Goose Island says:
“A heavily hopped imperial stout, Night Stalker is a heavyweight of a beer. It delivers a formidable punch of hops and rich roasted malt notes to the nose in a silky body that’s as dark as night.”
(Editors note: we’ve stockpiled enough Goose Island Night Stalker to review it at the two-and-a-half year and five-year mark to see how it is developing, aging and changing. Feel free to read through from a fresh tasting to the most recent review. However, if you’d like to jump around, be our guest, and read more about Goose Island Night Stalker fresh, after two-and-a-half years and five years in the cellar.)
Ryan: 10 oz’s of this hoppy wonder were poured from the taps of Sheffield’s Beer School Bar. Served in a barleywine style glass, Night Stalker is pitch black in color with just a fingers worth of beige head.
The nose is full of hops. Loads of them.
Somewhere past the hops is some splendid notes of coffee and chocolate. At least, I assume they are there. I can’t really pick them up because the hop presence is so overwhelming.
The taste is a mix of citrus and piney hops along with chocolate and coffee. This is a very well-balanced, overly hopped, Russian Imperial Stout. It is very reminiscent of Bell’s Expedition Stout, Surly Darkness and Victory’s Storm King Stout. Those three and the Night Stalker have the flavor profile that makes a RIS great along with a truck load of hops.
While I love the hoppiness of this beer I have two bottles in the cellar that I am going to set aside for a while. I would like to see how this beer develops and what more may be hiding beneath the hops.
Ryan: When drank fresh this is a formidable hop-monster of a Russian Imperial Stout. The nose is full of nothing but strong, overbearing and dominate hops. And the palate isn’t much different. You can tell there are some deeper, darker flavors lurking in the deep. Would they come out, ever?
As I noted above, a few years ago, I would put this in the same vein as Bell’s Expedition, (at least some variations of) Surly Darkness and Victory’s Storm King. All are big, angry hoppy imperial stouts.
Also noted above was that I had two bottles stashed away. The plan was to open one bottle after two-and-a-half years in the cellar and the other bottle at the five-year mark. I actually managed to stick to that plan. And after two-and-a-half years in the cellar, Night Stalker morphs in to a vastly different beer than what it was fresh.
Long gone are the hops. And I don’t mean they faded some or its bite isn’t as noticeable. The hops have up and vanished. And they have been replaced by rich and delicate flavors of fresh roasted coffee beans and moist chocolate cake. The nose of a two-and-a-half year old Night Stalker exudes nothing but coffee, reminiscent of our Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout side-by-side a little while back. Take a sip and you get a bit more balance. There is plenty of coffee, mind you, but your also greeted by large forkfuls of German chocolate cake; moist and creamy.
You’ll catch a little bit of booze on the finish, but overall this beer drinks incredibly smooth and would pair very well with just about any dessert you’d place alongside it.
Rich, flavorful and downright awesome.
Karl: When Ryan cracked this one open, I thought “Wow…is this actually a Bourbon County Coffee with a switched label?” The BCS series gets the vast lions share of the press, and rightfully so, but that comes at the expense of taking the spotlight off of another equally awesome offering, that being the Night Stalker.*Because holy hell is this one smooth, rich, flavorful, amazing beer. Especially with two-and-a-half years of calming age on it.
Pouring thick, velvet-smooth and fragrant with hints of coffee beans, the Night Stalker (despite the intimidating name) is a supremely comforting beer. It’s like a quilt for your insides. Thick, pillow-y, hefty and sweet, the Night Stalker almost cocoons you with stout-y awesomeness and begs you to climb inside and take a nap. Not that it takes that much during this summer full of heat-wave temps and 100-degree-plus days, but man did this beer make me want winter back and a warm fire to drink this by.
Spend an hour or two sipping your way through one of these, as you’ll want to make it last.
*(I could further argue that pretty much anything Goose does with the word “Stout” in the title will be at least amazing, what with the equal awesomeness of Big John, but I digress.)
Andrew: When we convene for a tasting, we usually have a very clear agenda of what we will be sampling. But, at the end of the night, Ryan will routinely pull a surprise out of the cellar, and it’s usually something big and bad (bad meaning good…) with Karl threatening to punch Ryan in the arm.
Anyway, in this case Ryan brought out a bottle of Goose Island’s Night Stalker from 2010, and not only was it a great surprise, it also may have been the best beer of the night.
This was a huge beer – dark, thick, creamy and boozy as all get out. The hops were all but gone, leaving behind heavy coffee flavor to go along with some sweet, caramel malts.
Ryan: After looking back at my review of a two-and-a-half year old pour of Goose Island Night Stalker it feels like its been forever since I sampled this beer. A long 912.5 days. So what’s happened over the last couple of years? Quite a bit.
This beer isn’t quite as decadent as it was at the 2.5 year mark. It’s not quite as rich, however it has held up very well in the cellar.
Herbal coffee notes and a frothy, malted milkshake start things off on the nose — a far cry from the coffee dense aroma of a 2.5 year pour. Take a sip and you’re hit with some milk chocolate, a quick sip of an iced coffee, french vanilla creamer and a slightly bitter french roast coffee finish. Let it warm a bit and you’ll catch a savory bite of sweet potato and brown sugar in the finish, washing over the undertone of bitter coffee.
The carbonation is still lively, surprisingly, and the body is still pretty dense. There’s a slight alcohol burn that settles in about a third of the way through the bottle, but all things considered that burn is pretty mild.
Five years in the cellar have done this beer well. I can’t quite say this beer has peaked so If you’re holding on to any bottles of this, let it go for a bit longer and see what happens. Although if I had my druthers I’d take Goose Island Night Stalker closer to that two-year mark.