When I try a new beer and really like it, I immediately think about how I would make it myself. I don’t always actually brew a clone, at least not right away, but the new beer frequently influences a brew somewhere along the line. I recently tracked down (and enjoyed very much) Stone Brewing’s Imperial Russian Stout, a big, thick malty bottle of goodness. Looking at the calendar and the weather forecast, it occurred to me that it was time to begin brewing some of the big winter beers I would need to get me through the cold winter months ahead. I had already brewed my Wee Heavy Scotch Ale for November, and an Imperial Stout would be a really good thing to have in December and January. For this brew, I am pulling out all the stops – it’s an Oaked Hazelnut Imperial Oat Stout. The richness of an Imperial Stout, the smoothness of an Oatmeal Stout, fermented on toasted oak chips and flavored (only a little) with Hazelnut, just to add a little more complexity.
5 gallons, all grain
- 9 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
- 1 lb. dark Munich malt
- 1 lb. 165°L crystal malt
- 1/2 lb. roasted barley
- 1/2 lb. black malt
- 1-1/2 lbs. rolled oats
- 1 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (5% aa)
- 1 oz. Northern Brewer hop pellets (10.6% aa)
- White Labs Cream Ale yeast blend (WLP080)
- 1 bottle (2 oz.) organic hazelnut flavoring extract
- 1/2 cup corn sugar (for priming)
Crush grains (except oats). Heat 16 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in crushed grains and oats, hold at 152°F for 90 minutes. Heat 14 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 25 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add EKG hops, boil 30 minutes. Add Northern Brewer hops, boil 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1 oz. (half the bottle) of hazelnut extract and chill to 80°F. Take hydrometer reading. Put a large handful of steamed and toasted oak chips in a sanitized fermenter, then pour the wort in on the oak, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment for ten days or more. Rack to secondary, age cool (55 – 60°F) for a month. Prime with corn sugar and add the other half of the bottle of hazelnut extract, bottle and age a month or more.
Notes on style: Imperial Stouts, or Russian Imperial Stouts, developed as a specialty beer that English brewers made for the court of Catherine the Great in the 1700’s. They are generally richer, higher in alcohol, and have a sweeter flavor than Irish Stouts. Oatmeal stouts are more conventional in body and strength, but the use of oats (up to 30% of the grain, in some cases) makes them smoother, less harsh.
Notes on this brew: Oats absorb a lot of liquid, therefore one needs to use more water in the mash and in the sparge. Oats also really gum up the runoff, so plan on a longer brew day. This took well over 90 minutes to runoff, whereas I usually am boiling within 35 – 40 minutes.
The use of oak is not common for stouts, although I imagine that barrels shipped to Saint Petersburg had an oaky flavor, back in the day. When I add oak to a brew, I steam the chips first (10 minutes in a vegetable steamer) and then toast them (350°F for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet). This not only sanitizes them but also imparts a bit more toasty flavor.
I generally don’t like “flavored” beers, but I couldn’t resist trying to add one more element to this beer. The extract I use is all-natural and organic, and in this big a beer should not add more than a hint of flavor, one more thing to think about while savoring it.
I chose the Cream Ale yeast mostly because that was what I had. I like the idea of a “creamy” texture and finish, hopefully that will work out.