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How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:27 pm
by Dale Wheeler
Can anyone give me suggestions on how to modify my favorite wit recipe into in imperial version? I presume it's a little more complicated than just doubling the grain and hop bill.

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:30 pm
by Matt
I've never even heard of anyone doing an Imperial Wit. Sounds "interesting" though. Sadly, I'm no help to you.


Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 9:19 pm
by klickcue
Yeast control and oxygen.

Both are hard to work with in high gravity beer.

Start out at a lower temperature to control the fusel alcohol. Pitch a big starter of yeast. Use straight O2 and try too get the wort saturated (2 minutes). If it is really big, hit the beer again with O2 about 6 hours later.

Wits are generally rather fruity, but the above should work well. A nice clean fermented wit that lets the yeast and spices shine through.

I love this style.

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:24 am
by meisel
Boulevard brews a fine example of an Imperial Wit - Joker's Double-Wit - which I happen to like.

Chris hit it on the head when he says yeast control and oxygen. But let's elaborate a little.

One thing that needs to be remembered when attempting a big beer of any style is that you simply cannot double the malt, double the hops, etc and get a bigger version of the original. If you want things to balance you need to break down the recipe formulation process and start from the ground up. First off, I'd start with the yeast i.e. alcohol tolerance per strain and what by-products can you expect from a bigger fermentation. You may find that there are other non-wit beer yeasts that can perform a better job and still get you within the guidelines of what a big wit beer can be. I can think of several belgian strains that could get the job done and still give you the phenolics and esters you are looking for while hitting a FG that is dry enough to be palatable.

Next, start thinking of what a larger malt bill will do to hop utilization. Wits aren't hop forward beers so you may be able to simply calculate more of your favorite noble hops and go from there. Other Imperials may require hops with higher AA (say magnum compared to hallertau) in order to achieve the desired bitterness or level of BU's for your beer.

Lastly, one has to consider how to achieve a higher OG without overwhelming the yeast with fermentables. Pitching a big starter is necessary as is proper aeration and nutrients going into the fermenter. Also think of the sugars you will be fermenting. Maltose is more difficult for yeast to metabolize so consider adding a percentage of simple sugars (sucrose) after krausen has fallen in the primary. Also, control temperature until fermentation is two-thirds complete, then allow the temp to ramp up until fermentation is over. This will give the yeast a final boost so it can finish and "dry out".

I've made an imperial wit and while it was an enjoyable and interesting beer, I would do things differently if I were to try it again. I'm sure most of this info is known to you, Dale you are one of the best homebrewers I know and a big inspiration to the newer guys. Hope you find something useful here.

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 6:41 pm
by Dale Wheeler
Thanks to everyone for the advice.
I brewed the imperial wit this AM and here’s what I’ve done:
Used Promash to formulate a recipe loosely based on my regular wit.
I stepped up the 2 row, malted and flaked wheat and 20L crystal to yield 1080. I stepped up the boil hops to get 47 IBUs. This is a higher proportion of hops, but I’m scared the beer is going to end up as a syrupy mess. And I doubled the amount of coriander and bitter orange.
I mashed at 148F for 75 min, single infusion.
The OG is 1070. The bittering hops are present, but so are the spices. The balance isn’t bad, but it’s out of style for a wit. But I’m not dumping it.
I put it on top of the yeast cake from last week’s wit and gave it 10 min with the airstone (I don’t have pure oxygen. Yet.)
Basement temp is 70. Wish I could start a bit cooler, but it is what it is.
Thanks Lee also for the advice to dose with sugar in the primary. Will do. And also thanks for the undeserved praise for my brewing skills. Judging from the Brewfest offerings, we have a club full of great brewers and I've got a lot to learn to keep up.
I’ll bring this to the Dec or Jan meeting if it's any good.

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:28 pm
by klickcue
Looks good.

You might try a wet towel around your fermenter and try to keep the temperature down for a couple of days.

What yeast did you use? I like mine with a Kolsch yeast starting at 60 degrees

Mash temperature looks good and maybe 10 percent white sugar as Lee suggested.

Looks like it will turn out mighty fine :D Don't think that it will be syrupy.

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:52 pm
by meisel
+1 on the towel idea. A cooler temp will be beneficial. Maybe pull your keg out of the basement at the end of fermentation to ramp up the temp a few degrees. I'm interested to see what type of esters will be produced, mine had cantaloupe notes. I believe I used Wyeast's Wit strain. I also think this one will dry out nicely, mash temp looks good and sounds like a big pitch. I'm sure it'll be delicious :drunken:

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2009 6:06 am
by Dale Wheeler
yeast = 3944
Will use the wet towel method to cool the fermenter down a few degrees. It's pounding this morning.

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2009 6:43 pm
by Dale Wheeler
Also curious about boosting the alcohol a bit. My OG was 1070 but should have been closer to 1080. In addition to the sugar in the late primary, I'm thinking of adding something to the secondary in small stages, like honey. While the sugars won't result in the same flavor profile as a higher gravity wort, I'm still concerned about balancing the hops somewhat to style and allowing the spices to come through. Opinions?

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Tue Sep 29, 2009 9:26 am
by meisel
Personally, I wouldn't add any fermentables to the secondary. This is the stage you want the beer to clarify and any remaining yeast to drop out and go dormant. Adding sugar could create a resurgence of yeast production, create cloudiness, off flavors, etc. As far as adding sugars, I've experimented with all types of sugars, syrups, candies and even going so far as to make my own which requires a long cooking process (3hrs +) with very specific temp control. After doing some reading and tasting my results I would have to say that 90% of the time basic white sugar is going to be the best way to boost alcohol levels without creating a cloying effect on the finished product. FWIW I have never had "cidery" flavors when adding up to 20% sugar as fermentables. When I think cidery, I think of thin flavored by-products like acetaldehyde (green apple) and this is caused by uncontrolled fermentation temp. Sure a 100% sucrose beer would be desperately lacking body and wouldn't taste too good. Honey could work but add it as krausen falls in the primary, you'll have better results.

Re: How to make a recipe "imperial"?

Posted: Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:27 pm
by Jdl973
I have a walk-in cooler (about 40 degrees) with a ton of space that is available to any LBG member to lager, ferment or cold crash your beer. all you have to do is haul it into the basement and slap a label on it.

Dale, would love to try this when it is done, very cool.