Let's figure out an Abraxas clone

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HeadyG

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I received a request from @InspectorJon in a different thread to post what I'm doing in this forum to see if we can put our minds together and come up with a decent Abraxas clone. Basically I brewed a slightly modified version of Perennial's Fantastic Voyage recipe that Perennial owner Phil Wymore generously shared on beerandbrewing.com. I also watched Wymore's video course on brewing imperial stouts that is linked in that recipe, which I highly recommend. In that course, he not only discusses brewing the coconut-forward Fantastic Voyage, but he shares a bunch of information about how they brew Abraxas. I also reached out to Wymore via email for some guidance on how much cassia to use in place of cinnamon (he said in the course that's what they use), and he very graciously pointed me in the right direction.

Wymore says Perennial essentially has one base imperial stout that they use for all of their stouts, and they bump the roasted barley up or down depending on the adjuncts. The description of the Fantastic Voyage recipe says it is a version of their base stout scaled down for homebrewing. The FV recipe doesn't actually include any roasted barley, so I bumped up the black malt a bit for additional roastiness (another recipe for Perennial's Take 10 chocolate pretzel stout called for more black malt). The FV recipe also calls for a ton of flaked oats and maltodextrin for body and mouthfeel.

I should state at the outset that I'm definitely on the novice end of the spectrum. I also did not set out to attempt a true clone of Abraxas with this batch — I'm using a big dose of liquid cacao instead of nibs and will include a coffee addition, because I like mocha stouts. I also used muscovado sugar in place of the brown sugar, because I've had good success with the extra molasses flavor in brewing and baking previously. Here is the recipe I'm using:

Batch size 5 gallons
OG 1.124
FG 1.048
IBUs 60
ABV 10%

Grain Bill
14 lbs, 2 oz Rahr 2-row
3 lbs 12.8 oz Flaked oats
1 lb 10 oz Carafa II
1 lb 3.2 oz Black malt
1 lb Caramel 60L

Hops and additions
2 oz Magnum hops (60 min)
7.6 oz Dark brown sugar (60 min)
7.6 oz Maltodextrin (60 min)
7.6 oz Lactose (60 min)
1 tsp Yeast nutrient (15 min)
1 Whirlfloc tablet (15 min)

Yeast
OYL-004 West Coast Ale (I made a 2L starter with one packet and pitched a second packet as a bit of insurance)

Adjuncts
32 oz Cholaca liquid cacao (5 days) - Abraxas uses cacao nibs, I'd guess 8 oz. Maybe more.
1 oz Cassia bark chips (5 days) - Wymore told me in an email they use cassia powder (cheap grocery store cinnamon) for better extraction but said this is approximately the amount of powder they use when scaled down
2 oz Dried ancho chilies, de-stemmed and torn into pieces (5 days)
4 TBSP Homemade vanilla extract (5 days) - Abraxas uses whole vanilla beans, liquified in a blender
3 oz Mexican single-source freshly roasted whole coffee beans from Up Coffee Roasters here in Minneapolis (1 day) - Note: regular Abraxas does not use coffee, though there is a coffee version.

Mash at 156 for 60 minutes (this is what the FV recipe calls for). You're looking for a pre-boil gravity of 1.080. Wymore says in the course they just take the first runnings and they don't sparge. Wymore also said their St. Louis city water is nice and slightly alkaline, so they just filter it but otherwise don't treat it. I used Ice Mountain bottled water, which was easily acquired at Target and according to the company has a ph of 7.9-8.1 (I realize that may be disputed). But I took Wymore's advice not to sweat the water too much. Because Beersmith told me I needed nearly 12 gallons of water, and I BIAB in a 10-gallon kettle, I split the 22-pound grain bill in half and did two mashes using a second 10-gallon stock pot. I will be putting a larger kettle on my shopping list for next time. My gravity reading came in a bit light so I added 1 lb of light DME to bump it up for the boil.

The recipe calls for a 3-4 hour boil, depending on your evaporation rate, until you reach about 5 gallons and the desired OG of 1.124. I ended up boiling for 3 hours and 45 minutes, and ended up with somewhere around 4 3/4 gallons in my fermenter with an OG of 1.118. Cooled to 63 degrees, hit it with gently bubbling O2 for about two minutes and pitched the yeast. Put it in my fermentation chamber at 63 degrees for two weeks. I'm coming to the end of that period tomorrow, and I let it warm up to 64 degrees yesterday and today. I have not touched it since it went in the chamber. I'm adding most of my adjuncts in a couple days and and bottling next weekend. I made a vodka tincture this morning with the cassia chips and ancho chilies that I will add with the cacao and vanilla. I am not transferring to a secondary vessel, though Wymore recommends racking onto the adjuncts for 5-7 days after primary is complete.

One last note. In the course, Wymore recommends a formula of 1 part vanilla beans, 40 parts ancho chilies, 280 parts cacao nibs by weight. I definitely varied from that in my recipe a bit.

So that's about it. I will post my results when the beer is ready. I plan to bottle condition for a month before trying it, then I want to cellar it all summer and enjoy it in the fall. I hope this can be a useful starting point for others. Please feel free to add your feedback, critiques or suggestions, and any experiences you may have trying to reproduce Abraxas. I truly think it's just about a perfect beer.
 
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HeadyG

HeadyG

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I just added my first round of adjuncts (cacao, vanilla, cassia chips and ancho chilies). When I peeked inside it definitely looked like there had been a vigorous fermentation, lots of gunk around the sides and stuck to the thermowell. Gravity fell all the way from 1.118 to 1.020. That's nearly 12.5% ABV, so I overshot my target of 10% by quite a bit. I imagine the addition of a pound of DME boosted the fermentability significantly. The sample tasted good, boozy and still sweet, so I'm hoping the cacao and coffee additions will help temper that. It was kind of medium thickness, noticeably thicker than, say, LHMS and probably pretty close to Abraxas, maybe a touch thinner. All signs point to a very promising effort so far.
 
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cactusgarrett

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That's a pretty solid FG. My buddy and I have done some work in trying to come close to something like Abraxas. One tip - if you're looking for the subtle heat, keep the seeds in the peppers. I "dry peppered" with these and kept the seeds in, while my buddy de-seeded his. His version had minimal perceptible heat to the final beer.
 

Nick&Worty

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Interesting thread! I live near STL, so I get to drink Abraxas and also Derivation! I've had multiple different variations of it. One of my favorites. Have you ever had Derivation from Side Project?
 
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That's a pretty solid FG. My buddy and I have done some work in trying to come close to something like Abraxas. One tip - if you're looking for the subtle heat, keep the seeds in the peppers. I "dry peppered" with these and kept the seeds in, while my buddy de-seeded his. His version had minimal perceptible heat to the final beer.
Yeah I'm a little worried that all that booze might throw it out of balance. My sample definitely tasted a little hot, but it will have plenty of time to mellow over the summer. I also made a quick vodka tincture (just what it needs, more booze) with the cassia and anchos over a couple days, and I left the seeds in. I bagged the solids and threw those and the liquid into the fermenter the other day. I'm looking forward to seeing how the flavor develops.
 
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Interesting thread! I live near STL, so I get to drink Abraxas and also Derivation! I've had multiple different variations of it. One of my favorites. Have you ever had Derivation from Side Project?
I have not, just a couple Abraxas variants and Intentionally Indulgent. They're not easy to find in Minneapolis. I'm definitely down for a trade if there's anything from Minnesota you want!
 

Nick&Worty

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I’ll PM you. Abraxas is way easier. Side project wont even let you take a bottle of Derivation out the door. If you’re ever in STL make that a stop for sure!
 
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Update: I bottled it this morning. Yielded about 4.3 gallons, which gave me 44 12 oz bottles. I used corn sugar to prime for a target of 2.3 volumes of carbonation (on Wymore's recommendation in the video course). I've never seen such a large yeast cake at the bottom of my fermenter, so it was clearly a healthy fermentation. It's probably pushing 13% with the addition of the vodka tinctures for the adjuncts. I had about half a glass left in the bucket that I drank warm and flat. I really think it's gonna be fairly close, even though it's quite a bit boozier than Abraxas. It smells and tastes great, the cinnamon is fairly forward but I suspect that will mellow as it matures and the flavors meld. The chocolate is there on the nose and mid-palate. The beer has a nice body with a good thickness and mouthfeel. I used a light roast Mexican coffee that was probably milder than I would have liked, so we'll see how present that ends up being (though again Abraxas does not use coffee). I'll update again in a month when I try it colder and carbonated, but I do think this recipe may be a good starting point if anyone wants to try to dial it in further, especially if you can do a better job hitting gravity targets than I did.
 

couchsending

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What FG on Abraxas? North of 1.050 I’d assume... that’s a huge difference in body and mouthfeel with your’s at 1.020 and their stouts closer to 1.050.
 
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What FG on Abraxas? North of 1.050 I’d assume... that’s a huge difference in body and mouthfeel with your’s at 1.020 and their stouts closer to 1.050.
I never said I nailed it. I'm guessing Abraxas is in the ballpark of the 1.048 FG of Fantastic Voyage. But the oats and maltodextrin in the recipe definitely left the beer I bottled with a thicker mouthfeel, despite the lower FG. I think I may have mashed a little low and the addition of DME probably contributed to the low FG.
 

InspectorJon

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I'll just drop this here for reference.

Cliff notes:
Oatmeal Milk stout
English Crystal Malt
Black Malt
Roasted Barley
Roasted Chocolate Malt
"Bunch of Flaked Oats"
Long boil
Clean American ale yeast

1 week on:
Ancho Chilies
Cinnamon (powdered cassia)
Vanilla Beans
Cacao Nibs

OG 1.124
FG 1.048
IBU 60
ABV 10%-11.5% Varies depending where you read, must vary depending on year produced
 
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HeadyG

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I'll just drop this here for reference.

Cliff notes:
Oatmeal Milk stout
English Crystal Malt
Black Malt
Roasted Barley
Roasted Chocolate Malt
"Bunch of Flaked Oats"
Long boil
Clean American ale yeast

1 week on:
Ancho Chilies
Cinnamon (powdered cassia)
Vanilla Beans
Cacao Nibs

OG 1.124
FG 1.048
IBU 60
ABV 10%-11.5% Varies depending where you read, must vary depending on year produced
That's interesting. The Fantastic Voyage homebrew recipe has quite a bit of Carafa II and no chocolate malt or roasted barley. I guess that would be the place to start.
 
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HeadyG

HeadyG

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Carafa II is essentially German chocolate malt. And probably one of the best “chocolate” malts IMHO.
Ah ok, thanks. I didn't realize Carafa II and chocolate malt were so analagous. The original Fantastic Voyage recipe had just 1 lb of black malt rather than the 1 lb 3.2 oz I used. Perhaps a next step would be to go back to 1 lb of black malt and substitute some portion of the 1 lb 10 oz of Carafa II with roasted barley. Or would it be better to replace some of the black malt with roasted barley? My sense is you're probably going to want to increase the roastiness somewhat so the former option seems like the way to go. Thoughts on this are welcome. I'll look around at other big stout recipes to compare. I probably will not be able to brew another batch of this until the fall so certainly no rush.
 
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InspectorJon

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So I am thinking about doing this. Any input/thoughts on the grain bill? I'll work out the flavor adjuncts later. Long boil to try and improve mash efficiency. I have brew house efficiency set at 60%.

Preboil Gravity: 1.080
Original Gravity: 1.128
Final Gravity: 1.041
ABV (standard): 11.3%
IBU (tinseth): 61
SRM (morey): 50
3.5 gallon to fermenter
180 min boil

Fermentables
13 lb Pale 2-Row 65%
3 lb Flaked Oats 15%
1 lb Thomas Fawcett - Crystal Malt 60L 5%
0.75 lb German - Carafa II 425L 3.8%
0.75 lb American - Roasted Barley 300L 3.8%
0.50 lb American - Black Malt 500L 2.5%
1 lb Lactose (Milk Sugar) - (late addition) 5%
20 lb Total

Hops
30 g Magnum Boil 60 min 61.68 100%
 
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Hwk-I-St8

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Do you think you need the lactose? I do a big BCBS style stout that usually has a similar FG....lactose would be way over the top IMO.

Abraxas has never felt like a milk stout to me, but it's hard to tell with all that cinnamon.
 

CascadesBrewer

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I am wondering if "Roasted Chocolate Malt" means anything other than just "Chocolate Malt"? Chocolate Malt is a roasted malt after all.

I have not used any of the Carafa malts myself yet. I assume when people say "Carafa II" they are talking about the "Carafa Special II" malt (the de-husked version). I know that Wyermann lists a "non-special" version of Carafa II, but the Special version is the only one that I have seen for sale.

So I am thinking about doing this. Any input/thoughts on the grain bill?
You might want to specify exactly which Crystal and Roasted Barley you are using. Is that the ~350L Briess Roasted Barley?

I brewed a few iterations of an Imperial Stout with a similar grain bill. The last version used English Black and Roasted Barley that were in the 500L range (along with Maris Otter, Flaked Barley, and Crystal 80). The beer was jet black but I felt it was missing some complexity in the middle area. I was thinking of adding in some Brown Malt or Pale Chocolate Malt, but maybe Carafa I or Carafa II is what I should use.
 

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Do you think you need the lactose? I do a big BCBS style stout that usually has a similar FG....lactose would be way over the top IMO.

Abraxas has never felt like a milk stout to me, but it's hard to tell with all that cinnamon.
So the guy from Perennial in the video says it's an oatmeal Milk stout so I assume it has lactose. According to them it finishes at 1.048 and starts at 1.124 with 10% ABV. I can't get to those numbers without lactose, using Brewer's Friend calculator. I don't have enough personal experience at this to depend on my previous results.
 

InspectorJon

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You might want to specify exactly which Crystal and Roasted Barley you are using. Is that the ~350L Briess Roasted Barley?
I edited the grain bill to include my intended L values. I am at the mercy of my not terribly local HBS regarding brands so being that specific is really just hopeful thinking. I'll try and go by there tomorrow as I'll be 20 miles closer than I am now. I'd like to use the Carafa II Special. Mostly what I have seen around here is not dehusked.
 

CascadesBrewer

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I edited the grain bill to include my intended L values. I am at the mercy of my not terribly local HBS regarding brands so being that specific is really just hopeful thinking. I'll try and go by there tomorrow as I'll be 20 miles closer than I am now. I'd like to use the Carafa II Special. Mostly what I have seen around here is not dehusked.
I think it looks pretty solid. I would brew that beer! Looking at my last RIS I used 3/4 lb of Briess Black Malt 500L and 3/4 lb of Crisp Roasted Barley 500-600L (5 gals into the fermenter). I think your combo of dark malts along with the longer boil would make a better and more complex beer than mine.
 
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I'm late to this but I think Abraxas definitely has some lactose, not sure if it's an entire pound but that's probably a good place to start. I'm pretty positive there's also some maltodextrin in there. Based on Wymore's comments in the video I'd suspect that the actual Abraxas recipe may have a higher percentage of flaked oats (he mentions using in the neighborhood of 20- 25% in many of their stouts in the video). But what you have seems like a lot of oats also. The Fantastic Voyage recipe specifically mentions Crisp brand black and C-60 malts, though the Take 10 recipe calls for Crisp black malt and Proximity C-60. I had a real hard time locating small amounts of both of those Crisp malts from the same online seller, and the one store I did find that listed them ended up sending me the same stuff I could have bought at my LHBS. I'm not sure how much they matter in the end.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing about your results. I still have two weeks until I try my batch, but it will be a nice way to celebrate my second shot. Good luck!
 
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So I brewed this this weekend. If anyone wants to read about mashing 19 lbs of grain in a 7 gallon pot using BIAB its over here.

This is the actual brew day recipe and results to date (5/10/2021):
Preboil Gravity: 1.078 (actual)
Original Gravity: 1.118 (actual before lactose and maltodextrin)
Final Gravity: 1.041 TBD
ABV (standard): 12% TBD
IBU (tinseth): 59.7
SRM (morey): 50
3.5 gallon to fermenter (3.75 actual)
180 min boil (maybe 195 min)

Fermentables
12 lb Pale 2-Row 63.2%
2.75lb Flaked Oats 14.5%
1.25 lb Flaked wheat 6.6%
1 lb Bairds Meduium Crystal Malt 75L 5.3%
0.75 lb German - Special Carafa II 425L 3.9%
0.75 lb American - Roasted Barley 300L 3.9%
0.50 lb American - Black Malt 500L 2.6%
19lb Total

148* down to 143* 90 min mash @ 1 lb/qt. (5 gallons water)
2.5 gallons 160* sparge water

Hops
21 g Warrior Boil 60 min 48.5 IBUs
5 g Herkules Boil 60 min 11.2 IBUs

15 g Indonesian powdered cinnamon (cassia) boil 15 min (I'll taste later and add more as needed.)
4 g yeast nutrient a 1/4 whirlflock tablet boil 15 minutes.

I did not have as much oatmeal as I thought so I subbed in 1.25 lbs of flaked wheat. I don't think it should make a big difference. The hops is what I had on hand. It's just bittering so I think that should also be good to go. If I was buying hops I would likely use Magnum, Willamette or maybe Chinook.

I'm using house yeast from Lone Pint brewery in Magnolia TX. I harvested and propped it up from bottle dregs and couple years ago. I have enjoyed using it and always save yeast from an overbuilt starter. It is rumored to have originated on the west coast many years ago. I made a 4 gallon batch of Yellow Rose and used most of the yeast cake from that, so effectively a 12 liter starter. I gave it air from a fish tank pump and stone for 10 minutes. I checked it 8 hours later and it had 1/2 inch of krausen. I gave it air one more time. I'm not sure I should have done that during active fermentation but was early. Time will tell.

I made a 1.3 gallon batch of 1.051 wort from third runnings off the 19 lbs of grain. I pitched it at 67* with the same yeast at the same time and it seems to be done fermenting 36 hours later. Lone Pint works fast when it's happy.

I still have not worked out the flavoring additions and how much lactose and maltodextrin to add. I kind of want to wait to see what FG is. I saved about a quart of the 1.051 wort to boil the unfermentable sugars in to add later to bring FG up to where it seems right.

I have vanilla tincture and pepper tincture I'll add to taste later. I'm still pondering the cocoa nibs amount.
 

odie

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following this...

A new guy to the local home brewers association brought down a bottle of Abraxas. I had never heard of it but is was so delish..

I've got a maple RIS going right now but I believe I will try this one next.
 
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Just an update on how my beer turned out (the recipe I used is at the beginning of the thread). It's been bottle conditioning for about 7 weeks now and I'm very pleased with the results, all things considered. It has a big chocolate nose, followed by cinnamon. I let it warm up a bit before drinking and there's a nice chocolate flavor, though the cinnamon is a bit more forward than I would like it to be. I'll probably dial the cassia back about 20% or so when I try again in the fall. The ancho peppers really come through with a surprising amount of heat at the end. I'll probably go with 1 oz of anchos next time, and dial back the vanilla a bit also. The coffee I used didn't even really show up, which is fine. My beer definitely has noticeably less body than Abraxas, but with the maltodextrin it has a thicker mouthfeel than most stouts and is quite nice. Overall, I'd say it's certainly in the ballpark, though quite a bit boozier, and very drinkable. Next time I'll replace some of the Carafa II and black malt with roasted barley and really try to hit my gravity targets better and see how that works out. I look forward to hearing about how other efforts pan out.
 
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So I brewed this this weekend. If anyone wants to read about mashing 19 lbs of grain in a 7 gallon pot using BIAB its over here.

This is the actual brew day recipe and results to date (5/10/2021):
Preboil Gravity: 1.078 (actual)
Original Gravity: 1.118 (actual before lactose and maltodextrin)
Final Gravity: 1.041 TBD
ABV (standard): 12% TBD
IBU (tinseth): 59.7
SRM (morey): 50
3.5 gallon to fermenter (3.75 actual)
180 min boil (maybe 195 min)

Fermentables
12 lb Pale 2-Row 63.2%
2.75lb Flaked Oats 14.5%
1.25 lb Flaked wheat 6.6%
1 lb Bairds Meduium Crystal Malt 75L 5.3%
0.75 lb German - Special Carafa II 425L 3.9%
0.75 lb American - Roasted Barley 300L 3.9%
0.50 lb American - Black Malt 500L 2.6%
19lb Total

148* down to 143* 90 min mash @ 1 lb/qt. (5 gallons water)
2.5 gallons 160* sparge water
I'm curious where your FG ended up with that mash temp. I suspect I mashed a bit under the recommended 156 in the Perennial recipe and my FG came in super low. How did it work out for you?
 

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It’s still fermenting. It was 1.050 a few days ago and bubbling slow. I pitcher the yeast from the small beer and the bubbles picked up. I won’t be home until Monday to check again.
 

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Regarding the low mash temperature: Alvarado Street Brewery in the Monterey, CA area brews a lot of strong pastry stouts. I emailed J.C. Hill, their brewer about one I particularly liked and this was a valuable part of his response:

OG was around 33ish, finished around 13 (1.144 to 1.053) or so. Boiled for 5-6 hrs to get it that high without adding DME or LME. We mashed low, around 145, to make sure our wort sugar composition was as simple as possible to get it to "dry" as far as it could go. With these stouts they can stall rather high and leave you with a beer that's unpalatable (but good barrel candidates).
 
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Regarding the low mash temperature: Alvarado Street Brewery in the Monterey, CA area brews a lot of strong pastry stouts. I emailed J.C. Hill, their brewer about one I particularly liked and this was a valuable part of his response:

OG was around 33ish, finished around 13 (1.114 to 1.053) or so. Boiled for 5-6 hrs to get it that high without adding DME or LME. We mashed low, around 145, to make sure our wort sugar composition was as simple as possible to get it to "dry" as far as it could go. With these stouts they can stall rather high and leave you with a beer that's unpalatable (but good barrel candidates).
That is very interesting, thanks for sharing. So if your wort is almost all simple sugars, what prevents your yeast from attenuating like crazy like mine did? 1.041 still seems like a pretty high FG. Apologies if this is a dumb question.
 

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Not sure, did you add sugar? Mine is all grain. I have read long boils can modify some of the sugar to unfermentable. I think a lot of high gravity stouts use pure sugar, late additions to overcome this and finish at lower gravity.
 

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Regarding the low mash temperature: Alvarado Street Brewery in the Monterey, CA area brews a lot of strong pastry stouts. I emailed J.C. Hill, their brewer about one I particularly liked and this was a valuable part of his response:

OG was around 33ish, finished around 13 (1.114 to 1.053) or so. Boiled for 5-6 hrs to get it that high without adding DME or LME. We mashed low, around 145, to make sure our wort sugar composition was as simple as possible to get it to "dry" as far as it could go. With these stouts they can stall rather high and leave you with a beer that's unpalatable (but good barrel candidates).
Plato 33isch is around 1.140-1.145 OG so I guess that is just a typo.
 
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Not sure, did you add sugar? Mine is all grain. I have read long boils can modify some of the sugar to unfermentable. I think a lot of high gravity stouts use pure sugar, late additions to overcome this and finish at lower gravity.
I did add light DME at the very beginning of the boil to get the pre-boil gravity up. I guess I assumed that was pretty much the same as having a lot of simple sugars from a lower-temp mash before doing a long boil but maybe it just radically upped the fermentability of the wort. I'll try to avoid doing that next time.
 

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Plato 33isch is around 1.140-1.145 OG so I guess that is just a typo.
That was my typo, thanks for clarifying that. I fixed it in the original post above. Brewer's Friend conversion chart says 1.144 for P. 33. That's some seriously high OG. Like the consistency of thick syrup. I had trouble getting my wort to siphon through a 1/8 inch piece of tubing for a a gravity sample even after it was down to 1.050. My 1.118 wort was slow going through 3/8 inch tubing.
 

InspectorJon

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Gravity reading today looks like 1.029. 74%AA, respectable for such high gravity. 11.5-13.3 ABV depending on which calculator you use.
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I’ll let it ride until this weekend, then I’ll add roasted cocoa nibs and pacilla pepper tinctures I’ve made. The cinnamon is still pretty pronounced from the amount I added to the boil.
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I’ll let it ride until this weekend, then I’ll add roasted cocoa nibs and pacilla pepper tinctures I’ve made. The cinnamon is still pretty pronounced from the amount I added to the boil.
Very nice. I was curious how the cinnamon in the boil would work for you. My experience with my pumpkin ale has been a very pronounced flavor from a relatively small amount of cinnamon. How much cocoa nibs are you using?
 

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Cacoa nibs @ 1 oz/gallon, roasted at 350* for 15 minutes. Cooled and covered with vodka in a jar for a week. I'll dump it all in and let set for a week. I also have pepper and vanilla tinctures I made. I will add them to taste in the bottling bucket. I will also add enough lactose to bring FG up to 1.040.
 
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