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Ephemerale 2009 Imperial Russian Stout

In a previous blog (An Imp is Born), I described the early stages of the production of a home-brewed Imperial Russian Stout, and I mentioned that I had a bottle of a previous version of this beer, Ephemerale 2009 Imperial Russian Stout, which I was saving until Christmas. On Boxing Day, I finally opened it. It had been maturing for over two years and the bottle opened with a pleasing hiss. The beer poured black and smooth with a light brown head of tightly packed bubbles.

Ephemerale 2009 Imperial Russian Stout

The aroma was rich dark chocolate, which followed through into the taste. Strong spirituous overtones were felt right from the start. The taste was very dark and bitter, with notes of alcoholic fruit and a hint of spice. Very warming with a real alcoholic punch. It’s fantastic. There is simply no way that this tastes like a home-brewed beer.

I wondered how strong it was, so I left a tiny drop of it to go flat overnight and dribbled it into a small vinometer which I use to get approximate ABV readings. Now it’s not a scientific instrument, and the values it gives can only be treated as approximate, but the level settled at around 11%.

I will be starting brewing my own beer in a couple of weeks, and I think I’ve just seen what I am ultimately aiming at.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 11 January, 2012 in Bottled Beer, Home Brewing

 

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An Imp is Born

Last Saturday saw 2011’s reenactment of a now annual ritual in the household of my esteemed friend Dr Tristan Robinson. This is the time of year when the Imp is born. Tristan is an adventurous home-brewer, and for some years now has produced an annual Imperial Russian Stout. The first Imperial Russian Stouts (or ‘Imps’, for ease of typing) were produced by Thrale’s brewery of London, for export to the court of the Tsarina Catherine II of Russia. In 1781, Thrale’s Brewery was taken over by Barclay Perkins, and later by Courage. Tristan uses the recipe for the original Courage Imperial Russian Stout when preparing his own Ephemerale Imp.

Imps are very dark, very rich beers with high ABV, typically in the range 8 – 12%. The malts used in the Ephemerale brew are Pale, Crystal, Chocolate and Black. Whilst Tristan has just invested in a half-barrel plant, this is still stacked somewhat haphazardly in his garage on a windy Lancashire hilltop, so for now, the old plastic buckets would have to do. The 40 pint plastic boiler has a stretchable bag in which the malt (and later the hops) can be placed in the boiling liquor and which allows the solid ingredients to be removed without fuss in due time. This simple system effectively converts the boiler into a working mash tun. After the mashing, the malt is lifted clear of the liquor (now technically wort) and can then be sparged (rinsed) with clean water to wash the sugars out of the malt and into the hot wort.

The malt is lifted out of the liquor after the mashing

Once the wort has stood for a while, hops are added for flavour. The hops are introduced into the wort in the bag, the used malt grains being emptied out and given to the chickens to eat (they go mad for it).

Used malt – destined for the chickens

The hops used in this brew were an aromatic mix of Fuggles, Hallertau and Nelson Sauvin.

Preparing the hops for the wort

The brewing vessel was placed outside for this hour-long rolling boil. Once this boil is over, the hops are removed and the wort is boiled again to reduce it. This has the effect of thickening and concentrating the liquid. It took about an hour and a half to reduce the wort to the desired level.

Final boil

The wort is then passed into a fermenting vessel and left to cool to about 25C. Here the cold windy hilltop comes into its own. Once the correct temperature is achieved, yeast is added to the wort, and fermentation begins. The beer can then be racked into demijohns to complete the fermentation process. It takes several months to complete the fermentation, after which the beer can be clarified if necessary, and bottled. This particular Imp matures for two years, with the odd cheeky little taste along the way just to make sure that all’s well.

The reduced wort is poured into a fermenting vessel

I have a bottle of Ephemerale 2009 Imp in my beer store, waiting for Christmas Day. I had a little taster of this one a few months ago, before it reached its two-year anniversary, and it was tasting extremely fine. (Tasting notes for the 2009 Imp are here).

I look forward to the day in 2013 when I get to taste this year’s brew!

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 2 December, 2011 in Home Brewing

 

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