Imperial Stout Recipe (and Timeline) Help

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by mjord23, Jul 8, 2014.

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  1. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut

    I'm hoping to brew a big imperial stout this weekend with my fiancé, for our wedding this October. The beer won't be served at the wedding, but it does need to be in bottles before the big day (October 11). We're planning to do something like a "wine box" but with the beer we brewed together rather than a bottle of wine. We won't be opening any of the bottles for probably a year, so letting the flavors come together and mellow a bit more in the bottle would be fine, I hope.

    To add to the complications here, we were thinking it would be fun (assuming there is time), to add some vanilla beans & bourbon soaked oak cubes to secondary.

    Having never brewed an imperial stout before, I wanted to check in with some more experienced people here on both the timeline (to see how realistic this is) and the recipe itself. I took the recipe from something I found online (and of course can't seem to locate again), and modified it a little to get it where it is now.
    • Saturday, July 12 - Brewday
    • Saturday, August 23 (?) - Move to Secondary -- add vanilla beans.
    • Saturday, September 6 (?) - add bourbon-soaked oak cubes.
    • Saturday, September 13 (?) - Bottle (could be bottled as late as October 3, most likely)

    15 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
    3 lbs Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)
    1.00 oz Warrior [16.70%] - Boil 60.0 min
    2.00 oz Willamette [4.70%] - Boil 10.0 min
    3.00 items Vanilla Bean (Secondary 21.0 days)
    2.00 oz Oak Cubes - American, Medium Toast (Secondary 7.0 days)
    12.00 oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon (soak vanilla beans and oak cubes)

    American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) - making a 2L starter on my new stir plate!

    Batch Size: 5.5 gal
    Boil Time: 90 min

    Estimated OG: 1.100
    Estimated FG: 1.026
    Estimated ABV: 10.0%
    Estimated IBU: 53.1

    Some questions:
    • Does the recipe look decent? Having never made an imperial stout before, I just tried to find something that sounded delicious, and run with it a bit.
    • The 10 minute hop addition seemed weird for an imperial stout that's going to sit for a while. Worth cutting that altogether?
    • I've seen people suggest anything from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks in the secondary for vanilla beans and/or oak cubes. What have your experiences been? Obviously I'll taste along the way, but I'd love to know if there is a ballpark that has worked for others.
    • After soaking both the vanilla beans and oak cubes in the bourbon, should I add the bourbon into the secondary as well, or pour it off? Again, I've heard both...
    • Instead of the Wyeast #1056, would it be worth considering something like Mangrove Jack's Workhorse Yeast, given my basement tends to hover in upper 60's? I have two on hand that were given to me to try out, but I'm not certain I want to work with something I have zero experience with.
    • In terms of bottling, I've heard people sometimes have had problems with getting proper carbonation with higher ABV beers like this. Any advice there?
    Thanks in advance to anyone who can offer some guidance here. I'm relatively new(er) to the brewing scene with 7-8 batches under my belt right now, so any advice would be greatly appreciated!
  2. basscram

    basscram Initiate (114) Mar 29, 2006 Maine

    add the willamette at Flameout. pour off the bourbon. I see people do the beans and oak cubes for weeks in secondary. Thats all I can offer. As far as carbing your bottles, I always see most stouts with a low carb, but that is what I see. I suppose using less priming sugar in your bottling bucket of course that depends on what your FG will be. If your FG is low, add more sugars, and if high add less to decrease over carbonation. Your recipe looks awesome! I may use it myself it looks awesome!
  3. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,472) May 21, 2010 Texas

    I like the simplicity of the grain bill. Personally I would probably use less special B and choose d different roasty malt, but that is a matter of preference as the taste of special B is way potent to my taste buds. I made a beer (2 gal) with only about an ounce of special B and it's a raisin-bomb (tho it's certainly drinkable). But this is my preference and not to be construed as "advice" about the grain bill.

    Also I would agree blast that willamette later. Willamette is not a powerful hop, and the flavors are both subtle and won't clash with a stouty beer (and IMO are perfect for many beers, including stouts). You could add moar willamette, for that matter. Recall "Al's rule" when it comes to willamette:

    53 IBUs? Imperial stouts that are full of special B and aren't bitter enough would alarm me, and I would consider why you chose that number for this recipe. But then again, this is a question, not to be misconstrued as "advice."
    inchrisin likes this.
  4. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut


    Thanks for the input. I definitely don't want this to end up as a raisin bomb, so I think lowering the Special B makes a lot of sense. Maybe knocking that down to around 8 oz and upping the pale malt up to 16lbs (keeping it at an estimated 10% ABV, and putting the estimated SRM around 45)? Do you have a different roasty malt that you'd suggest?

    I definitely hear what you're saying about the Willamette - I think I'll up that to 4oz at flameout, thanks for the suggestion there. I'm really not sure why I have the IBUs this low, I can't think of a good reason not to up them a little. If I up the Warrior to 1.5oz and move the Willamette to flameout, it looks like I end up in the mid-to-upper 60's for the IBUs, which seems to be a bit more well rounded.
  5. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,472) May 21, 2010 Texas

    Perhaps some black patent? But I would defer the final word on recipes for RIS to an expert on the subject (which ain't me).

    I don't see how you can go wrong with willamette tho.
  6. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (2,059) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey

    I'm rushing out the door so I don't have time to go into detail or address all of your questions (hopefully I can at a later time) but the first thing that comes to my mind is skip the late hop additions completely if you won't be drinking the beer for over a year. Waste of hops IMHO. I do recommend conditioning your RIS for about that long though. I find that my own RIS (brewed it several times now) tastes best in the 9 - 14 month range.
  7. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (2,059) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey

    I'm back....

    I'd probably increase your oak contact time from 7 days to 21 days (like the vanilla beans)
    You could increase the bourbon a bit...maybe 20+ fl oz or just stick with the 12 fl oz for now and add more "to taste" closer to the point of serving.

    What I'd actually do is the following (starting 7-10 days prior to transferring to secondary)

    1. boil the oak cubes in water for 10 minutes (to leach out excess tannins)

    2. let them dry out for a few days (so that they will better soak up the bourbon next)

    3. When the oak cubes are dry, toss them into your bourbon.

    4. On that same day, split your vanilla beans, scrape the black "caviar" inside into the bourbon, quarter the outsides, and toss them into the bourbon as well.

    5. Let all of that soak together for about 5-7 days.

    6. Then remove the vanilla bean outsides (personal preference to reduce extracting vegetal flavors from the bean pods) and toss the bourbon, oak, and caviar into the secondary.

    7. If you can, co2 flush your carboy (not the end of the world if you can't) - can be done prior or after step 6

    8. Rack your beer from primary to secondary for extended conditioning, trying to leave as little head space as possible and try to leave it in secondary for as long as possible IMHO.

    9. At about 2 weeks prior to when you need to bottle, sample the beer and decide if you want to add more bourbon, oak, and/or vanilla beans. You could also decide to dry hop if you so choose. I wouldn't though since you will be bottle conditioning for such a long time before drinking this one.

    10. Bottle condition for another 8 - 12 months and enjoy!

    NOTE: If making a 2L starter for a 5 gallon batch, my personal preference would be to make the starter several days early, cold crash it to get the yeast to settle, then decant it on brew day (leaving all of the yeast in the starter but removing most of the oxidized wort), allow the decanted starter to warm back up to pitching temp naturally, and then pitch.
    #7 koopa, Jul 9, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014
  8. kjyost

    kjyost Meyvn (1,223) May 4, 2008 Canada (MB)

    Not too much to add except I used @Homebrew42 's RIS a few years back ( and added a small amount of medium toasted US oak cubes soaked in Forty Creek Rye Whiskey for a long time. It beat out the local pro in a Pro-Am competition, winning gold. I suggest the brewer's liquorice, a great add and also change your roasted malts a bit.

    Lastly, in a recipe never just say "a 2L starter". You need to be getting a specific pitching rate (some places that do this are & based upon starter size and yeast age. A dry yeast could also be good in this case, I'd look towards Windsor... IIRC I used a yeast cake from a previous batch.
  9. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut

    Wow - amazing advice, thanks to everyone for helping out with this.

    @AlCaponeJunior - yeah, black patent sounds like a good idea to me, and based on another suggestion I think I'm going to add some flaked barley to the recipe as well.

    @koopa - I'll definitely take your advice on the oak/vanilla aging, that seems like a great approach to it. I've heard something similar about boiling the cubes, so I'll absolutely be doing that.

    @kjyost - thanks for the advice on the starter. I ended up choosing WLP090 (San Diego Super Yeast) based on a number of suggestions, and I'm starting off with a 1L starter tonight, cold crashing it, then stepping up to a 2L starter so (according to brewers friend's yeast calc), I'll hit the appropriate pitching rate for a 1.100 OG beer.

    Again, thanks for all the input everyone. It'll be a year before I end up cracking a bottle, so maybe leaving out the Willamette altogether will end up being the best approach (along with upping the Warrior to hit the mid-60's for IBUs).

    Here's what I'm looking at now, based on all the suggestions:

    • Saturday, July 12 - Brewday
    • Saturday, August 23 (?) - Move to Secondary -- add oak cubes/vanilla "seeds"/bourbon mixture.
    • Saturday, September 13+ (?) - Bottle (could be bottled as late as October 3, most likely)

    16 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)
    8.0 oz Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM)
    8.0 oz Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)
    1.50 oz Warrior [16.70%] - Boil 60.0 min
    3.00 items Vanilla Bean (Secondary 21.0 days)
    2.00 oz Oak Cubes - American, Medium Toast (Secondary 21.0 days) - boil oak cubes before soaking in bourbon.
    12.00 (up to 20?) oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon (soak vanilla beans and oak cubes)

    San Diego Super Yeast (White Labs WLP090) - starter, stepping up from 1L to 2L to reach pitching rate

    Batch Size: 5.5 gal
    Boil Time: 60 min

    Estimated OG: 1.094
    Estimated FG: 1.020
    Estimated ABV: 9.9%
    Estimated IBU: 61.5
    Estimated SRM: 69.1
  10. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Champion (863) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    I recently did a big RIS, something I'd consider loosely, and off of taste, close, to BCBS. Mines less sweet, and slightly more roast, which is what I was going for, but I'd consider more balanced, as BCBS is kind of sickly sweet to me at times.

    Anywho, timeline wise, I brewed mine on April 26. 1.115 I think the OG was, or something close.

    I fermented with US05, and did so very low, like 62*, and let it go for as long as needed. Split the carboys so I didn't have to worry about blow off and losses. I think I let it go for 3 weeks or so, allowed it to finish up, and crashed it down in the fermentation freezer for a week I think. I lost track of time there. Then I put the beer into a balcones bourbon barrel on 5/31. That I know, cause it's wrote on my barrel. I held in barrel for almost 4 weeks, and pulled it out on the 28th of June.

    I just now took a taste of it. It's drinkable for sure. Will probably be better in a couple months. Smooth already, but has a tiny bit of heat. At around 13% plus the bourbon pick up, I'd say it it's bound to happen.

    Anywho, I think say you should need around 2-3 months from brew day, to possibly drinking if you don't make it too big.

    As for adding bourbon and oak, and all that, I don't know if you'll get what you want commercially, I think you'd need longer with the oak, but could get an extra layer in there. Vanilla, I'd add as soon as fermentation is ending and leave in there, use fresh whole beans, not some dried up crap from a brew store.

    If you can't find any fresh beans, shoot me a BM, I've got over 30 of them, fresh, vac packed and they are delicious. I'd be happy to send you a few if worse comes to worse.

    So yeah, I'd say your on track time wise. Might not be ready to crack on that timeline though.

    My grist was similar, I'd drop the special B, and use a pale chocolate, and some different crystal malts.

    I used 80 and 120 crystal. Munich, Carafa III, Pale and regular chocolate malt, roasted barley and obviously pale malt.

    Bittered with extract and Willamete and did around 77-80 IBU's total. I think it's balanced without being too bitter, or too sweet, perfect infact.

    Adirondack47 likes this.
  11. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Champion (863) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    Oh, and unless you really want to use your stirplate there, keep it simple.

    US05 works fine. Get 3 packs. Split carboys, add 1.5 packs to each carboy and it's plenty of yeast! Easy to do. Aerate it WELL.

    Hit it before you pitch, and then hit it again 12 hours in. It really helps to make sure it finishes.
  12. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut

    Any reason to split it rather than do one batch? I'm leaning towards trying out the stir plate (since I've already got the yeast...), but I'm open to other ideas, of course.
  13. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut

    Whoops, didn't see this before I responded! Thanks for all that awesome advice - I definitely see where you're coming from. I think I'll stick with the one fermenter (hopefully I won't end up with too much of an issue there, 5.5 gallons into the 6.5 gallon fermentor should be alright with a blowoff, I'd imagine). I'm always open to just pitching some US05, since I'm very familiar with it, but since I've already got the WLP090, I might make the starter anyway and see what happens. I know it's more of a risk, and I'll probably grab some US05 when I hit the homebrew shop to grab the grain.

    Thanks for the offer on the vanilla beans, I *think* I've got something good enough (ordered these on Amazon a few months back, not vacuum sealed anymore, but in a tightly sealed container wrapped in plastic wrap). Thoughts on splitting the beans v. leaving them whole?

    What do you think about this for the grain bill? I'm looking for something similar in style (lower ABV, less sweetness, but not a RIS-level roastiness), but lighter and less sweet than BCBS, that lets the bourbon and vanilla shine a bit. Not worried at all about it being ready to drink in 3 months, it just needs to be in the bottle for the wedding!

    14 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
    3 lbs Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 120L (120.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)
    8.0 oz Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM)
  14. Smokebox_79

    Smokebox_79 Initiate (110) Jan 11, 2013 Pennsylvania

    If your using San Diego I'd definitely forgo the late hop addition. Vigorous fermentation, blows alot of hops off. Plus after a year... doesn't matter! Sounds like a good recipe. Good luck!!!
  15. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Champion (863) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    You'll be able to put 5.5 into a 6.5 carboy, but you WILL need a blow off, and you WILL lose some volume of your finished product. The reason I split it, was to avoid losses, and to avoid having to put a blow off set up on it and babysit it and change it out when it settles down. If you pitch the correct amount of yeast, hit it with pure o2, and even keep the temp down in the lowest range of the yeast, it will, and should still ferment like wild.
  16. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Champion (863) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    Re: vanilla beans- Don't put them in whole. Split them open, scrape out the caviar in there, cut the beans into slightly smaller parts, like 1-2 inches, and put it ALL in the beer.

    Recipe looks okay, I would probably take your 120L and split it myself. 8oz of the C-120 and 8 oz of the C-80 to give you more caramel, slightly less fruit.

    The flaked barley seems off to me. If you are looking for body or something, you'll have it regardless in a big beer like this. Oats would be a better choice, IMO if you want to add something else, but I'd probably just up the roast barley, but you will make it a little more roasty with that option.
  17. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut

    Good to know. I think I'm going to have to risk it with one, I'll basically be keeping it down to temp with a swamp cooler setup, since I don't have a fermentation chamber (yet). As you said, I'll have to hookup a nice blowoff and babysit it more, but I think it'll end up being alright.

    Awesome - thanks for the suggestion on the vanilla beans, that sounds perfect.

    Settling on the final grain bill now, thanks in large part to your advice. Here's what I'm thinking:

    14 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
    3 lbs Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)
    1 lbs Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)
    8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 120L (120.0 SRM)
    8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM)
  18. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Champion (863) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    Looks like a sound recipe to me..

    Be weary of some serious fusels and off flavors if you allow that beer to ferment too warm. 70* ambient is TOO warm for a big beer like that. Beyond the blow off you'll get, the beer will have some nasty flavors. Trust me on that. I've dumped big stouts before due to not controlling temp with my chamber.

    You will want to keep the fermentation temp as low as possible without putting the yeast to sleep.
  19. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut

    Yeah, I hear you. I'm hoping the combo of water bath+ice bottles will keep it nice and cool, somewhere around 64ish. I've had luck with similar approaches in the past (just a simple wet t-shirt and fan kept my DIPA down around 69ish in the past few weeks when it was still this hot down in the basement). Unfortunately, a fermentation chamber just isn't in the cards at the moment, though I'm hoping this summer it will be a realistic possibility.

    Worst case scenario, it's an undrinkable mess that we laugh about... obviously I'll be doing everything I can to avoid that, but you're right, without proper temperature control, there's a real chance of that happening.
  20. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Champion (863) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    Yeah, you should be able to do it. Just err on the cold side. Hope it's not undrinkable, and it works out for you. You've got a good recipe there.
    mjord23 likes this.
  21. mjord23

    mjord23 Initiate (133) Jan 3, 2011 Connecticut

    I will definitely err on the colder side, got bottles already chilling down in the freezer. Thanks for all your help - I'll definitely come back with a status report after brew day!
  22. jmdrpi

    jmdrpi Poo-Bah (7,047) Dec 11, 2008 Pennsylvania

    As others have said, if you're letting it sit for a year, then you should be good. I bottle conditioned a 10% RIS, and it took about 8 months for the bottles to carbonate.
  23. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (2,059) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey

    I'd agree with this but there is one thing being overlooked and that is the alcohol tolerance level of the yeast strain being used. If the beer brewed has reached that alcohol tolerance level, there is little chance of the yeast bottle priming the beer regardless of how much time one waits. Now I believe San Diego Super Yeast has an alcohol tolerance level well above the recipe being brewed, so that shouldn't be the case.
  24. jmdrpi

    jmdrpi Poo-Bah (7,047) Dec 11, 2008 Pennsylvania

    Correct. Off the top of my head, I think I used Wyeast 1028 London Ale.
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