This was the third or four homebrew I made...the following details are from memory, as I try to reconstruct my homebrew history. The details are a little thin, as are the tasting notes, but in an effort to try to be as complete as possible w/ my brewing history, I present you with the following...
Ordered the extract + specialty grains kit from Midwest, w/ dry yeast. Brew day was likely sometime in late October. Did a concentrated boil in my 5 gallon stockpot, and likely didn't get as much utilization due to this. Added 1lb of lactose at flameout, chilled to pitching temp, poured through funnel, topped up to 5.5 gallons w/ cold tap water (which served as my only aeration), pitched the dry yeast of Munton's ale yeast that was included, put the fermenter in the living room, so I could keep an eye on the airlock. Noticed just a little movement the following morning. Happy that fermentation had started quickly on this high gravity brew.
Went away for a few days to visit family, to return on a Sunday early evening to a beerxplosion.
The 6.5 gallon plastic fermentation vessel blew its top, and was now proudly seated in the middle of the sofa, gunk side up (thank god). Found the airlock, completely clogged with crystallized wort, trub and yeast...also on the sofa. There was krausen/beer up the wall, on the HDTV, floor, stone tile coffee table, CEILING. it was everywhere. The krausen looked like it had fallen. I considered for a minute just dumping it, figuring that it was probably infected (open air/gone stale, lactose, etc.), and ruined.
I didn't. Thought, if nothing else, would be a good learning experience to see where I might be able to detect when/where things would turn for the worse. I replaced the cover, fixed a clean airlock, wiped everything down in the living room (several times) with a cloth soaked in warm water. Thank the lord the beerxplosion trajectory somehow avoided most soft/fabric surfaces, save a few malty spots on the sofa. There is still a faint spot on the ceiling that bears the mark of that day.
A few days later, I added the packet of dry champagne yeast, as contained in the kit, to close out any remaining fermentables. No action in the airlock, so I don't think this actually added anything. Consulting the various homebrew forums as well as Designing Great Beers come to this consensus. Racked to secondary about a week later, conditioned until the bottling date.
As this was early in my homebrew career, I didn't have enough bottles. So I went to the Modern Homebrew Emporium to pick up some 22oz bottles. this hurt me, but I didn't know how long it would take me to get/clean enough larger bottles. I bit the bullet and laid down the cash for this and an additional case of 12oz bottles. I felt like a total dick walking out of the store with three cases of empty bottles, less ~50 bucks, but still happy that I was going to get to bottle the batch.
Racked to bottling bucket w/ the included corn sugar from the kit, which was boiled w/ ~1 cup of water. Bottled on 12.22.07.
Popped a few about a month later. Carbonation was good (sorry to not be more descriptive, it was a year ago...). Flavor was...well, ok, not what I was hoping for. Some evidence of hot alcohol, great hop bitterness, but not on the level of what was expecting, given comparison tasting of old rasputin. Lactose sweetness lent a great creaminess, different than the sweetness that is provided by the malt. Given the recommendation for extended aging, I was semi-pleased, but hoping for so much more.
Tried some bottles mid-summer, some improvement, hops were hanging in the background, but lacked the real complexity I was hoping for.
~One year later, I opened a few bottles at the yearly Greene family Christmas party, on ...they are quite good now.
A thick dark tan/light brown head rises about 1.5 fingers on a 10 oz pour. Persists for a good while, settles to a small cap, never totally receding. Always present, but doesn't indicate overcarbonation. This beer is black. Of course it is, its an imperial stout. maybe faint red highlights at the edges, can't really tell.
Raisiny up front on the nose (Esther was the first to say this), some malty sweetness. Hints of coffee, bakers chocolate as well. Little hairs raised up on the back of my neck in anticipation...the complexity I hoped for had clearly developed with time, not to mention...no infection has taken hold.
First sip reveals excellent body, no doubt from that lactose, and the lower fermentability of the darker LME. Mostly dark chocolate flavor, back up prominently by stewed prunes, lightly boozed soaked dark cherries on the palate balances by a smooth hop bitterness, low level of flavor, minimal aroma. Just a whisper of alcohol, which helped with the drinkability. Poured this twice for myself. Had a moutful of Brendan's glass of perspective (a fine session dry stout, nitro can of Guinness), then back to my glass of the ICS, to revel in what might not have been, if I had just dumped this a year ago. Couldn't wipe the smile off my face.
This really revitalized the in process batch of RIS, and renewed my confidence in using dry yeast. I had to 'talk' to people about this, as it consumed my thoughts.