Black Mountain – a seriously big brew

Late last year, the winter nights were drawing in, tastes were moving away from those light, hoppy, BBQ slammer pale ales.  Dark beers enter the fray, winter brewing starts getting planned after 6 months away from brewing due to a nightmare-ish house purchase, then… from the timeless void of space… Beerhawk had a sale… shit.!  Beer tokens were earned from homebrew equipment, extra tokens earned from writing reviews of the aforementioned equipment… lots of beer tokens in the account to be spent on… well, beer obviously.

Much perusal and sampling later, Founder’s KBS makes its way into the glass.  A big, scary, 11%, bourbon barrel-aged, Imperial breakfast stout from probably my favourite brewery; Founder’s Brewing from Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Wow.  This beer is a revelation.  If you have shied away from beers as big as this, then KBS is the beer to change your mind.  Big, smooth chocolate and bitter coffee flavours, with those bourbon notes from the barrels and a boozy, but not burning finish.  This stuff is amazing, how can I copy it?

Luckily, Google came up with loads of information on it and the American Homebrewers Association has a recipe that apparently comes from the brewer himself, a gentleman by the name of Jeremy Kosmicki, result… cheers Jez.!

As always with American Recipes, I never stick to them exactly.  I round quantities up and down to get to the kind of quantities that I use.  After all, who wants to get stuck with 27 grams of Black Malt left or 78 grams of Munich at the end of a brew?  All daft quantities that you’d end up using, just to get rid of them.  So, 458g becomes 500g, 28g becomes 30g and so on.  I also swapped a few ingredients for ones I had in, or could easily get, or just preferred… so I swapped a portion of the roasted grains for some of the debittered/dehusked ones, as I don’t like them too burnt and acrid tasting.  After much titting about, I came up with this:


The evening before brew day, I started weighing out the grains.  A full basin of whole grain Maris Otter and a big jug with all of the dark grains were filled, then I cracked on milling the Maris Otter.  A mere 13 minutes later I had rattled through all of the Maris Otter, not bad for a Corona mill.  That’s us all set for a morning start.


The next morning, I fired up the induction hob and actually set about doing something that I’d been meaning to do for 18 months, but had never got around to… I measured the dead space in my mash tun and kettle… 0.4l in my mashtun and 3.0l in my kettle.  I expected the kettle loss to be about that, but I expected a lot more from my mash tun, so I was really happy with that.  Whilst I was doing my happy dance, my strike water hit 73°C so I bunged it into the pre-warmed mash tun.


I doughed in, which seemed to take ages due to the hefty 8kg grain bill, checked the temperature was right…. It wasn’t, the time taken doughing in meant the temp had dropped to 66°C instead of the planned 68°C.  Still within an acceptable tolerance, so I decided just to leave it there.  I tucked it up in the missus’ fleecy TV blanket and left it for its hefty 2 hour sacc rest.

Several episodes of Paw Patrol and 3 cups of coffee later it was time to vorlauf, lauter and sparge.  I sparged at 78°C rather than 76°C as planned, because I was having a wee and overshot my temperature… c’est la vie… whatever… be reet.

I hit a pre-boil gravity of 1.063 which really made me realise how big a beer this is… most of the beers I brew are not even that high AFTER the boil… and I’m hardly know for my session strength beers.!  This brew was getting a 90 minute boil, which was rather tedious.  I added the hops at the beginning of the boil.  This was another cock-up, as the hops were supposed to be added at 60 minutes and some more later, but 60 minutes usually means the start of the boil…. not when it’s a 90 minute boil you tit.!  So a quick calculation of IBUs showed the best option would be just to ditch the later additions.  This is hardly going to be a hop forward beer, so not to worry.  Towards the end of the boil I added the cacao nibs and the cocoa powder which I whisked into some drawn off wort before putting back in the kettle.  Lastly, the coarsely ground Monsoon Malabar coffee went in at flame out, I left it steep for 30 mins before cooling.

I drew off a sample to check my OG and transferred into a fermenter and pitched 2 packets of US-05 that I rehydrated in 600ml of boiled and cooled water.  I bobbed the hydro into the trial jar, and BINGO… I’d hit my target OG on the nose.!  The first time I’d ever hit the target gravity without adjustment.  Another happy dance and copious fist pumping followed.  I stopped being a 5 year old shortly afterwards and tucked up the fermenter in the brew fridge with the temperature control set at 19°C

Now, normally when we do these posts, we’d already have the finished beer in front of us and start the post with a nice picture of the finished article.  Not this time.  This brew will probably take at least a couple of weeks to ferment and then its getting racked onto bourbon-soaked oak chips for a few months.  THEN it’ll be bottled and put away to condition for most of 2018.!  There will be perhaps a bottle a month taken for progress monitoring, but the bulk will be untouched until Christmas 2018.

I can’t wait to try this beer alongside the versions that the ElChemist and HisDudeness have brewed at the same time (actually Chem brewed his a couple of weeks ago, because he has no patience).  Side-by-side tastings of 4 delicious 10% stouts (we have to compare ours against the real thing) means a rather boozy winter is coming.!  Bring it.

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