A Russian Imperial Stout - How to zhush it up without killing it?

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Tubbsy9876

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Hi all,

So as I had a backlog of drinking ales and am getting as big as a house from lockdown (so drinking faster is a bit problematic), I decided to try my hand at a partial mash Russian Imperial Stout I could lay down for 6 months or so.

After 2 weeks fermenting, its starting to get toward fg (OG = 1.095, SG (current)=1.028), and I am wondering how to give it a bit of extra character. As it is, it is really chocolatey and has tones of caramel and coffee, all without a cloying sweetness (I was surprised, i thought it would be pretty sweet still). I'm debating whether to throw anything in there to give additional character.

The main thought I have is bunging in 400 mL of Woodford Reserve at bottling to give it that barrel aged bourbon flavour. Also considered vanilla, but probably not oak. Or could I soak something in the bourbon first?

Really just looking for suggestions/amounts is anyone has any good ideas. For reference, its a 19L batch, fermented at 18C with Scottish Ale Yeast.

Cheers,

T
 

MHB

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With RIS so much of makes it what it is, is time. Lots changes in the favour over the 6-12 months it takes to mature and that its often difficult to predict what changes made at the start will produce.
My first thought would be to leave it alone, wack it in a keg, add a little sugar for carbonation, make sure you flush the keg well to minimise O2 pickup and park the keg somewhere cool and forget about it for at least 6 months.
Then taste the beer and see if it needs any extra.
Personally I find the flavours that big beers develop are unique and a true delight that I would be reluctant to do anything to interfere with.
Not right wrong, just a personal taste thing, but a good rule of thumb is that the first time you do something, do the simplest version you can, use that to decide if you want to make changes next time.
Mark
 
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kadmium

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With RIS so much of makes it what it is, is time. Lots changes in the favour over the 6-12 months it takes to mature and that its often difficult to predict what changes made at the start will produce.
My first thought would be to leave it alone, wack it in a keg, add a little sugar for carbonation, make sure you flush the keg well to minimise O2 pickup and park the keg somewhere cool and forget about it for at least 6 months.
Then taste the beer and see if it needs any extra.
Personally I find the flavours that big beers develop are unique and a true delight that I would be reluctant to do anything to interfere with.
Not right wrong, just a personal taste thing, but a good rule of thumb is that the first time you do something, do the simplest version you can, use that to decide if you want to make changes next time.
Mark
Agreed, I have my first Schwarzbier in the fermenter as we speak. I was so tempted to add a shot of espresso at kegging, but decided I will try it the true way first, so that I know what changes do next time. If I add coffee and then decide I don't like the style, I will question if it was because I messed with it.

If it's your first RIS, brew it up and leave it be. Worst case? Delicious beer you say "Next time I would add X to it"
 

Cloud Surfer

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My RIS has been in primary for two weeks as well. I’m giving it another week then transferring to keg to condition at 10C for maybe 6 months before bottling. I think the hero’s of RIS are the speciality grains and time. I don’t think it needs a lot of zhush.

I just opened a 2 year old RIS from a good US producer. As nice as it was at 1 year, it’s at a whole new level of complexity and smoothness now. A good analogy is Penfolds Grange. They sell it at 5 years of age, but the last thing they want anyone to do with it at that stage is drink it.
 

Tubbsy9876

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So on the note of conditioning, I don't have kegging gear yet so the plan is to bottle and forget about it for 6 months.

Im assuming bottle conditioning in brown glass is fine for this?
 

philrob

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So on the note of conditioning, I don't have kegging gear yet so the plan is to bottle and forget about it for 6 months.

Im assuming bottle conditioning in brown glass is fine for this?

Yup, not a problem.
I've conditioned Stouts and Porters for months in the bottle. I've just started drinking a batch of Porter I bottled back in July, and it will only get better for some time yet.
I brewed a Belgian Dark Strong Ale some years back, and it was at it's best after 4 years in the bottle.
On the other hand, Hefeweizen's are cracked from 1 week post bottling, to drink them fresh. I did the same with an IIPA to have the hop aroma and flavour at its best.
Horses for courses and all that.
 

MHB

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Yes, But (as always in brewing) it's a good idea to back the priming sugar off a bit as with all high gravity beers there are lots of complex sugars that the yeast will get through slowly, so they tend to build a bit more fizz than most beers and take a long time doing it.
Generally not served highly carbonated so I would be tempted to half the priming.
Mark
 

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