Beer Review: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Old Rasputin put a spell on me...lame, I know


ABV: 9%
SRM: ~35

As I’ve stated in previous posts, I’m really beginning my exploration into stouts and porters. As a guy who has never liked coffee, stouts haven’t been of much interest due to the majority having what I relate to a coffee aroma and a strong coffee flavor. With that being said, I can say that the stout flavor is really growing on me and I plan to review significantly more in the future.

This beer was bought at a no name bar…which pleasantly surprised me with a decent list of bottled beers. This beer poured a decent tannish colored head, nothing outstanding but respectable from what I’ve seen come from other stouts. Initially it appeared as though this beer was as black as night…completely opaque but after holding it up to a bright light it looked as though there was some brown. As I drank, the beer actually had solid lacing throughout the glass.

The aroma wasn’t as strong as I had anticipated considering the color and the alcohol content. I did notice some caramel, a bit of roasted coffee scent, some alcohol, and maybe some chocolate. The beer had a nice smelling aroma, but was rather lackluster when it comes to the amount of overall aroma.

The taste was somewhat sweet with a definite light coffee flavor. There was a strong dark chocolate flavor that was nicely intertwined with some strong, but pleasant, caramel maltyness. I didn’t notice an real hop presence. The beer had some obvious hop bitterness, but no real hop flavor or aroma. I really enjoyed the flavor profile overall. I don’t like coffee as I stated earlier, but this stout wasn’t focused on coffee flavor rather a dark chocolate, malty caramel flavor. The flavor may have been aided by the excellent mouthfeel, which was thick but not too much. The carbonation was more than most stouts I’ve had but it felt like a nice touch as the beer maintained smoothness.

Overall, this beer was pretty complex with a variety of flavors and aromas. The alcohol, sitting at 9%, makes this a tough beer to drink continuously, but I think I could easily drink 2-3 in a sitting without getting burnt out or feeling like Old Rasputin is getting to rich.

Grade: 9.5/10 (A-)

An excellent stout overall. I’m definitely looking forward to my next one, which I hope is soon. If you’re trying to expand your stout palate, try and Old Rasputin and hope you’re at a bar that’s doing 2 for 1’s as you’ll want another.

Just a quick FYI, here’s a LINK that gives a brief explanation of who Rasputin was, what he did, and some of his historical significance.

Sorry for the picture quality, the bar wasn’t well lit and my IPhone doesn’t have a flash.

Double Chocolate Update

I just pulled my first Double Chocolate Stout sample after 4 days of fermentation. The airlocks stopped some point yesterday, so I figure I’d check it out and see where I’m at. I figured I’d have trouble getting this thing below the 1.020 mark because of the lactose, chocolate additions, etc but I’m happy to report it has come in quite a bit lower than that. The Nottingham yeast I used went to town on the sugars, knocking my gravity from 1.056 to 1.015 in about 4 complete days. Those two readings give me a rough alcohol ABV of 5.4%…not bad. The aroma of the sample has a bit of roasted coffee scent but not near as much as most of the stouts I’ve had. The color looks to be right where I wanted it…a very dark brown. Most stouts will be close to black by the book but because I was going for a dark chocolate flavor, I wanted the beer to resemble that same color. The flavor has a dark chocolately bitterness to it, but has the light coffee taste I was trying to avoid if at all possible. The coffee taste is on the front but the flavor moves into a nice chocolate with a very nice dark chocolate after taste (it actually tastes the same as though I just had a piece of 70% dark chocolate). Overall, the beer has a nice flavor but needs a bit more chocolate flavor on the front which I think would come with some nice chocolate aroma. The bitterness seems to be balanced okay with the sweetness. I’d say this should end up being a very solid beer. I plan on giving it a couple of weeks in the fermenters to clean everything up and then racking to secondaries where I plan to put in some ‘Creme de Cacoa’ for some aroma. Ideally I’d like to use some chocolate extract but I can’t really find it anywhere locally. I guess we shall see…

In addition, I dry hopped my A peTit APA on Monday. I have two fermenters and I did two different dry hops.

Fermenter #1: 1oz of Cascade and 1oz of Willamette
Fermenter #2: 1oz of Cascade and 1oz of Citra

This should give me a nice idea on the differences of the two completely different hops (Willamette and Citra) and how they do when used to dry hop. My favorite hop, Cascade, was added because well, it’s my favorite pale ale aroma hop.

Big brew day completed

Yesterday I brewed 10 gallons of a completely new recipe that I came up with after researching stouts, chocolate additions, etc. From what I can tell, it turned out as well as expected. My end gravity ended up being lower than I expected, but by how much I’m not sure. I use an Iphone app called BrewPal, which works very well. If I go by their numbers, I hit my number right on at 1.056…but I’m not confident that’s correct with the additions I made. Either way, here is a general idea of what I did and how things went down.

Everything started great, I milled my grain:

17lbs of Pale Malt
1.8lbs of Chocolate
5oz of Roasted Barley
1lb of CaraPils

While milling my grain, I was heating my mash water. I ended up mashing 7gallons in at 165, coming to 156 in the mash tun. Over the hour of mashing, I lost about 2-3 degrees of temperature, ending at about 153. I mashed off about 4.67 gallons of wort before sparging. I sparged 8 gallons at about 179-180, coming to about 174 or so. I sparged off about 7.34 gallons, giving me 12 gallons into the brew pot.

The sweet smell of mashing wort

The color looked to be very dark brown but not quite black and smelled great. I was going for a roasted smell but didn’t want a strong coffee scent, even before my boil additions.

Close to black, but definitely dark brown

Close to black, but definitely dark brown

After running off a total of about 12 gallons, I collected a sample…which was later spilled as a friend grabbed a beer from the fridge. So…no pre-boil sample ended up being my first small issue.

Before I even started my boil, I mixed my baker’s cocoa. I wanted to prevent lumps, so I decided to mix 12oz of baker’s cocoa with about 1/3 of a gallon of COLD water. I decided to do this for a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve read about people having big issues with adding bakers cocoa to the boil…tons of lumping 2) after reading about these issues and others, I wanted to find a way to make it into a syrup type substance, so I decided to treat it like I would flour…mix with cold water…mix the water into the powder. Overall, the mixing went as well as it could. I slowly mixed the water into the bakers cocoa and came out with a very thick substance that looked and smelled almost exactly like a ready to go brownie mix.

Smelled great...tasted like garbage

After preparing the bakers cocoa, I measured out my hops:

.6oz of Magnum at 60min
1 oz of Willamette at 30 min

Now onto the boil. Once I got the wort boiling rapidly, I added my Magnum hops first and foremost. About 5 minutes into the boil, I added my chocolate bars…5 small bars of Moser Roth 85% Dark Chocolate. The 5 bars totaled 4.4oz…which I broke into very small pieces and added to the boil while stirring (to prevent any scorching on the bottom of the boil pot). In addition, I added 1lb of cane sugar to reduce some body a bit and add a bit of alcohol.

This says 70%, but I used 85%...I'm eating this 70% as I write

During my 25 minute off time (until my next addition), I measured out my lactose…22oz total. I followed that up with another beer and an ultra competitive game of bags with some friends.

My neighbor Krista...whose team was losing about 12-0 at this point

At the 30 minute mark, I added my 1oz of Willamette hops while continuing to stir occasionally in case any chocolate from the bars settled to the bottom of the brew pot. At 15 minutes I added 2 TSP of Irish Moss followed by my bakers cocoa mass at 10 minutes. I slowly poured the bakers cocoa into the brew point…which works rather well as I stirred. Once the bakers cocoa was mixed in, we all simultaneously agreed that the wort smelled of chocolate heaven if there is such a thing. At about 8 minutes, I mixed in my 22oz of lactose, making sure it didn’t clump.

At that point, my process was the same as always…crash cool the brew with my copper wort chiller, siphon into my fermenters (2 plastic ale pales in this particular case), pitch my re-hydrated yeast (Nottingham dry yeast), and close the buckets up with air tight lids with an airlock.

Overall, I must say the day went well. The wort smelled excellent and tasted very chocolatey without being too bitter. A few things that didn’t work out well:

-My pre-boil gravity reading was spilled all over my fridge…thus no reading taken
-My wort chiller hose melted to my brewpot, which was easily fixed
-The ending gravity came in at 1.056, much lower than expected with the additions I made
-My brewpal software somehow didn’t save my full notes (I found that out as I started this post)…which were pretty detailed. I’m happy I decided to write about my brew day while everything was fresh in my mind.

Actual Recipe:

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: Nottingham
Yeast Starter: no
Batch Size (Gallons): 10
Original Gravity: 1.056
Final Gravity: ?
IBU: 21
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Color: 31 SRM
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 28 @ 68F

Ingredients
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00%

17lbs Pale Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 80.6 %
1.8 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 8.50 %
5 oz Roasted Barley (500.0 SRM) Grain 1.40 %
1lb CaraPils (1.50 SRM) Grain 4.7%

.6 oz Magnum [13.00 %] (60 min) Hops 14 IBU
1 oz Willamette [5.8%] (30 min) Hops 7 IBU

12 oz Cocoa Powder, mixed with 1/3 gallon of water (Boil 10.0 min)
22.0 oz Milk Sugar (Lactose) (0.0 SRM) (Boil 8.0 min)
1 lb Cane Sugar (0.0 SRM) (Boil 55 min)
4.4 oz Moser Roth 85% Dark Chocolate Bars (? SRM) (Boil 55 min)
2 TSP Irish Moss (15 min)
2.5 TBSP PH water corrected into mash and sparge water

2 Pkgs Nottingham (Danstar #-) Yeast-Ale

Mash Profile

Single Infusion
60 min Mash In Add 7 gallons of water at 165 F 155.0 F
collected 4.67 gallons on mash out
Add 8 gallons of water at 179 F 171.0 F for sparge
collected 7.33 gallons of sparge runoff

As I type this, the airlocks are going crazy, meaning fermentation has been started. I am contemplating letting the fermenters sit for as long as 4 weeks since most of my research has led me to think that the aging may help the flavor profile. In addition, I am thinking of adding some ‘Creme de Cacao’ into the secondary to give a stronger chocolate aroma and add a bit of alcohol since I anticipate this batch coming a bit low.

Beer Review: Cigar City’s Maduro Oatmeal Brown

A very sweet beer...more of a stout than a brown

Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown

ABV: 5.2%

SRM: ~20

I had this on tap and the beer came with a finger or so of head with very little retention but solid lacing. The first thing I noted was how dark this beer was for an “oatmeal brown.” I actually read a few things online about the color to make sure I actually got the right beer…after checking, it appears I definitely ended up getting the Maduro. It wasn’t black like Old Rasputin, but close…a very dark brown with a bit of red hue.

The aroma had a malty chocolate like backbone with a light coffee scent…maybe even a little toffee as well. I didn’t notice any hop aroma at all. As I drank, the aroma seemed to get progressively sweeter which I enjoyed.

The flavor was unexpectedly sweet with definite flavors or coffee, some roasted malts, a bit nutty as well. I noticed that there was very little to no bitterness until afterward, which was still a very subtle bitter aftertaste. It was extremely smooth and the flavors were well balanced along with a strong carbonation for this type of beer. The carbonation was almost too much, but after talking with the bartender, she mentioned that their beers are all currently served at higher than recommended pressure which could account for this small issue.

Overall: 7.5/10 (B or B+)

I actually really liked this beer. I haven’t had a ton of browns so I can’t make an expert analysis, but it came off more as a stout like beer than a standard brown. Even though this had some definite coffee tones, I still really enjoyed the brew (I’m not a coffee lover). It’s a beer I would easily buy again if I see it around.

Current brew situation

So I bottled my strawberry blonde a fee days ago and after a taste test it’s already carbonated and tasted pretty good, better than expected. From what I had, I may even enter it into a competition at some point. The first taste had a nice light strawberry flavor with a bit of tart along with a sweet strawberry aroma. I ended up brewing a blonde, fermenting for 14 days, racked half to a secondary with 3.5lbs of previously frozen strawberries that I pasteurized, and let it sit for 3.5 weeks. I ended up getting 48 bottles, which carbed quickly.

I should be getting some hops in the mail shortly. I ordered 7 pounds of various hops from hopsdirect.com which was by far the cheapest place I found at about $12.50/lb of hops shipped. I’m splitting 3 lbs of these with a friend, which is always the best way to go. Another plus I have found is that hopsdirect has been known to actually send ~20oz of hops rather than the 16oz purchased…here’s to hoping. I also was able to finally find 2lbs of lactose for my upcoming dark chocolate stout, which was harder than you’d think. Now I just need some chocolate extract and some pure cocoa powder. Just for some random info, these are hops I ordered, each are in 1lb quantity.

Citra – leaf

Centennial – pellet

Magnum – pellet

Saaz – pellet

Hallertau – pellet

Willamette – pellet

Galena – pellet

As far as the summer brew tally, I’m up to 9 gallons that should be available for the Rib Fest/Wedding extravaganzas that I’ve posted about previously. I plan to keep maybe 2 gallons of the A peTit APA for myself if it turns out well, meaning I’ll have about 7 gallons (about 74 bottles) to add to the total I need (~325). I’ll probably add about 36 of my strawberry blondes as well, giving me a total of 110 bottles at this point. My goal is 325, so I need to brew at least 21 more gallons of various beers to get me there…which should be easy. My plans continue to change but here is what I should have for the fest/wedding:

To be named Strawberry Blonde: 36 bottles

A peTit APA: 74 bottles

Terd Ferguson’s Dark Chocolate Stout: 64

Rachel’s Blonde: 96 bottles

Hassel the Hoff Hefeweizen: 42

To be named American Wheat: 72

If I do each of the above, I’ll end up with 384 bottles..well above my goal which is always nice.

Beer Review: O’Fallon Cherry Chocolate

Like Cherry Tootsie Pops? You'll love this...

O’Fallon Brewery Cherry Chocolate

ABV: 5.7%

SRM: ~18

This beer poured a mediocre head with very little retention or lacing around the glass. For what it’s worth, I may be using a dish detergent that is killing the normal head of most beers. I may try a new detergent or start rinsing my pint glasses after getting them from the dish washer. Either way, as of right now I’m just going with what I see.

The aroma was actually very nice. Both the cherry and the chocolate come through pretty well, though it isn’t something that overwhelms. The first thing that popped in my mind was the glory days of cherry Tootsie Pops…it actually smelled exactly like what I remember those smelling like, which naturally brought a nice smile to my face. It has once of those aromas that make you say “yes!” but in this case, the chocolate aroma following the cherry made me want to bite the cherry to get to the chocolate center (another Tootsie Pop reference). Too bad this beer didn’t come with a “star” on the label so I could get a free one (I’ve probably taken it too far with the comparison to Tootsie Pops now).

The beer had a nice mouthfeel…though it was much lighter than I had anticipated. When I picked this beer initially, I figured it would be a very thick beer with a heavy mouth feel. I really couldn’t have been more wrong. What I ended up with was a beer that was much more light and almost watery than any comparable beer I’ve had. While it was rather light, it had a dark appearance of around 18SRM. It was actually a pretty unpleasant look and seemed like dirty creek water rather than my expected dark chocolate appearance.

The flavor started sweet with both the cherry and chocolate flavors coming through. Like the aroma, neither the cherry nor the chocolate was overwhelming but was still present and complemented each other well. I didn’t notice any real hop flavors but there was a mild bitter aftertaste but remained well balanced with the main flavor profile.

Overall: 6.75/10 (B-)

A nice beer with a better than average flavor and aroma. In short, I definitely would have preferred a thicker beer based on the flavor profile. This beer is something that I could see a lot of women drinking if they had the opportunity and the desire to branch out a bit. Rachel (the lady friend) doesn’t drink anything but ultra light beers (Bud Light, Bud Dry, etc) with Busch being the heaviest beer she will drink…and she liked this one.

My Crown Valley Brewery experience

For those that weren’t aware from a previous post, I had the pleasure of working at a 15BBL commercial micro-brewery called Crown Valley Brewery in Ste. Genevieve, MO. The experience was definitely positive and I plan to go back frequently. I want to thank Mr. Carl Wiersma and his assistant brewer Jim.

After setting the visit up, I had no idea what to expect. I was told that 7AM was probably a good time to arrive, which I thought would be easy enough…I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you’ve never been on B highway in Ste. Genevieve, its windy and pretty dangerous. It’s roughly about 9 miles to the brewery on B, which I knew before looking up directions since I’ve been to the brewery previously. The problem I hit was some unplanned road construction about 5 miles onto B, where the road was completely shut down. Logically, I took the only turn available at the time thinking it was a detour…20 minutes later, I realized this road wasn’t a detour after pulling into a man’s driveway at the end of the road. So, with this glorious start, I pulled into the brewery around 7:45 after driving countless miles to find a different route.

When I arrived, it appeared as though they weren’t going to be able to brew as the mash tun agitator was acting up. The mash tun agitator is important because as the grain is soaking in the ~152 degree mash water, the agitator spins the grain and water, resulting in a higher efficiency and an easier conversion. After about an hour or so of watching a few guys try and fix the agitator, we were finally able to get started.

The brew plan was simple enough…30 barrels of their house pilsner. The most I’ve brewed at once is 10 gallons, which is about 1/4 of 1 barrel. The recipe was pretty simple, 2 types of grain in obvious large quantities (over 1000 pounds of standard 2 row) with a white labs yeast which started as a normal vial…one that I would use in my beer. They take that yeast vial, make a starter (wort/yeast in an Erlenmeyer Flask), and then use their yeast propagator to create a pitchable (the amount needed for a particular batch) amount of yeast.

The machine that makes yeast faster than the Dugger's make babies

The process itself was very similar to that of home brewing…just much nicer equipment, much greater batch sizes, and a much more quick and efficient system. The brewery itself looks great, but after helping for a full day, Mr. Wiersma filled me in on some of the “not so nice” parts of the brewery design. Although it isn’t perfect, the 3 year old equipment and design still works very well and looks like it will for quite sometime.

The actual brewing itself took place in one small area:

The place were "the man" makes the brew

If you look closely, you can see a stair way leading up to the different tanks, that’s the way to the command center for lack of a better term. When up the stairs, the brewer has access to the brew computer, the mash tun hatch, the lauter tun hatch, and the kettle. In the picture you can see a total of 5 tanks…from left to right there’s the hot liquor tank, the mas tun, the lauter tun, the boil kettle, and the cold water tank. I haven’t mentioned anything in previous posts about the use of a hot liquor tank and cold water tank so let me expand a bit on those two things and use. The hot liquor tank is a tank that holds water, obviously, but the tank heats the water up to a designated temperature. In this case, the water was heated 3 different times to infuse into the mash since this particular brew did a triple mash infusion (3 different water additions at different temps into the mash tun). The tank is able to heat water down to 1 degree, which makes the mash and sparge process incredibly easy and much more efficient. The cold water tank utilizes glycol which cools the tank rapidly. The water in the tank was kept at about 34 degrees and was used to cool the boiled wort as rapidly as possible through the plate heat exchanger.

Every single part of the brew process was automated through the computer system. The system allows the head brewer the ability to control all aspects of the process through the use of pumps and steam. Here is a shot of the computer, which is touch screen controlled:

The brewer's mainframe

Once the wort was finished boiling and cooled, it was transferred into a 30 barrel fermenting tank which was pre-loaded with yeast slurry from a previously fermented lager. The yeast we transferred was done through the bottom of the tank on the left, through a large hose, and pushed its way into the fermenter on the right. The pressure from 30 barrels of beer in the full and fermented tank on the left forced the yeast through the hose and into conical on the right. I would guess we pre-loaded about 15-25 gallons of mostly pure yeast slurry into the fermenter to turn the 30 barrels of wort into beer.

These fermenters each hold 30 barrels of beer

We did the entire process two times in order to fill a full 30 barrel fermenter. As a 15 barrel brewery, it takes two brews in one day to fill a fermenter pictured above.

Overall, my first day was great. Carl and Jim were fun to be around and very informative through the entire process. I was inundated with information throughout the day and can say I learned quite a bit. I am scheduled to head down again on Wednesday to help brew their ‘Worktruck Wheat’ which is one of their most popular offerings. Thursday I will be there to learn the ins and outs of the bottling process. I’ll post an update about both days.All in all, if you’ve never been to the Crown Valley Brewery, I suggest taking a trip and visiting. The brewery has an excellent atmosphere and an amazing outside patio in addition to their excellent beers and any time brewery tour.

Here are some other various pictures:

60 barrel fermenters

15 barrel fermenters

Seconadary fermentation tanks

Larger secondary tanks..