First attempt at a Russian Imperial Stout - questions and advice

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So, I wanted to brew a few different things before the world ends. I've always wanted to brew an RIS but haven't got around to in until now.

I'm using as a base the Brooklyn Brewery's Black Ops Clone recipe from BYO:


1) So the recipe recommends a few yeasts. The first one, which I've used often, is Wyeast 1968. When building this in beersmith the forecast FG raises from 1.018 to 1.032 when I add this yeast. This changes the ABV from 10% to 8%. Looks like the yeast struggles above 9% ABV. Is it a crap recipe or can 1968 get this beer to 10%? Can I try it and pitch another yeast if it konks out early?

2) Unfortunately I don't have any oak bourbon barrels laying around (donations accepted though) so I'm going to give the oak chips a go. Sounds simple enough. 1 ounce to 5 gallons is 28 grams to 19 liters in normal speak. Two week soak then dump into secondary... Is it that easy? I feel I'll find a way to mess this up somehow.

3) I usually don't do secondary fermentation. I was thinking I could rack to a carboy and stash it away for six months but then it's going to be a pain getting it from the carboy into bottles and I don't like the idea of all that oxygen exposure getting it into the carboy and then into the bottles. Could I just add the oak chips to the primary fermenter once fermentation finishes, give it a few additional weeks, then bottle and age in the bottle? How do others do it?

4) I usually us a paddle connected to my drill to aerate my wort. Do I really need pure oxygen for something this big? I've been reading about vitality starters. Is this another option?

Any other RIS advice or lessons you've learnt would be appreciated.

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More opinions than brewers on the best yeast, I have had to resort to finishing off barley wine with Champaign yeast, will attenuate very well and can handle 18-19% ABV. Far from the only option but one that will work if you pull up short.

Chips have a very large surface area and can get real Oakey very fast, but it tends to be a fairly course flavour. Have found dominoes or batons give a better (finer more integrated) result but take longer. Again a personal opinion based on personal taste.

If you are going to have the beer in secondary for weeks/months at high alcohol the odds of yeast autolysis go through the roof (lost a good Barley Wine to autolysis). I would be tempted to rack to a keg and then transfer to package, at least that would make getting the Oak chips/dominoes/batons in and out a lot easier. Might be worth fitting a strainer/filter to the dip-tube to keep bits of Oak out of the fittings.

Fun and challenging brewing very high alcohol beers, I find they can improve dramatically with age (up to several years) Yeast Autolysis and Oxygen being the enemies, bottle in small bottles and enjoy for up to a decade.


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I haven't brewed RIS many times, but have won state medals for those I've entered in comps so hopefully my experience will help.

1) I've never used 1968. WLP090, WLP007 and US-05 have all made RIS between 9-11% successfully for me.

2) Have never used chips in a RIS. Didn't like the woody (not just oaky) character they imparted to an imperial brown ale I made and wouldn't use them again.

3) I have never done secondary for a RIS, and I both keg and bottle. Adding fruit/hops/oak to primary won't be an issue.

4) I just pour my wort from a cube (as a no-chiller), which gives sufficient oxygenation RIS just like any other beer. However to be on the safe side I'd suggest pitch a very healthy yeast starter or cake from a previous beer.

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