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Russian Imperial Stout - Brewed, Now What?

I brewed a Russian Imperial Stout this weekend and it’s in the primary now. The OG was 1.094 and I’m looking to let it work down to around 1.025-30 (est. FG is 1.027) so it’ll have a nice balance between a syrupy sweetness and a bitter, dry finish with a +9% ABV.

I’ve got two questions:

(1) Bourbon Oak Chips - I’ve got plain toast American oak chips. Was thinking of roasting 2oz in the oven for 3 hrs at ~380 F to go for a medium plus toast until they’re golden brown with slight browning/charring (should impart mix of sweetness/oak and vanilla/caramel). Will then soak in Markers Mark for a while and eventually drop into secondary for about two weeks (or to taste) prior to bottling. Roasting plus bourbon soak should sanitize them and length of time in secondary should impart enough flavor to make the endeavor worthwhile. This will be the first time I’ve used oak so any thoughts/suggestions?

(2) Fermentation Schedule - I’m thinking keep it in the primary for 10-14 days until I hit (or am close to) my est. FG before moving to the secondary for about a month prior to bottling where I’m planning on aging for 6+ months. As I mentioned above, I’ll add the bourbon oak chips for the last two weeks in the secondary / to taste. With this being such a big beer, I know I need take it slow so the yeast can work, the bourbon oak chips can impart its flavors, and they all have enough time to blend, condition, and ultimately mellow out around the edges. My question is am I rushing this by putting it in the bottle for its conditioning after a month in the secondary or should I let it sit there for longer?

Thanks in advance for all the help!

  1. I would avoid chips altogether. Cubes are vastly superior and chips can really be kind of nasty with small margin for error since they have so much surface area. If you want med + I suggest you buy them. It would be shame to make such a beer and then ruin it with a problematic oaking regimen.

  2. My experience with big beers is that if you pitch enough healthy yeast they really can be done fermenting in a week. I pitch the yeast from a 1 gallon stirred starter leave them for about 2 weeks in the primary and then rack to a keg for aging. A lot of the “myth” of beer big fermentation is only really applicable if you aren’t pitching enough yeast or oxygenating properly. If you plan to age this beer pay special attention to oxygen pick up while racking because you are doing 2 transfers after fermentation.

After some more thought, I tend to agree with you JLap on the oak chips. With this being the first run of this recipe and having never used oak chips before, there seems to be a lot of uncertains and margin for error. I’d rather dial in the recipe with this batch and then branch out to using oak later. I’m still thinking of adding some Markers (2-4oz) to taste prior to bottling though.

With regards to fermentation, instead of doing a starter, I pitched three packets of Safale US-05 dry yeast so I think I’m good on healthy yeast. The main reason going to the secondary was for the bourbon oak chips and to let the fermentation settle before bottling.

Would keeping it in the primary (bucket) for three or so weeks before bottling work? That seems like it should be more than enough time for the fermentation to wrap up and FG to get where I’m looking and to give the yeast some extra time to clean everything up before the extended bottle aging.

chips suck, get cubes or staves.
I would let that sit in the orimary for a month then rack to secondary for bulk aging. Add your cubes that are soaked in burbon bottle after taste is desired from oak/burbon. Cubes are usually a minimum of 6-8 weeks contact time.
Just do not overdo it or you wont be able to take flavor away unless you blend

With extended primary/secondary aging (ie anything over a month or two), will I need to pitch more yeast to bottle carbinate or should the initial yeast still have enough in them to have a slow and steady bottle carbination?

These are going to be sitting and conditioning for a while (so the flavors can develop and mellow) so I’m in no rush.

[quote=“Lawbadger”]With extended primary/secondary aging (ie anything over a month or two), will I need to pitch more yeast to bottle carbinate or should the initial yeast still have enough in them to have a slow and steady bottle carbination?

These are going to be sitting and conditioning for a while (so the flavors can develop and mellow) so I’m in no rush.[/quote]

depends on how long it sits, few months I wouldnt bother adding more yeasties. More than that you might want to add a little just to be safe so you dont have issue with it carbing

[quote=“Lawbadger”]With extended primary/secondary aging (ie anything over a month or two), will I need to pitch more yeast to bottle carbinate or should the initial yeast still have enough in them to have a slow and steady bottle carbination?

These are going to be sitting and conditioning for a while (so the flavors can develop and mellow) so I’m in no rush.[/quote]
I add bottling yeast for beers that have bulk aged in secondary for 3 months or longer.

A beer that big definitely should sit in primary for a month and secondary for another month at least before bottling. Also, adding yeast at bottling isnt necessary, it will just help the beer carbonate faster as the yeast that is already in it are sure to be sluggish from the alcohol.

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