How to Make Traditional Russian Imperial Stout

This is a heavier stout than most, and that’s because it was originally meant to be shipped long distances in less than ideal temperatures and still retain its taste and texture. That would only be possible if the brewers were doubling down on the malt.

This is a beverage with a high hop content, so it definitely has a distinctive quality not found in similar kinds of drinks.

What a lot of people do with their Russian imperial stout recipes is add some fruitiness using esters that are derived from yeast. This gives it a variety of more intricate flavors that you would normally find in a port, but of course with the high alcohol content found in the Russian stout, this comes off as a very strong port.

I’m going to show you how you can rather simply make your own Russian imperial stout, using a brewing process that is similar to what other stouts use but with an emphasis on getting that authentic taste that this stout is known for.

Part of that involves achieving the right gravity for the stout, and I will show you how to do that as well.

Imperial Russian Stout Recipe

Here is what the specs on this stout should look like, and you can use this as a guide to determine if you want to make this our not and to help you as you figure out what your stout should come out like.

Specs:

SRM: 39
ABV: 8.3%
FG: 1.025
OG: 1.088
IBUs: 82

We will use specialty grains for this recipe to give to the authentic taste that an Imperial Russian stout should have. You may be limited by what you have available to you and what you can get access to, but the following is what your ideal brew should be made from.

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound of crushed roasted barley
  • ½ pound of crushed caramel 80liter malt
  • 1 pound of crushed chocolate malt
  • 6.6 pounds of light LME
  • 6.6 pounds of amber LME
  • 2 packs of ale yeast- Safale US-05 works best
  • 1 ounce of Columbus hops at :10
  • 1 ounce of Cascade hops at :10
  • 1 ½ ounces of Bravo hops at :60
  • 1 specialty grain steeping bag

Directions:

  1. For Russian imperial stout recipes all grain like this one, we start by heating 2 ½ gallons of water until they are boiling.
  2. Put your crushed grains into the steeping bag and allow to steep for 20 minutes. That would be your chocolate, caramel and barley.
  3. Add in 6.6 pounds of light LME and mix. Then, boil the wort and add in bravo hops and continue boiling for 50 minutes.
  4. Add the Cascade and Columbus hops and boil for 10 minutes more. Then stir rapidly until you create a whirlpool.
  5. Next, help the wort to cool by using either an immersion wort chiller or an ice bath. The wort needs to cool down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Pour out the wort into a fermenter that has been cleaned, and then top it off. You should have 5 ½ gallons when that step is done. Mix that well and pitch your yeast.
  7. Allow this mixture to ferment for at least two weeks while maintaining the temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Afterwards, transfer your stout to secondary for an additional 3-4 weeks.
  9. Bottle the stout and let it age for anywhere from 2-4 months, and you can allow it to age for longer than that as well.

What if I Want to Cut back the Hops?

You can make this a less hoppy stout if you like. The original Russian imperial stout is likely not as hop heavy, so you can change up the recipe a bit and get a lighter stout that might be more to your liking.

Over the years, the stout has been modified to suit American tastes, which tend to prefer a hop heavy brew, but if that isn’t your style, then you can use this substitution for the hops in the recipe.

  • 1 ounce of Northern Brewer hops at :30
  • 1 ½ ounces of Galena hops at :60
  • 1 ounce of Northern Brewer hops at :10

If you do that, your brew will come out not as heavy, and if you didn’t like the original recipe and how it turned out, then you may prefer this one. You can follow the rest of the recipe the same way as listed up above.

Getting the Gravity Right

One of the key things to know about this recipe for Russian imperial stout is that the gravity is supposed to be at a certain level to give it the right texture and flavor.

What helps you achieve the right gravity is simply using a lot of fermentable components. I would say you will need a minimum of 9-10 pounds of malt extract for this. That’s true of all grain Russian imperial stout recipes as well as those that use other ingredients besides grains.

What all that malt extract does is make the job of making mash easier. There will be less work for you to do, and this simplifies the recipe a bit from how strenuous and time consuming it could be to make.

How to Balance out the Heavy Malt

There is a lot of malt in this recipe, and you need a way to balance that out. My suggestion is to use a strong, carefully regimented hop schedule. If you want the brew to use hops in the best and most effective way, then consider adding half of the malt extract at the end of the boiling process.

This is especially helpful if you are making a partial mash beer recipe or you are brewing extract.

This is one of the simpler stout recipes I have come across, so I don’t think it will be any problem for an experienced brewer.

There are a few things you have to watch for as you make to to get it to come out just right, and I have highlighted those here for you, but if you have questions about the process or how to make yours a specific way, then feel free to comment below.