Brew Day: Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout

written in brewday, recipe, stout

I started thinking about the holidays at year-end and wanted to brew something that is a bit heavier and delicious for the colder weather. I decided to go with an imperial stout. A beer like this needs to be let to sit for a few months to let it peak, which means it’s time to brew it now. I plan on transfering this beer to secondary or a keg in about three weeks and let it mature there until late November.

Providing a nice Bourbon Barrel character is easy at a homebrew scale. Just soak some oak cubes in your favorite burbon for a few days, the oaks absorb the liquor like sponges. Then place them in a hop bag and add them to the beer. This has worked for me before, but there’s no reason adding plain oaks to the beer and blending the spirit directly wouldn’t work as well. Soaking them in bourbon first is convenient however, as it helps sanitize the oak cubes and so it’s not necessary to boil them before use.

For this beer I’m looking for something bold, with lots of the characteristic stout roasted malt character, smokey and coffee notes, not too sweet, full bodied and lots of alcohol. I wanted the base malt to have some character to it, and considered Maris Otter or other british malts. I also wanted to include some rye to go with the bourbon theme, so ended up adding some flaked rye, which should also aid with head stabilization.

The recipe is the following:

Batch Size Boil Time IBU OG FG ABV
6g 60m 47 1.085 ? ?



For this beer, I simply used tap water from my area which has a very high alkalinity as calcium carbonate and usually plays well with dark beers. The only water adjustments done were a campden tablet to remove chlorine, and ½ a teaspoon of Calcium Chloride in the boil kettle, enough to have a higher chloride to sulfate ratio.


Name Amount Percent
Crisp Best Ale Malt 16.5 lb 78.6 %
Roasted Barley 1 lb 4.8 %
Chocolate Malt 1 lb 4.8 %
CaraMunich 1 lb 4.8 %
Black Patent Malt 8 oz 2.4 %
Flaked Rye 1 lb 4.8 %

Hop Schedule

Variety Time Amount Form
Challenger 60m 2 oz Palletes
Fuggle 10m 1 oz Palletes
East Kent Goldings 1m 1 oz Palletes


Name Amount Use
Whirlfloc 1 tablet 15m left in boil
Yeast Nutrient ¼ teaspoon 15m left in boil


Create a big starter with lots of yeast!

Name Lab Attenuation Amount
WLP007 Dry English Ale White Labs 70 - 80% 2 vials
WLP002 English Ale White Labs 63 - 70% 1 vial


Brew notes

July 25, 2015

I collected 11 gallons of tap water, crushed a campden tablet and added it to the water. Ensured it dissolved completely. I transfered 6 and ¼ gallons to my HLT and heated it up to 165F. Doughed in and mash started with a temperature of 151F.


Slowly sparged with the rest of the water. Sparge took a full hour.

Added ½ teaspoon of Calcium Chloride to wort in kettle and turned on the burner.

Waited 10 minutes for hot break, and started the 60m countdown. Followed hop and other kettle additions.

Once the hour was complete, chilled wort to 70F and started aerating. Aerated for 45m, and pitched starter. Stirrer bar dropped into beer, woops!

Measured OG was 1.085.

Pitched the starter. Set up a blowoff tube right away, I expect aggressive fermentation.

This fermentation started fast. It had a lag time of just three hours.

August 8, 2015

Racked to secondary.


Gravity reading was 1.019.