Peaks and Valleys: Stone Imperial Russian Stout

In Cellared Beer Reviews by Ryan

Peaks and Valleys is a new feature at Guys Drinking Beer and will serve as a home for cellared beer reviews that don’t quite warrant a traditional post but still warrant an update.

We’ve had a long and storied relationship with Stone Imperial Russian Stout. It was one of the first beers we reviewed when we began the site in the spring of 2010. In fact, the site’s launch coincided with the Stone Beer Week in Chicago and — regrettably — April Fool’s Day.

The first Stone Imperial Russian Stout cellar review was of a one-year-old bottle, in which we noted aromas of “chocolate, toffee & a touch of hops,” followed by flavors of “cocoa, caramel and toffee.” It was our first foray into beer writing and into cellaring beer, really.

Our second go-round with this beer was a five-year vertical covering bottles from 2009 to then present-day, 2013. We liked the freshest pour the best but appreciated the consistency of the beer throughout all five years (save for a funky bottle from 2011).

The flavors of the fresh were certainly more aggressive, but to a certain extent they were there throughout the 2012-2009, just turned down like you would a radio volume knob.
The oldest pour of the bunch, the 2009 bottle, was — lacking. It was nice and roasty,  but that was about it. “It’s fair to say that this has fallen off somewhat, with a one-note taste of roast and none of the complexity that we were hoping for,” we said at the time.

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So what then would become of that 2008 bottle I had been holding on to and purposely held out of the five-year vertical? Would it remain one-note? Would it fade even more?

The answers are no and no.

A six-year-old bottle of Stone Imperial Russian Stout retains the pleasant roastiness we smelled and tasted in previous aged bottles, but the 2008 pour had some added complexity. There was a distinct peanut butter aroma on the nose that carried over to the flavor and nearly overtook the beer. Black licorice and dark chocolate were also prominent in the aroma however only the former crossed in to the flavor profile. The black licorice was nowhere to be found but the creamy chocolate balanced out the peanut butter nicely.

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The alcohol was well hidden, spelling out a smooth and fairly easy drinking Russian Imperial Stout despite its nearly 11% ABV. The finish was dry with a hint of orange peel — which again played nicely with the aforementioned chocolate and peanut butter.

Clearly our five-year vertical wasn’t enough to determine at what point this beer peaks (which is purely subjective anyway, but I digress) because a six-year-old-pour was head and shoulders above any beer sampled in that vertical — a fresh Stone Imperial Russian Stout included.

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About the Author



Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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