Russian Imperial Stout (Bourbon barrel aged)


Russian Imperial Stout (Bourbon barrel aged)



"I just tapped one of two kegs of this (saving the second - Oaked and Bourbon - for a Christmas Party) and still think this recipe stacks up with all the better commercial examples out there. If you like the style, you really should brew this." - Walts Malt

"... tasted simply outstanding. I cannot believe how much complexity there is, especially given it's just under 3 weeks old. Totally agree with Kal that this RIS will be great in much less time than I am accustomed to aging stouts... but I am also excited to see how it changes over the years. 5 gallons going on my nitro tap, and 5 gallons dedicated to bombers and shoved away in the cellar for at least a year. This is an amazing beer, Kal! Well done, sir. I've made this recipe a couple times and couldn't be happier with it." - TheGecko

"This beer is ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!! Love it! Thanks! Definitely one of my all time favorite stouts and one that I will brew consistently along with the Kolsch..." - Jerz

"Fast forward to tasting and kegging, it's awesome!!!!! Even my wife who only likes the lighter beer that I make, was like, WOW! that's really good!" - OkieDokie

"Just tapped the keg.....WOW!!!! 15 days with the bourbon soaked oak cubes (double cubes, double bourbon) It's FANTASTIC. Second keg, normal bourbon, normal cubes....aging. After the first keg, I can say without a doubt.....this is the best beer I have ever brewed. Outstanding, oaked for more than a month, this will hold it's own with anything I have ever tried. Bravo Kal ......this is a real winner. I want to have this on tap year around. Thanks for a great system and even better beers. The American Pale Ale is also one of my, it doesn't get better than this!" - Henry

"Brewed this again 3 weeks ago. Excellent recipe. Kegged last weekend. Hit 11.7% ABV. It's resting on nitro. Tasted yesterday, it's young and still a little hot but delicious. I added 2 vanilla beans and 2oz. of cocoa nibs at the end of the boil. I did that on the last batch and it really enhanced the coffee note. Thanks again Kal for all the great recipes. Keep Calm and Brew on." - Tripel

"Kal this is one of your best recipes. I entered it in the Shamrock Open in Raleigh NC and received a 2nd place in the Stouts group with a 40.5 rating. I have only 4 bottles left for some special occasion in the future. Excellent beer....thank you" - biglakewill



Our Russian Imperial Stout is a rich, deep, intensely flavoured full bodied ale. It has rich dark malt flavours that includes roasty, dry chocolate, slightly burnt, and almost tar-like sensations. Complex dark fruit flavours such as plum, raisin and prune exist as well. The colour is jet black and the alcohol level is high at 10.6% ABV. This is a sipping beer, one with rich/luxurious depth, that can be aged for years.

Throughout the 18th century, porter and its offspring, stout, were at the height of their popularity in England. It is said that Peter the Great fell in love with these beers during his 1698 trip to England, and he requested that some be sent to the Imperial court in Russia. Much to the embarrassment of the English, the beer spoiled somewhere along its thousand-mile journey.

Barclay brewery of London came to the rescue by rapidly increasing the amount of alcohol and hops for their second effort. The result was an inky black concoction with enough warmth and complexity to immediately become a sensation throughout Russia. Russian Imperial Stout was born. It is said that Empress Catherine the Great (1729-1796) was very much a fan of Imperial Stout as was Rasputin (1869-1916).

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout by North Coast Brewing CompanyOld Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout by North Coast Brewing Company. Image (c)

The style was regularly brewed in the 18th and early 19th century, and has enjoyed a resurgence the last few years with the rise of microbreweries. Today it is a popular style with American craft brewers who have extended the style with unique American characteristics.

Our recipe here is decidedly American as it uses clean fermenting Chico yeast (White Labs WLP001 California Ale, Wyeast 1056 American Ale, or Fermentis Safale US-05 dry yeast) and includes generous amounts of roasted barley (500L) along with a healthy dose of clean high alpha hops near the end of the boil. Chocolate malt (350-500L) and Weyermann Carafa III Special (525L) (a unique de-husked version that reduces astringency and provides a smooth bitterness) are used to provide a noticeable chocolate-like character. Some crystal is added as well for a slight sweetness.

Espresso Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout by Stone Brewing CompanyEspresso Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout by Stone Brewing Company. Image (c)

While many strong beers need some time to age and mellow, this one is surprisingly smooth after only a few weeks of conditioning. The first time we brewed this it was kegged after 24 days and then stored in our conditioning fridge and held near freezing for an additional 25 days before being placed on tap. After only a month of conditioning, the beer is not hot or solvent at all, as can sometimes be the case for strong beers that are consumed too young. There's a wonderful chocolate / roast character, some dried fruit sweetness (mostly raisins), and an incredibly full / lush / velvet finish. While the bitterness level (IBU) is high, the amount of malt flavour keeps the hops in check. There is not much hop presence at all (which was the intent). This is a beer that will keep well for many years and slowly age and change over time. If you bottle, tuck away a few and try one every year for the next 10+ years.

Brew up a batch and let us know how you like it!


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Russian Imperial Stout

Size: 12 US gallons (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 88% (lower due to the high gravity)
Attenuation: 79%
Calories: 336 kcal per 12 fl oz
Original Gravity:
1.100 (style range: 1.075 - 1.115)
Final Gravity: 1.021 (style range: 1.018 - 1.030) 
Colour: 30.6 SRM (style range: 30 - 40)
Alcohol: 10.6% ABV (style range: 8% - 12%)
Bitterness: 86 IBU (style range: 50 - 90)

31.5 lb Domestic 2-row malt (1.8-2L) (81.5%)
2.9 lb Dark Munich malt (9L) (7.5%)
1 lb Roasted barley (500L) (2.6%)
1 lb Chocolate malt (350-500L) (2.6%)
0.75 lb Weyermann Carafa III Special malt (525L) (1.9%)
0.75 lb Weyermann CaraMunich Type III malt (57L) (1.9%)
0.75 lb Weyermann CaraAroma malt (130L) (1.9%)

3 oz Magnum hops (14.8%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min [69.3 IBU]
1.5 oz Magnum hops (14.8%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min [16.6 IBU]
1 Whirlfloc tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

Fermentis Safale US-05 dry yeast* (60g recommended or make an equivalent starter)

2 oz American medium toast oak cubes - added to brite tank, steeped 21 days

*If you prefer to use liquid yeast, Wyeast 1056 American Ale or White Labs WLP001 California Ale are excellent choices as they are the same clean fermenting Chico strain as US-05. You'll need ~1080 billion cells (10-11 fresh packs) or an equivalent starter.

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Notes / Process

  • Add 625mg potassium metabisulfite to 25 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required). (Given the high amount of grain used and longer boil time, with 20 gallon kettles you will need to fill the HLT and MLT separately with water).
  • Water treated with brewing salts to our Balanced flavour profile: Ca=50, Mg=10, Na=16, Cl=70, SO4=70. (Hit minimums on Ca and Mg, keep the Cl:SO4 ratio low and equal. Do not favour flavour / maltiness or bitterness / dryness. For balanced beers.). For more information on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
  • 1.25 qt/lb mash thickness.
  • Single infusion mash at 149F for 120 mins.
  • Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
  • ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature).
  • Boil for 120 minutes, adding Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at flameout, start chilling immediately.
  • Cool the wort quickly to 64-66F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
  • Oxygenate the chilled wort to a level of 14 ppm dissolved oxygen. Given the high starting gravity, a second dose to 14 ppm is recommended approximately 12-18 hours after the yeast has been pitched. For more information refer to our Aerating / Oxygenating Wort guide.
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 66-68F (wort temperature). We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges.
  • Ferment until approximately 5 points from final gravity and then raise the temperature to 70-72F until finished. In our case we simply turn off the fermenting fridges and allow the beer to naturally rise to room temperature. Assume fermentation is done if the gravity does not change over ~3 days.
  • If you'd like to oak this beer, add one ounce of American medium toast oak cubes per 5 gallons to a brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup. Rack beer on top of oak and steep for ~21 days at room temperature. You may optionally soak the oak cubes in bourbon for a few weeks prior to use. Gelatin is not required as the beer will drop clear over the ~21 days. The resulting beer after a few months of aging is a subtle toasted oak / bourbon flavour as you would get with bourbon barrel aging without all the complexities of barrel management. Feel free to play with the amount of oak, the type of oak, and the contact duration. For more information see our Oaking Your Beer guide.
  • If you do not oak this beer, before packaging you may optionally rack to a brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup, add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days. In most cases we recommend skipping this step as the less you handle the beer and potentially expose it to oxygen, the better.
  • Package as you would normally. We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2 and then chill to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. In a hurry? Feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. 
  • Carbonate this beer to fairly low levels (no more than 1.6 to 1.8 volumes of CO2 to minimize carbonic bite and let the hop/malt flavour come through). Over carbonation destroys a lot of the subtleties of this beer. Do not over carbonate. Another option that we've used is to serve the beer on a stout faucet pushed by a nitrogen/CO2 blend, producing a nice creamy head and close to flat beer. One inexpensive way to mimic this is to use a syringe (without needle). Pour the beer as you would normally and then suck up a syringe full and force it back into the beer, hard. Repeat 2-3 times and you'll knock most of the CO2 out of solution leaving a nearly flat beer with a creamy head. Not quite the same texture, but similar to a nitro pour. We tried this for years before finally adding a real nitrogen/CO2 serving setup to our basement bar.

For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.


Questions? Visit our Russian Imperial Stout (Bourbon barrel aged) forum thread


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Pictures / Videos

Interested in seeing what we're brewing right now? Follow us on Instagram for pictures and videos of our brewing activities as they happen.

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Getting ready for a 10% ABV Russian Imperial Stout (RIS) it'll be brewing by soaking some Stavin medium toast American cubes in bourbon. I soak for at least one month then add one ounce to each 5 gallon keg of beer for another month. Gives the beer a nice bourbon barrel aged taste without all the work of barrel management. Recipe here: . ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery . #TheElectricBrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrew #brewing #craftbeer #homebrewporn #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #russianimperialstout #ris #bourbon #bourbonbarrelaged #bourbonbarrelstout #barrelagedbeer #barrelaged

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Racking and oaking my 10.5% ABV Russian Imperial Stout to turn it into a Bourbon barrel aged beer. The American medium toast oak was soaked in Jim Beam bourbon for ~3 weeks first. After one month on oak this'll get kegged and served on nitro. The beer's been by the numbers so far: Went from 1.100 to 1.021 exactly as planned! More info on oaking your beer in my newsletter here: . ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery . #TheElectricBrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrew #brewing #craftbeer #homebrewporn #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #russianimperialstout #ris #bourbon #bourbonbarrelaged #bourbonbarrelstout #barrelagedbeer #barrelaged

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One my of my forum users reminded me how tasty my Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout is so I just had to go sneak a sample as it’s a beer I’ve kept on tap for many years now. His review: “Just tapped the keg.....WOW!!!! 15 days with the bourbon soaked oak cubes (double cubes, double bourbon) It's FANTASTIC.” I have to say, I agree! I love mine on nitro. Recipe and complete brewing process on my website (including simple bourbon barrel aging without the complexities of barrel management). Link in bio. Cheers! ・ Parts, kits, and pre-assembled brewing products built in the USA. Guides to building and using your brewery. Tons of recipes! 👉 👈

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