste it when it finishes out to see what will blend well. I am also working on some bottle labels for this one (something I rarely ever do), I do wonder though if anyone can tell where the inspiration for the name came from. I told a couple people I work with about it and they had no idea what I was talking about....
Comfortably Numb Imperial Stout
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
1.0Chocolate Malt
0.75Roasted Barley
0.5Flaked Barley
1.0Belgian Candi Syrup D
0.75Extra Light DME - TBD
Amt (oz)TypeTime
2.0Centennial (10.0%)120 min
Mash Schedule
168F1.5qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastImperial Blend 9093 - Yeast Cake
Eau de Vie 4347 - 500mL starter pitched ~10days into fermenation
81% effIBU78
6gal BoilFG1022
Notes - Some wort was boiled down to a thick syrup, this was then used to mix with the various sugars for incremental feeding; 1.5tsp of Fermaid K was added initially, with ~0.5tsp with each feeding; wort was oxygenated with pure O2 at each feeding; beer is being fermented very cool 60F to minimize the heat generation from the yeast, as things slow it will be brought up to 70ish

Update & Lab Testing - 3/5/2010


Dan said...

Sounds very intersting. I'll be cool to see how this one mellows over the years.

Question: Why are you fermenting it so low? I know you said because of heat generation from the yeast but wouldn't it being slightly warmer aid in the fermentation?



Ryan said...

problem with warmer temps and all that sugar is fusel production. In the biggerish beers Ive done in the past I learned that the hard way

I also noticed that if I fermented them very cool the beer was much smoother and was ready to drink a lot quicker

I will slowly bring the temp up to 70ish as the fermentation slows a lot, hopefully then it will continue to attenuate.

Tasting it though I hope to leave a considerable amount of residual sugar, whereas yours was very sweet and the IBU's werent that noticeable, mine was still very bitter and had strong alcohol warmth to it

Dan said...

Got ya, makes perfect sense. I was just thinking in terms of full attenuation. Best of luck, you've been very helpful!



Ryan said...

Hey Dan, sorry I was confusing you for another Dan aka the city brewer

so the "yours was sweet...." was in reference to his monster beer

Dan said...

Ha ha, no problem. I assumed you thought I was someone else.

If you ever get bored, check out mine:

Lord knows I could use the tips and feedback lol.



Anonymous said...

Comfortably Numb = Pink Floyd Song, from The Wall - about sedation.

Keith said...

Just found your blog. Good reading! My highest ABV is around 18%.

But the thing I wanted to comment on is: Who doesn't know what Comfortably Numb is? Is this the time I've always feared where the "kids" don't know the things I take for granted? What's next? "Why would they be grateful to be dead?"

ultimatefiend138 said...

So, I'm going to revive this monster. My buddies and I want to make this beer to age in a couple of Bourbon casks that we have. When did you do your sugar additions and did you oxygenate at those times too? This would be my biggest beer to date and any advice on top of those points you've already discussed would be helpful.

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