Throwback Imperial Stout + Pastry Stout Variants Recipe - Brain Sparging on Brewing


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December 11, 2017

Throwback Imperial Stout + Pastry Stout Variants Recipe

What do you do when you're handed an imperial stout recipe from 2007 but expected to brew like it's 2017? A couple of pals started homebrewing not terribly long ago and over a fair amount of beer I suggested we should brew a recipe on our respective systems as a friendly competition. Over still more beer that became brewing an imperial stout plus a couple variants from each side. Eventually they plucked out a recipe (and brewed it weeks before me) from somewhere that has all the trappings of an imperial stout recipe from the last decade. Chinook hops, lots of bitterness, a load of chocolate malt. It fits in the Stone IRS, Great Divide Yeti mold that has lost favor to its sweeter, barrel aged, pastry stout younger sibling. While I could have brewed this recipe as intended and picked some adjuncts for the variants that fit 2007, where's the fun in that?

The real challenge in this beer is that I have about five weeks to brew, condition and carbonate a 10.5% beer. I'm fermenting it with WY1318 for maximum 2017 love but my culture is old and needs a couple step up starters to handle the volume. I'll pump the wort full of oxygen for a fast and healthy fermentation. To cut down conditioning time I will prepare adjuncts for the variants that I can add at bottling so I can maximize time in the bottle for good carbonation. 

Working 2007 stout into 2017 stout

The lesser challenge with the adjuncts is working that sweet on sweet pastry stout flavor on top of the base recipe. At 100 IBUs, even on a 10.5% beer is a firm amount of bitterness. It's the kind of stout that tastes good up front but really smooths out over a couple of years. Even the 9% imperial stout I brewed earlier in the year for the first run through my whiskey barrel was a mere 56 IBU. Great Divide Yeti is 12% and only 75 IBU. Yikes. Any adjuncts added to the beer risks exposing the bitterness. Adding cocoa risks turning into a mouth of bitter chocolate rather than the rich chocolate syrup of a modern stout. Coffee? Day old, thrice reheated pot of gas station coffee. 

To combat the bitterness I've opted for a few modifications to help improve the maltiness of the beer. First, I've opted for WY1318 over the recipe's Nottingham because WY1318 is great at teasing out malt flavor without making a beer flabby. (One of the reasons it is great for hazebro NEIPA.) Second, I've opted for a chloride-forward water recipe to accentuate malt and roundness over bitterness or dryness. Third, where it fit in the recipe I opted for specialty malts with fuller flavors over flatter American specialty malts. Fourth, I've opted to make my adjunct-laden variants with components that will add sweetness. 

I made a few switches in the hop schedule so I could use hops I had on hand rather than buying more. I left the hop schedule essentially the same but struck out the centennial and CTZ for my seemingly endless supply of belma and added back in a little extra chinook to keep the rougher bitterness of CTZ.

Pastry stout variants

Variant number one is a take on BVDL aka marshmallow handjee aka bourbon vanilla dark lord, which is among the sweetest beers I've ever had and therefore a perfect path for this beer. I have the necessary ingredients on hand to emulate this beer. I have a jar of Buffalo Trace that has soaked oak cubed for several years and some vanilla beans that I bought with no specific purpose in mind. The vanilla bean will soak in the bourbon while the beer ferments and then I will add it at bottling. 

Variant two will mix rye, oak and coffee. For this variant I emulated whisky barrel aged coffee by soaking unroasted Mexican coffee beans in rye whisky that soaked with oak cubes for three years. Then I roasted those beans, blended them with the same beans roasted without the whisky at a 2:1 (whisky:non-whisky) ratio. I then made a concentrated cold brew and added in more of the oak-soaked rye whisky.

Throwback Imperial Stout Recipe

Batch Size: 2 gallon
Est. ABV: 9.7%
Est. IBU: 100
Est. OG: 1.110
Est. FG: 1.028
Est. SRM: 49
Expected Efficiency: 72%
Grain BillPoundsOuncesSRMPct. Grist
Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter50365.40%
Simpsons Golden Naked Oats12109.80%
Thomas Fawcett Crystal II3652.50%
Briess Crystal 12031202.50%
Swaen Biscuit Malt12239.80%
Briess Chocolate Malt63505.00%
Thomas Fawcett Roasted Barley63005.00%
Water Profileppm
Modified Bru'n Water Black Malty
PH: 5.4
Water AdditionsMashSparge
Epsom Salt0.5g00.2g
Canning Salt
Baking Soda0.7g
Calcium Chloride0.8g0.3g
Pickling Lime
Lactic Acid
Mash ScheduleStep Temp.Step Time
Single infusion mash
Mash volume: 9.55 qt
Sparge volume: 0.87 gal
Infuse 9.55 quarts at 172F15660
Sparge 0.87 gal at 190F
Boil ScheduleVolumeUnitTimeIBU
60 minute boil
Chinook [13%]0.3ozFWH32
Opal [6.5%]0.13ozFWH7
Chinook [13%]0.37oz3027.6
Chinook [13%]0.33oz2019.3
EXP 4190 [3.6%]0.78oz2013.7
Fermentation Schedule# DaysTemp.
Yeast: WY1318
Pitch 2l starter
Pitch at 65F1565
Bottle with variant additions2170

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 11.26.17

Preboil volume: 2.95 gal
Preboil gravity: 1.066
Mash efficiency: 70%
Postboil volume: 2.1 gal
Postboil gravity: 1.105

12.2.17: Gravity reading says the beer is down to 1.010 which seems unlikely. I think the refractometer is giving some wrong results due to the color of the beer. Definitely has the bitterness I expected although there are some nice chocolate and coffee flavors that have sweet roundness to them.

Also combined one Madagascar vanilla bean with 75ml of Buffalo Trace bourbon that sat on a load of medium American oak cubes for several years. Plan to let that ride for the week and add at bottling at a rate of 1ml/1oz of beer. Next Saturday I'll brew a condensed cold brew coffee.

12.10.17: Bottled beer to 2.2 volumes of CO2. Added champagne yeast at bottling to help advance carbonation.

Through the last week I ended up adding a total of eight grade B Madagascar vanilla beans to the bourbon. That bourbon was added at a rate of 20ml/22oz bottle of beer.

I used a combination of faux barrel aged coffee and unadulterated Mexican coffee at 0.50oz faux barrel aged coffee and 0.25oz regular. I made a cold brew of approximately six ounces and blended in 50ml of oak-soaked rye whisky. The combination was added at a rate of 16ml/22oz bottle of beer.

Beer is definitely old school imperial stout. Bitter but has a nice malt flavor. Neither of the additions were as potent as I wanted. Likely because the bitterness is fighting with the sweetness. I expect the flavors will become more cohesive over time.


  1. I'm brewing something very similar soon, can you post an update? Did the yeast die off at 10% as expected? How strong was the vanilla in the aroma and flavor with 8 beans?

    1. This is probably way too late for your beer but eight beans is way, way, way too much for this much beer. I haven't tasted a bottle in a while but what I tasted was like a melted vanilla milkshake and not in a good way. Two vanilla beans would probably be enough, if not too much for this volume of beer.