One of the other highlights of our visit to 4 Paws Brewing last month — beyond the tour, talking shop, drinking tank beer and splitting a five-year vertical of Stone Imperial Russian Stout — was drinking this beer. And I couldn’t be any less excited about it.
While we were hanging out with the folks at 4 Paws (which you can read more about here), we thought we’d take the opportunity to crack into something fun from the cellar.
Something like five bottles of Stone Imperial Russian Stout:
Ryan had a few bottles of this high-powered beer from Stone that had been burning a hole in his pocket. See what happens after a full 5 years in the cellar:
“A huge Imperial Stout based on our best seller. Thick, Black as Tar and Brewed with 6 different malts and Barley flakes and Magnum Hops. The rest is a secret.”
Atwater VJ Black
Russian Imperial Stout, 11% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
RYAN: I have had an up and down relationship with the inspiration for this beer, Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter. I was thoroughly disappointed at my first introduction to the VJP – which summarily exploded when I opened the bottle spewing beer everywhere. But my second go-round was much less dramatic and much tastier.
“The taste is similar to scooping up the last bit of vanilla ice cream from the bottom of your bowl.”
Needless to say I was jazzed to sample an imperial version of the porter in big, bold stout form. Continue reading
“A dark and robust beer brewed in the traditional stout method. Teddy Bear Kisses features an abundance of dark malts and high alpha hops for a powerful impact of roast, chocolate, and sweet bitterness. The lucky few who cuddle up to a warming session with Teddy Bear Kisses sense the velvety malt character, balanced bitter intensity, and soothing chocolate notes created by long aging on fair trade cocoa nibs. Teddy Bear Kisses will make you feel warm and happy inside, but it’s definitely not your childhood cuddle toy.”
Upland Teddy Bear Kisses
Russian Imperial Stout, 10.2% ABV
Karl: I think we can all agree on this: If there were an award for “creepiest beer name,” Teddy Bear Kisses would win hands down. Something about that imagery is just…well, odd. I’m sure the brewers didn’t have Pedobear in mind when they came up with the name for this beer, but what are the chances that calling it “I Have Candy In My Van” also made the short list?
(Note to self: Pitch Clown Shoes on brewing “I Have Candy In My Van”. Don’t know why that seems to make sense, but it kinda does.)
Anyways. Continue reading
“Once brewed in Britain for the Russian Czars, this tremendously rich and thick ale uses a profusion of burnt and caramel malts. A massive mouthful of dark roasted malt and coffee flavors finishes with hints of chocolate, caramel & licorice.”
Specher Brewmaster’s Premium Reserve Russian Imperial Stout
Russian Imperial Stout, 8.5% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
Editors Note: This review and several of the ones that follow it are part of a stockpile of tasting notes that have been siting in our notebooks for months that we just haven’t had time to get to. Sure, some of these reviews may not be as timely as we had originally hoped but they are still – somewhat – deserving of a spot in the annals of GDB.
RYAN: This is the third installment in what has become a gold mine of Sprecher limited release beers that I wandered in to and am finally getting around to telling you about. Previously, I wrote about the IPA2 and Maibock. This time around it’s the Russian Imperial Stout.
The Russian Imperial Stout may be one of my favorite styles of beer. It’s big, it’s bold – sometimes it’s boozy and other times more restrained. What I have found, more often than not though, is that the style can sometimes be a one or two note beer. Don’t get more wrong; I love bold coffee and dark chocolate flavors – but sometimes I need something more. Sprecher’s Russian Imperial Stout is most certainly more. Continue reading
KARL: When I first heard about Dark Lord Day in probably 2006 or so, it was a time far in advance of my craft beer epiphanies, a time when I was barely aware of things like porters and IPAs, let alone something like a Russian Imperial Stout. Indeed, Dark Lord was the only example of the style I’d ever heard of at all, and making it available only on one single day during the year was a fun way of getting a little press for a crazy beer style and a little exposure for this microbrewery called Three Floyds, which was apparently just over the Illinois border from me in Muenster, Indiana. I liked the idea. It seemed like a good time.
Now, I should probably preface this whole piece by saying this: I’ve never been to a Dark Lord Day. So take all the following words with that particularly large grain of salt. But I prefer to think that it means I can look at the situation with a bit of distance. Further, I don’t like crowds, I especially don’t like completely wasted crowds (you can generally find me hiding out in some lonely undisclosed location every St. Pats and New Years) and I don’t particularly enjoy being made to jump through hoops to get things. That’s who I am as a person, and as such I’m the first to admit that maybe Dark Lord Day has never been for me. And considering we didn’t particularly love our foray into Dark Lord the beer, maybe all of this is for the best.
But allow me to continue. Continue reading
“A cocoa infused Imperial Stout – Opaque black in color with a dark brown head. Big chocolate aroma with notes of espresso, blackstrap molasses, dark sweet toffee and dark fruit. Smooth dark chocolate backbone with complex notes of coffee, dark toffee and dark fruit.”
Foothills Sexual Chocolate
Russian Imperial Stout, 9.75% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
Karl: Let’s jump right into this one, shall we? Because holy crap, was this beer more bitter on first glance than I expected. I had to go back and check the bottle to find that it had a very surprising 85 IBUs packed into this Imperial Stout. It’s almost like a hefty black IPA, where something went wrong and got mutated and turned into a monster version of itself.
Give it a second though, sit back, take a deep breath, and relax. Come back to the Sexual Chocolate. You might just find, as I did, that your palate just had to adjust a little bit, to dial itself into the Sexual Chocolate, to find itself ready for its relative darkness, its chocolaty flavors, its maltyness, its slowly-receding hoppiness. It’s sultry, smoky and smooth, like jazz music on an old radio late at night, DJ’ed by an old guy with a raspy voice and a lot of smarmy character.
Take a bottle of this to a fondue restaurant and you’ll most certainly get some action. Continue reading
Three Floyds says:
“A demonic Russian Style Imperial Stout, brewed with Intelligensia coffee Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar this beer defies description, available one day a year in April at the brewery, Dark Lord Day.”
Three Floyds Dark Lord
Russian Imperial Stout, 15% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
Karl: Here’s the majority of my notes upon ingesting my very first taste of the hoarded, much-desired, almost-impossibly-hard-to-get Russian Imperial Stout, Three Floyd’s “Dark Lord,” 2k9 edition.
“That’s kinda fucked up.”
I could leave it at that, but believe me, I really wanted to like Dark Lord. Nay, I wanted to love it. I wanted to believe that it was worth the wait the hassle, that it wasn’t entirely style over substance, that it wasn’t a manipulation of capitalism’s market scarcity that made it so heavily hunted. I wanted the beer to not only be worth my wait, but also the waits of every person who stood in line in Munster, ever person who got shafted out of it by bad distribution plans (ie: not being able to count), by the a-holes who sell this stuff on Ebay for crazy stupid prices.
Here’s what it was: Thick. A hot mess of an “all-in” brew, as though they looked at the recipes for every Russian Imperial and said “let’s just throw a bunch of stuff in there and see what happens.” It’s raisin-y and dark and boozy and no one flavor sticks out, no single thing stands up and takes notice in this beer, it’s just an amalgamation of flavors and scents and impressions mixed into a syrupy alcoholic goo. Continue reading
“This massive Russian Imperial Stout brings waves of flavors; chocolate, cherries, raisins, coffee, and toffee. We add a touch of hops to make this delicious brew even tastier.”
Russian Imperial Stout, 10.3% ABV
Last year I almost missed out on Surly’s monstrously awesome Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness. I was late to the game and by the time I realized it was tapped – it was gone. Thankfully, Jake Melnick’s still had some on tap and I was able to snag two pours before it was gone for the year. This time around I was on top of things. More accurately, people and bars on twitter helped keep me on top of things.
A handful of bars had tapped Darkness or had killed their lone keg of Darkness when I heard, by word of mouth (sooooo 2006), that Bad Apple on Lincoln had it available. So I rounded up Frequent Commenter Ben (you’ve got a nickname!) and headed over there on a Thursday night.
I recall the ’09 version of Darkness being a hopped-up Russian Imperial Stout, reminiscent of Bell’s Expedition Stout or Victory’s Storm King Stout. The ’10 edition was much smoother. The hops were still there, but they hung in the finish giving way to some outstanding flavors. Continue reading
“Are you ‘The Guys?!’”
We sheepishly grinned and responded, “that’s us,” at Cliff Eihnorn, co-owner of the Twisted Spoke in Chicago, approached us from behind the bar. A week ago we didn’t know Cliff. We knew his bar, quite well actually, but we didn’t know him. So how did we get from being total strangers to sharing a three year vertical with the guy? Well it’s kind of a long story, you see my cousin’s barber works down the street fro…who am I kidding – it was through Twitter.
After seeing they had Blackout Stout on tap we jokingly responded that we would be by at some point and might smuggle in a bottle of ’09 from the cellar for a side-by-side comparison. Cliff, although we didn’t know it was him at the time, shot back with, “Let me know when and I’ll add an ’07 for a proper vertical.”
I haven’t had a view of such Stout-y Richness since Ryan dragged out the full growler of KBS or our trip to the Sheffield’s Goose Island event where we completely overdosed on Bourbon County Stout. Before us was practically a tic-tac-toe board of Blackout Stout ranging from ‘07 to fresh on draft, and there would be no cat’s game to be had. We all won.