Oaked Belgian Imperial Wheat Stout: say that three times! Or just shorten it with “Allagash Odyssey Clone”.
Odyssey happens to be my favorite non-sour from Allagash. Essentially, it is a big stout, brewed with a healthy portion of wheat, fermented with belgian yeast, and aged in new American Oak barrels for some amount of time. I highly recommend trying this beer – my first taste of it precluded the recent belgiany-stout rash that seems to be going around, so it will always be special to me.
A few years back Rob Todd, owner of Allagash, was at a “Meet The Brewer” type event at the South Philadelphia Taproom. I kept gushing about how much I loved Odyssey, so after encouragement from my wife and prodding via text from Brett, I worked up the nerve to walk up to Mr Todd, tell him how much I loved Odyssey, and ask him how to brew it.
“I can’t tell you that, it’s secret! … Just kidding” he began with. He proceeded to give me an array of pointers which got me on the right track to brewing a similar beer. It was an awesome experience, and Rob Todd is a straight up awesome dude.
My general notes from my conversation with Rob:
- A lot of cane sugar; cheap and easily fermentable to ensure dryness
- Roughly approaching it like a stout in terms of proportions of roasted grains – but trying for a pretty even (40/60 or 50/50) ratio of wheat to 2-row/pale
- Belgian Wheat (not wit) yeast strain that will give good phenolics & mild spices while playing off the wheat, and being able to ferment a high gravity beer
- Age a portion on New American Oak (American oak is more vanilla-y & aggressive than French oak) and the rest in stainless (and then blend)
Since this was going to be such a big beer (10+% ABV) and I had just used Wyeast 3942 Belgian Wheat, I decided to dump the wort on top of the used yeast cake from my Belgian Mild. I generally try to target 6 gallons at the end of the boil, getting 5.5 gallons into the fermentor on most of my beers, so this recipe reflects that.
- 9lb US 2-Row (42%)
- 7lb 8oz white wheat malt (35%)
- 1lb roasted barley (5%)
- 8 oz Belgian debittered black malt (2%)
- 3.5 oz flaked barley (1%)
- 2 lbs sugar (9%)
- 1 lb light dried malt extract (because I missed gravity)
- 6 oz wheat malt extract (because I missed gravity)
- Wyeast 3942 – Belgian Wheat
- .7 oz Galena (14.1 AA%) at 60 minutes
- .4oz Hallertau Hersbrucker (3.8 AA%) at 5 minutes
I had major efficiency issues with this batch. I inadvertantly opened up the rollers on my grain mill too much, and ended up with a pre-boil gravity off by nearly 14 points! To compensate, I added 6oz wheat DME and 1lb light DME and boosted the sugar to 2 pounds (from 1.5.) The DME & extra sugar helped close the gravity gap a bit – my OG ended up only being 4 points off (1.085.) I fermented this batch at 68, using a chest freezer with a temperature regulator. This strain has a range up to 74, but I really wanted to keep the phenolics to a minimum.
After 12 days fermenting (very vigorously, very quickly – I had to rely on a blowoff for this batch) I was down to 1.016. At this point, I transferred into a corny keg and added the oak. I used 2 oz of American Oak cubes from Williams Brewing (Boiling in water for 15 minutes to sanitize.) I aged this keg for 8 months at basement temperatures (for me, mid 60s in the winter), the final 2 being at 55 (back into the chest freezer.)
The final verdict? I loved this beer. Rich mouthfeel, pleasant roastyness, excellent head retention. Unfortunately, I don’t think it tasted very much like Odyssey – the phenolics in this beer were much more pronounced. I actually think it tasted a lot like the Stone Belgo IRS (the last iteration – not the current one spiced with Anise, which I find to be quite vile.) In hindsight, I wish I would have bottled the majority of this batch to make it last longer – it was too easy to pour off 6 oz at a time from the tap for tastes “just to make sure it still tasted right.” I’ll definitely brew this again – hopefully hitting my gravity marks – though I might ferment it a few degrees cooler, using a big starter rather than a yeast cake, which I think would make it more Odyssey-esque.