Calamity Returns: Reiteration of a Russian Imperial Pastry Stout

This is the recipe reiteration of the original Calamity Grain Stout as featured on episode 69 “Sunshine, Hop Dreams and Disastrous Days” on the Experimental Brewing Podcast. Give it a listen or read the full story here.

Last week I got together with my good buddy Brian to brew yet another supped up stout. I’m not in love with pastry stouts. Brian says its because I haven’t had a really good one. That may be true.

This recipe is the third version of the original “Calamity Grain“. We keep tweaking it.

Recipe (21 liters) 5.5 gallons 

Grain n’ Stuff 

  • Pale Ale (10kg) 22lbs
  • Rolled Oats (7kg) 15.4lbs     
  • Munich Malt (4kg) 8.8lbs
  • CaraBohemian (500g) 1lb
  • Castle Chocolate (500g) 1lb
  • Chocolate Rye (500g) 1lb  *239 Lovibond
  • Midnight Wheat (500g) 1lb *500 Lovibond
  • Carafa I (250g) 1/2lb
  • Roasted Barley (250g) 1/2lb 
  • Rice Hulls (500g) 1lb 

*Metric to Imperial unit conversions are approximate and are “good enough” for reproduction. 


  • Magnum pellets 140g at 90 minutes   


*I prefer to use Danstar’s Nottingham but this combo slurry is what I had on hand. You’re probably not going to find Angel yeast outside of China.


  • Total volume was reverse osmosis
  • CaCl 8g
  • NaHCO3 (baking soda) 6g 

I use nearly reverse osmosis (RO) water. I have a combination of filters. The primary function of my filters it to render it potable for daily consumption. The secondary benefit is that it is “nearly” RO. I intend to investigate the efficacy of my filters on a basic level with a total dissolved solids (TDS) meter in the future.

I use the EZ water calculator to determine my mash pH and water content. So far I am hitting really close to the projected pH. I take this fact to support my hunch that my water is close to RO.

The way I approach water adjustments is not ideal. It is my best option given the circumstances. Adjusting water without actually knowing what is in it is not the best way to do things. On the other hand, if you have the guts and time you can adjust to taste. Which after all is a good reason to adjust water in the first place.  

All “salts” added to the mash with roasted malts. 


We conducted two separate mashes simultaneously.

Oat Mash

One mash included all 7 kg of the oats, 5 kg (11 lbs) of the pale ale malt, and the rice hulls. 

The oats where pre-boiled for 7 minutes. There’s nothing magic about 7 minutes. We pre-boiled because the oats where not instant or quick but where either rolled or cut. I’m still not sure that our boil was necessary but don’t think it hurt anything at all. 

The oat mash went through the following regimen:

38-40° C for 20 minutes for de-gumming. 

55-58° C for 15 minutes (protein rest). 

70-72° C mash for 20 minutes then mash out at 77° C for 5 minutes.

Roast Mash

This one was a single infusion at 70-72 °C for 60 minutes. This one contained everything except the oats and a portion of the base malt. 

*I forgot to check pH 

Squeeze the bag! 


Boiled for 4 hours. I don’t think this is necessary but our volume was too high so it became necessary. We separated a portion into a small pot to try and get it to caramelize. I think that at points this actually did caramelize but it wasn’t the whole boil as we kept topping up the small pot with wort from the kettle.


The whole contents of the main kettle was transferred onto a nice n’ healthy yeast cake that had just finished up am oatmeal stout. The “caramelized” portion was set aside and added on the fourth day of fermentation. 

I chilled the wort to 17 °C and set my chamber to 18°. Misfortune struck (actually my poor judgement) and the chamber couldn’t keep up with the temp. I recently turned my keezer out to pasture by putting it in the role of a fermentation chamber. It couldn’t handle the heat. Fermentation got up to 22° C at which time I transferred it to a backup fridge and set the regulator to 20° C. This was around the time that fermentation was peaking on the third day. I’m unsure if chilling was a bad idea. I maybe should have left it at 22° C and let it finish out. I still haven’t looked into this. I think now that with a beer this big I should have left it at a higher temp instead of risking a stuck fermentation. After five days I bumped the temperature back up to 22° C. I left it there for two weeks total then took it out and set it in my basement which is a cool 1

*I have at times made and effort to use the “F-word” and give temps in both Imperial and Metric units. I apologize for the unholy matrimony of systems in this post but I’ve gotten tired of making conversions. I personally wish we’d all just use the metric system. 

Gravities and ABV

Original Gravity 1.166

Gravity at six days was 1.063-ish. Lots of yeast still in suspension

Final Gravity 1.069 (I took a sample from the keg and let is sit out for a day then took a hydrometer reading)

Alcohol by volume: 12.7% 

*I use the formula OG-FG x 131 for abv calculations. 

First check (degrees plato) 

Tasting and Other thoughts

Chocolate. Maybe a bit too roasty for my taste. Just enough hops to BALANCE the malt sweetness and age gracefully so as not to end up with something utterly cloying down the road. Just looking at the OG and FG I would have guessed this beer to be sickly sweet. Surprisingly, it works. 

The mouthfeel is spot on. Thick, silky and pillowy combine to make it quite a treat! The oats did there magic. I think I’m right in thinking that the high FG makes the beer taste thick. 

Nice stubborn head.  Best I’ve had one of these dessert stouts so far. 

We’re going to dose it with about 150mls of bourbon that had oak soaking in it and perhaps do some maple and vanilla variations.

More Calamity

This brew wasn’t without its own disaster. It had to live up to its name I suppose. When buddy Brian and I went to keg it, we discovered that the bottom 3 ½ gallons was sludge. It was very strange and still has me befuddled. I didn’t cold-crash it but had it sitting at 15° C for a week so pretty much all the junk should have precipitated. After all the effort of brewing a high gravity monster we ended up with only 2-ish gallons of beer. At least it’s delicious.

This is a shot of the sludge in a glass. It doesn’t display very well its thick and murky nature.

Next Time Ice It 

As an aside, I’m keen to try brewing up a high gravity beer via the brilliant and simplistic method of freezing. Ice stout any anyone? I’ve got the advantage of living overseas. No legal issue concerning distillation! I’m free to freeze.

Ice beers have the advantages of not having to max out my brew system just to get a big beer. Also no fermentation issues. I end up with less final product but also have less investes in it. And lets be honest, at 13-15% abv, a little goes a long way.

Comments are welcome! 

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