Aaron Evilsizor took Nov. 10 off from work to partner with brewmaster Kevin Matalucci to brew the biggest beer ever made at Broad Ripple Brewpub. Big in the sense of taste because Evilsizor's 2008 Indiana State Fair Best of Show Russian Imperial Stout has an alcohol level of 10 percent with a full rainbow of hues from first sip to final swallow. BRBP will allow the brew to age until late February and will serve it on tap paired with a menu of appetizers and entrees of winter fare, rich desserts and for "BRBP regulars and new customers" to enjoy by itself during an evening of spirited conversation in the ambiance of a British pub.
It's these mouthwatering and philosophical visions that make the extra amounts of malts and hops and longer brewing time worthwhile. Evilsizor's original homebrew recipe took him 14 hours to complete on his 10-barrel-system. Matalucci says he usually can get in and out in six hours for the 4-5 percent range of recipes he usually brews at BRBP.
"This will take longer because of the quantity of grain. The process of brewing is like making coffee. The mash tun for this beer is so full of grain you have to wait for the liquid to drain, and you have to keep stirring so all the liquid is in constant contact with all the grains to capture all the flavors.
"Aaron's recipe is wonderfully complex and will be deceptively easy to drink at 10 percent," Matalucci explains. "You want to drink it slowly. The deep fruit flavors - plum, raisins, cherry - come from the malts and the esters produced during fermentation due to the English Ale yeast Aaron has chosen."
What might sound like an oxymoron - English Ale yeast for Russian Imperial Stout - is actually an enticing bit of history and fits into Evilsizor's penchant for reading and research, and his own palate for beers with rich complexity developed during a longer fermentation process.
According to the late Michael Jackson, "Devotees of strong beer have much for which to thank Catherine the Great. The Empress of all the Russias is said to have developed a particular taste for a very high-gravity beer brewed ... originally by Anchor brewery on the river Thames at Southwark, London. 'Imperial Russian' was shipped to the Baltic from at least the 1780s until the First World War."
Evilsizor says he always enjoyed Russian Imperial Stout at microbrewer's festivals "so I thought I'd try one and see how it turned out. This is the first time I've brewed this recipe. I entered it in the 2007 State Fair Brewers Cup but it was still too fresh; it had stronger alcohol notes and didn't have deep fruit flavors. It didn't win but I entered the same recipe aged in bottles in my basement in 2008. This time it took Best of Show."
A year's aging makes a big difference in a big beer, and five more years of aging in the bottle should make Evilsizor's brew even more complex and worthy.
On Nov. 10, Evilsizor and Matalucci were just happy to be brewing together, not rushing the process, yet eagerly looking forward to late February 2009 and the celebratory tapping.
"Our regulars are quite excited by Aaron's beer," says Matalucci, for whom this is the seventh year he's brewed an Indiana State Fair Best of Show at BRBP.
"People are fascinated by big beers," Evilsizor concludes. "I'm excited about the sharing with so many more people."