lessons in patience, part 2

I’ll save you the trouble of reading a long post: don’t be in a rush to drink Imperial stout. Now you can get on with your day – cheers!

But, if like me, you’re just noodling around waiting for sparge water to finish heating or some such, here are more words:

Every year for the past few years, in the dead of winter, and ideally at night, often with my brother (a big RIS fan) and sometimes after getting all cheered up and light at heart from reading Dostoyevsky, I brew a batch of really strong stout … like a homebrewer do, right? It will usually be an all-grain, sometimes boosted with a jug of malt syrup or some sugar, perhaps enhanced with some flaked adjunct in the grain bill so that, like molasses, you have to warm it up just to be able to pour it. It will invariably be pitched on a cake from a previous fermentation, in which each yeast cell had to wear a heavy chain around its membrane the moment it budded off its mother in order to make it strong and mean.

And it will often get an overenthusiastic flameout addition of the new crop year of backyard Centennial, which will make it drink like some kind of hellbound double black IPA early on. Like a homebrewer do, right?

The first mistake is brewing enough to share – and maybe that is the real lesson here: greed, not patience. Hm.

In any case, I didn’t split last winter’s batch with my brother and kept it all to myself, for it had become precious to me. Precious to me, despite being raw and bitter and – as my colleague Chip can attest – a great way to get a hangover before the glass is empty.

That was when it was about 4 months old, and if I had shared the batch that would have been it. Time wounds all heels and it ain’t pretty, but it also turns a Cossack into a Baryshnikov … or something like that, because after 10 months Brainhurter RIS became something else entirely: a velvet tracksuit, a humid moonless night, a taste sensation, all the raw and sharp edges planed down into a multifaceted black diamond of cocoa, coffee, acrid smoke, fat malt, and dried fruit in caramel.

Bottom line: sit on it, as Vinnie Barbarino would tell you, and it turns out we should all listen to the Sweathogs. That’s pretty much what I said in the very first sentence of this post, but now we’ve each killed some time and you know the backstory, and the sparge water is calling. Recipe to follow – meantime, drink it like you brewed it.


16 thoughts on “lessons in patience, part 2

      • When you age beer in kegs, do you carb it or wait until you are ready to drink it. I always wanted to age a beer for a long time but am afraid it will go bad or flat. BTW big fan Mike.

        • Hey Dave,

          I carb it right away to maintain a positive seal on the keg and minimize O2 presence. In my experience, if the keg is leak-free and the beer is kept at a steady temp, the CO2 level will stay pretty much intact. Cheers!

  1. I like to bottle a couple of six packs, and keg the rest for bulk aging. Then I ask my other half to hide the bottles so I don’t drink ’em.

    For a recipe like this. I’m brewing on Sunday, and it is indeed a big fat stout.

  2. A humid moonless night…sounds like its time to shed the velvet track suit.
    Really enjoyed reading this…very slowly, like molasses.

  3. Pingback: brainhurter RIS: a recipe | the beer engine

  4. I hope you don’t mind me posting this here – I think it’s relevant since I’ll be aging it not so patiently, but really just wanted some feedback on a English Barleywine recipe since I’ve never brewed one and you obviously have (big beer brewing has always been my favorite episode). Brewing this next weekend with some friends, wondering if you’d tweak anything.

    Gaffer’s Reserve:
    Target OG 1.100
    Mash @ 148F for 90 mins
    60 min boil
    5 gallon batch size
    94% Floor Malted MO (might make up some gravity with extract, not sure how my efficiency will do with this amount of grain)
    3% Simpsons Medium Crystal
    3% Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal
    1 oz Target 60 mins
    1 oz Northdown 60 mins
    1 oz EKG at 20, 10 and 0 mins
    WLP002 – repitch fresh slurry that will be washed/harvested morning of brew day
    Pitch around 62F, ferment about 66F and finish around 68F

    Still deciding if I’ll bulk age in a keg and bottle later or if I’ll bottle condition – any recommendations? I really like the idea of bottle conditioning this after about a 3 week primary…

    Thanks Dawson

    • Looks really nice to me, Bagend. Seems like this beer would be built for bottle conditioning, IMO. Bottling after a 3 week primary should definitely be possible with this recipe & pitch rate; based on my limited experience using those extremely flocculent English ale strains in big worts, I’d suggest going the extra mile to make sure attenuation is totally complete – plenty of O2 before (and probably during) primary, plus some rousing of the fermentor. I’ll be reading to see how this comes out!

  5. I will be brewing a big ass stout over the Christmas holidays in the cold Ontario winter. Might have to take some of your advice from this post. I like the idea of brewing the beer in the cold dark, sounds like a good time.


  6. What would you suggest for a brewer in Florida who’s only option for aging is a 73-75 degree closet? I was thinking about brewing RIS for xmas 2013 in early 2013 but wondering if aging at my room temp will have any negative impact. Big fan Mike

    • Well … all processes, including maturation, will happen faster at warmer temps – so you could probably brew it a little closer to the target serving date than I did and come out fine. The hop level, alcohol, and dark malt in an RIS should also help it withstand storage conditions that would do harm to a lesser, more delicate beer.

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