Russian Imperial Stout
"There's no question that Stone Imperial Stout is revered among enthusiasts," states Stone CEO Greg Koch. "I know, because I'm one of 'em and I can hardly wait for it to come out each year!" Some may think that a late Spring release for a special brew of this sort is an odd time for it to come out onto the market. Koch justifies this with the rationalization "What better than a warm time of year to come out with a brew that tastes great as it warms up!" That's because "ice cold" is certainly not the appropriate way to serve the beer. Nearly without exception, the darker, richer and more alcoholic a brew is, the warmer the serving temperature should be. The Stone Imperial Stout label describes the brew as being "intensely aromatic (notes of anise, black currants, coffee, roastiness and alcohol) and heavy on the palate...expect this mysterious brew to pour like used motor oil and taste even heavier! Serve at 55 degrees."
I guess I should comment on what an Imperial Russian Stout is. So here is my short rundown on stouts.
Back in the day when England was shipping stouts and porters to the czars in Russia the beers were spoiling in the heat along the long shipping route around Africa. So in order to keep these beers from spoiling they make them stronger in alcohol to reserve them on the journey. I would assume that the Czars also liked the warming effect of these beers. Hence the name Imperial Russian Stout or sometimes you will see Russian Imperial Stout. You can safely bet that any time you see “Imperial” in a beer name it has a higher alcohol content.
Pours black, solid black completely opaque there may be a slight tinge of some color on the bottom of the glass but it is black, Stout Black as some would say. It produced a dark rich tan head very thick and creamy.
The nose is DARK ROASTED MALTS. That classic stout dark, some chocolate, almond notes as well. Very alluring I can’t wait to dive into this one.
WOW, that’s a stout! Very rich and creamy, your tongue is just coated with rich roasted malts, caramel, thick rich and creamy by the time you get to the swallow you can feel the alcohol as it leaves a very warming finish. You are still left with that lingering roasted malt taste as most stout’s will do but you can feel the warmth down to your chest. Gee and that was all from the first sip.
The head is down to a thin but dense coating on the top of the beer with lacing on the glass that is extremely impressive. You can clearly see how much beer was consumed with each sip by the rings of lacing left on the glass.
This is a big beer at 10.5% ABV. This is one I’m going to take a while to consume and savor every moment. It is a very thick beer or full bodied. With each sip your mouth is just coated with rich roasted malts. For a stout lover it doesn’t get much better than this.
As the beer opens up and warms up you pick up something different with every sip. Like a lot of stouts the roasted malts and ale yeast give you very complex arrangements of flavors. Of course roasted, almost smoky barley flavor then there is some caramel and nutty types of flavors and some coffee and chocolate notes as well. Very complex and very enjoyable.
I chose a typical stout glass for this but you could easily have chosen a brandy snifter. This is one of those sit back and relax types of experiences. The alcohol in the beer is also very interesting. It’s there and it lets you know it’s there but you don’t taste the alcohol in this beer, you feel it. I don’t mean as it goes to your head, well that will probably come when I finish the 22oz bottle but this beer has a very relaxing warming effect. It might sound silly but it’s almost therapeutic.
The other thing I didn’t mention about this beer is the bitterness. There is no hop bitterness to this beer, the hops are just enough to cut some of the malts down a little so the beer is not too syrupy. The bitterness in the beer if you want to call it that comes from the roasted malts. It’s kind of like the charred outside of a good steak cooked on the grill. You know that little bit of black caramelized scorch marks. That’s the type of bitterness in this beer.
The end of that first glass was at room temperature 69 degrees and it still tasted pretty good. There was just a little harshness or bitterness at the end but all and all still phenomenal for a room temperature brew.
I did choose a brandy snifter for the second glass (the remainder of the 22oz bottle). The snifter vs. the tumble really doesn’t add or subtract much from this beer. Whoever if you are drinking a big beer like this one at 10.5 % AVB, you may want a snifter, it’s more of a mental thing. Sometimes it is easier to consume a big beer in smaller samples, one at a time rather than pouring it into one large glass.
Well not that I’m getting to the bottom of this snifter I am starting to feel the alcohol and not just the warming effects.
This is a phenomenal Imperial Russian Stout. I’d have to give this one an A+, not sure if I’m going to give an O for Outstanding so I’ll leave it an A+. Truly this one of the best for an Imperial Russian Stout.