Honey Imperial Stout

This is my first homebrew, so I thought I’d make something that packs a punch! This is a modified recipe from the book “The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing”. Emma picked this book up for me at a rummage sale for something like 25 cents — and it’s great! It includes everything from how to make beer for beginners, to much more advanced, start-from-scratch techniques. It also includes info on growing hops, culturing yeast, beer nutrition, etcetera. Anyway here’s the recipe I came up with based on what was available to me:

1/2 lb. roasted barley
5 lb. dark malt extract
6 lb. “regular” malt extract
400 g honey
3 tsp. gypsum
2 oz. Northern Brewer hops (bittering hops)
2 oz. Willanette hops (flavouring hops)
1 oz. Cascade hops (aroma hops)
1 package liquide ale yeast
1 1/4 cups blackstrap molasses (for priming)

Here are all of my ingredients (and the oatmeal stout that I was drinking at the time):

This is how I steeped the roasted barley as I heated the water for my wort:

This is Oscar’s insulated pot and grill contraption that I used to boil the wort:

He uses that contraption to distil alcohol, not to boil wort, so he didn’t know that it wouldn’t work for my purposes. It was taking way too long to bring the water to a boil, so I switched over to this burner instead:

Here is my wort (cooling-down) and my liquid yeast with nutrient pack (warming-up):

24 hours later, the yeast buddies are going nuts!

This brew smells great! It smells like a strong Belgian ale, which isn’t what I was going for.. but I’ll take it!

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12 Responses

  1. Nice Jesse!

    What kind of liquid Wyeast yeast did you use?

    I did a quick calculation on my brew program with your ingredients, this thing is a beast.

    ABV: 9.2%
    IBU (bitterness rating): 62.7

    Strong and hoppy! I’m sure you will enjoy it – you might want to leave it for a while to mature since its so strong, if you can wait.

  2. Jesus. That’s gonna be amazing. Who needs St. Peter’s?

    I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Honey Imperial Stout. I think you might be onto something here…

  3. Thanks for the calculation, I thought it might be about 9%. I didn’t do any readings at all. Next time I will though, Oscar does have a plethora of instruments. He’s all set-up for brewing and distilling – mostly with junk that he’s collected over the years from the dump and his brother. He only makes sugary “kit” beers though for his brother to drink, Oscar doesn’t drink beer at all because he says it’s too fattening.

    I’m not sure exactly what kind of Wyeast I used, and the package is now incinerated into our atmosphere. At the Ubrew place in PR they had 2 kinds, a lager yeast and an ale yeast. I used the ale yeast. Beyond that — I don’t know, but I’ll be using it again for my next brew so I’ll find out.

    I definitely plan on aging most of this beer for a good while, but I will try a bottle next month. I’m planning on filling a couple of 1 gallon glass jugs to take to camp-fires in the summer.

    It still smells like a Belgian ale, not an imperial stout, but that could change.

    P.s. I’ve got a Nastradamus chilling for tonight! Maybe I’ll do a review..

  4. I’m curious what the Wyeast type you are using.

    Typically you will get more fruity esters (bananas, bubblegum) when you ferment at higher temperatures. With a simple clean ale yeast you can ferment around 18C to 20C and have pretty clean results. If you ferment from 22C to 27C you will detect more of the esters. The hotter the ferment, the more esters. This is common to Belgian beers, which are ramped up in temperature to get that fruity profile.

    Most of the flavour from the yeast is produced within the first 2 days. Don’t try to cool the beer now, or do a sudden temperature drop. That will knock the yeast out and they will stop doing their job..

    The best thing that you can do is just leave the yeast to do their job. Keep that beer in the primary for 4 weeks if you can. You don’t need move it over to a secondary as the yeast are high quality (Wyeast) and won’t autolyze (die). However, you can do a secondary if you want. Just don’t bottle this stuff too soon.. This is a heavy brew and by giving it more time in the fermenter you give the yeast a chance to digest most of the bad esters – yeast clean up the mess that they create.

    Also, expect this beer to take over 2 months to carbonate. Generally, the bigger the beer, the longer it takes to carbonate. So if you open a bottle after 2 weeks and its flat, you will know why.

  5. Cool, thanks for the advice, I’ll leave it in the primary for a month. It’s pretty cool in the room where it is, probably 12 – 15 degrees, so that sounds perfect.

    Looks like I’ll have to get started on something wimpier right away so I can get drinking!

    • Do that! Brew a 5% ale… Rack your Honey Imperial Stout to a secondary and leave the yeast behind in the primary. Then put your newly cooled wort from the new brew right into that primary with all yeast that’s still in there. Aerate it and you are good to go. Reuse that yeast – save money!

  6. Okay, sounds good.. just to clarify a few points though:

    1. By the time I’m able to get my hands on more ingredients for the next batch, the imperial stout will have been in the primary for over a week, I don’t think this is a problem for the yeast, what do you think?

    2. How exactly does the secondary work? If I’m leaving the yeast behind in the primary for my other brew, is there still enough yeast that gets transferred into the secondary to keep my imperial stout going, or do I add more?

    3. I’m not priming it at the point of transfer into the secondary fermenter, right? This should still happen just before bottling…

    Thanks..

  7. 1. It would be helpful to know what type of yeast strain you are using but it should not be problem for the yeast. Your imperial stout that you have fermenting right now has just grown over 10 times as much healthy yeast as you started off with. Now most strains of yeast can tolerate alcohol percentages of 10 to 11% before they start to get knocked out by the alcohol %, so I think you are still safe. They yeast will have been stressed but it will still be usable.

    2. The secondary is just a ‘step’ that moves the fermenting beer off of the trub and main yeast layer that has fallen out of suspension. But believe me, you still have a ton of yeast in your beer. Even when the beer looks crystal clear, there still is yeast in there. The yeast that are still in suspension are doing their work to clean up your brew, but since there is a smaller % of them compared to the initial fermentation, it takes longer for them to do their work – hence the months and months of maturing/storage that will be needed. But you really don’t have to move the beer from a primary into a secondary vessel. The yeast will eventually fall out of suspension and settle to the bottom. You can carefully rack from your primary right to your bottling bucket and go from there.

    3. No priming necessary. Like I said, there is still plenty of yeast left in suspension, even when apparently clear. Even if you did a 10 day primary and a 5 month secondary you will still have enough yeast to bottle and naturally carbonate. Though it will take much longer to carbonate (why most trappist breweries add yeast during bottling), but it will carbonate. If you are storing these bottles for a while then you won’t have a problem. I opened up a beer that I made over a year ago that I swear had no yeast left in it, but sure enough it was carbed up very nicely!

    A few notes though Jesse!

    If you decide to pitch a new wort direct on the yeast cake from your imperial stout, expect to pick up some flavours from that original brew. So if you are shooting for a pale ale, you won’t get it. So maybe go for a porter or something similar, or if you don’t really mind something unique, do what you want.

    You will likely have too much yeast in that primary. Like I said before, your imperial stout has grown over 10 times as much yeast from its original starter. This is too much and will lend a yeasty flavour to your beer. So, simply pour out about half of the yeasty trub layer from that primary carboy, and save the rest. Pour the new wort right in there. No need to clean the carboy!

    Be sanitary!!! When you finish racking your imperial stout to a secondary, and pour out half of the yeasty trub layer, cover the mouth of the carboy up with a sanitized lid or tin foil. Keep it aside until your new cooled wort is ready to pour in there.

  8. Awesome, thanks for all the info, that’s great!

    One more question though — you’re saying that when you bottle beer, there’s no need to prime it with more sugars (I’m planning on using molasses) if you’re going to age it for a long time? There’s still enough un-fermented malt left in it to “naturally carbonate” after it’s been bottled? Ergo, the “priming” sugars are just used to speed up the carbonation process?

    Or were you just saying that there’s no need to prime it in the secondary fermenter, but that it’s still necessary to do it when you bottle the beer?

  9. No I mean that you don’t need to add additional yeast during bottling. You definitely need to add your priming sugar though. What I mean is that there is enough yeast left to eat your priming sugar to carbonate the bottles. Some people may think that all of the yeast has fallen out of the beer when it clears and there won’t be enough yeast to eat your priming sugar, but its not true. There should be enough yeast to do the job.

    Priming sugar isn’t used to speed up the carbonation process, it is what fuels the carbonation process. After your beer has been sitting in the secondary for a while the yeast will have eaten up all of the readily available/fermentable sugars. There will be a certain amount of more complex sugars that they can slowly go at, but they will not be enough to carbonate your beer. So you add in your priming sugar to give the yeasties some new food – this food creates another smaller fermentation cycle with the sole purpose of creating carbon dioxide to carbonate your brew.

    No need to prime the secondary. You don’t carbonate the secondary, so no priming sugar should be added. The secondary is just another container that 1) allows you to transfer your brew off the yeast/trub layer from your primary 2) to allow for the clearing of the beer. The secondary isn’t really necessary, unless if you want to make another beer with the yeast layer in your primary.

  10. That’s what I thought, I just wanted to be crystal clear. This 5 gallons cost $60 in ingredients — don’t want to be a bed-shitter.

    Only 5 more questions now —

    Nah, I’m just yankin’ your doodle.

    Thanks for all the info. This comment thread could fill a small book.

  11. It won’t be a bed shitter. Just be patient and let it age or you will have a Nostradamus on your hands!

    I was also thinking that your brew might have that extra fruity smell to it for another reason – pitch rate. Those Wyeast Activator smack packs have 100 billion yeast cells which is the ideal amount for a 5 gallon brew of less than 5%. Your brew is around 9%, which requires around (320 billion cells), so you would have needed at least 3 smack packs, or of had to make a starter to grow the ideal amount of yeast needed. This isn’t to say that you won’t end up with good beer though. Your yeasties have been growing like crazy in your brew to take it on, but the growth process imparts quite a lot of fruity harsh esters. So the best thing you can do is let your beer age in the fermenter – don’t bottle it too soon. Those yeasts, when they finish chewing up most of the sugar in the brew, will start to clean up their own mess and reduce those by-products on their own. It just might take a little while.

    Post updated on this brew. Its big enough to deserve a few more posts.

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