Imperial Stout

I’m getting ready to brew my first imperial stout. I’ll be using an extract kit and I was thinking about adding figs that have been soaked in bourbon. Does anyone have any positive or negative thoughts on this?

I would make the kit as is without any additions. Since you have never made this particular kit before you need to establish a baseline to know what you have. Suppose the beer isn’t quite right. Was it something with the kit, or was it the additions? You won’t know. Once you know the properties of the kit you can tweak future batches as you wish. Just my two cents.


Usually when you taste figs in beer, it is because dark crystal was used, not fruit. Special B can give you fig and raisin flavors. But nothing wrong with adding fruit if you wish, it actually sounds like it would go pretty well - if it ferments out well.
The issue I’d worry about with an imperial stout is that the ABV is often high enough that the yeast can have trouble finishing and the beer can end up overly sweet. The sugars in the figs and the alcohol from the bourbon will potentially make this situation worse. If the kit projects an OG > 1.100, you might want to reconsider.

I’ll second that. High gravity brews are tough if you don’t have all the right stuff to do them. My first high gravity brew never completed and will likely have to be dumped. I didn’t have good temperature control, I didn’t have an oxygenation system, and I didn’t have any nutrients to help feed the yeast, among other things.

I have made a few higher gravity beers since then and still don’t have an oxygenation system, but I have been mostly successful. My one beer is a bit borderline, I tried to do too much and it almost became undrinkable. Probably the only thing that saved it was that it was a dark Belgian, so there’s a lot of flavor to cover up the fact that it was a little too much. So yes, I’d be careful with high gravity beers.

Thanks to all of the responses.

Is there a suggested fermentation temp for the Imperial Stout?

Which yeast are you using? Fermentation temperatures are predominantly dependant on the yeast.

I’ve always used dry yeast, usually Safale 05. During my trip to the supply store today I was planning to ask for some guidance on what yeast to use.

NB recommends English strains to bring out biscuit flavors, S-04 or WY 1728 for their imperial stout. Try two 11 gram packs of S-04 for your first time out with a high gravity brew. Pitch into a wort temperature of 59° to 60°F. After two days from the start of fermentation allow the temperature of the beer to rise a couple of degrees. This yeast, like other English strains, is highly flocculant. The low temp start and slow temperature rise will keep the yeast more active and prevent early flocculation which could result in a high SG and to sweet finish. Low temperature fermentation will reduce the production of esters which can hide the more complex flavors of the finished stout.

I ferment in my basement and the temp ranges from 60 to 65 degrees. Since I don’t have a controlled way to alter the temperature, would it matter if I did not increase the temperature as you suggested?

The temp of the brew will rise some as the yeast works. If you want an easy way to alter the temperature higher, you could say, take it to a warmer part of the house and put it in a closet or something.

I have an odd problem for brewing, my basement is actually warmer than the rest of the house all winter long (around 76*) and the rest of the house is around 72*, so it makes brewing a little more tricky.

Thanks for the help.

Yeast produces heat as it works. Heat production at the start of the fermentation will warm the wort quickly increasing the aggressiveness of the fermentation. The beer temperature of a high gravity brew like this stout can spike 5° to 10°F. This will allow the yeast to produce a heavy load of esters, especially if the wort was 65° at the start.

You can start the fermentation in a tub of 60° water, swamp cooler. The water will absorb the heat produced to prevent a runaway fermentation. Use a stick on thermometer strip, kept just above the water line in the tub, to monitor the beer temperature. If the temperature of the beer in the carboy does not rise over 3° in the first two days you may be good to just let it go. The water in the tub will slowly rise in temperature allowing the beer to slowly rise in temperature.

The water in the tub can be drained when the fermentation is slowing after three to four days if it looks like the beer temperature might not reach 65°.

I appreciate the advice. I’ll try the tub idea.