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Imperial Porter

August 27, 2013


As the nights get colder, I’m starting to think about dark beers.  Cool summer nights (preferably sitting around a fire with friends) are a great testing ground for the beers that will help us overwinter.


Plenty of roasted malts

Having enjoyed some phenomenal “big” porters over the past few months, I’ve been pining over a recipe – dreaming about the perfect combination of roast and malt, body and delightful complexity.  I finally reached a point of satisfaction with the recipe and decided to get the brew in on a Saturday afternoon while I was home alone.

Brewing a beer like this presents a unique set of challenges.  I’ve done some proof of concept work in the past, with various imperial stouts and the like, some of which have been posted here.  In this case my primary concerns were: finding the right amount of roasted malts to bring the desired intensity and balancing said intense roast with malt body / appropriate hopping levels.  Finally but certainly not least of all, maintaining optimal mash conversion and limiting acidity, via thorough pH management and water profiling.

I used an arguably extreme amount of roasted malts, which I admittedly second guessed several times (too much?  should I back this off a bit?).  I eventually talked myself into staying the course and focused my attention on execution.

Out of control krausen

Out of control krausen

This is my first stab at creating my own interpretation of beers that have inspired me like Evil Twin Lil B, Maine King Titus and Hill Farmstead Everett.  Starting with a small batch to test a few concepts, I’ll be revising the recipe and re-brewing with my Dad in the next few weeks, for a certain upcoming celebration…

Here’s the recipe:

Imperial Porter
Brewed 7/27/13
Size: 3.0 gallons

Efficiency: 79%
Attenuation: 67%
Original Gravity: 1.086
Terminal Gravity: 1.028

Color: 33.85
Alcohol: 7.7%
IBU: 66

Water (all in ppm):

Ca: 61 Mg: 11 Na: 14 SO₄: 46 Cl: 33 HCO₃: 164


  • 8.2 lb Pale Ale Malt
  • 0.66 lb Crystal 10L Malt
  • 0.33 lb Crystal 120L Malt
  • 0.2 lb American Chocolate Malt
  • 0.8 lb Roasted Barley
  • 0.33 lb Black Patent Malt
  • 0.8 oz Columbus (15%) – Boiled 60 minutes
  • S-04 Whitbread yeast


  • Mash @ 158
  • Mash out @ 171
  • Batch sparge – water alkalinity adjusted


  • Phish – Misc live


  • 7/27: Brewed on a Saturday, mostly by myself.  Tom and Jillian stopped by to get out of the rain during Buffalo Garden Walk.  Brew went extremely well – despite the low volume of the brew compared to my usual, I ended up with great efficiency around 80%.
  • I had tailor-made a fairly alkaline water profile in advance to compensate for the high percentage of (acidic) roasted malts.   During regular pH checking during the brew, I only needed to make a few minor adjustments to bring things back into line.
  • Chilled to 75F (groundwater at 72) and dropped into a swamp cooler to get below 70 degrees.  Pitched at 68, but fermentation crept back up to 72 on me.  Worried about minor off-flavors from this, but my ferm chamber will be ready in time for the re-brew.
  • 8/11: Gravity to 1.028, previously detected diacetyl all cleaned up.  Dropped into (now ready!) ferm chamber and crashed to 34 for 2 days
  • 8/13: bottled to 2.3 volumes CO2
  • 8/27: tasting notes.  Certainly still some maturity to come in the bottles, but overall this is a really delicious beer to drink.  Pours an almost inky black, which is almost completely opaque, save for the edges which have a caramel color.  Slight tan head quickly dissipates (hard to photo).  Nose is of coffee, dark chocolate and a little toffee/hazelnutty thing with a hint of alcohol.   Kind of smells like (good) dark roast iced coffee.  Taste is primarily of coffee and dark chocolate with some dark fruit and charcoal/ashy flavors from the black patent.  A little alcohol, but not distracting; a fair amount of sweetness, but not anywhere near cloying.  Some mild esters.  Full, but not “holy shit full” mouthfeel.  Overall – I’m really happy with this beer and will indulge myself with a pat on the back for coming so close to a lofty goal on a first attempt.  It’s rich, roasty and super tasty.  With a few tweaks coming in v2, this will be a home run.
  • Things I will modify: more light crystal, more roasted barley (not patent), more bitterness, more carbonation.  Ferment with a cleaner yeast (US-05) and exercise tighter control over fermentation temperature.  Will also probably age a little longer.

From → brewday

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