So I brewed this one with KingBrianI back in March. It was brewed as a 10 gallon batch, but we have scaled it down to 5 gallons, simply by cutting everything in half. We wanted to make a Russian Imperial Stout that was rich and black as all hell using several different roasted malts for layers of complexity. We decided not to go with crystal malts at all, instead boiling down 3 gallons of first runnings (1.5 for this 5 gallon recipe) to a thick syrup - maybe a few pints worth - to get some caramelization and unfermentable sugars. This technique creates a lot more complexities than crystal malt would add anyways. It is key to this recipe.
What we ended up with was a beer so dark, opaque and complex, the Heart of Darkness just fit perfectly for the name. No light gets through this. Not even around the edges. The mouthfeel is slick, but viscous - it coats your mouth even after you have swallowed it. There is some noticeable alcohol, but with the recommended aging (minimum 6 months after bottling), it loses most of the heat and gets smooth and dangerously easy to drink. Describing the taste and aroma is extremely difficult because there is still so much going on. You get a little toasted to slightly burnt sugar and some dark fruits. There is a whole melanoidin party going on in here, boosting the malt complexity. Then the roasted malt hits with coffee up front and some dark dark chocolate - think baker's chocolate. There is sugar-like sweetness there, but well balanced by bitterness from both the grain and the hops. No hop flavor makes it through, as far as I can tell. Enjoy this one. It does crazy things to your head. "The Horror!"
7 gallon boil, 90 minutes
In a separate pot, take 1.5 gallons of first runnings and boil down to a thick syrup, then add to the boil.
Mash: 152, 60 minutes, 1.6 qt/lb, single batch sparge, 80% efficiency
10.00 lb Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 65.57 %
2.00 lb Munich Malt (9.0 SRM) Grain 13.11 %
1.00 lb Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain 6.56 %
0.75 lb Brown Malt (65.0 SRM) Grain 4.92 %
0.5 lb Coffee Malt (150.0 SRM) Grain 3.28 %
1.00 lb Brown Sugar, Light (8.0 SRM) Sugar 6.56 %
1.00 oz Northern Brewer [8.50 %] (90 min) Hops
1.00 oz Magnum [13.40 %] (90 min) Hops
Somehow, despite a good amount of homebrew consumption, we got 80% efficiency. I have just consumed 2 of these while writing this, and it is good. Hopefully I haven't left anything out. Oh yeah, yeast substitutes. We decided that Wyeast 1056 and 1450 would both do well for this recipe. For dry yeast enthusiasts, use Nottingham. Prost!