Friday, September 3, 2010

OMFG - Beer Review Series - Stone Imperial Russian Stout + Cellar Tips!



The next installment of the Stone series is the Imperial Russian Stout. I was drawn to this beer for several reasons. One: I am a stout freak; I love em want em drink em bathe with em and when I saw Stone’s Russian Imperial Stout I had to try it. Secondly, it had instructions on the bottle to cellar this product. Cellar beer? Is that possible? Yes. Yes it is and this is how you do it.

A few years ago, if you asked me to try a beer that was over a year old I would tell you to water your plants with it. At that time I was partially correct; the average beer (Bud, Coors, Miller etc..) has a shelf life of 3-6 months at most then it hits the wall like Lisa Rinna. What we commonly refer to as “skunked” brew. Now, in Georgia, we have access to many alternative styles like vintage beers, barleywines, imperial stouts, Belgian strong ales, lambics, old ales and we’re talking about high alcohol beers above 7%. These high gravity beers beg for maturation and strict storage so on. Yes, age is good.

Wanna start a cellar? It’s easy. Self control is crucial; repress the demons deep inside to drink that magical beer sitting there all beautiful in the cellar as it whispers the siren song “drink me.” Next, buy 2 of each beer you want to cellar. Benchmark the flavors so when the beer ages you can have a basis for comparison. At this point, you can get really nerdy and take tasting notes, so when you try the beer again you remember the experience the first time around. I recommend keeping the beer in an upright position. Many beers in the cellaring category have corks; over a period of time corks can harbor nasty bacteria that can decimate your precious vintage brew.

Location to store is important. The temperature needs to be between 50-55 degrees F for most beers. Anything above that temperature can accelerate the aging process anything below can make the beer cloudy. In Georgia, it is near impossible to regulate a basement at 50-55 degrees; therefore, I recommend a second fridge. Yes, make yourself a man/lady-cave and get a second fridge! Keep the brew for at least a year and pop it open. Sometimes, you experience something amazing and sometimes you experience a sweet and syrupy epic failure. It’s all in how tightly you control the process and luck. Don’t forget to invite your friends over to experience the splendor of your vintage brew(s). Sorry for the beer lesson, let me get back to the Russian Imperial Stout review.

Often, I look for beers that have so much flavor it’s like a punch in the throat, but in a good way. In the case of Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout you better like a beer that wears combat boots with spikes and kicks you right in the ass. This beer pours black like a studded leather belt and is topped off with perfect mocha foam. I had to stop at this point and break out my hairspray and give myself a Fonzie pompadour because this beer looks smooth.
A beer of this complexity requires several whiffs pausing briefly to truly value the depth of bouquet. Mere comparisons to coffee or chocolate will not suffice. It would be like comparing the aroma of fresh cave-aged Gouda to Kraft singles. I was able to pick up the aroma of bitter dark chocolate, mulberry, and enough booze to tickle your sinus.

Upon first sip the mouthfeel is that of a thin smoothie with nice viscosity and full body. This is exactly what I expect from an Imperial Russian Stout. It’s like Christmas in August; some roasted malt, Warrior hops, almond, fig and Coffee. Wow coffee! Upon swallow I get that alcohol burn, the kind of burn you want from a stout. The beer is slightly bitter and boy is it roasted stout goodness. This is the perfect late fall or winter beer, but easily drinkable anytime.
This beer looks smooth and tastes smooth, but fellas be careful: the Stone Imperial Russian Stout is so good it might just kick you to the curb and make off with your girlfriend.

Cheers!

Ryan

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