Tachanka: Russian Imperial Stout Brew Day


By: CJ, 21 January 2019

carriage 'Tachanka' is the name of an improvised horse-drawn carriage mounted with a machine gun invented by Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno. This dude raised a 100,000-strong army to fight against everybody who tried to impose themselves on southern Ukraine, including *both sides* in the Russian Civil War. Makhno didn't take any shit from anyone, capitalist or communist, striving to build a stateless, worker-controlled society in his homeland. As the name for a weapon used by poor but ferocious revolutionaries, the term 'tachanka' suggests something proud, primitive, and anti-authoritarian.

makhno That's a good attitude to have in a day when 'imperial stout' seems to mean a syrupy, 15% abv beer aged in bourbon barrels on vanilla and chili peppers. More delicious than these beers is the delicious irony of naming a 'Russian imperial' stout after a weapon used to fend off an army that supported the Russian empire. My aim is a beer that, while strong, full bodied, and complex, remains drinkable and uses a relatively simple recipe. No bourbon barrels, no vanilla, no dozen-malt grain bill or 1.040 finishing gravity. Just something black, direct, and hardworking that can keep you warm in an Eastern European winter, but still leave you ready for a fight: the way Makhno would've wanted it.

To achieve this, I essentially built out from a version of the 1914 Courage Imperial Stout I've brewed before, adding some extra grains for depth, with some ingredient substitutions and compromises for availability.

Vitals

Grain


Hops


Yeast


Water


Specifications


Process

I started with a buttload of fermentables, brewing on a day when the cooling water I left out overnight had frozen a bit.

grist bags water

My water is pretty hard, but I ended up needing calcium carbonate to keep the pH in range due to all the dark grain.

chalk

I mashed at 155 for 65 minutes, then at 160 for 10, producing a beautifully dark, inky wort.

mash sweet wort

I boiled for 90 minutes, using Eureka hops because they were the highest alpha acid hop my LHBS had.

hops boiling

I went with three full packs of dry yeast to avoid needing a gigantic starter. After slowly adding chilled wort to the rehydrated yeast to temper it, the stuff was kicking by the time I pitched.

rolling yeast

I added the yeast to 60F wort, open fermenting at around 64F ambient so that the beer rose to around 70F by day 3. I primed the bottles to about 2.3 volumes, adding champagne yeast to make sure it carbed, then conditioned.

krausen

Outcome

Finished Stout
Even after only a week in the bottle, this beer was already good. With some extra time, it got even better. The beer pours black and opaque, topped by a moderately sized, extremely tight, khaki head that eventually settles to a small ring. Taken holistically, the beer reminds me of a good espresso. The aroma is strong roast/coffee and chocolate with a streak of earth and pine, though there was a hint of garlic aroma in certain bottles. The flavor follows, but with weaker roast elements. The silky body, while full, is not syrupy. It has a lingering, slightly bitter finish with a hint of vanilla. It may sound odd to say, but this imperial stout is quite drinkable: I can have a 12 oz serving without struggling to finish it or developing diabetes afterward. I'll probably play with the hops and yeast in the future, but the spirit of Makhno approves of the grist!