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.

Ingredients:

  • 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.