Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Posts Tagged ‘russian imperial stout’

Bell’s Expedition Stout – 2007 & 2008

Posted by jwpiper on June 29, 2009

It’s a warm summer night (but the coolest all week), and I’ve got a taste for something rich, sweet, and complex. I’ve been wanting to do a side-by-side of some cellared Expedition with a fresher batch. The batches selected are 8183 and 8864, which Bell’s has so responsibly provided a webpage to decode: they were bottled on September 25, 2007 and December 8, 2008, about 21 and 7 months ago, respectively. Poured at cellar temp.

2008 Expedition Stout

Appearance
5
Pitch black and thick – not Dark Lord thick, but very heavy and viscous. The head is a light mocha color and pours to several cm over a 6 oz pour. It sticks around leaving a haze on top of the black liquid beneath.
Smell
4
As expected, a deep roasted flavor with hints of coffee. More raw and boozy. Elements of grassy hops, when sniffed after it’s older brother.
Taste
4
The roasted malts are so strong – without much booze and definite warmth. The hop finish is still present and a bit grassy as in the aroma. This truly is a complex beer which still hasn’t 100% come together yet. This just seems so raw and disjoint when next to the 2007. A real detriment to this beer since it is usually so delicious in its own right. Makes me hesitate to every do a real, side-by-side RIS tasting.
Mouthfeel
4.5
Exemplary thick smoothness with just enough carbonation prickle to clean it up in the finish. Not chewy or heavy.
Drinkability
4
Come on – in truth this is a sipper. But a delicious one. It might be tough to get through two of these.
Overall
4.25
A fine beverage. I would’ve listed it as on of my top beers, but having its year older counterpart is making this one a bit harder to enjoy. It may have ruined me to fresh Expedition!
Price
$2.50/12oz.

2007 Expedition Stout

Appearance
4.5
A darker, mocha colored head. The pour produces less than 1 cm of head which pretty quickly disappears leaving just a ring around the glass and a few islands here and there.
Smell
4.5
Richer and maltier with caramel and chocolate and devoid of any hint of the fresh grass. Some dark fruit aromas appear as well.
Taste
4.5
Wow, so rich and dark. Chocolate and roasted goodness. Sweeter, but not overly sweet and with a well balanced bitterness on finish. Some warmth with no booze. This has become a very special beer. The finish seems to last forever.
Mouthfeel
5
It has gotten thicker, smoother, and is just a bit creamy.
Drinkability
4.5
I could drink a couple of these with no real problem. Extremely tasty and complex – it entices me to keep sipping.
Overall
4.55
This beer, I think, still has a little while before it peaks. Its storage has been non-ideal (in a kitchen cabinet where temperatures vary quite a bit over the course of the year). I think I’ll be cellaring pretty much every bottle of this I buy for at least a year.
Price
$2.50/12oz.
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Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout

Posted by jwpiper on April 3, 2009

I’ve been meaning to break this out for some time, as I figured it would be right about now that it would start balancing out some. Having just sampled the Hoppin’ Frog Barrel-Aged BORIS, and giving my palate a chance to rest, I figured now was the time. Split a bottle straight from the cellar with my wife into two snifters.
Appearance
4.5
Nice thick, black pour with a 2cm tan head which sticks around as a thin layer for a little while.
Smell
4.5
This beer is all about the bourbon. Tons of bourbon on the nose. Some deep, rich smells including wonderful roasted malts. There’s a ton of richness here.
Taste
4.5
Bourbon up front, giving way to the nice Blackout malt profile. The hops have died down some as compared to fresh non-barrel-aged Blackout. Sweet, with some fruits, even some bright almost sour fruitiness. The finish is bourbon and vanilla and a little oak. The few months this has sat has allowed the beer to balance and mellow a bit. I like this quite a bit more than fresh, personally. But the bourbon may have died down just a bit, but the beer is still very bourbony. There’s a bit of heat, but the alcohol is remarkably well hidden.
Mouthfeel
4.5
This is incredibly smooth, but with a good amount of carbonation. Very thick and viscous, but it ends on a fairly clean note. This may be the remaining hop bitterness. A hint of chalkiness, which I like for a big RIS like this.
Drinkability
4.5
Tons of interest. The bourbon isn’t as overpowering as I often find it on tap at the brewery. Sipping this one, but I’m finding it easy to drink.
Overall
4.5
For me, this is better than at the pub. An excellent beer, heavy on the bourbon, but at this point, some 6 months after the release, very well balanced.
Price
$14/22oz. A pretty good price for a BA RIS.

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Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged BORIS

Posted by jwpiper on April 3, 2009

I took a long lunch to drive down with Matt G. to Hoppin’ Frog to grab a case of their Barrel-Aged BORIS Imperial Oatmeal Stout. I had to get my hands on the BA version of a beer I like as much as I do BORIS The Crusher.

It was my first trip to the brewery. A real nice group of folks – if a bit eager to sell you some beer. Seems they get quite a few randoms without much knowledge of beer since they were so surprised to see people who knew what the heck a Wee Heavy or DIPA were. Wish I could’ve stuck around to shoot the breeze, but we had to get back to work.

My understanding is that the beer was only barrel aged since January. They started bottling at 9am and were still bottling when we arrived. I’d guess that the bomber I’m sharing with my wife tonight is only about 7 hours old.

Appearance
4
Pours a rich deep black color with a 1.5cm light mocha head which rapidly turns into a ring around the top of the beer.
Smell
4
The nostrils are quickly filled with whisky aromas and a little must. This is also accompanied by the nice roasted aromas familiar to BORIS drinkers. A reasonably well balanced profile – not too dominated by the whiskey, but definitely boozy.
Taste
4
Similar on the tongue – some whisky but not at all dominating. A nice alcohol warmth, maybe just a bit too much in the finish. Nice, smooth, roasted flavors – some chocolate, more than I remember in the normal BORIS and just a hint of vanilla in the end. The vanilla and whisky play nicely together in the long finish.
Mouthfeel
5
Regular BORIS has the most incredible smooth palate and this follows suit. So silky smooth from the oatmeal. Definitely an interest beer for this alone.
Drinkability
4
This is a complete sipper. Plenty drinkable, but the alcohol is hitting me a bit too hot as I get through the beer. Also, you’ve got to drink it slow in order to get the vanilla and whiskey on the finish, which is the best part of the beer for me. Not a problem.
Overall
4.1
A worthy beer with plenty of its own unique character. By no means my favorite BA RIS, but again – it’s in its own category almost. I appreciate the balance and relative subtlety of the whiskey. An excellent beer. Not enough barrel character to let this age for an extended period, I don’t think.
Price
$14/22oz. A decent value for a BA RIS. From what I’ve gathered, it’s only aged for a couple of months, which may explain it. Also, the regular Hoppin’ Frog BORIS is a bit pricey for a RIS.

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Alesmith Speedway Stout

Posted by jwpiper on February 27, 2009

On my recent visit to San Diego, I had to stop into Alesmith. I ended up shooting the breeze with Peter, Jessica, and the rest of the folks for a couple of hours before they left to judge the homebrewer’s competition. Along the way, I picked up on what the new Decadence will be, their plans to release some cheeses in the future, and even some long term dreams they’re cooking up. Some pretty exciting stuff going on there – it seems my favorite brewery isn’t only thinking of brewing excellent beer: they’re stretching themselves and even coming up with some pretty original and exciting ideas.

While I was there, I grabbed the better part of a case of Speedway Stout. I’d recently cracked a bottle of Speedway from a previous trip which I guess is about 6-9 months old at this point: the first batch in their new digs. It proved it would be difficult to keep my hands off it, so I figured I’d better replenish my supply. Being brewed with coffee, I figured I’d better give it a try fresh (they didn’t have any on tap while I was there). I split it with my wife at cellar temp into a couple of snifters.

Appearance
5
It pours thick and black with a 3.5 cm mocha head which clings to the glass as it recedes. Just beautiful.
Smell
4.5
Smells of roasted malts with tons of coffee. A definite sour note, kind of like Black Albert. A bit of milk chocolate and some bittersweet aromas.
Taste
4.5
So smooth and so much coffee. This fresh example just has tons of coffee and roasted flavors. A ton of warmth, but mostly from the warm flavors and integrated sourness rather than high ABV. I prefer this with 6-12 months on it to dial back the coffee and meld the flavors together a little more. It’s definitely rich and sweet with coffee bitterness in the finish.
Mouthfeel
4
Crazy smooth. This batch may be less carbonated than most batches I’ve had.
Drinkability
4.5
This is an incredibly easy beer to drink. No alcohol bite or noticeable alcohol presence. It’s a sipper, but very sippable.
Overall
4.55
Easily one of my favorites. Similar in some ways to Black Albert, and not quite as good fresh. But with some age, this beer really comes into its own for me.
Price
$10/750ml fromt he brewery. $13 locally when they happen to have it. Jessica let me know that she finally put a good amount on a pallet headed our way.

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Struise Black Albert

Posted by jwpiper on February 7, 2009

After having a couple of delicious aged Trappist quads, I was ready for something different and even bigger. I had met up with some new friends and was singing the praises of Struise Black Albert which can be quite difficult to get in the US. With all my yapping, I worked myself up into a hankering for one myself. And since the brewery was sold out, I wasn’t expecting to run into it anywhere else. Struise doesn’t make their own glasses, so it was poured into a generic glass which couldn’t properly hold the beer and head. Served at cellar temperature like every beer is at Kulminator.
Appearance
5
Pours pitch black with a brown-tan bubbly head which sticks to the glass.
Smell
4
Roasted smells with some coffee, but a lot more going on as well.
Taste
5
A bit of sourness. Full-bodied, rich, roasted but not dominated by coffee or chocolate. There are coffee/chocolate flavors, but they’re balanced in with other roasted malts and plenty of sweetness and that sour hint. A little cigarette smoke in the finish.
Mouthfeel
5
So thick, creamy, and smooth. Not cloying despite the sweetness.
Drinkability
4.5
Alcohol incredibly well hidden. A sipper nonetheless.
Overall
4.75
This is easily one of my favorite Russian Imperial Stouts and I try to get it anytime I’m in Belgium. There’s a bar right next to the brewery which distributes Struise beers which always has Struise beers for sale. A strange place to visit, getting one of these makes it completely worthwhile.
Price
€3.50/33cl. Or that’s the price at the bar next to the distributor. Not sure what I paid at Kulminator but I don’t think it was much more than this.

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De Molen Rasputin

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

It’s not often that you see Dutch craft beer outside of Holland, which is why I’m glad I took the opportunity to try at least a couple while I was in Amsterdam. When I sat down at the bar at ‘t Arendsnest Nederlands Biercafe, looking over the tap handles didn’t reveal anything familiar. And the most intriguing handle sported a text label with only one thing legible from where I sat: “Rasputin”. It had to be a Russian Imperial Stout. When I asked the bartender to recommend a big, high gravity beer, he jumped straight to the Rasputin. Sounds good to me. It was poured from the tap at about 40 degrees.
Appearance
4.5
Pours pitch black with a tall dark tan head and god head retention, especially for an 11% ABV beer.
Smell
3.5
Roasted malts and bitter coffee.
Taste
4
Tons of roasted flavors, bitter chocolate, coffee. A bit boozy at the beginning of the session, but that impression goes away.
Mouthfeel
4
Very smooth texture. Drier than expected, but very full-bodied and heavy.
Drinkability
4
The glass wasn’t tough to get through. The bitterness is there, but it complements and doesn’t overpower the very strong roasted flavors. A sipper, no doubt.
Overall
4
A pleasant surprise. Quite good, but perhaps too singly-dimensioned roasted for me.
Price
I don’t recall the price on this, but I imagine it was less than or around €4.

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Black Chocolate Stout

Posted by jwpiper on January 6, 2009

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is calling my name for dessert. I picked up a stash of it this year based on my previous tasting and in anticipation that this beer will age well. Straight from the cellar, the label is just as inviting as my memory of the beer. It opens with a pop and a hiss, and I pour it straight away into the waiting snifter. The smell immediately fills the room, and thus begins the saga.
Appearance
4.5
Once poured, my snifter becomes a solid, glossy ball of delight. It’s extra-black with not a hint of light coming through – like an eight ball with a tall tan head. The head slowly recedes, leaving a thin layer and some foam on the edges of the glass which is repeated with each sip.
Smell
4.5
The smell is delicious and inviting. There’s tons and tons of chocolate, some roasted malt, raisins, and booze. The alcohol is pretty apparent – even in the aroma. But it still makes me want to bury my nose into my snifter.
Taste
4
The flavor is very, very rich and pretty complex. It completely coats the mouth with warm, roasted malts. There’s dark chocolate and coffee mainly, but with other roasted flavors. Also a little tartness in the front. There’s a good bit of bitterness on the finish, which is accompanied by a warm maltiness and a boozy flavor.
Mouthfeel
4
Thick, smooth, and clingy. Not chewy, but somewhat heavy – not quite like drinking an 8 ball.
Drinkability
3.5
The booze contributes to making this a sipper, but there’s not much else holding this back from being an extremely inviting sipper.
Overall
4.15
Quite a beer from Brooklyn – an excellent winter warmer. I’ve had it several times before, but am thoroughly impressed. I look forward to revisiting this beer in 6 months. I’m sure I’ll drink several between now and then.
Price
$10/6pk ($1.67/12oz). This is an incredible bargain – especially if it ages as well as I anticipate.

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