Pint can purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA. This is apparently a "Russian Imperial Port Pastry Stout w/ Zinfandel Grapes". Hype Can Series Release No. 041.
Pours a dark brown colour, not quite as deep as the style suggests, and looking more like weak coffee at the edges. Head forms a foamy, loose-bubbled crest of beige to begin with and then settles out to a mild ring. Body looks fairly light given the booziness of the beer. Carbonation is lovely and fine though.
Nose is interesting, but also strangely generic for a beer with so many adjectives in its style. There's a dominant chocolate malt character, which gives cacao and a mild dusty quality, while there's just a touch of dark acidity from the wine grapes. Earthy is perhaps the better term for that dark, dusty element, and it becomes earthier still as it warms.
Taste is passable, but honestly, it's not amazing. It suffers from a common problem of high gravity beers that don't have enough residual sugar to them, which is that you taste the booze without the flavour profile warranting it. In turn, the harshness of the booze on its own sets off perceptions of bitterness from the roast, and tannins from the grapes. Otherwise, there are pleasant notes of toasted coconut towards the back, and a dusky concord grape and chocolate finish.
Feel is light, too light for the weight of the beer, and it also probably harms it in terms of not cushioning the flavours.
Yeah, overall, I'm not a huge fan. While there's certainly power and flavour to it, it's not subtle, and some characters dominate in a way that harms the overall coherence of the beer.
48 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a translucent dark brown colour, with a loose-bubbled head of beige that leaves some scattered lace, and settles out to a foamy ring. Body is really very light, and the carbonation is swift and underwhelming.
Nose is also a bit of a disappointment. There's a fairly strong black olive note that comes through, giving a slight acidity, even though it's not obviously sour. Otherwise, it's savoury—I get brown bread, tyre rubber, buttered potatoes and coffee ice cream. Not unpleasant flavours in the big scheme of things, but not necessarily in balance for what this beer is trying to be.
Taste is a little better, but perhaps because it's not so muddled. Instead, it's rather simple, with a slick, reedy vanilla note and some characters of crushed vegetation. It has a toasty finish, but it's one of the few concessions to actually being a dark beer.
Feel is slick, but really quite weak and thin.
Overall, I'm not a fan. This is a RIS that seems to be brewed in name only. "We've made a Russian Imperial Stout", the brewers can say, without actually having to put the craft or the effort into doing it right. It's a poor example of the style.
640ml brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel.
Pours a surprisingly light brown-black colour, something you might expect for a porter, but not for an imperial stout. Head is a loose-bubbled beige, which leaves minimal lace. Carbonation is also very light. Body is surprisingly slight—it doesn't have the grip on the sides of the glass that you expect from a big stout. I'm underwhelmed.
Nose is pleasant—it comes across more like an export stout, with toasty rounded characters and a distinct nutty sweetness. It has a leafy organic character, as well, like green tea or dried parsley. However, that's again not necessarily what I want from an imperial stout. It's certainly lacking the bite and impact of a better imperial stout.
Taste is decent. Again, it comes across a little bit like a solid export stout, with toasty grain, chocolate and rounded nut characters. It really lacks body, heat and flavour of a really big stout. It's lightweight, especially on the back, where you might expect a slickness and a big welling of roast character. Instead it peters out to a smooth, but underwhelming finish.
Feel is smooth, but really lacking weight, especially for a 9% ABV beer.
Honestly, this is a good beer, and I'm quite enjoying drinking it. But to be perfectly honest, it's not a great example of an imperial stout. Nowadays, I think you pick up a 9% ABV stout off the shelf and you have expectations that this beer can't match.
62 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez; last of my Christmas gift beers.
Pours a reasonably dark brown colour; standard stout colour really. Head is beige, nice texture and pretty good retention with some nice trails of lace clinging to the glass. Looks good, but expected.
Smells a little strong; bit of chemical aroma with some boozey darkness but also an odd apple and apricot fruity character that contributes to the booziness because it feels a bit spiritous and needs a sweeter or roasty grounding character. Again standard, but a little flawed.
Taste gives the impression it might be a little old because there's a slightly yeasty character to it. Has some of that dark fruit character as well towards the mid, then develops some chocolate roastiness late which is a much better flavour than the rest of it and just feels more impy stout. The rest of the palate moves between fruity, dry and slightly spiritous and feels a little old and yeah, slimmed down. The finish is def the highlight and well balanced.
Decent texture; good weighty malt character with a smooth feel but a bit hot and dry on the back.
Drinks alright; could be a bit old but for the size and the style it feels a little thin and unbalanced because I feel this style shouldn't be affected so obviously by age.
70 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez for Christmas, shared with Chris and Andrew.
Pours a dark brown colour. Head is foamy, a bit thin but some impressive lacing. Really lovely sticky sheets. Good.
Smells smokey and savoury. Salty even, with deeply cured ham, really meaty with a touch of cocoa-rich sweetness underneath. Smells enjoyable but not sure it's that phenomenal/complex.
Tastes roasty and boozey. Good smokey character but a raw edge late-mid, that's also where the chilli comes through that doesn't flavour the palate but just provides heat. Heat doesn't really have place here. Some chipotle might be better to intensify the smoke, which is quite downplayed flavour-wise. It's still a good stout; sweet upfront with rich complex booziness midway. Bit sour, weak maybe at the back. But pleasant.
Thick, quite dry and a bit boozey with that dry chilli heat midway. Not that great.
Drinks pretty nicely, with some good flavour. Not that coherently put together, but certainly pleasant.
80 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez for Christmas, enjoyed one Friday night by myself.
Pours a dark brown, really rather black but some mahogany glints at the edges. Head is quite pale beige, decent when poured but webs out into sparse bubbling around the edge; some nice lacing trails around the edge. Looks standard, not bad.
Smells boozey; maybe a bit old as it's getting a spicy, yeast-extracty character with some woody and peppery notes. Some darker caramelised notes; short of chocolatey roast or smooth, just faintly sweet and dark. Not bad, I'll hold out for the flavour though.
Taste is better; at least it's far more potent so it doesn't have any aged or yeasty character on it. Instead it starts out pretty chocolatey, but bitter, and builds in roastiness towards the back where it's mildly boozey but mostly just a lovely roasty sweetness. It's really not syrupy or anything as there's a really nice robust dark malt base that balances the sweetness really nicely. Finishes a little spicy and has a nice licorice kind of character lingering on the back. That's nothing like I thought; it's really very well constructed and balanced. And probably aged, too; but really smooth as a result.
Yeah just a lick of boozey heat towards the back, but otherwise a really good body and texture. Smooth and rich.
That started slowly but got significantly better as it went along. It's not got a twist to it either, so it's treading a dangerous path. It's just a well made, balanced and tasty stout. It's been a really long time since I've drunk anything from De Molen, and I'd kind of been dismissive of them as just a big-ass stout brewer. But this reminds me of the reason for that reputation - they do them really bloody well.
79 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez for Christmas 2017; cracked it open at the stroke of midnight on NYE and spent the first hour of 2018 savouring it.
Pours a dark dark brown; pretty lacking in colour. Which is a good thing. Head is beige, too voluminous but a lovely density and texture, with some astounding lacing left behind. Looks cracking.
Smells quite lovely too. Big and chocolatey, dry yet sweet with a touch of roast and a big overwash of red wine. Actually gives it a slightly odd fruity character which may not belong; the base stout is obviously amazing; the oaky vinous notes add something, but I'm not wholly convinced it's a net gain.
Taste is very nice and toasty, and yeah the oak adds something, the main thing being it makes the palate linger a hell of a long time. Starts off quite roasty, but develops this rich cocoa-y chocolate midway, with some toasted marshmallow, coconut and musky characters before the finish has this weird long roasty bitterness just prolonged by the oaky vinous characters, which don't add that much character but they really draw it out with woody, sweet and nutty flavours. It's got a weird fruity chocolate flavour overall; somewhat odd but wonderfully idiosyncratic and just well-crafted.
Mouthfeel is soft, for the front, but a bit boozey on the back. Not ideal but pleasant in the drinking.
Drinks odd; lots of lovely flavours and complexity that I love, but it's also very challenging, so it feels like a bit of a reticent thumbs up from me overall.
76 / 100
33cl brown bottle purchased as part of a bulk order with a bunch of folks from work.
Pours a lovely silky, opaque black-brown colour, with good weight to the body. Head initially forms a coarse crest of dark brown bubbles, but it slowly coalesces into a stronger, richer cap, finally settling on a loose arrangement of large crema-coloured bubbles. Carbonation is fine and languid.
Nose is potent. Stacks of smoky, peaty whisky, over a stout base that seems strongly driven by coffee and dark roast. There's not a lot of sweetness to a beer like this, and I'm hopeful that there's body on the palate to support all of this brashness. As it warms, it takes on peppery notes, with earthy mushroom tones and a suggestion of seared steak. It's great.
Taste is more supple than you might expect, and fortunately there's a lovely silky body to support all of the intensity that's going on above it. This lends it a silky feel and a heavy, if not terribly sweet basis. Above this, there's loads of peat, turning medicinal and herbal at times, with a bitterness that comes mostly from the peat, and not the hops. There's plenty of slick, semi-dark chocolate, and an almost szechuan pepper kind of tingle from the booze. It's intense.
It's a potent brew, with stacks of character. It's incredibly big though, in every aspect, and you have to take it on its own terms—it's not going to give you an inch. It can be a bit of a slog at times, but I honestly think it's worth it.
Pours a very dark brown; the colour of stouts. Head is mocha coloured; the colour of stout heads. Nice density but not a lot of retention, just a ring of foam. Lacing and cascade are nice, kind of what I expect though. Pretty good.
Smells roasty, sweet and oaky. Big vanilla coconut-bourbon character with hints of peanut, some chocolate and maybe some brandy character. Kind of boozey dark fruit with oak. By the numbers but pleasant.
Taste is dryer than expected. Starts roasty and chocolatey, then gets oak surprisingly early. Woody, sweet and coconutty that dries up the roasty malt quite early. Develops some booziness late-mid, with more oaky notes, quite woody but with nutty sweetness as well. Has a linger of some dark malt notes and somewhat boozey. Yeah feels a bit hot and maybe too fresh, but plenty of nice flavours nonetheless.
Smooth feel, that develops some hot boozey rawness late. Bit too strong, but otherwise good body and well balanced.
Yeah, it's a fairly by-the-numbers imperial stout that has some great vanillin oak and gets too strong due to the edge not being mellowed yet. The real test will be in how well it cellars and how well the complexities develop as it does, because it tastes like it has lots of potential but just feels a bit green. I won't get a chance to test that though, I assume.
73 / 100
Bottle shared by Jez at Mother's, sometime ever.
Pours an impressively dark brown colour, with ochre head. Small bubbles and dissipates to leave a ring of lacing. That's some lacing though, sticky and vibrant with bubbles as you tilt. More head would make it just about perfect.
Smells pleasant. Notes of french oak with the inevitable vinous association, some plummy character, touch of coconut and currants. Dark and brooding but all sweet and jammy as well. Impressive.
Taste is more on the predictable dark side, with notable roast character, somewhat bitter with some cocoa-rich chocolate and light charry notes. Develops some subtle oak wood with coconut and a vinous character as it gets to the back. A little woody, and quite boozey with a whisky kind of note late. Feels a bit dry-roasty and doesn't have the slightly dark fruit character that the nose promised. Not that that's a big shortcoming, but it does feel like there's something somehow missing towards the finish, just a middle palate layer.
Smooth and slick; booze flavour doesn't really translate to a hot texture although it's quite warm and dry on the very back.
Pleasant drop, well oaked but I do feel the overall flavour isn't as complex as it could or should have been, given the size of it otherwise.
80 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez; tried by myself in front of the TV, as you can see from my brilliantly clear photo.
Pours a dark brown colour. Head is beige, nice and dense but sinks way too quickly, leaving just a ring of thin lace. Not bad but nothing special.
Smells nutty and sweet. Huge coconut character, like coconut milk. Slightly dry, with a touch of chocolate but not much roast otherwise. Still, pleasant chewy coconut aroma.
Taste is similar, but much elevated because that roast character comes through as well. Nutty from the front, with some rich chocolate towards the mid when the sweet, milky coconut flavour takes hold, then more bitterness towards the back. Nice and roasty, and blending wonderfully with that coconut character. Great character from that coconut flavour and a wonderful balance. Cracking palate; slightly weird but mostly wonderful.
Full, nice dryness towards the back which helps mollify the fact that it's quite hot and boozey because it takes some of the presence away.
Really nice desserty beer. Good sweetness but not overloading with saccharine. It's sweet but it's an honest, powerful beer too. I believe this beer came highly recommended by Jez and I can see why.
Bottle shared with me by Jez at Mother's place.
Pours a dark brown colour, decent foam on top but not really a head, just a rim of beige lacing. Nice cascade when you tilt it; pretty standard dark beer.
Smells strong. Robust roastiness with some leathery and burnt characters. Touch of peat smoke, maybe, and some berry character on the back, a little tart. Interesting but I'm not fully sold.
Taste is a little more standard. Chocolatey and roasty notes early on, through to the mid. Some mild charry notes as well, slightly burnt, maybe a touch leathery as well. Touch of spice towards the back, but yeah it's quite a dark, burnt note that's a little monotonous, and could maybe have more light notes, some fruit or oak or more sweetness.
Full, fairly boozey on the late to mid. Good creamy texture as it goes down.
I like it, but it's a bit strong and not strong with the characters that would be most pleasant. Feels a bit heavy and a bit blunt at times.
84 / 100
750ml caged and corked brown bottle, given to me in a very uneven trade by my good mate Aaron in Denver. Shared with Sam back in Sydney during a brewday.
Pours a deep, oily black-brown with an almost jelly-like sheen across the top of the glass. Head forms a fizzy cap of beige that persists as a small ring. Minimal, lace, only a couple of mould-spore discs. Carbonation is fine and swift. Looks good.
Nose is very pleasant. Lovely, rich, dark toastiness, almost with a salt character, turning towards the a meaty umami savouriness. It has bags of roast character, cleverly melded with a pleasant barrel character, that's not overdone. It lends it subtle characters of vanilla and coconut, but always geared towards the darker edges of the roasted malt.
Taste is also great. It starts off a little sharp when it's cool, but as it warms a little, the palate melts—it leaves gooey chocolate and vanilla oak characters, and a bubbling evanescent booze quality, like swirling a good brandy over a candle. There's also notes of rosewater and raspberry that hide in amongst all the darkness. It's very good.
Feel is slick and light, with a lovely coating quality.
Overall: bam. I love it—this is a beautifully crafted imperial stout, with complexity to spare, and enough personality to stand out in a crowd. Much love to Aaron for the bottle. I can only imagine this was a tough bottle to part with.
44 / 100
Pours a dark brown, quite clear. Head is beige but also not really there, just a ring of what were large webbed bubbles. Pretty lacklustre but alright.
Smells boozey, and not much else. Oaky, bourbony, with a big rum sweetness to it as well. Actually struggling to find the base beer in this, it just smells like a bourbon barrel.
Slight chocolatey note on the front of the palate but the oaky booziness overwhelms it from that point on. Huge oak character which could be nice, but it sort of precludes the idea of this being a beer at all because it's the only character there. Then the booze heat on the back is completely unnuanced, it's just a flood of big bourbony flavour that starts to feel like sniffing alcohol-based isowipes. It's just too intense and needs far more reining in.
Full body, so full it almost tastes like drinking ink. Sharp booze spike.
Yeah, boozey, strong, mostly unpleasant. A big beer that's just gone completely off the rails. Not a fan.
89 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Southwest Parkway Market, Austin. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a dense oily black, with a surprisingly slick lightness at the edges. Carbonation is almost completely static, forming in fine, fireworks sparks. Head forms frothily to begin with, but only really persists as a very fine ring that leaves no lace. The body is thick enough to create legs when the glass is swirled though. Looks good.
Nose is rich and slightly vinous, with a hint of hot booze combined with a gravy-rich savoury character. There's sweetness, but also notes of vegemite and hay. It's very dark and rich, and not immediately cognate with the characters you often get in a big imperial stout.
Taste is fabulous. There is something of a rich, berry note—again with the vinous notes, but bubbling with fruit. It's soft and supple, but backed up with a nice kick of tight, hot booze. The finish has chocolatey notes, rich, dark and bittersweet. It lengthens the aftertaste and allows the fruit booziness to play around on the back.
Feel is slick and clean. It has weight and oiliness, but doesn't bog down the beer and make it feel chewy.
Overall, this is a really great beer. It's an imperial stout that stands out on its own, rather than just providing the template that everyone expects. The fruit, the wine, the bittersweet chocolate, the slick richness. They all combine to produce something very special indeed.
82 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars.
Pours a thick, deep ebony black colour, with a fine, but frothy head of light brown that leaves sheets of thick lace. Carbonation is voluminous but static, forming flurries when tilted. Body has a bit of weight, but it's also surprisingly slick and thinner than you'd expect for a 11% beer. Looks good though.
Nose is pummeled with a strong coconut character, which would be more impressive if there wasn't actual coconut in the beer. Still, it's a lovely aroma, and it mingles nicely with the smoothly sweet malt, touched with vanilla and a slight toastiness. It's a lovely aroma, however it was created.
Taste is also very good. In some ways, it's impressive due to its blandness. It's not aggressive at all in bitterness, in booziness nor is it overly thick and heavy. The flavours dance around the top—coconut and vanilla are again prominent, but there is a pleasant toastiness that adds some depth. The sweetness and the dark aromatics combine to give hints of chocolate and rosewater.
Feel is also pretty good. It is thinner than comparable stouts, but it really weirdly helps it seem light and slick.
Overall: I love it. It really is a lovely drinkable beer, and although the characters are adjuncts, they work really nicely with the base beer. I think it's likely this is my favourite beer I've had from Spain.
Had on tap at GABS 2017.
Pours a brown colour, quite dark up to the light with nice tightly-packed head of beige bubbles. Retains nicely. Standard stout, but good.
Smells like maple syrup, yep. Cake batter sweetness to the malt and a touch of bitter chocolate roast as well. Nice dark balance, with a beautiful maple sweetness. Smells yum.
Taste is sweet, very sweet. Chocolate and vanilla upfront and then just bags and bags of maple that keeps coming. It heightens to the point where it tastes a bit ethanoic on the back, like it's just simple sugar fermentation. Yet the adjuncts keep it sweet. Not really my thing; it needs more roast and more bitterness on the back just to balance as it's just saturating sweetness.
Body is full, with a decent texture. Not bad.
The maple is gorgeous on the nose, but I'd personally like it to be a bit more toned down on the palate, or balanced by some proper stouty notes. That would have made it a winner for me. Nonetheless I can see the mass appeal of this and why it took out people's choice award. Previous dessert beers that have been winners for me have retained a bit more beery goodness to balance or cover it all up.
78 / 100
Tried in a taster (or a couple of tasters) at GABS 2017 in Melbourne.
Pours a deep, glossy black colour, with surprising clarity still. Carbonation is still and fine. Body is heavy. Head is thick, forming a very firm beige-brown crest that leaves solid lacing. Looks great.
Nose is delicious. Huge maple syrup characters combined with a heavy rummy sweetness. It's leavened though with some toasty characters and a suggestion of bacon. This is both properly an imperial stout and properly delivering on the maple. Yum.
Smooth and rich entry on the palate, that develops into a toasty warmth. It's extremely creamy with caramel and vanilla that develops into a real character of maple towards the back. To cap it off, there's a slick roasted bitterness to give it a kick. It's still mostly very sweet though.
Feel is smooth and slick as fuck. The extra body and booze helps here.
Overall: this is a really well-conceived and really well-executed beer. It's exactly what they describe on the tin. It could maybe use a smidgen more balance away from the purely sweet, but it works well even as it is. This was my #4 beer of the festival once I'd retried my favourites. It was also a worthy people's choice winner.
46 / 100
Tried in a taster at GABS 2017 in Melbourne.
Pours a deep brown colour, with some hazing noticeable due to it not really being dark enough to be opaque. Body is thick, with fine carbonation. Head is a fine ring of beige that leaves minimal lace.
Nose is really quite unpleasant. Anise is noticeable, but there's an astringent booziness that gives paint-thinner, ink and permanent marker solvent characters. Otherwise it's sharper and slightly acidic with nots of cherry. It's actually a pretty unpleasant combination.
Taste is sharp on the front, with a suggestion of vinous acidity. The mid-palate is the best, with some noticeable barrel characters and a smooth sweetness like blackcurrant. Sadly, that's all it gets. It ends up inky and medicinal with a strong booze note that turns into a mineral bitterness in the finish.
Feel is smooth and slick at least, but it's too little, too late.
Really? I just don't know what they were going for with this. It's nasty and heavy, and it takes a toll for little reward.
70 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Chuck's Hop Shop in Seattle.
Pours a deep ebony brown colour, with a fine beige head that requires a little bit of inducement to create. It sticks around though as a fine ring that leaves spotty lace. Body is quite slick, but with a lightness to it that means it moves swiftly. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is very toasty. There's a pronounced toastiness to the aroma that hints towards dark bitterness. It's tempered though with some dusky fruit, with a hint of tannic wine and cherry. Undertones of chocolate and coffee fill in the gaps. It's nice.
Taste is similar, with a slickness through the body, but a pronounced roasted bitterness that provides the main spike of flavour. Sweetness is much dampened, mostly coming in the form of the additional body. But there's a pleasant nutty aftertaste that persists once the ashy bitterness settles down towards the back. It's pretty good.
Feel is slick and wet. Carbonation is very low.
Overall: yeah, it's pretty pleasant. It's not the most complex or even the most well-crafted of imperial stouts I've had. But it's very solid and it has some pleasant balance to it. That counts for a lot.
70 / 100
Can bought by Jez for my birthday, drunk by myself, because I rule. Actually maybe I shared it with Chris, thinking about it. I think I may have. He doesn't rule as much as me but he's acceptable company.
Pours a dark brown colour, yeah pretty damn dark. Head is ochre, decent when poured but sinks to a thin rim. Lacing is something else though. Thick and clingy. Looks standard but good.
Smells bourbony. Boozey, with vanilla oak and a touch of coconut. Chocolate behind it with some roasty bitterness as well. But yeah, largely boozey and sweet.
Taste is roasty and fairly bitter. Has a big swell of roasty grain throughout the front and mid, with chocolate on it as well. Bourbon comes through mid-palate, quite sweet with vanilla and coconut characters, the latter of which really comes through towards the back and really makes it sweet and pleasant towards the back. Quite dark, fairly chocolate and bitter for a while but then sweet and boozey on the back. Pretty much what you'd expect, and it's a bit booze-flavoured which does'nt quite elevate beyond the base beer. But it's good.
Smooth, velvety, but distinctly hot and sharp on the back.
Nice stout, smooth and sweet but boozey and hot at times and not any more than the sum of its parts.
74 / 100
Bottle purchased from Platinum Liquor, shared with Jez, Andrew and Chris for my birthday.
Pours a dark brown colour, with dark beige colour. Lacing is nice and sticky and looks good. Generally pretty impressive.
Smells Chai-ish. Cinnamon, clove, cardamom. Notes of dark roast on the back, with spice dominating it. Fairly simple in execution but huge in the effect.
Taste is huge on the spice as well. Big clove and nutmeg and ginger, with huge sweetness as well, molasses and dark roast that develops late with the spice character. Sweet and spicy and desserty. Pretty pleasant. Tastes like pfeffernusse.
Full, fairly boozey but not hot. Pretty smooth actually.
Decent drop, it's pretty much all Chai spice, but a good roasty sweetness as well. Very pleasant.
Bomber given to me by Jez for Christmas. Drunk by myself, which in hindsight may not have been my cleverest decision ever.
Pours a dark, dark brown with just a glint of colour when held up to the light. Head is a good beige colour but not very retentive, with small thin fuzz left after a short while. Lacing is clingier and better. Shame about the head as it otherwise looks great.
Smells malty. Good dark-chocolate grain note with a slight vinous berry touch to it as well, possibly a bit oxidised? Some dark charry roast at the back, slight burnt coffee grounds character but subtle. Ticks the right boxes but also just hints at a couple of duff notes as well.
Taste is better. Good dark roasty notes on the front that develop some bitter chocolate, cacao and a slight berry note midway that gets a little sweet and light late-mid. But then a second roasty wave takes over, far bolder than the first with a robust bitterness that turns this back to the right course just in time. Good burnt, peppery coffee notes on the back, with a touch of caramel that finishes it a bit too light for my ideal drop but enough to keep you drinking. I think if that sweetness had appeared earlier in the palate it might temper the bitterness a bit, whereas the bitterness even in its present form would work better as a finishing drop, to keep the warmth and headiness as the lingering note.
Decent body, but not quite enough to combat the booziness which dries up and creates a noticeable heat as it moves through. For the style it's acceptable, but noticeably deficient as well.
Decent imperial stout but I feel it's a little off-balance, and doesn't seem to be doing all that much that your average homebrewer couldn't manage just as well on a smaller scale. Even at its best it feels like a pretty standard drop within this style.
79 / 100
33cl wax-sealed brown bottle purchased as part of a bulk order at work.
Pours a very thick brown colour, like very dark mud. Head only really forms when coerced, forming a fine, insubstantial film to begin with, and settling out to large-bubbles of honeycombed foam. Carbonation is minimal, but has a fine bead when forced. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is great, but confusing. There's obvious darkness, and some sweet notes like vanilla and milk chocolate—but they're only the base notes, which are overwhelmed by the barrel conditioning. Here, we get smokiness from the whisky, pungent smouldering booze, and unexpected fragrant notes of banana and marzipan. It's a heady, off-kilter and surprising mix. And I really like it.
Taste is probably even better. It has a thin central character of ashy malt and tobacco smoke, which is like a skeleton to hang the rest of the flavours from. Around it, there's aromatic sweetness, giving carob and dark chocolate. Towards the back the Brett makes its presence felt with a kind of mulchy, organic earthiness. It works nicely with the dark characters in the beer—perhaps better than most dark bretted beers—but you still can't help but feel that it's an unwelcome guest. Finish is pleasingly dry, with a lingering bittersweet chocolate note.
Feel is quite thin, but coatingly slick.
Overall, it's an interesting and very complex beer. It has a lot to unpack, so it feels like something of an academic exercise. But like a third-year calculus assignment, I'm not convinced that I want to experience it for pure pleasure.
79 / 100
Brewed for and tried at GABS festival in Melbourne, May 2016. This was the 'big heavy dark beer' of our first paddle at the festival.
Pours a coffee colour, dark right to the edge. Head is tan, dense and creamy and sticks around, leaving a thick sheen of lacing behind. Looks absolutely gorgeous. Immaculate.
Smells complex, sweet, spicy and interesting. Chocolate underlying with notes of vanilla and caramel sweetness, touch of coconut and some rich dark fruit as well. Sweet coffee character that gives a lingering licorice note. Maybe a touch too sweet but otherwise beautiful aroma.
Taste is full of chocolate, for the most part. Vanilla and some spicy coffee notes come through midway. Touch nutty and the back-palate gives way to dark fruit sweetness, with a good belt of roasted malt and a touch of smokey character as well. Bit of spice overall, lovely sweet imperial stout otherwise.
Full body, decent texture. Touch of alcohol is inevitable but it's not sharp, it's pretty nicely contained in the big flavours really.
Pretty cracking imperial stout. To style, and in many ways by the numbers, but when it's this well constructed and tasty you don't need any sort of 'twist' on it.
This ended up my number 7 beer of the festival.
69 / 100
Brewed for GABS 2016. Tried there on tap.
Pours a dark coffee colour, dark to the edges. Head is beige, fairly sparse webs that don't stick around much. Good colour but looks a bit flat otherwise.
Smells spicy, sweet, roasty and good. Caramel edge to the malt at first then gets some rich chocolate notes and some sweet espresso character as well. Hint of bitter roast. Pleasant.
Taste is sweet upfront, with more caramel notes and a hint of vanilla. Develops some dark bitterness towards the back, espresso notes and a fair roastiness. Hint of some tart fruit behind it but it gets fairly smothered in the bitterness on the back. Decent characters.
Maybe a touch sharp from the booze but there's a good body so it flows fairly nicely without much of a rough edge.
Very decent imperial stout. Certainly a respectable drop at a festival like this.
70 / 100
Gingerbread imperial stout brewed for GABS 2016. Tried there on tap.
Pours a dark coffee colour, fills out with colour right to the edge. Tan head, foamy and thick. Looks great. Thick, substantial stout.
Smells spicy. Chocolate malt underlying, with notes of coffee and distinct ginger as well. Touch of molasses. Could use more dominant ginger though, as well as sweetness. Smells like a nice stout with some subtle adjuncts and the adjuncts were expected to dominate.
Palate has big ginger on there but it kind of swings back the wrong way. There's a vanilla sweetness upfront with a touch of dark fruit, then a touch of coffee midway but the mid and late-palate are all a monotonous crystallised ginger flavour, that gets quite spicy. It lacks sweetness, the molasses flavour from the proposed gingerbread. If you're a fan of ginger (as I am), you'll like this beer, but it doesn't have that dark, gooey sweetness that gingerbread uses to win even ginger-skeptics over.
Full body, noticeable alcohol but it's warming rather than unpleasant.
This beer was so bloody close to being amazing. But it ends up just being a big gingery stout rather than a gingerbread masterpiece.
It did grow on me though, was longlisted and ended up my number 11 beer of the festival.
62 / 100
On tap at GABS 2016 in Melbourne.
Pours a very dark-brown colour, really very cloudy. Mocha-coloured head, dense and plenty retaining. Looks pretty good.
Smells oaky, vinous for sure. Touch of Brett on there as well, and a fair spice character as well with some licorice and peppery notes. Smells like a Pinot Noir, basically.
Taste is fairly sweet upfront, with dark caramel, vanilla and peanutty malt notes. Develops some roast towards the mid and then the oak takes over, slightly boozey with vinous notes and a touch of bourbon. Slightly sour, and roasty in equal measure. A bit odd; doesn't totally work for me.
Full-bodied but the booze still manages to seep through in a bit of a sharp way.
I'm not quite sure if the oak really ties this one together, it actually kind of confuses it a bit and turns it a little wild. Could have just done a straight-up imperial stout and I'd have responded better.
69 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez, shared with Chris.
Pours a dark brown, with beige head that has a nice reverse cascade when poured but sinks very quickly. Lace is unimpressive. Looks alright.
Smells very sweet, big caramelly and toffee note. Crême brulée custard note that dips a little into medicinal, because it's just overly, childishly sweet. Appealing, but could use a touch more oomph from the roasty malt just to clip off the sweetness.
Taste is a bit more bitter, but it's odd. Big caramel sweetness with big roasty bitterness as well. The two flavours kind of swing in and out of the palate, alternately and not really a big synergy, it kind of has sour coffee, with caramelised custard and some bitter choc as well. Doesn't quite mesh together but the flavours that are there are pleasant.
Smooth, maybe a little bit thin. Not bad on the back.
Has touches of a Southern Tier Crême Brulée, but it just doesn't go all in with the sweetness and it's a bit poorer for it. Just a bit, in the end, but it makes a world of difference in the drinking experience.
500ml brown bottle, part of the Black Box of Dark Ales. Purchased from Camperdown Cellars in Leichhardt.
Pours a suitably deep black-brown, with a solid, slightly coarse crest of pale chocolate brown. Good foamy lace. Body is a bit light and fluid, with some fairly swift carbonation. I reserve judgement, but it looks okay.
Nose is very pleasant. Here, there's a lovely rich, smooth sweetness, coupled with some fairly strong roasted notes. It comes across as nutty, with overtones of vanilla and weakly drawn espresso. It's nice.
Taste is also pretty good, with a bit of wary side-eye. There's all the right characters here. Robust sweetness, a smooth body, some toasty semi-bitter notes towards the back. But there's also a very slight hint of butter and burnt caramel that starts to replace the malt sweetness. It's a very slightly off-kilter character. I'm wary of embracing it.
Feel is pretty smooth, but it falls away a great deal at the back, so it really doesn't help promote anything on the palate—it feels less complex as a result.
Overall, I'm less than enthusiastic. It's a decent RIS, but only that. It really misses the key points of the style, and certainly misses the fireworks that can make the best examples pop. In the end, it perhaps comes across as the beer they had to brew to warrant the price point of a four-beer box.
70 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney.
Pours a very deep black-brown, opaque and sinister in the glass. Head is also dark, forming a milk-chocolate crest that stays surprisingly bubbly and light. Body is also surprisingly light, with a swiftness to the movement and only a slight gloss suggesting it's as heavy as it is. Looks good.
Nose is very pleasant. Toasted notes with dark chocolate, wet wood, and espresso puck coming through. Atop this are some lighter, greener, grassier notes, giving a little hay and snapped green twigs. As it warms, there are notes of vanilla and perhaps the slightest suggestion of lilting pinot noir—it's faint though: faint enough that it may just be the note on the back of the bottle that I'm smelling.
Complex malt on the palate, giving a multitude of different dark, toasty and biscuity grain notes. Here there seems to be a more prominent contribution from the wine barrels, with a surprisingly coarse, tannic character on the back. Combined with the ashiness of the malt, it actually makes the back too bitter. Feel is fairly slick and smooth, but doesn't provide a buffer towards the back. It's unapologetic, I'll give it that.
Overall, it's a big impy stout, and one that really takes the dryness, the tannins and the roasted bitterness to heart. It makes for an aggressive beer, and one that takes a little patience to enjoy.
81 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a deep, dark black-brown, oily and thick and looking like it coats the inside of the glass. Head is almost non-existent though. It frothed a little with a soda-bubbling crest of chocolate brown, but the disappeared, leaving only the fainted hint of a ring around the edge. Otherwise, it looks pretty thick.
Smell is pretty good. Smooth chocolate and fat vanilla notes come through strongly, along with a pronounced rich darkness that almost hints at smoke. Alcohol is actually noticeable, giving a hint of brandy and kerosene. Mostly, it's fragrant vanilla and sweet chocolate though. It's really very good.
Taste is also good, with the cocoa character prominent here, providing a very nice slick sweetness. It mingles with the booze though, giving a rich chocolate liqueur or very tannic red wine note. Finish lingers long, but is cushioned by more cocoa, stopping it from getting ashy or astringent. In the end it feels slick, boozy and potent, but surprisingly smooth.
Feel is very good. The extremely low carbonation isn't to its detriment here at all—indeed, the slickness is helped by the fact it's not fighting the carb.
Overall, yeah, this is a very nice beer. I have a lot of conflicting emotions about BrewDog nowadays, but tasting beers like this one reminds me that they still crank out some really great brews. This one in particular is a cracker.
9% ABV Spanish Imperial Stout, hey? Served to me blind by Sam, who purhased it in Grenada on his travels.
Pours a pleasant deep chocolate brown, with a fine creamy ring of beige that leaves minor streaks of lace. Body looks a bit light, and the carbonation is pretty timid. Looks decent though.
Nose is pretty mild, with a rounded toasty note like an English dark mild ale. Slight sweetnedd, turning a little bit biscuity, with a turn of mild carbonation or slight metal in the back. It's okay, but nothing very special.
Taste is similar. There's a slight smoothness to it which is reasonably pleasant, but this is undermined by the body, which is really quite light, and genuinely overcarbonated. It makes it feel frothy and insubstantial. Slight toasted notes on the back bring a slight semblance of sophistication, but it's a little too late.
Overall, it's decent enough. But it's tending towards the generic or the thoughtless. I'd drink it happily enough, but there's enough that's wrong with it that I genuinely don't respect it as a beer, especially something that calls itself an Imperial Stout.
61 / 100
Bottle purchased from a tourist shop at the foothills of the Alhambra in Granada. Muled back to Australia and shared with Jez.
Pours a dark brown, colour only at the edge. Head is beige, tiny bubbles, retaining about half a finger. Lace is there but not very retentive. Looks pretty nice.
Smells chocolatey, and vanilla, maybe a touch of carob. Hint of pepper with some caramel sweetness. Could use more roast; seems a bit old perhaps. OK but a bit sweet and unbalanced.
Taste is more roasty, but also has that acidity from a strong bitter flavour dissolved in too much water. Touch fsweet: chocolate/caramel upfront, then finishes coffee and astringent. Spicy, slightly boozey - hot maybe. Touch of spice on the back - pepper and maybe some smoked chilli. Pretty nice, but it doesn't have the substance to carry it all off, just feels a bit light-on in texture with a fair bit of flavour that misses the mark.
I fear this beer might be a bit old, and I feared that when I bought it, and why I went for the RIS rather than the pale ale or IPA from Mammooth which were also on sale. But yeah, there's lots of flavour still here, it just feels a bit light on and possibly faded.
71 / 100
Tried on nitro-tap at the Quarrymans in Pyrmont, for their Bacchus Brumalia event. This beer was brewed at Bacchus in collaboration with (of all breweries) Castlemaine Perkins, known mostly for Australia's favourite midstrength beer XXXX Gold.
Pours a very deep orange-tinted black. Firm and full body that looks good on nitro. Creamy and persistent head of fairly deep orange-brown that leaves excellent lace. Looks really very good indeed.
Toasty notes on the nose, with a decent rounded sweetness to give it some weight. A little chocolate comes through, along with a hint of smooth orange. On the back it gets rather toasty—heading towards a kind of dusty darkness. It's really quite pleasant.
Taste is similar, although there's a lightness through the palate that stops it from being as robust as perhaps I would personally like. This allows the back to turn slightly medicinal and the body to drop away. The finish is quite surprisingly light as a result. Feel is smooth, but affected somewhat by the medicinal cherry and slightly charred tone of the finish.
Overall, it's a pretty decent beer, and I'm genuinely impressed that Castlemaine Perkins got down and dirty with a beer like this. This is certainly my favourite beer that these guys have had a hand in.
73 / 100
Purchased by my Dad at the brewery. Shared with him and Sam when he brought it back to Australia. Aged is Islay and Speyside whisky casks.
Pours a pleasant dark brown, with a slight reddish tinge to it. Head is a slightly coarse ring of pale brown that leaves some mild speckled lacing. Body has a bit of weight behind it. Which is pleasant enough.
Nose is very malty, but with a sweet cereal quality that cuts through it a lot. Slightly leafy tone around the edges gives it a hint of tobacco and salty earth. It's decent enough, but it has a thin savoury quality that stops it from being really excellent.
Taste is actually a lot better, because there's a bit more weight supporting it. Pleasant deep dark bitter chocolate has some weight, while the minerally, earthy quality gives it a complexity to work and be truly interesting. Slight salty finish makes it light on the finish, but it's pleasant enough, and this aids the drinkability.
Feel has a bit of weight, despite the crisp characters. It works nicely.
Overall, it's certainly interesting. The mineral qualities give it a peaty, Scotch quality which is very pleasant. I like it.
Whisky cask-aged imperial stout, brought back from Scotland by father.
Pours a dark chocolate colour, beige head, whispy with very large bubbles. Specks of lace. Nothing too exciting.
Smells like vegemite. Yeast extract, rich and spicy. Touch of chocolate and a fair saltiness. Luckily I quite like it, but I sense it might be a bit old, or just some odd characters are starting to come to the fore.
Taste is not as robust. Still has some chocolate notes, quite rich and cocoa-heavy, then some salty, savoury, mineral notes. Still somewhat yeast extracty. Finishes cleaner and slightly sweeter than it started though. Not bad.
Decent body, has an interesting texture on the back - boozey without sharpness.
A decent drop, nothing too special and for the strength, has a slightly muted vibe.
82 / 100
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a deep black-brown, but free of haze. Body is oily and thick, holding fine, minimal carbonation when tilted. Head is a pale brown hue, forming a fine ring on the glass, and fine lines of lacing. Looks good.
Nose is smooth and overtly vanilla, with slick chocolate to back it up and provide depth. Slight metallic quality comes through as well, along with a fragrant dash of perfume. It's nice.
Toasty but bright entry on the palate, with a slight juicy wine grape quality matches with some oily slickness. Smooth on the mid-palate, with a big sweet, creamy vanilla ice-cream quality. The grapes come back towards the end, leaving a slight vinous quality and maybe a hint of cherry. This is mingled with lashings of chocolate sauce leading to a long linger of coffee and ink in the finish.
Feel is exceptionally smooth. I like it a lot.
It's so smooth and really drinkable. There's lots of complexities to explore as well. It's a cracking brew, and really well made. I loved it.
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a muddy brown colour, but with clarity through the surprisingly lightweight body. Head is a pale beige, but persists as almost nothing, only leaving a few specks of lace behind. Carbonation is flat—it almost looks dead in the glass, or like cold drip coffee.
Nose is mild and dull. Old coffee with a few heaped teaspoons of sugar in it, also with a slight oxidised cardboard character. Marshmallow comes through a little too, oddly. I don't love it.
Flavour is marginally better, with some smoothness and sweetness, again with a slight character of marshmallow and faint weaker coffee. On the back though, even this disappears, leaving the whole thing feeling pretty dull with just a mild linger of empty chocolate.
Feel has a bit of weight, but it's quite flat overall.
No, this feel pretty uninspired to me. There's surely more interesting things to do with coffee in beer anyway, and this one wasn't even executed well.
83 / 100
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a deep brown colour, with a ephemeral type of haze to it, but a surprisingly light-looking body. Head is brown and pale with a touch of yellow to it, forming a fine ring that only forms lace a little above the level of the beer. Looks good though.
Nose has some light coconut and pleasant toasty dark chocolate. Smooth and oaky through the middle with a hint of true wood coming through. Supposedly there's cherry here too, but there's not a lot of it on the nose. That's not to say it's not pleasant though.
The palate is a big step up though. Toasty fragrant entry with some dusty dry chocolate and cacao, before the cherry and coconut burst onto the stage in the mid-palate. This dries out nicely leaving some desiccated coconut and cocoa powder. Back has a touch of pepper, but is mostly smooth, long and sweet. It's lovely.
Feel is smooth, but lightened by the presence of the cherry.
Overall, it's cracking stuff. Really smooth, and following a strong tradition of bold dessert beers at GABS. I liked it a great deal.
69 / 100
Pours a dark cola colour, some beige head, large bubbles and specks of lace. Swilling doesn't do much. All a bit sparse and webbed, but not bad.
Smells roasty, with a touch of spice - cinnamon mostly, and then a big oak character. Coconut with a touch of whiskey booze. Yeah, could use more roast. Again, not bad though.
Taste is more bitter than I expected. Starts chocolatey, gets more roasty midway with a touch of mocha late. Toast and toasted nuts on the mid-palate with some peanut brittle and other caramel facets. Touch of oak on the back, lightens up the finish a bit, but lingers with a lovely, warming chocolate note. Very pleasant drop really, a bit stilted early but finishes strongly.
Somewhat sticky mouthfeel; has a nice creamy smoothness to it though. Maybe a touch of chewy texture midway - odd.
Has some uncooked sweetness in parts, but otherwise a nicely put-together stout. Pleasant.
Pours a black colour, clear brown up to the edge with foamy beige head. Head could be a bit darker, but not bad otherwise.
Smells mildly oaky, with some vanilla and sugary rum characters blending with the big ballsy chocolate stout notes. Touch of clove on there as well. Not bad.
Taste is also oaky. Lots of rum sweetness with a touch of coconut and vanilla throughout the palate, with midway being mostly chocolate and finish developing some dark fruit sweetness. Decent oaking, with a bit of booze. Dark and fairly sultry sweet.
Full body, nice warming alcohol as it goes down. Good texture.
For a Mountain Goat barrel-aged imperial stout, it's pretty much on par. Maybe I have unfairly high expectations, but I just don't get a whole heap of loving feelings for this.
73 / 100
Pours a black colour, very very dark. Head is also very dark - tan-coloured, foamy and retaining well. Best looking stout at the festival so far. Looks great.
Smells pretty great too. Nice caramel note that gets dark and chocolatey quickly, with a fair roasty bitter whack as well and maybe a touch of smoke. Lots to like here.
Taste is sweet, and somewhat nutty. Caramel and peanuts upfront, developing more chocolate on its way to the mid. Fairly strong and roasty and somewhat bitter on the back, then getting a touch of cherry character and some clovey spice as well. Fairly strong but nice complexities.
Full body, a touch of warming booze as it goes down, but not too strong.
Nice stout; I feel like this would be unbelievable if the cherry came through a bit more (like it does on the Duckstein Marselus Wallace). Nevertheless on retrying this was my #5 beer of the festival.
71 / 100
Pours a very dark espresso colour, really dark all the way to the edge. The edge is very visible because there's NO HEAD. Can't even describe the head because it was never head. Nice colour, though.
Smells fairly sweet. Malty upfront that develops into chocolate midway, some sweet coffee notes towards the back, caramel and licorice as well. Not bad, but not amazing.
Coffee comes through fairly strong on the palate, spicy and rich with notes of vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon. Touch of oak towards the back and an odd earthy note that reminds me of chilli - there's a fair bit of spice here too which adds to that impression. Really quite grainy overall, but nice and big nonetheless.
Nice full body which I'd expect, some booze heat towards the back.
Not bad first taste from these guys, I was quite excited to give them a try and they haven't disappointed, but they haven't blown me away either.
85 / 100
33cl brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars. Single-hop Imperial Stout, huh? This is a trend I can get behind.
Pours a deep, luscious black, with a very fine, very thick head of chocolate brown that leaves strong, thick, sheeting lace. Carbonation is very fine, although it surprisingly doesn't quite stay static in the body is it's tilted. As a result, the body looks a bit more fluid and light than others. Otherwise, it's a very attractive looking beer.
Nose actually does have quite the aroma of Sorachi Ace to it. This is a sweet character I always find akin to oak, so it really does work surprisingly well in this style. It does dip towards the slightly buttery as well, of course, as it is wont to do, but with some robust roasted tones and a deep sweetness from the malt, it gets away with it. It's perhaps not quite as good as a genuine barrel aging, but it's still pretty cool.
Taste is also very good. Smooth and long roasty palate gets elevated by the hop presence (which is genuinely still quite robust), giving mild lemon thyme hints to the darkness. Of course, this is a big stout, so the flavours are predominantly those of the malt. Big roasted notes, slight crisp ashy bitterness, with heaps of thick dark sweetness and a modicum of booze. But that flitting hop aromatic around the top gives it a twist, and I like it.
Feel is good. Long, slick and smooth. Ignore what I said about it looking thin: this is a fine body for a Russian Imperial Stout.
Yep, this is good stuff. Very smooth, and a very sollid RIS that just has enough of a quirk to make it seem unique. It wouldn't work if it wasn't such a solid base beer, but this one is a cracker.
87 / 100
500ml boxed brown bottle purchased from Barney's in Alexandria, many moons ago. Shared with Sam & Rich.
Pours a deep velvety black, crisped brown at the edges, with a rather coarse-bubbled head of beige that leaves specks of lacing. Body is lighter than one might expect, perhaps with a bit of weight but with little viscosity. Still, it looks pretty good.
Nose is dusty with dry roast and a little deep booze sharpness. Some notes of caramelised fig come through, along with a slick chocolate tone. There are some other fruit characters that come through as well, maybe just a little undertone of banana ester, and something livelier like guava or peach. It's not bold, but there's charm and complexity to it for sure.
Taste is extremely good. Big lovely sweetness, full of raisins and dark fruit, that moves into a rich chocolate sauce note. This is peppered with enough booze to give it a richness and sophistication on the back. There's some genuine roast characters, but they'r tempered with the rich, boozey sweetness before they get astringent or ashy. It's really complex and beautifully constructed. This is a cracking palate.
Feel is slick—it is indeed a little lighter than it might have been, but there's certainly enough weight there to allow the complexities to express themselves.
Really, this is pretty great stuff. It's very smooth for a 10+ ABV beer, and there's so much restrained complexity to explore. It's more comfortable to explore it because it's so well-balanced. Really, I loved this a very great deal.
40 / 100
375ml heavy dark green bottle, capped and wax-sealed. Purchased from Leura Cellars.
Pours a deep, very deep black, even at the edges—almost charred coffee-like in the corners of the glass. Head is a fine brown, leaving complex streaks of intricate lace. Despite all of this, the body looks quite light and fluid, and the carbonation, while fine, moves rapidly through it. It's an interesting and perplexing dichotomy.
Nose is certainly odd. Initially, I got a big whiff of olive brine, possibly the result of some funky barrel work, but as it warms, more of the toasty malt character comes through, which relegates the funk to a vegetative backdrop. Instead, it smells slightly dusty and musty like a dry, ancient cellar. There are some other really unexpected and odd notes in there as well. I get some marmalade and almost a treesap or eucalyptus note. Yes, there's also some roasted characters in there as well, but it's the weirdnesses which push it into the realm of genuinely off-kilter.
Taste is extremely dark, almost acrid and ashy. There is so much roast here that it feels like its sapping the moisture from my mouth. Bitter with dark malts to a pretty insane degree. There are very few alleviations to the onslaught—one is the feel, which is pleasingly slick and smooth and oily, but this has the disadvantage of making the ashy character seem to coat the tongue. There's also a firm alcohol note, but again this seems to accentuate, rather than lessen the bitterness. I genuinely feel like this is too much.
Yes, apparently it is possible for a beer to be too dark. This is actually ashy and genuinely a little unpleasant. This needs more body, and more sweetness if it's going to persist with all that roast. The barrel aging is almost not apparent, apart from that suggestion of weird funk on the nose. Overall, I can't say I'm a fan.
Bottle bought by Julz somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Utah and muled back.
Pours a dark brown colour, thin film of beige head. Some lace, decent. Looks pretty good. But pretty standard.
Smells roasty. Coffee, choc some nuts. Caramel sweetness and mild phenolic notes with booze and mild vinous character as well. Pretty nice; good blend. Some hotness.
Taste doesn't have a lot on it. Mild cocoa underlying it all with notes of coffee, caramel, some hazelnut midway then boozey heat late mid. Not a lot of big roasty character. Some pepper and some booze. Mild vinous notes, just has some mild crests of flavour but a low undertone of bitterness pervades. Seems a bit empty, not much character. But not bad.
Fair boozey heat, doesn't feel like it has a huge body to carry off bigger flavours. But then the bigger flavours aren't there. The heat says otherwise.
OK, big stout, but seems like it should taste a lot bigger. Not bad.
330ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a silky black, with a surprisingly light body to it, and a frothy, coarse-bubbled head of brown, that actually settles out pretty quickly to a thin, minimal ring of beige. Some specks of lace form as it goes down. Overall, it's a little bit disappointing given what it could have been, but there's still plenty of potential there.
Nose is pleasant. Rich, almost salty roastedness giving plenty of mineral depth, with a suggestion of smoke, even heading towards a match-head phosphorous note. Sweetness comes through as it warms, with some deep chocolate tones and a bit of espresso. Nice stuff.
Taste is also heavy on the roast, the mineral qualities and, additionally, the booze. Here there's a notable boozy note through the beer, almost giving a hint of something distilled but fruity like kirsch. Roast is pronounced on the front, and also gives a pretty dank bitterness on the back. It's heavy and complex, but it also feels like it needs a bit of smoothness or restraint. Perhaps an oak-aged version will help it mellow a little.
Feel is smooth, but sharpened by the prominent booze.
Overall: it's an unapologetic beer. And it's a suitable beer for one of Australia's canonical craft breweries to celebrate their 1000th batch with. It's certainly unsubtle in its booze and its roast—next time, some tempering of these characters may make a more drinkable brew, but perhaps also one that makes less of a statement.
58 / 100
Pours a dark cola colour, flat and fairly uninteresting. Head is dead and cannot be resuscitated, with no lace. Yeah, it's a dark beer. It's dead.
Smells very, very intense. Boozey, that seriously starts to irritate my nostrils after a while, it's so strong. Nice oaky character and a touch of vinous character around the edge. Actually smells like a fine cognac. Can see warming that over a candlestick. Impressive.
Explosive. That's like a dirty bomb in my mouth. Sweet at first, with lots of chocolate malts, then enormous boozey hit explodes, loads of peated whiskey and Courvoisier notes that somehow intensifies towards the back, getting petroleum and vegemite notes that has a slight sweetness and slight oaked character to it. But that's basically undrinkable as beer. A single sip is like a chug of kerosene. Just a fiery little package. Impressive, but too impressive.
Sticky and nice when in the mouth, but it feels carcinogenic going down the throat.
There's some nice characters in there, but it just napalms the inside of your mouth. It's an unforgettable, unique experience but not one I'd particularly want again.
74 / 100
330ml brown bottle, purchased from Slowbeer many moons ago when this was first released. Realising that there would never be the right occasion to open it, I just cracked it open early during a brewday for Sam and Rich.
Pours an oily brown colour, definitely more brown than black, and with no head or carbonation, despite the fact that it did hiss a little on opening (surprisingly). Body is very, very rich. It actually sticks like treacle to the inside of the glass, in long waves that never actually settle back into the beer. It looks still and ominous.
Nose is boozy. Boozy, boozy, boozy. Big spiritous burning in my nasal cavities, blunted by a very slight papery oxidation character. It smells like fortified port that's been distilled a couple more times for good measure. If I'm looking for it, there's a slight toasty roast character that adds darkness and the very faint suggestion of acidity. It's certainly excessively powerful.
Taste is perhaps even more powerful. Big burning entry of spiritous booze that wallows around the mouth coating every surface. Slight woody, almost smoky characters follow. Some tight toasty flavours keep it beer-like, but the alcohol is clearly present to such a degree that it wallops everything else. Finish is astringent with booze—very hot and dank, with a strange grainy character bringing up the rear. You have to sip it in tiny bites, any more and the booze steamrolls all subtlety to it.
Feel is impressive though. It still has a good deal of body behind it, despite the fact that the heat makes it feel like whisky—and there's a suggestion of sweetness brought through as a result.
How drinkable is it? Not at all if you consider it as a beer. But it has a rugged, unapologetic charm to it that makes you respect it and take it seriously. You have to be gentle with it, and in return it will be gentle with you.
650mL bomber purchased from Leura cellars. Saved for the end of the night and probably not appreciated fully.
Pours dark brown; beige head looks good. Nice lace. Sticks gorgeously. Looks awesome.
Lots of chocolate caramel, touch of malt, nuts, toffee. Booze too. Yeah the right amount going on here for the style.
Taste is caramel upfront, with chocolate and roasty notes dominating throughout, then boozey on the back. Notes of coffee on the back as well with spice, lots of peppery notes as well. Yeah a bit tangy midway, otherwise lots of earthy roast and spice. Pretty nice, quite sweet, doesn't mesh totally with the spice on the back.
Pretty smooth, but for the hot and boozey sensation on the back.
Pretty sweet and chocolatey, bit boozey but nice stout characters. Not sure if I'm getting much out of this being 'organic', but it certainly hasn't lost anything.
77 / 100
Tried on cask at CASK Pub & Kitchen in Pimlico, London.
Pours a deep dark-chocolate black that stays fairly clear when held to the light. Body is solid. Head forms a creamy mocha colour, fine and persistent with some pocked bubbles. Lace is very solid. Not much carbonation visible, even when the glass is swirled or tilted. Looks really good though.
Nose has some mild toastiness and a crispness from the roast. Subtle smoothness gives a suggestion of creaminess, although there's not much vanilla or oak character coming through. Liquorice is noticeable as it warms.
Smooth entry on the palate, slightly light with a touch of toast and toffee to it. This develops into a creaminess through the centre, with a subtle bourbon sweetness and a solid, malty richness. Back has some roast coming through with a touch of spice, pepper and booze.
Aftertaste has liquorice and a lingering bitter char, impressed by the smoothness on the palate.
Remarkably drinkable. So smooth on cask, rich and creamy. If it weren't so heavy on booze this would be totally sessionable. Love it.
33cl brown bottle purchased from Cave à Bulles in Paris. Simon reckons it's the "best Imperial Stout from France".
I have to say, the start is a bit inauspicious. Pours much lighter than expected, both in colour and body: a deep brown, and clear, particularly at the edges, with a filmy body and head of beige. Carbonation is minimal, and the head doesn't retain well. I'm pretty unimpressed, to be honest.
Nose is also less than exciting. Strong carob aromas lend a little sweetness, but no richness. Roast is subdued, leaving only a faint caramel-meshed chocolate underneath everything. Some boozy notes come through, but they have a slightly vinous quality with a tannic red wine note. Disappointing.
Taste is a fair bit better, fortunately, as the roast makes its presence felt. It still relies a fair bit on the carob, but the vinous character lets its tannins run a little more freely, lending a little bitterness and more of a suggestion of darkness. Back is quite empty though, also there's a slickness as the chocolate note fades away gently. Feel is reasonably firm, but still feels a little weak for the style.
Overall, I'm mostly unimpressed. There are some good things about the beer, but it's far from a good imperial stout. Fortunately, a poor imperial stout doesn't make for a poor beer, necessarily, and there are things to like in it as a result.
83 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Platinum Liquor in Bellevue Hill.
Pours a deep, sinewy black-brown, oily on entry to the glass. Head forms with little coercion, forming a thick deep brown head of fine bubbles. Lacing is patchy, body is rich, although not holding a lot of carbonation. Looks good.
Nose is gorgeous. Delicate milk chocolate overtones, laced around a sweet vanilla oak and toasted coconut richness. Slight roast comes through leavened with a heady booze tweak: it leaves it slightly buoyant and a little spicy.
Taste is rich and dark: burnt toffee sweetness on the fore, with a nuttiness coming through closer to the back, which develops into coffee and char. Clinging cherry booze character structures the whole thing—or perhaps its better to say that it invades the structure—it's always present from front to back and side-to-side. Finish is remarkably clean: the booze helps everything evanesce, leaving not much roast or bitterness.
Feel is smooth and slick, but almost frothy as well: it's as though the volume increases in the mouth, leaving it lighter, but fuller at the same time.
Overall: excellent, excellent stuff. Beautifully rich and full, but with a lovely structure to keep it coherent and drinkable. I love it.
71 / 100
Tried at the Sydney Craft Beer Week launch party.
Pours a very dark brown. Decent beige head of small bubbles. Nice cradle of lace. Looks pretty good.
Smells roasty, chocolatey, quite sweet. Bit of a byproduct of heavy fermentation. Quite ethanoic, but yeah, just a thorn in the side of an otherwise very pleasant stout aroma.
Taste is roasty, bit more sweet with chocolate notes, a touch of coffee, some leather notes as well. Burnt slightly, slight booziness, but yeah mostly just dark big complexities. Pleasant. I've become a fan of Cavalier beer today, yeah.
Full but a bit boozey. Maybe not as full bodied as it could be. Bit sharp on the back.
Nice imperial stout. Big flavours, well handled.
Tried on-tap at the Local Taphouse in Sydney.
Pours a deep brown colour with a rather thin, reedy body. Initial bubbling in the head settles out very quickly, ending up looking rather flat. Looks decent without being very exciting.
Sharp and vinous on the nose, probably a bit sharper than I expected. Acidity comes through, apples and red wine, with just a little bit of dusty darkness. It's okay, but I'm not sure I expected this.
Black olives on the palate immediately. Dark and dusty for a while, but more berries and more of that vinous character. Crisp acidity again, lots of oak and a fair amount of liquorice. It's quite complex, and very strange. I'm not sure it's meant to taste like this, but surprisingly it works even so.
Feel is solid enough. It works at least.
It does taste like it's infected or inoculated. I hope it's the latter, because it's fairly decent as it is. If it's not intentionally soured though, this is a worry. I'll keep drinking it, but perhaps with a more skeptical look on my face.
80 / 100
Tried from a bottle at Vic on the Park during the Sydney Craft Beer Week opening party.
From the start, this looks the part: deep, black and dark, almost opaque. Solid, slightly frothy head formed of large brown bubbles. There's some decent, but not intense weight behind it. Minimal carbonation, but what forms is fine. Looks good.
Nose is a little milder than it could be, but there's definitely pleasant notes behind it. Toasty vanilla, slight mild roastiness and a hint of coconut. Some chocolate comes through with a cocoa character dominant—it's dark rather than rich and sweet. Pleasant, but a bit milder than it could have been.
Taste is smoother, with the vanilla coming through more strongly, creating a creamy roast character and a hint of fruit. Cherry chocolate comes through on the finish, dark and broad with pip and stem fruit characters on the back, and a slight reminiscence of dried apricot. It's really nice and very interesting and flavoursome.
Feel is smooth and pleasant, which helps integrated the flavours. Lovely.
Yep, this is grand stuff. The fruitiness that comes out above the dark roasted basis is very fine indeed, and creates a lovely strange interest out of the brew. Great beer.
58 / 100
Pours a dark brown, no head. No lace. Looks like a heavy homebrew to be honest.
Smells incredibly sour and funky. Hugely spicy as well, with lemon pepper, barnyard and balsamic. Touch of roast. Interesting, I'll give it that.
Big funky spice taste. Balsamic vinegar with leather, astringent off cider and szechuan pepper bite. Blended with a touch of chocolate base. Not very stouty, but very weird. Not an everyday drinker, but interesting enough to be tasted.
A bit thin actually. Bit of presence late from funky yeasts.
Yes, an odd one. Worth a try for its idiosyncracies, but not quite expertly crafted so there are flaws and quirks all over it.
77 / 100
On tap at Tørst.
Pours a very dark brown. Head is mocha, of a light-to-darker gradient. Hugely dense with great thick retention. Looks amazing.
Lots of vanilla on the nose with big, sweet dark chocolate and nuts, salted caramel and some oatmeal. Pleasant and sweet.
Very sweet palate: huge chocolate flavour with oaky vanilla characters, caramel toffee, then towards the back it gets a quite subtle dark bitterness mixing with some big boozey notes that are there but not offensively big. Very smooth, big oatmeal stout with loads of flavour.
Shame about the slight boozey heat towards the back. Otherwise a very smooth body.
Great sweet stout, plenty to like. Even on the hottest day of the year (which it was).
76 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour up to the light. Head is beige, very decent. Nice lacing. Clings. Looks a little pale for the style, but otherwise very nice.
Chocolate up the wazoo on the nose. Slight roast, but lots of sweet. Pleasant roasty with an English cleansing edge to it. Smells dark and potentially bitter, but a double layer of cocoa rich chocolate. Just lovely.
Taste is chocolatey, fairly rich. Slight dry cocoa and roast. Touch of smoke on the back. Pleasant flavours. A bit dry maybe, could have used more of that sweetness to the end, but very nice for the style.
Dry on the back, decent body. Not bad.
Well made very drinkable. Quite remarkable for 9.5%
70 / 100
Pours a very, very black-reminiscent colour. Head is just stunning. Show-stoppingly thick, ochre in colour, with some impressive - if a little thin - lace left behind. Pretty close to amazing.
Smells sweet, and smokey, in equal measure. Weird bubblegum character with some banana and cherry notes, but also, on the other hand, smokey notes. It's completely separate in fact. Quite subtle, with wood smoke and a hint of bacon. The sweetness is a dominant thing though, which is unfortunate.
Taste is an interesting one. Lots of smoke and roast, with a touch of sweetness to it. Upfront there's cocoa, caramel and a hint of banana. Then gets roasty, smokey and burnt midway and to the back. Ends with a slight sweet note, boozey and vanilla, but it has a heaviness to the end. Quite dry on the back, but retaining lots of flavour.
Full body, a little bit sharp late, and yeah, dries up a lot.
Decent, doesn't quite reach the heights the flavours suggested. Not bad at all though.
77 / 100
12oz bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a dull, slightly translucent but rather oily brown colour, with a minimal flat futz of beige foam that becomes a static ring. Body looks quite thick, but the beer itself looks dead and lifeless. It's not overly impressive.
Nose is pleasant, though. Mild chocolate and toasty grain, with some boozy undertones which give vanilla and banana aromas. There's some deep caramel and toffee as well, providing a pleasant sweetness to provide body and structure. It's nice stuff.
Taste is similarly smooth and structured. Solid, pleasant dark malt sweetness, spiked with vanilla and aniseed. Some spicy booze comes out on the back, giving more of a prickly feel than anything else. Finish is surprisingly light, evaporating almost towards the end, with just a lingering roast character.
Feel is smooth but light and supple. It's very good.
Overall, this is a nice beer. A very nice beer, in fact. It's not an imperial stout that redefines the genre, but it's well made and well-structured. I like it.
75 / 100
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne, at the recommendation of Chris the beer guy. Shared with Sam during the brewday for our Imperial Stout. After tasting our wort, I had a hankering for something big, dark and oak-aged.
Pours a very deep black, shaded slightly brown by some streaming towards the head. The head itself is a very deep chocolate brown, very pleasant and thick, almost creamy when swirled. Lacing forms in leopard spot around the edge of the glass. body is rich and liquid, holding fine carbonation softly and slowly. Lovely looking stuff.
Nose is woody, dark, roasted and slightly smoky. There's a comforting wintertime around the open fire to it: pleasant fresh cut wood, smouldering flames, and suggestions of soft dark booze and sweet dark fruits. There's a slight freshness to it as well, a greenery, maybe even some true hoppiness. It's very nice indeed.
Taste is... oh wait, Haand? Yes, that explains that. Definite sour twang to it, just a suggestion of whatever wacky wild yeast they tend to put in everything. It gives it a slight metallic character over the rich darkness, and really skews this into strange places. There's darkness, plenty of wood, but very little body or sweetness: it feels like the sour character has ripped these out completely. It creates a more unique, but potentially a less objectively good beer.
Feel is decent, but again attacked by the acidity.
I guess I should have expected this from Haand. I usually like their rustically wild take on things, but I guess I'm a little bit disappointed that this didn't really fulfill its potential as a truly great Imperial Stout. Still, it's a very good beer nonetheless, wild and unique, with Haandprints all over it.
75 / 100
Pours with a ridiculously generous head that neverthless looks wonderful - so dense, beige, soft and inviting. Body is quite dark brown; almost black. The mocha-tinge is just what I look for in a stout head. Yeah, looks great.
Smells light, really - lots of vanilla, bourbon and a hint of banana coming off that. Plenty of booze, with a decent belt of thick roasty grain as well, but not quite enough to ground it. I like that, but I don't really love it.
Taste has far more of the roasty character. There's odd touches here and there of natural ale esters, including acetyldehyde for some apple notes. Chocolate late, caramel, some toasted grain and just dark, boozey characters. Sweet, roasty, boozey. The foil lies in the fact that it's one of those beers I just "like" and yet it doesn't really grab my attention.
Fairly full body, with a big noticeable alcohol grip. Quite like the texture, but it's really rather hot.
Drinks big, drinks well. It's complex with a lot of pleasant characters here. It could use some kind of unusual twist or something to make it stand out from the pack of quality-made American imperial stouts.
81 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour; head is a bit whispier than I'd like. Nice pale beige colour, specks of lace. Looks OK, but thick.
Smells solventy, belying a strong, sweet malt base, with touches of roast underneath that. Peanut, marzipan and a touch of cranberry. Intriguing.
Taste is dark fruit; sweeter & complex with raisins, lots of vanilla and oak, currants, figs and dates with dry spicing - nutmeg, cumin and pepper as well as liquorice. Dark, roasty but with a lot of complex sugars, glaze and spice esters. Very, very nice indeed.
Thick and boozey on the mouthfeel, as you'd expect. Yeah, it definitely feels like 12.5%.
Lots to explore here; I really like that in a beer. When I started out on this particular journey of discovery, I felt disappointed and a bit nonplussed. I wish they'd given me more of a precursor on the look or the smell, because the anticipation and excitement is half of the fun. This doesn't look or smell nearly as good as it is.
82 / 100
375ml dark green caged and corked bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne. Shared with Sam.
Pours a deep, dark black, with a very fine, but quite minimal head of ochre brown. Body is heavy and thick, and leaves exceptionally fine carbonation as it's tilted. Some streaky lace forms, which is more than I expected. Overall, it just looks deep, dark and black.
Nose is intense. Big, sweet tannic oak, giving an almost vinous character: certainly a big booziness at least. Underneath this is rich deep blackness laced with sweetness: roasted coffee, dark sweet raspberries, dried dates, burnt toffee, hints of pepper and cherry. It's intense. Very big, very intense.
Taste is lighter and smoother than I was expecting. There's a rounded smooth oakiness to it, but very little of the tannins and spice that I was expecting. Instead, there's just a rich, slightly smoky, somewhat sweet, but somewhat brutal stout, covered by layers of fragrance. Some smooth, rich pepper, whisky, syrup and a faintly floral or perhaps herbal overtone. It's very pleasant indeed.
Feel is boozy, but light and evanescent.
Yeah, this was always going to be a beer I really liked. I'm under no delusions that it had all the potential to be great. But better still was that it fulfilled its potential in spades. The fragrance on the nose was magnificent, but the way it was pulled back to a supple, comforting warmth on the palate was what really makes this so good. Lovely stuff.
81 / 100
Pours a very dark brown, with glints of colour up to the light. Head is a good, deep umber, like whipped milk chocolate. Dense and creamy in consistency, leaving lacing that looks great. Dark, brooding and wonderful.
Smells spicy and roasty, with a good belt of a tartness as well. Nutty caramel, peppery shiraz and a minerally note as well. But yeah, that syrah note is really prominent and adds a massive boost to an already pleasant spicy, stouty aroma.
Taste is similar, but it seems a little weaker. Roasty and sweet for the most part, with some dark caramel and malted grain, that develops dark, charred wood and peppery spice, a hint of capsicum and a touch of sumac. Then on the mid-palate gets that organic fruity note, a touch of syrah, but it has more of a late-harvest character now, more sweet but at the same time a touch more refined, as if it's gotten pure fruit character in there with less fermentation. All very enjoyable, though, but I do feel it could still use more grounding. Sweetness is a very big part of this.
Full, complex texture, with nothing too thick. Does get quite dry at the back, and there's an unavoidable boozey note as well. Good, though.
Sweet, but with a great spicy dimension added, giving this a dynamic, enjoyable quality. Excellent beer.
86 / 100
330ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne. Classic, dull de Molen black-and-white label. I love how iconic and yet how boring these are.
Pours a deep, fine black, turning to weak coffee coloured at the very edges. Head is solid—surprising, given how little it vzzted on opening—a good, decently thick and fine mocha brown. Some spotty lace. Carbonation is persistent and very fine. Looks very good indeed.
Nose is toasty and dark, with a fiery character to it: not quite smoky, but almost sulphury or like match phosphorous. Certainly a sharp, volatile hint of booze to it, but it's really tied nicely to the darkness and the intensity—one of those beers that really uses the extra alcohol content as leverage for flavour. Lovely. It does a bunch of stuff that is rare or special, even in a big RIS.
Taste matches this: big roasty characters, and lovely boozy notes integrated into the body and structure of the beer. Roast, coffee, charred pork belly, minimal, but sticky sweetness on the back. This beer is based on a dark roast character, and it sticks by it beautifully, embellishing it here and there with beautiful accents that make it complex and interesting.
Feel is smooth but a little thin: certainly good enough, but perhaps not pulling its weight as far as the beer goes on the whole.
Overall though, this is very, very good stuff. Complex and rich, tasty and drinkable, and yet laced with slightly unusual characters which make it stand out on its own—that's enough to push this beer from "good" to "superb".
87 / 100
12oz bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a deep black colour, with a fine, slightly inconsistent pale brown head. Carbonation is fine, but the body itself looks surprisingly light and fluid. Some patchy carbonation. Looks fine except for the body—this is the beer you can really make thick, oily and chewy, and it seems this hasn't happened here.
Nose is wonderful. Big sweet nutty characters with deep chocolate hints and a lilt of buttered popcorn. Slight hint of liquorice on the back, perhaps more like liquorice ice cream. It's all really quite sweet and fragrant, and very pleasant.
Taste is also very good: here the sweetness is tamed somewhat (perhaps due to the slightly lighter body), and the liquorice comes through a little bit more. This leaves the roasted characters to make a bit more of an entrance, with some mild coffee and toasted grain overtones. Perhaps I was unfair on the lightness in the body: it's perhaps a purposeful (and rather clever) stroke to enliven the palate and keep the sweet richness from overpowering everything.
The feel is very smooth, even despite the lightness, and matches very nicely with the rest of the beer.
Yep. Pretty exceptional stuff here, although the mastery and skill of Sierra Nevada should have stopped surprising me years ago. This beer gives the impression that it was designed exactly this way—it perhaps doesn't take the risks that could make it superlative, but you understand that this beer from the moment of its conception was going to be very good indeed.
80 / 100
Had on-tap at the Local Taphouse during their Dark Horse AleStars evening in Sydney.
Pours an extremely dark, very close-to-black and very solid. The body, however, is surprisingly light and fluid. Head is a deep, dark chocolate colour. Some dots of lace form, but really patchily. Carbonation is fine, but rushes through the body quite quickly. Not bad all up.
Dark and roasty on the nose, not unexpectedly, but under that are some of the more interesting characters. It has a deep sweetness, mingled with a touch of salt—perhaps Vegemite—and some deep tannic red wine characters. As it warms, the booze becomes a bit more noticeable, along with some hazelnut characters, and even a dank smouldering campfire. Nice stuff.
Taste is slightly lighter than expected. It perhaps matches the hint of lightness seen in the body. Flavour-wise, there's some nice coconut characters, sweetness and a hint of cherry or something fruity and tropical. But then, whack!, the Impy stout comes back, with a big roasted, boozy sharpness on the finish. Again, pretty good.
Feel is clean and smooth.
It's very nice and smooth, and very drinkable. It's very tasty, while maintaining an edge of aggression. It ends up being a very nice, and very respectable package.
88 / 100
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer for me by @epiclurk. Shared with @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a lovely deep, rich and thick black colour, with a very minor, but fine head of mocha-brown. In essence, it's only a ring of very faint bubbles, but it suits this murky and heavy beer. Body is fluid but very thick. Because of the lack of head, there's no lace, but you kind of forgive it that. It's a very pleasant looking brew.
Nose is rich and roasty, with a deep, underlying sweetness. Certainly there's some coconut and cocoa character, melded with a deep vanilla, stacks of chocolate and coffee and a hint of sharpness that reminds me of PatrÃ³n CafÃ©. Perhaps it's the booziness, which is prominent, but which works itself into the overall picture really nicely. Lovely stuff.
Taste is just as good. Deep liqueur suppleness cradles a deep sweetness and a fragrant coffee and roast bite. Big chocolate characters meld with the slick and clear mouthfeel to make it feel a little like molten cocoa. Bitterness makes itself felt in the pure crazy depth of the beer, but really it's about the sweet rounded, caressing characters of the chocolate and malt sweetness. Gorgeous stuff.
This is a really, really lovely brew, almost certainly the best of the Abstrakt beers I've yet had. This is rich, supple, delicious and put together white purpose and foresight. I just love it.
89 / 100
2012 boxed bottle purchased from Belmont Station in Portland, OR. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe during a brewday in Sydney, Australia.
Pours a fine deep brown-black, with a slightly frothy, large-bubbled head of mocha brown that leaves speckled lace. Body is solid but fluid, leaving fine carbonation, but swirling quickly. Looks good.
Nose is an excellent deep sweet oak-aged stout melange. Hints of vanilla mixed with a depth of roast, with a sharp ashy tinge like the cold remains of an overnight campfire. There's a little touch of sulphur to it as well, which lends some organics in a slightly weird, but not necessarily unpleasant way.
Palate is exceptional. Incredibly smooth and rich, and wonderfully balanced. Deep darkness is obviously the order of the day, but it's blended and folded over itself again and again until it has no harshness in it: it's smooth, rich, and certainly dark, but in the most mellow and approachable way. Light oak gives some vanilla, but as ever, that darkness sits around and draws the flavour back to its midnight depths. Wow. Incredible stuff.
Feel is smooth but with a lightness that again antagonises the true darkness that is at its heart.
This is a wonderful beer. It straddles the dichotomy of dark and light, of good and evil of sweet and bitter. Of everything. This beer is a little of it all. Really great stuff.
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer.
Pours a slightly clear brown colourâcertainly clear at the edges at least, with a rather insipid ring of mild brown bubbles. Body obviously has a bit of weight behind it, but it seems very fluid and it doesn't hold carbonation very well. Overall, it looks a bit lacklustre for an Imperial Stout.
Nose is sweet and malty, but with the grainy genericness of malt extract. Slight dusty coffee overtones, but very muted. Really, it smells a lot like malt extract and not much else: it's sweet and heavy, but without depth, complexity or the true roastiness I expect from an RIS.
Taste is probably even worse. Here there's a big but empty and very, very unwholesome sweetness that tastes like water with some liquid malt extract thrown in. There are faint hints of roast, but they come across more as husky grain, with a slight lactic efterklang. Oh god. I'm exceptionally unimpressed.
Feel is slick and relatively thick, but that just adds credence to the flavours. The flavours do not deserve credence.
Wow, what the hell? This is a very unimpressive Imperial Stout. In some senses (say, the lack of complexity) it feels thin and weak, in others (say, the cloying sweetness), it feels excessive and overpowering. This is a very unfortunate brew in my bookâbridging the gap between cloying and bland-as-fuck. That was a gap that should never have been bridged.
81 / 100
Uncaps without a hint of carbonation escaping. Hmm, an inauspicious start.
Pours pleasant, despite this: a rich, thick, oily black with a fine ring of deep chocolate brown bubbles around the edge of the glass. Some fine gauzy lace when it's tilted, but not much in the way of carbonation proper. I mean, really, this is a sinister looking beer.
Nose is incredible. Thick dark roast coupled with gorgeous, sensuous, devilish sweetness, touched with smoke, laden with gravity. Hints of char and pepper in the sinuses, everything you could possibly want. Just phenomenal.
Taste is also excellent, but it doesn't rise to the levels of bliss the nose was promising. In fact, it starts off surprisingly light, without a big-bodied sweetness on the front, or a big roasty character. Instead, the feel creates a chewy nothingness, before the roast and depth creep up later. By the mid-palate, you're in the middle of a bold crescendo, with roasted malt, liquorice and a hint of toffee making a clamour. And by the end, a huge rush of coffee and high-cacao chocolate gives a powerful finale. It's great stuff, but it's surprising how late they leave it to hit you with everything they've got.
Very backward on the palate, but that creates a genuine interest in the beer. And Haand are nothing if not interesting.
88 / 100
Had on-tap at Bailey's Taproom in Portland, OR.
Pours a solid black-brown, with a fine and full, but relatively bubbly head of caramel brown. Great lacing as it subsides. Solid body to it with a firm bead. Looks great.
Robust nose with big, smooth roasted characters coming through, giving caramel and a touch of light coffee. Creamy chocolate noticeable too. It's so smooth. Wonderful stuff.
Taste is smooth and clean, but with lingering complexities on the back. More sweet caramel, dark more brusque roasted coffee beans, and chocolate in a silky high-cacao way. All is layered with the smoothness of character which seems to epitomise it. Awesome.
Lovely drop. It's smooth, round, clean and complex. Everythign you want in an imperial stout. Love it.
73 / 100
Pours a very dark brown. Ochre kind of colour, kind of sparse, with thin lace. Nice colour and appearance, but nothing exciting.
Smells roasty and coffee-esque, with spice notes - peppery and nicely roasted espresso, but still pleasant and smooth. Cocoa and espresso, mostly, with a touch of sweetness coming organically from those two elements. Pleasant.
Taste is coffee, spicy with a touch of tartness. Lots of roasty, hints of bitter chocolate, pepper and some star anise. But yeah, big espresso coffee, a hint of vanilla, and lots and lots of cocoa. Really quite pleasant, but nothing hugely flavoursome or complex, and for the size I'm kind of wanting more.
Smooth; lots of texture in there though. Stouty but feels a bit thin, like it falls quite short for what it is.
Nice, sweetish, decent stout. Pleasant enough, but nothing amazing.
75 / 100
Pours a very, very very dark colour. Need to hold it right up to the light to get a glimpse of colour. Head is just gorgeous. Ochre hue, beautifully dense and generous with great retention. Lace is amazing, head is amazing. This is an amazing-looking beer.
Smells a little bit salty. Just getting the main criticism out of the way first. Dark, sweet, with lots of espresso, chocolate and caramel, with plenty of nutty - almost rye-esque - notes as well, but yeah, there's a distinct hint of saltiness as well, which makes it a bit below what it could have been, at least in terms of coherence of aroma.
Taste bursts with flavour from the get-go. Loads of dark, roasty character that's big and black and back in black. But it gets sweeter, boozier and more nutty notes towards the mid with hazelnut, chocolate, salted caramel and some hints of creme de cacao, plus a touch of Irish cream. It's god a nice bitterness to it, with lots of strong burnt roasty notes. Not quite a dessert beer but could certainly be paired with something equally big and bold and blokey.
Texture is a bit sharp on the front, finishes decently, both sweet and dry. Not bad.
This is a challenging beer, lots of character but well finessed. Not a gateway beer; more a big, tasty statement for the already-converted.
78 / 100
Purchased from New Beer Distributors in NYC. Shared with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a lovely black-brown hue, with a pocked head of mocha coloured foam. It's slightly ineffective overall, the head is slightly too inconsistent, the body is a little weak and lacking in solidity. Powdery carbonation, but it flits through the body exceptionally quickly. Good look overall. I actually like it more than I should.
Nose is lovely. Big roasted characters, slightly nutty, grainy and full. It has that demi-sec roasted dryness that really separates it from its sweet vanilla bourbon-wood aged American brethren, which is quite a lovely characteristic, while still maintaining a steeped sweetness that is very pleasant indeed. Very pleasant.
Taste is good, but less full than expected. There's a pleasant roasted grain filament running throughout the palate, giving a dry crisp toasted character from start to finish. It melds pleasantly with the smoothness in the feel, but there's little sweetness or complexity to complement it and join it in its dance.
Overall, it's a really good RIS. I like that it's an RIS not an AIS. The dryness and the roastedness without the sweetness works very well, and drives that sort of crisp, sharp intensity. I think it's perhaps not as complex as some of the best sweet and complex Impy Stouts, but it's really good for what it is.
Pours a dark mocha-black, leavened on the edges with a touch of burgundy-brown, but otherwise quite opaque. Head is fine and soft, forming a pleasant milk chocolate ring around the edge. Lacing is veiny. Body is solid, and it forms nice fine carbonation when tilted or swirled. Overall, a very good-looking beer.
Nose is roasted, but also oddly acidic, with a oily whiff of vegetative pressings. There's a vaguely fragrant, jasmine-like overtone to it, which undermines the deep sweetness I feel it's trying to convey. Not bad overall, but not much like what I expected, and certainly no chocolate characters.
Flavour is nutty-black, with a thinness that is a little unbecoming, but marked with pleasant almond and sweet cacao characters. In reality, there's not much in the way of chocolate to it, but it has a pleasant raw, grainy darkness to it which is appealing enough.
Feel is surprisingly light, and allows that fragrant, burgeoning jasmine character to slip through quite prominently onto the palate.
Overall, it's good. I mean, it has to be good. But it's also a little odd, and doesn't live up to its name or to my expectations. A 10% stout, chocolate or no, should be better than this.
Thanks very much to my mate Aaron for bringing this back to Sydney from Texas on a recent trip. Big kudos.
Pours a gorgeously dark and sensuous black with a huge, but fine and believable head of mocha frothy brown. In fact, the head is a little too coarse-bubbled, and the body is surprisingly light; in actuality it's almost as though this beer tricked me into believing it was exceptional. It's still good enough, but it has missed a little something.
Nose is deep and roasted, but... oh, and I really wanted to love this beerâit's also a little flat and stilted, with a carbonic acidity rearing its head and providing a jolt of carbonated nothingness. There's a hint of banana to it, which suggests a touch of sugar in the brew, and overall, it stays light where it should be dark, complex and heavy.
Taste is decent, but very dull and generic. It has a strong roasted component, with a touch of dry earthiness, and very little sweetness. I almost like the dusty aridity of it; that sense that it's truly a stout and don't you dare deny it. But it doesn't have the purpose and drive to make me believe that. It's just dry and dark because it doesn't have the depth and complexity of its betters.
Feel is a little thinâit matches with the rest of the palate, but otherwise it's a bit dim.
Don't get me wrong. It's a good beer. But I'm starting to wonder if it's just a Good Beer From Texas. I wanted to believe that the insular nature of Texas meant that they were just keeping all the best American craft secrets to themselves. In fact, it seems like they're just providing decent but not phenomenal brews.
73 / 100
Purchased from Plonk in Canberra.
Pours a lovely deep black-brown, with the suggestion of depth to the body. Surprisingly though, the body is quite light and fluid, giving a sense of thinness. Head is a wonderful deep chocolate brown, formed of fine bubbles that hint at creaminess. Some lacing. Apart from the body, looks very fine.
Nose is roasted, dark and slightly sweet, but with an odd clipped crispness to it. Slightly woody notes like freshly felled timber mingle with the base notes of chocolate and coffee. Almost a piney character comes through, giving notes of sawdust and resin. There's also a very faint slight smokiness to it, but restrained compared to Haand's usual handling of smoke. It's fascinating and a little different.
Taste is also pleasant, but more along the straight and narrow confines of the style. Some pleasant dark roasted notes giving a charred character and hints of high roast coffee and bitter chocolate, with lingering flavours of pine and a slight boozy astringency. The feel is certainly disappointing, and it leaves something of a hole in the centre of the palate that should be filled with gooey richness. It also accentuates the drying astringency of the booze.
It's a good beer, but it could certainly have been better: I just assume that the parts where it falls down are the result of the reliance on wheat in the grain bill and a weizen yeast for fermentation. i.e. It's the experiment itself that lets the beer down: what makes it unique also is what makes it slightly disappointing.
275ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer.
Pours a disappointingly light brown colour, only opaque due to the density of the beer in the glass. When tilted and held to the light, it's certainly a translucent weedy brown. Head is fine enough, leaving thick lacing and a solid persistent half-centimetre of off-white foam.
Nose is very odd indeed. Very crisp and brightâvery oddly so. Along with some faint hints of dark grains, there are big fragrant hints of appleskin and cinnamon, and a sweetness reminiscent of fairy floss (possibly the Brett, which I believe is used in the process). There are some deep boozy hints, but they're not framed in a consistent way, leaving the sweet, anarchic brightness to take over. Hmm...
Taste is better, leaving a smooth, if lacklustre roasted sweetness along the front palate. Some mild chocolate, and a hint of coffee come through, but both rather weak, and only leaving a faint impression on the finish, which is dominated by ground earth and a lingering roasted character. The feel is smooth, but far lighter than I expected. In some ways, I'm impressed at how well the booze is hidden, but to be honest, in a beer like this, at this volume, it could stand to be far bigger.
Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this. No, it's not a bad beer (in fact I can see why others love it), but it's amazingly bland for a 10% ABV beer in this style. I understand the push behind it, but it's not a particularly interesting RIS for me.
92 / 100
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer, shared with @LaitueGonflable before our final 2012 Sydney Festival show.
Pours, just gorgeously. Like seriously black, thick and sinewy, with a full crest of mocha chocolate foam, that forms solid lacing is it recedes. Body is heavy and full. Apart from the slightly too-light colour of the head, it's damn near perfect.
Nose is rich and sweet, perhaps a little too sweet, with a grainy malt character coming through above everything else. Still, otherwise, it's rich with chocolate, mild roastiness and a bright astringency, almost cherry-like, giving a kirsch like potency. It's good, but there are some other characters that could make it great.
Tasteânow here's a real improvement. Big sweet roasty characters, with a bite of coffee-like astringency to clean it up. Gorgeous smooth chocolate, roast bitterness, subtle vanilla and sugary depth. Wow, this is good. In fact, I've not had this depth and fullness of character from a beer that didn't rely heavily on oak (and possibly bourbon) for the sweetness. Here, you can tell it comes from the depth of the grain, giving a rich, sweet fullness that is amazingly expressive.
Feel is exemplary. Thick and full, but sweet and open to interpretationâit allows the flavours to get stuck, and then explode outwards.
I was a bit up and down on this beer, but it's genuinely, amazingly good. It's so rich, thick and beautiful, and so obviously crafted with love and skill. The only thing I fault it on is its complexity. But if it's missing that, it makes up for it with raw, unabashed power.
Yes, Yes, Yes.
76 / 100
Pours a very dark brown, just a hint of mahogany up to the light. Head is beiege, whispy and cloudy but nice film left behind. Lace is pretty impressive. Good-looking beer.
Smells quite nutty and sweet. Hint of darkness but mostly sweet with brown sugar, vanilla, peanut butter and a hint of licorice. Yeah, nice sweetness, complexity, touch of spice. Bit savoury. Not bad at all.
Taste is darker on the front but very sweet as well. Lots of vanilla, with a touch of bourbon booziness. Good black pepper, star anise and some dark chocolate notes on there as well. Nice flavours from the booze on the back, but also sharpens up the finish with a hint of bourbon and maybe some port as well. Very nice brew.
Smooth, big, but a bit hot on the back. Just need to tone the booze down a bit and you're onto a winner (Yeah, good one, me giving Adam Avery advice).
Good beer, very nice flavours. A bit hot but plenty of craftsmanship to make something this tasty and flavourful.
78 / 100
Pours a surprisingly fluid black-brown, with a fine head of light brown bubbles. Some speckled lacing. Carbonation is extremely fine at least, despite the rather light body. It looks decent enough, but I've seen better looking imperial stouts, especially ones this heavy.
Nose is toasty, but not extremely strong, dark or complex. Slight vegetation or fruit characters come through, along with a touch of phenolic booze. It's a deep enough nose, but I've had far better.
Taste is way, way, way better. It has a really lovely sweetness and smoothness on the palate, balanced by a pleasantly dark roasted character, that only really realises as a nuttiness for most of the palate, then gives a roasted bitterness on the finish. It's still surprisingly supple and smoothâit doesn't have much roastiness or much booze, and a bit more aggression I feel would help.
I really like this beer. However, this style has the potential to really blow me away, and Avery is a brewery I believe has the potential to brew such a beer. I do really like this beer, But I wish I had have loved it so much that I proposed to it on the spot.
81 / 100
Shared with @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a heavy and extremely dark black-brown, with a crunchy and excitingly rich head of mocha brown. Body is extremely heavy, and forms some tight, dirty brown carbonation when tilted or swirled. Lacing forms in waves when tilted, but the only residual is the legs of the body itself as it's swirled. Looks very impressive.
Nose is extremely interesting. Instead of the big toasted, roasty, bittersweet charred grain characters I was expecting, the first smack is of fresh New Zealand hops, giving a crisp green vegetation and sharp fruit character. Sure, under this is a mellow roastiness that gives it a slightly deeper note, but it's really excitingly hoppy, which is a pretty unique experience. If anyone was going to do it, I'd trust it to the New Zealanders though, and 8 Wired in particular.
Taste is extremely smooth and mellow (I love that I've started each paragraph with "extremely"), with a caressing roastiness and a fluid back palate that is so supple that you don't even realise you're drinking anything. The hop character from the nose has disappeared, but surprisingly, the roast doesn't really come up to takes its place in the bitterness stakes. Instead, it's an exceptionally drinkable 10% ABV mellow smooth-bomb.
Another great brew from 8 Wired. I love the amped up hops on the nose, and the exceptionally creamy finish, that make this a dangerously drinkable brew. They continue to impress.
71 / 100
Growler from Slowbeer.
Pours a deep, dark brown-black, rather transparent and oily at the edges. Head forms patchily, giving a mild dark-brown haze to the crown of the beer. Minimal lacing. The body looks a little thin. Overall, it's not an awe-inspiring RIS, but it's not too bad.
Nose is roasty, but quite mild. Not a lot of sweetness, malt or smoothness making itself feltâjust that husky, dark grain character, and an touch of bright acidity that almost evoked carbonated water. Again, a bit disappointing, but not bad.
Taste is much better, and here the R comes in (or should that be the "ahhh" comes in?). Prominent roasted bitterness through the centre of the palate, with a smoothness cushioning it around the edges, if still not much malt sweetness. Back is slightly dry, with a hint of tannic wood. Missing some of the depth and thickness to the feel, but otherwise the palate is just about what you want in a Russian Imperial Stout.
Not bad, but there's so much you can do with this style, and *should* do with this style. This is nice enough, but "nice" isn't a description I feel lives up to the style. It feels a little as though it's just going through the motions.
72 / 100
Pours a very dark colour with flashes of red up to the light. Head is pale beige, nice and dense with mocha appearance. Lacing is lovely and sticky. Looks damn nice.
Smells dark and nutty. Lots of cocoa with toffeed pecans, almonds and some fig notes as well. Hint of dark, ominous booze at the back. Nice, but a bit too sweet. For a RIS some more burnt ashy bitterness wouldn't go astray.
Taste is quite dark and roasty, but with a similar nuttiness. Lots of rich cocoa - heavy chocolate with caramel sweetness, pecans, walnuts and almonds. Touch of black tea, cardamom and port booziness on the back, giving a sweetness that is nice, because it's grounded in dark and spicey notes. Blackcurrants, figs and star anise round out the palate. Nice flavours, still maybe a bit sweeter than I'd like and dries up quite a lot late.
Full body but still feels a bit thin because the booze heat is so noticeable.
Nice stout, lots of pleasant sweetness and roastiness. Not mind-blowing but very good.
99 / 100
(Best of the Best)
2010 vintage, bought for me by @epiclurk. Thanks =)
Pours a deep, black opaque colour, gorgeously thick, and with a lovely chunky head of deep, dark-chocolate brown. Awesome solid and crunchy lacing. But it's the depth, the heaviness, the amazing dark carbonation as it's tilted; amazing. Such an awesome deep and incredibly rich beer.
Nose is a really wonderfully interesting. It actually straddles the divide between a big, sweet American Impy Stout and a dark, heavy, almost smoky and more hardcore Russian Impy Stout. It has the sweetness, the caress, the slight oak characters and the suppleness of the American variety, but with the rawness, the stark almost austere primality of a Russian. It's gorgeous. And better than that, it's *interesting*. It's a new take on the RIS, almost a hybrid.
Taste is also gorgeous, and again it has that lovely blend of suppleness, sweetness and raw, dark bitterness. Mouthfeel is a little lacking, but it doesn't matterâthe flavour itself supplies all the smoothness that is required. There's lovely touches of oak, almost a creaminess in the taste. It's a RIS with the sensuous, gorgeous intrigue of a barrel-aged AIS.
Wow, wow, wow. I did not expect this from St Ambroise. I've had many from them now, and nothing, *nothing*, close to this. No wonder this is a special release. This is truly one of the best Imperial Stouts I've ever had, and because it manages to blend and integrate the two disparate genres, making a synergistic whole. After 1400 reviews, to find a beer that excites me like this? It's just amazing.
82 / 100
Pours a very dark colour, not really penetrable by light, with gorgeous ochre head, nice, thick and dense with lovely retention. Looks just about perfect.
Smell is coffee and cocoa. Lots of rich, roasty sweetness, touch of bitterness to it but pleasant, dark and chocolatey. Well-rounded, enjoyable dark beer smell.
Taste is lovely and dark; all the right notes from the start with dark chocolate, cocoa, black pepper with some nice spicy stout notes that are full of flavour. Nutmeg and a touch of coriander come through, balanced by nice smooth unsweetened chocolate notes towards the back. All very nice, toned, smooth and enjoyable.
A bit too much texture, with a bit of sharpness from the booze, just a bit hot towards the back. Otherwise it just glides through the mouth.
Lovely, smooth and drinkable. A big beer that can be appreciated by all.
90 / 100
Bottle purchased and consumed at Kulminator in Antwerp.
Pours a deep black. Black. Black. Head is very fine and soft. No lace, but the body is so lovely and thick that the body itself almost sticks to the edge of the glass. Static carbonation. When tilted, however, you realise that it's slightly translucent at the edges. Not bad though.
Nose is indeed far from "not bad"; it's gorgeous. Lovely coconut oak characters, roasty, slightly smoky malt, a touch of astringency blended with sweetness, like candied roasted nuts. Smooth, round, just gorgeous. Oh so good.
Taste is roastier and more bitter and acridâhere the Russian darkness comes through, but in a lively way, and still melded with a sweetness that suggests dark fruits, coffee and milk chocolate. The bitterness of the roast character cements and anchors the palate in the way bitter hops do in a good IPA.
Great RIS. The dark roast character ensures it falls squarely here. Wonderful to see a brewers around in Belgium and the Netherlands like De Struise and De Molen stretching the boundaries of beer.
76 / 100
Pours a light-bodied, but dark coloured brown-black, with a coarse-bubbled fudgey head of mocha foam, that settles like a crema ring around the edge of the glass. Minimal retention or lacing. Body is too fluid, in particular.
Smell is really quite lovely. Big smooth roasted chocolate flavours, with lighter notes of tea and raspberries. Slight smokiness to it, with a tingle of barbeque. All of this is based on a pleasant vanilla biscuit sweetness. Really lovely.
Taste is also good, but a little milder than the best examples. Here, there's a smooth, roasted grain character, with a pleasant backing of dark chocolate and a slightly astringent bitter finish of over-pressed coffee. Not a huge amount of depth to it, but it's still very pleasant.
Feel is definitely lighter than it should be, but it doesn't go badly with the smooth, but not particularly boisterous characters in the flavour.
Not a bad drop, all up. Lighter than the average Imperial Stout, but still bigger and fuller than a standard example. Not bad at all.
93 / 100
Drunk as my official 1000th beer review. Unfortunately enjoyed by myself with just a few sips going to the wife, who didn't much like it.
Pours a very dark brown; the only colour is around the edges of the blackness. Head is ochre, nice and dense but doesn't hang around. Nice trails of lace left behind and a good crown can be formed with a quick swill of the glass. Very good.
Smell is beautiful and stouty. Sweet with plenty of chocolate character, nice savoury wood notes and plenty of spice that adds a slight sour touch. Hints of nutmeg, licorice root and jasmine to it, with floral hops coming through at the back to round it out. It's beautiful.
Taste starts quite sweet, with nice cocoa flavour begetting smooth creamy dark chocolate on the mid that's roasty and spicey in equal measure. Robust, piquant spice with aniseed, black pepper and nutmeg all in a lovely, smooth equilibirium. Reachs a spike of flavour late-mid, with a touch of espresso coffee and smoothing out with some fennel seed action and more dark, roasty chocolate at the back. Mmm.... it's a seamless, hemless palate; wherever you find yourself in it you'll be striking a beautiful note. It's tasty, smooth, complex, yet so drinkable.
Smooth and velvety nearly all the way through. A spike of heat late on the palate, with a bit of the booze showing its face but otherwise beautiful.
Cracking imperial stout, perfect for a Winter evening. Warm, roasty, sassy but smooth, so smooth...
83 / 100
Drunk as my unofficial 1000th beer review about a month ago.
Pours a very, very dark colour, light is maybe visible near the edge but otherwise black. Head is a lovely ochre colour, whispy and sunk quickly. Lace is something else, thick curtains down the glass. Looks wonderful.
Smell is rich and dark. Very chocolatey with lots of cocoa, but sweet with dried fruit: raisins and prunes; otherwise some lovely coconut notes. Beautiful nose, just cracked the whip in all the right spots.
Taste is surprisingly smooth, but beautiful and sweet as well, very complex. Rich with lots of chocolate notes, rich and sweet, lots of cocoa, roasty and slightly bitter to midway but not quite as full as it could be (of flavour, that is). Nice sweet complexities come through late-mid with coconut, glacé cherries and pine nuts. Lots of complexities and spice on the back with black pepper for an overall wonderful imperial stout flavour. Complex, but not as burgeoning with flavour as it might have been.
Smooth, full, little bit dry. Just a whisper of booze but no heat at all. Just beautiful.
An excellent beer, wonderfully constructed and more than a match for its big US cousins.
71 / 100
Purchased at New Beer Distributors in New York. I feel I should drink US brews exclusively when I'm in the US, but Thornbridge is difficult to get in Australia, and too good to pass up.
Pours a deep brown colour, surprisingly fluid, with a filmy and pocked head of dusty milk chocolate. Lacing is fine and patchy. Looks a little light for a stout, especially any sort of Imperial one, but still decent.
Nose is roasty, but rather light and astringent. Dark, sharp cocoa-chocolate characters come through, but so does an organic banana skin note late. Mostly sweetness, although the dark chocolate characters give it a slight edge. Only average for a RIS though.
Taste is better, largely because of the big bitter roastiness, which I feel is a must in a RIS. Smoky, dark, crisped characters sit nicely through the centre of the palate, and although it doesn't have a lot of sweetness, it has just enough body to carry the roasted astringency. Feel is a touch too thin, I feel, but at 7.7%, this isn't a big RIS by any standards.
A decent enough brew, but rather disappointing for the style, and for the brewery. A RIS should be a keystone of any brewery's lineup, and I feel this one missed a step.
88 / 100
Very pleased to be drinking this. I purchased this for @LaitueGonflable as a birthday present, and fortunately, he was kind enough to crack it open with me. (The plan is complete...)
Pours a deep brown-black colour, with reddish tinges at the edges. When tilted, the carbonation streams in tiny lines up the edge of the glass. Head is very dark indeed, with a lovely ring of dense bubbles around the edge. Looks very good indeed.
Nose is rich, dark and slightly smoky, with oaky overtones. Boozy notes come through as well, along with some grassy characters. It blends very nicely, but I'd love a bit more depth, a little more sweetness or some more raw aggression. Certainly still very good.
Taste is wonderful. Big sweet smooth characters: oak, dark molasses, burnt sugar, raspberry marshmallows and coffee. All very well integrated, and all lovely and dark. It's smooth and velvety, and so complex. This is a really lovely stout.
So smooth, so slick, so drinkable. This is a really, really lovely Aussie stout, and a worthy special release. Does it warrant the price tag? You bet! I'm totally happy to fork out my hard-earned for beer of this calibre, and totally happy to financially support Australian breweries who go out of their way to give us something big and bold like this.
Stout? *Russian Imperial* Stout?? I can't believe it as this beer pours, frothy and effervescent, and exploding out of the small 330ml bottle. The body is a mid-brown colour, like the hue of a Belgian Dark Ale, with a frothy and crackling head of egg-shell white. The over-exuberant carbonation agitates the sediment, too, meaing I'm left with a clot of floaties in the bottom of the glass.
In no way, shape or form does this look close to a RIS. I'm going to take this as a Strong Belgian Dark from here on.
Nose is more in this vein, and certainly doesn't have much roast character. Instead, it's boozy and sharp, with round Belgian yeast characters, but even these are subdued and a little uninspiring. More of a sweaty grain character riddled with the cheap hot alcohol. Eh.
Taste is hot and thin, with a peppery mid palate and an ashy tobacco leaf finish. Booze screams all over the palate, from front to back and left to right, leaving it with the attractiveness of metho and paint thinner. No subtlety and no finesse.
Feel is thin, but hot from booze. Blergh.
Wow, probably one of the worst Belgians I've ever had. This was just lacking in quality all over the shop, be it stylistically, or holistically. Just hot, clumsy and unsubtle. Almost undrinkable.
375ml green caged and corked bottle sealed with a plastic cork. Bottle purchased from Star Grocery in Berkeley, CA, a funny little grocery store, with a very small, but exceptionally well selected range of craft beer, particularly from Scandinavia.
Pours rather lighter than expected, a bronze-brown hue that is translucent at the edge, but which traps light at its black heart. Head is a sheen of yellow-beige, like the froth of light sweet crude oil. Exceptionally fine carbonation, when it forms, although the static nature of this beer makes it hard to imagine carbonation forming spontaneously. Looks good.
Intense and crazy nose even from several metres away. Big boozy notes which are tempered by a lovely sweet oaky character giving off coconut, vanilla, and a slight tannic acidity. Dark cocoa comes forward very robustly too, giving chocolate-rich overtones to everything else, which is already dark, sweet and mellow. Just gorgeous; so heady and robust, but so complex and intertwined. Fantastic.
Taste is... disappointing. Certainly particular disappointing over the promise on the nose. Here the depth and the sweetness just fall out as though the beer has a trap door. Big, roasted notes form the basis here, and even then, they're not full, or addressing the entire palate. Rather, we get a boozy entree riddled with an ashy back palate that feels thin and ends bone-dry. No depth, no breadth and certainly no complexity.
How very, very disappointing. To have a beer so fantastically delicious on the nose and so very thin and insipid on the palate. My guess is that Mikkeller was disappointed with this brew as well when they sampled it. I certainly would be.
80 / 100
Cheers to @LaitueGonflable for the beer. Cracked open with him after a day of terribly hard work.
Pours with an immense and almost comically voluminous head, so much so that I almost can't fit one 330ml bottle into two glasses. Body is thick and black-brown, heavily opaque. Head is light brown, and although it's amazingly frothy to begin with, it collapses leaving clumps of lace and a pillowed centre. Looks very good.
Ooh, nose is delicious with dark roastiness and slight aged dark characters, giving off very slight vinous characters of oak. Slight seltzer acidity to it, as though it's bubbling off all its carbon dioxide. Sweet boozy notes to it as well, giving some lovely port and bourbon characters. Lovely. Not as strong as some other examples, but nicely constructed.
Taste is very nice in the flavour department, but the feel is really quite surprisingly thin, leaving the palate open to a real sting from booze. In terms of flavour, the palate is dominated by a strong vinous, slightly astringent heat that gives off oaky spirits and liqueur filled chocolates. On the back, we get more of a grainy black note, which releases a nutty character and a very pleasantly smooth finish. Despite the heat, the beer has rounded you up and cuddles you back to sensibility.
Surprisingly drinkable for its profile, ABV and strength. A bold but well made Imperial Stout, that ticks many of the boxes for an exemplar of the style.
75 / 100
Pours a very dark, mostly black colour but slight dark brown around the edges. Head is ochre, just beautiful, thick and dense with large bubbles on the top and sunk to a decent crown. Lace is quite nice, and sticky. Yeah, cracking imperial stout look.
Smell is really nice, but an odd character is hanging around, like some hobgoblin. Smells dark and roasty for the most part but a nice hoppiness to it as well, citric mostly. Touches of blackberry on there and a mild bready note. Makes for a fruity as well as dark and pleasant nose. Good.
Taste is nice; lots of dark roasty notes but they're not dominant or overexuberant at any point. Starts with a pear character that quickly turns darker, touches of espresso with some distinct blueberry flavours late on the mid and some cocoa and cola characters coming through as well. Mint, black pepper and a mild soapy touch make an appearance late. Pleasant palate with lots of good flavours.
A bit harsh at times on the mouthfeel, but a good body and good texture. Maybe slightly over-hot from the alcohol at the back, otherwise good.
Yeah, a good beer is a good beer. Heavy, but good.
79 / 100
Pruchased at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, and brought back to Australia to share with @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a deep and dark, almost opaque black, with just a slight curling of brown at the edges to prove that it's not actually crude oil. Head is foamy and incredibly chunky and solid, leaving 3D images of cave structures on the inside of my glass. Looks very good indeed.
Nose is dark and roasty, but with a very pleasant and extremely unexpected hop fruitiness coming through. In fact, instead of the aroma reinforcing the darkness I expected, it leavens it, giving a wonderful mix of dark grains, and dark fruits. Plum, black peach and heavy raspberry. It's quite delicious.
The taste moves this away from the lightness and fruitiness of an IBA or ABA, giving a true astringent black roasted character to the mix. Here, the dark characters take centre stage, giving a slightly smoky, roasted and charred bitterness. Still, the feel is surprisingly light, and there is a character that leavens it from being thick and heavy. Feel is surprisingly light. Indeed, I think a heavier body would help the beer.
It's a very good beer, and one which interestingly exemplifies the American approach to the big styles. This one gives some unusual characters where they're not expected, and ends up with a fascinating and complex brew.
86 / 100
Pours a dark mahogany colour but mostly black unless held up to the light. Head is ochre, fairly dense and retaining a thin crown. Lace is pretty nice and sticky, cascading down slowly. Nice.
Smells very sweet and really quite lovely. Lots of musk character, sweet and a touch spicy with mild mint notes and maybe some basil as well. Touch of peppery spice. Underlying it all is a roasty rich aroma. Pretty bloody nice.
Taste is extremely nutty. Dry roasty malts on the front that slowly evolve into complex dark flavours, a sweet nutty mid-palate with peanut and macadamia characters. Nice chocolate notes with a touch of cardamom and pepper on there as well. There is also a warmth from the booze on the back, but very sweet overall and the strength on the back just lifts the other sweet, chocolatey roasted flavours really nicely. This is a cracker, beautifully mellow yet complex brew.
Mouthfeel seems a bit deficient at times, it's all full but thinned out on the mid a bit, and the alcohol shows through a little more distinctly than it needs to.
Sweet, pleasant and not too hot. This beer is drinking wonderfully.
69 / 100
Pours a dark, dark brown. Head is ochre, quite generous, sinks though to a thin film but retains a touch of head. Nice trails of lace around, pretty sticky. Looks great.
Smells very pleasant. Roasty with a nutty edge - peanuts maybe and a sweet musk aroma. Hints of mint and lots of chocolate. Very sweet and very pleasant.
Taste seems a bit lacking, compared to the nose. Lots of roasty flavours on the front that kind of flag off midway, developing hints of espresso and a slight boozey heat. There are hints of that mint and musk on there, and it's overall sweet, but doesn't really have any lift to the palate. There's a complex journey, but it seems like the highest and most flavoursome parts are at the front, and they diminish slowly as the palate progresses. Finish is a bit hot with touches of dark bitterness. Pretty pleasant overall, but could have more flavour, considering the strength.
Has a noticeable heat from the alcohol. Nice viscosity but the booze kind of scorches the mouth at times.
Pleasant enough beer, but has a deficiency in some areas where it needs reinforcing. A bit weak on the body that allows the booze to blaze through a bit too much. Good, just not great.
89 / 100
Tasted side-by-side the Yeti and the Oak Aged Yeti. Both purchased at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, and brought back to Australia to drink with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.
This one pours a deep black, with twinges of brown only with the influence of the head. Lacing is sudsy but solid, and the bead is incredibly fine. Yellowish brown head. It looks great. Really lovely.
Nose is sweet and dark, with big characters of aniseed and liquorice to go pleasantly with the roasty notes of dark malt and char. A little bit denser than the oak-aged version, which brings in big organic characters. It's the better for it, I feel, giving a true robust and distinguished sweet and roasted stout character. Lovely.
Deep and rich, and really pleasantly sweet American Impy Stout characters here. Lots of toasted coconut and chocolate sweetness, but with a huge backup of roasty, charred grains to give it body and that back-palate bitterness. Smooth vanilla notes come through deviously to entice you for another sip, where you can be pummeled with flavour yet again.
Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, like melted chocolate. Divine.
I loved this beer. This is a fantastic American Imperial Stout. I'm surprised that side-by-side I preferred this to the oak-aged version, which blends better but doesn't have the raw power and robustness of this one. That's what I'm looking for in the style.
79 / 100
Tried side-by-side with the non-oak-aged version. Both purchased at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA, and brought back to Australia to sample with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable.
This one pours exactly the same colour as the original, but with a looser head with larger bubbles. Same colour of lovely light brown with some supple sudsy lacing. Looks very heavy in the glass. Very pleasant with a surprisingly light body. Looks good.
Dark and sweet on the nose, but with undeniable belts of leavened organic characters, perhaps banana skin and crushed leaves. This is particularly noticeable when put side by side with the original. I don't get a lot of oak, but there's obviously something inoculated in the oak which lends the organics to this one. Still very pleasant and robust, however.
Taste here is very subtle and smooth. The oak age really mellows the palate beautifully, still leaving big chocolatey and roasted grain characters, but sweeping them with a round coconut and vanilla character that is more fused than in the original, but less pronounced. It integrates more with the other characters, and makes the palate smoother, but doesn't distinguish itself quite so much.
Feel is smooth and lovely. Still, I'm more enamoured of the original, weirdly.
A very good beer, and a very drinkable Impy Stout. Indeed, the lovely melding truly improves the drinkability on this one. Overall though, I think it skews the beer off a little, and to be honest, I prefer the original Yeti, which was a fantastic brew.
79 / 100
Purchased at Jackson Wines & Spirits in Lafayette, CA, and brought back to Australia to share with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a dark and heavy black - it's only with the greatest effort that I can see any hints of even deep brown to it - with a foamy and sticky head of light brown-beige. Lacing is superb, sitting in comical spiderwebs down the side of the glass. Body looks a little thinner than expected, but otherwise, it's a fabulous looking beer.
Nose is rich, roasted and rather sweet, with a lingering rauch character of smoked malts. Some toasted coconut and high-cocoa chocolate characters, but the smoky, bacony characters alway bring it back to a round savoury note. Very pleasant indeed.
Taste is smooth, but a little thin, and the complexities present on the nose don't quite translate to here. Lots of coffee and deep roasted characters, giving a black and ashy back palate, with a decent sweetness to pull it back, even a hint of blackcurrant. More odd notes come through as well, a slight turkish delight rosewater character and a fluffy marshmallow hint to increase the complexity of the sweetness.
Feel is surprisingly light, but it aids the drinkability.
Nice. A really pleasantly bold, but pleasantly leavened Imperial Stout. I'm nonplussed at the additions, I'm not sure they add much, but this is a very good beer nonetheless.
83 / 100
Pours a deep, dark brown colour, with a red tinge. Head is ochre, also a slight red tinge to it, but nice and dense with a slight crema appearance. Lace is nice and webby, quite sticky but not hugely so. Pretty nice.
Smell is sweet and yet roasty. Nice dark malts with lots of sweet vanilla and coconut. Hint of cherry as well, but lots of chocolate underlying it all. Yeah, very nice bourbon-barrel smell, sweet and dark.
Taste is very sweet throughout. Lots of chocolate malt but with early notes of coconut and cherry with boozey hints and some oak wood as well. Nutty, too, with lots of toffee and a hint of espresso coffee. Hazelnutty edge late on the back and a hint of licorice as well as some herbal notes, mint. Yeah, sweet, dark, nice complexity. A really enjoyable stout, with a nurturing kiss of alcohol and a beautiful spicy sweetness through the palate.
Fairly full texture but with a touch of slickness, almost like it straddles the border between thin and overly sticky. Yeah, nice feel.
Drinkable? Yes. It's heavy; deal with it. It's a fucking nice beer, of course I'd drink it all the time.
79 / 100
Pours a very deep and thick black. Even the very edges only give a hint of dark ruby when held to light. Body is very heavy, forming lovely cascades as the head forms. The head, for what it is, is a filmy but pleasant mocha brown that leaves rivulets of lacing. Very nice all up.
Nose is roasty, with a slight mustiness to it, and a dry deep aroma that almost hints towards the classic high gravity American Impy Stouts aged on oak barrels. Genuinely hints of that lovely coconut and vanilla character you get with the best American examples. Although it doesn't pound my nose with its direct strength, it's extremely good.
Taste is smooth with round oaky characters and a long, lingering mix of sweet chocolate and charred malts. Big roasted bitterness towards the end. Bitterness comes through, but the booze, which is noticeable, is perhaps slightly too prominent. Still, it's a very excellent palate, with masses of character and a perfectly true to style profile. Feel is smooth fine-bodied, with enough vigour to hold up the massive flavours.
Yes, this is a really excellent Australian example of a style that has been well represented elsewhere in the world. It's beers like this that give me faith that we can mix it with the best. A delectable and very well made imperial stout.
70 / 100
On tap at the Local Taphouse Darlinghurst.
Very dark brown, not close enough to black, with a filmy but very fine head of light beige. Thin body, which may account for the fact that there's very little lacing. Still, looks pretty decent.
Roasty nose, but subtle and subdued. Hints of light chocolate and toasted grains, with a bit of bready roundness. Not bad. Certainly a true stout nose, if not one that punches me with its force.
Taste is smooth, with almost a dichotomy on the palate. There's plenty of roasted, slightly astingent bitterness, but there's this light and sweet chocolate and caramel flavour sitting above that at the same time, but completely disconnected from it. I can feel it on the palate too, as though the two flavours are connecting with different parts of my tongue. It adds depth to the palate but in an unusual way, as if the full gamut of flavours are not being represented. It's tremendously interesting though.
Nice brew, is it the addition of the liquorice root that gives it such a strange break on the palate?. Whatever causes it, the brew is tasty and drinkable though.
79 / 100
Pours a pleasant deep brown colour, with a filmy head of crusted off-white foam. Very fine bubbling when swirled. Body looks pleasantly thick. Not bad at all.
Nice hop characters on the nose. Extremely fresh and slightly fruity, with a slight hint of coconut. Crisp and rather sharp. Certainly not much note of the darkness apparent in the appearance on the nose. But it's extremely pleasant.
Taste is yet another spanner in the works. Extremely long and languid palate -- big roasted characters and deep tropical fruit characters mingle together. Overripe papaya mixes with the dark roasted flavours and vanilla and coconut nuances. It's extremely odd, but extremely -- really, extremely, genuinely -- tasty. Lovely palate. Really good.
This is an extremely tasty brew, that mingles fruit and darkness together in some wonderfully bizarre chimera. It's a lovely and extremely interesting brew.
77 / 100
Pours a very dark mahogany with amazing guinnessy nitro head. Beautiful creamy and beige but actually kind of grey; retains well. Great cascade at first pour, then settles down and leaves some huge sticky lace behind. Pretty beautiful.
Smells pretty dark and chocolatey, quite spicy as well but with lots of floral hpps coming from it with rosewater and some phenolic notes as well. Cherry even? Pretty nice, good balance between sweet and spicy.
Taste is sweet and chocolatey with a lot of nice sweet, roasty but not very bitter flavours. No charred remains, more tangy notes at the end with a hint of cherry fruit and lychee. Mostly that sweet cocoa-rich chocolate. Nitro edge gives it a rich creamy feel and tames the finish, making it taste like rich caramel custard a bit. Nice roasty undertones temper the potentially dangerous sweet character nicely. Good balance, pretty damn nice
Yeah, creamy on the feel, a bit lacking in oomph though. Texture is a bit thin.
Yeah flavours are quite gentle and it's very palatable indeed, especially for the strength. Very well constructed.
75 / 100
Pours a pleasant black, slight brown colour. Head is pretty special, beige colour with beautiful small bubbles and wonderful retention. Lace is disappointing but noticeable. Yeah, nice dark ale.
Smell is very smokey! Huge smoke with charred meat, lots of roasty aroma with bacon notes and some espresso as well. Yeah, very savoury, salty really. Pretty decent, but yeah, it's a curious one for sure.
Taste is interesting as well. Very roasty, but without that meaty note. Lots of char character, very burnt and bitter. Nicely so. Lots of dark chocolate with some licorice notes, toffee and black pepper coming through on the back. Hints of meat suggest themselves late, and some nice rich, sweet characters. Pleasantly spicy and roasty for the most part.
Pretty sticky on the feel, thick but definitely suits the rich flavour.
Quite an enjoyable and drinkable dark beer. Not exactly quaffable but excellent for a sip.
75 / 100
On tap at the Local Taphouse. Almost looks like a nitro-pour with the creamy, creamy, silky and velvety head. Body is a deep dark black, quite opaque, but the head is a joy to behold. Good cascade in the head during the pour, and lots of static carbonation when swirled. Really excellent.
Nose is surprisingly fruity, with some hops cascading over a rich chocolate note. Roasted notes are dusty but with a sweet grain character. Nice.
Taste is smooth and dark, lots of chocolate on the fore, with an odd bitterness which seems to straddle the characters of charred roastedness and clear alpha hoppiness. Almost a pronounced IPA bitterness running through it. Perhaps mingled with this is the heat - it's hard to taste the booze (exceptionally well hidden if it genuinely is 11.5%), but there's something lightly astringent on the back.
Can't fault the mouthfeel though, which is glossy and rich.
Very drinkable, and very, very smooth; exceptionally so for the purported 11.5% alcohol - it felt far less than that. A very nice Impy Stout - probably one of the better ones I've had from Aus.
Pours a very dark brown, almost black with ruby around the edges. Head is gorgeous, generous, dense and creamy. Dissipates after a while, leaving some stunning thick lace around the glass. Could maybe be a smidge darker, but otherwise fab!ulous.
Nose is sweet and dark. A lot of roasted espresso and cocoa character on that, interlaced with caramel, vanilla and butterscotch. Yeah, really quite sweet.A pleasant nose, but I prefer my RISs roastier, definitely.
Taste is also really sweet. A huge amount of vanilla and crème Anglaise blend with mild espresso notes to give this a sugary latte kind of flavour. Has a light chocolatey character on the mid-palate that still manages to seem a touch watered-down, and the finish is underwhelming and also oddly sweet. Don't really want that flavour in an RIS, especially on the finish. Pretty unimpressed overall, almost to the point of disliking it. But I have to be fair, I have tried some astoundingly good RISs, and this is not outwardly bad.
A bit thin on the feel, and yet syrupy. Almost like cough medicine, really. Not particularly liking it, a bit more texture to it might lower the sugary perception of the palate.
This could be more easily drunk than a lot of Russians, if it weren't so damn sweet.
79 / 100
Pours a really pleasant opaque black, with a frothy pancake-bubbled light brown. Good lacing. Head is surprisingly thick and robust. Very pleasant looking.
Nose is incredibly dark and roasted - it almost slides towards a smokiness. Quite sweet for all the darkness. Indeed, there's some real classic and abysmally black stout characters to it. Extremely powerful. Lovely.
Taste is very black and roasted. Very pleasant deep roasted stout characters. It's black, dark and roasted to the extreme. Alcohol comes forward on the back, but the mouthfeel is extremely smooth and slick, which really gives a soothing effect. This is a really lovely brew. Dark, devilish and delicious.
This is a very good RIS - extremely dark and roasted and extremely robust. It ticks all the boxes for me stylistically - this is a really good beer.
69 / 100
On tap at the Local Taphouse Darlinghurst's Canadian SpecTapular.
Dark, reddish-black with an absolutely gorgeous head of cushiony and creamy pale, off-white foam. Just looks delicious.
Nose is roasty, with dark grains present, but it has some noticeable vinous wine characters, and a weak sugary sweetness. Eh.
Taste is similar. Sugar sweetness comes through after the initial dark roastiness, but the roasted character is not nearly robustly enough. Boozy notes with a light kirsch character. Mouthfeel is smooth enough, but not much to work with.
Drinkable for an imperial stout, but an imperial stout should be bold, heavy and aggressive. This is none of the above, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed.
71 / 100
Pours a very dark colour, dark mahogany up to the light. Beige head levels out slowly, leaving a film of headness on the top. Lace is thin but has that great "look at me, I'm a dark beer" bronze curtain look to it. Yeah, decent beer, but not amazing.
Nose is very roasty, lots of coffee on that. Yeah, toasted grain and just general carbon matter. Slight ashiness with smokey coffee grounds. Nuttiness on the back like roasted almond. Yeah, pleasant nose but again not mind-blowing.
Taste is actually a bit weak on the front. Has nice dark roasty notes at first, then gets just a bit subdued, the roastiness trails off. It creeps back into the palate with pleasant nutty notes and mega cocoa. A hint of cola character at the back, just slightly sour and not as 'meaty' as the imperial stouts I've come to love. Finish is a strong point though with nice palatable roastiness, a lot of sweetness as well though. If anything a little too sweet, has a brown sugar tinge to it and I do quite like my stouts to roast my bollocks off at the end. Decent palate overall though, just feel it's a bit mild and timid compared to what I expected.
Does swill really nicely in the mouth, smooth and velvety with a bit of a dry bite at the end that just adds a little "oomph!" to it.
I often say in my reviews that when flavour feels diminished, it makes it more drinkable. That is definitely true here because for an imperial stout it is remarkably easy-drinking and mild. The alcohol is virtually undetectable.
86 / 100
Pours a clear dark brown, slight red tinge up to the light. Head is frothy, ochre in colour, sinks to a thin film after a while but leaves one hell of a curtain of lace - dense, silky foam, like a fresco made from God's jizz. 5 for the lacing, I would like the body to be slightly darker though, based on the style.
Nose is deliciously burnt, but also delightfully chocolatey. Large cacao aroma with hints of espresso bitterness, some licorice aroma, hints of leather and some black pepper notes. Savoury, bittersweet, roasty and strong. Beautifully strong, like smelling Vladimir Putin's armpit after he's been benchpressing a lorry.
Taste is pretty impressive as well. Strong chocolate flavour throughout with malt verging into nutty territory, hints of hazelnut and walnuts, especially on the aftertaste. Palate is spicy overall with some distinct alcohol warmth on the back but it's oh so sweet as well, lots of cola, cocoa-rich chocolate and a slight licorice character on the mid as well. Beautifully balanced then gets dry, and descends into spicy and slightly savoury territory on the back. That could be a bad thing, but it's wonderfully strong and warm, absolutely perfect for this kind of weather (it's Winter), and it's never unbearable, just robust like a great cognac. Just a delightful drink.
Dry mouthfeel, but quite thick and vegemitey for the most part. Does give you a "shit, you're gonna be hungover tomorrow" sensation, but really nice for the most part.
Beautiful winter warmer. Strong, sweet, rich, bitter, did I say strong? Beautifully strong. Sock it to me, Putin. Rasputin, that is.
88 / 100
Pours a heavy black - blacker than the BP oil slick, with a lightly foamy dark chocolate brown head of crackling bubbles that struggle their way to the surface. Lacing is really good. Overall, a great looking RIS.
Oh man, I love a stout that smells like that. Deep dark roasted notes, with toasty sweetness coming through - desiccated coconut, vanilla, oak, anise and raisins. Oh, and it's strong and potent, giving me a sock to the nose. Amazing. It's really hard to get better than this.
Yep, lovely roasted characters on the palate. Just as desired, the dark, ashy lightly astringent characters are more prominent here, especially on the back palate. But leveraged around it are the lighter notes of aniseed, toasted coconut and light smoke. Even at the very end of the aftertaste, there's a slight lilt upwards with the sweet coconut. Mouthfeel is, to be fair, a little softer and lighter than I expected, but ironically, this aids the drinkability, which is amazingly good given its gravity and the depth of flavour.
Oh yes, this is an extremely good stout. Very rich and flavoursome, with depth and complexity to savour.
Pours pretty damned opaque black, slight red tinge when really held up to the light, very decent head - ochre in colour - sticks around at about half a cm thick, leaving some gorgeous clingy lace, really sticky webs of beige foam. Very nice stout appearance.
Nose is fairly burnt, but yeah, very sweet, almost too sweet. Lots of nuts - almonds and hazelnuts - with a fair cocoa character and a bit of milk. A bit lacking in the burnt aromas I would expect from an RIS. Has a kind of milk coffee aroma. Doesn't smell bad, but I want more roastiness from it, it actually smells a bit weak.
Taste is a lot stronger, but still very sweet indeed. Lacks the roastiness again. Has some roasty ashy hints, but there is more prominence given to some strong alcohol hits on the mid and back. Some hints of roasted espresso, cocoa, oak and some coppery metallic character on there as well. But yeah, a really strong alcohol kick to it and comes across more as a dessert wine than a beer, with the sweetness and noticeable booziness. Definitely could use more roasty bitterness, just lacks potency in flavour. I like strong flavour, not just strong beer.
Mouthfeel is very full, quite stinging though when alcohol comes through. A bit grainy, not bad but could be smoother.
A pleasant drinking beer, but I just would prefer less sweetness.
81 / 100
Pours very dark, but brown around the edge when help up to the light. Pretty dark, on a scale of dark stouts. Head is pleasant beige with slight pink tinge. Sinks, leaving a thin ring of dense foam. Lace is unusual, sort of has a presence but it's thin and fleeting. Very interesting head, with an espresso crema kind of feel. Very good.
Nose is a sit-up and take notice burnt stout smell. Very bitter in its roastiness and with distinct notes of peat, peppery spice, and very strong dark coffee. Very strong and dangerous-smelling. But I absolutely love it, I just love really burnt, bitter darkness.
Wow, a lot of sweetness on the palate, didn't expect that at all. There's a very sweet berry-like character on that, which blends quite nicely with the overall burntness. Maybe a hint of cherry and blueberry, that emerges three times; on the very front, just before the mid and once just at the end, each time being either overridden, or complemented, by a pleasant dark, roasty espresso character that provides bitterness, but also nice spicy ethyl alcohol that really heightens your sense. Might be more successful if the sweetness weren't so prominent, because it's a bit too noticeable, and it seems a bit odd, with distinct sweetness and spicy darkness blending, but also clashing, in their quest for supremacy. I still love it though - I WANT those flavour to fight for my attention.
Smooth, velvety mouthfeel. Delicious, in a word.
Very pleasant, if sweetness were toned down this would be an absolute killer.
85 / 100
Pours a very deep and dark brown-black, with a slightly filmy, but incredibly fine-bubbled head of chocolate brown. The miniscule bubbling around the edges when it's swirled is divine. The body is obviously thick, evidenced by the static bubbling around the edges. It could be deeper and blacker, but otherwise this is an absolutely stunning looking beer.
Oh yeah, wonderful deep nose - a great mix of tannic bitterness, roasted grain, chocolate and leavened vanilla and coconut sweetness that prevents it from being overwhelming. Really delicious, and full of complexity - rumbling with darkness but also peppered with lighter notes that make it exceptionally and sweetly approachable.
Taste has is just right as well - the sweetness is if anything more noticeable here, and is balanced against the slightly acrid, roasted, blackened notes. Chocolate comes to the fore, along with melted toffee, and the bitterness just stalks through the middle, leaving a diffusing but omnipresent trail of black smoke. Really, by the end, I'm surprised at just how sweet it comes across. The huge alcohol content is minimally present, and I'm astonished how they managed to get this high an ABV and this level of residual sweetness together in the same beer. Perhaps, it's not as complex on the palate as on the nose - but damn it's impressive all the same.
If anything, the level of sweetness, while providing a solid canvas for the raging complexities of the brew, comes across slightly too heavily after more than half a glass. It somewhat hurts the drinkability in a way that the surprisingly high ABV does not. Still, it's an impressive beer - one of the sweetest and hence most unique Imperial Stouts I've had the pleasure to try. Serve it with a heady chocolate dessert that can stand up to it, or some citric fruit salad that can cut through it.
81 / 100
Pours a dark colour, almost pitch-black. Slight hint of brown up to direct light. Head is not beige, or ochre, but brown. Bronzey sort of brown. Very dense, bubbles pop here and there but it's sticking around, about an inch thick. Leaves some nice spidery trails of lace. Very nice.
Nose, look, has huge darkness in there, but somehow doesn't reach the depths of the abyss. A large amount of dark chocolate, but yeah, mostly spice, huge peppery sensation and a lot of liqueur notes. But wow, smelling deeply makes my eyes water. It smells strong, more than anything, like a good cognac. But very pleasant.
Taste is surprisingly palatable. Strong, yes, but starts like dark chocolate and has notes of raisin in there and some blood plum, then gets very alcoholic towards the end, spicy and phenolic with black pepper notes and a lot of vinous flavours, oak and burgundy, some rum, yeah. Definite noticeable alcohol, but it comes through full of flavour, it's all roasty and alcoholic at the same time. Really, really good flavour. This is the sort of beer I adore. Strong like a cock, but flavoursome as a minge. I tasted this blind, was stunned to find out this came from a can.
Thick feel, makes your mouth very sensitive though, with its harsh alcohol. Huge amount of body to it, just a bit harsh.
Couldn't drink it every day, but a damn fine drop.
71 / 100
Pours a dark, dark colour, mostly black, but - oh no, it falls down at the edge, dark mahogany, not even needing to hold it up to the light to get that - there's a fail. Head is ochre and quite thick, but visibly foamy. Retains well - lacing is pretty disappointing actually, for a stout, thin and not all that sticky. But definitely dig the retention.
Nose is spicy and dark. First whiff is peppery and cinnamony, and it's only when that has past that one gets the dark roasty malt, burnt toast and oak characters. Also a fair amount of brandy on there, with noticeable alcomohol, plus a slight hazelnut edge. Yeah, very pleasant, interesting nose, with a lot to like.
Taste starts quite spicy and phenolic, with peppery notes, some cinnamon and raisin, gets quite a lot darker towards the mid-palate, with notes of cane sugar but also some licks of espresso and cocoa. Distinct nutty notes on the back give off some hazelnut and marzipan, as well as some woody notes. If there is a criticism - and there is, and here it comes - it's that there's not enough darkness to it. As an RIS it could use more roasty, burnt characters. It does have nice stout notes but it just leaves me wanting more.
Mouthfeel actually a bit thin for what it is. Rough texture shows there's plenty of body to it, but for the flavour I expected it a bit stickier.
Very pleasant overall. Enjoyable Imp. Stout from a decent brewer.
85 / 100
Bought from Whole Foods Market in Chelsea, New York. Carried back with loving care to Australia and shared with my bro @laituegonflable.
Dark opaque black colour, with just the hint of brown at the edge. Head is a creamy and delicious smear of chocolate coloured foam across the top. Quite turgid and frothy, with amazing lace. Looks extremely dark and exceptionally full bodied. The tiny bubbling in the head is exceptional - it's bordering on creamy without the gimmick of pure creamy-headed stout. Really awesome.
Deep, dark and boozy notes of fresh licorice, charred grain, leather and (almost) smoked fish. It's incredibly smooth and complex, with so many dimensions cavorting around. But despite this, it seems so well integrated, as though I'm viewing it from far away, and the radically different elements are all part of one succinct and coherent whole. Quite remarkable.
Smooth and creamy on the palate, and certainly not as intense as it could have been. Roasted notes of high-cocoa chocolate, vienna-roast coffee and smooth bourbon vanilla make it rich, but approachable. Finish is full and rather sweet, despite the carbonised coffee bean rawness; and the smoky tessitura just accentuates the otherwise full-bodied rounded character that makes up its bulk. Mouthfeel is smooth, but slightly more tingling from the alcohol than expected.
A very robust and complex but enjoyable impy stout. It packs a punch, but is unexpectedly drinkable given the ABV and the style. This is a really good and extremely layered beer - extremely worthy of appreciation.
(Without a doubt, the best beer I've yet had from a can).
73 / 100
Pours a dark, opaque brown-black, with an initially full head of toasted brown foam, that cascades with the pour. Some dissipation, but very good lacing. Looks full, dark, and pretty heavy.
Big, roasted nose - lots of dark grain and toasted sweetness. Slightly over-boozy, with whiffs of phenolic chemicals layering over the top, with a sweet vanilla note as well. It's a heady aroma, to be sure, with a nice conglomeration of booze, sweetness, and roasted, dark devilish blackness.
Taste starts quite softly, but wells up with a bitter black character, before softening to a dark rum-soaked raisin sweetness on the back. Finish creeps up with a dry, almost acrid ashy character appearing some seconds after the initial sip. Mouthfeel is certainly not as silky and mercurial as the best examples, but the flavours are right, and are very well integrated. It's not the most complex of examples, but it's got all the elements there.
A very drinkable impy stout, rich and dark and sinuous, as though it's luring you in for the punch. This is a good example, with nothing out of character. Sure, it could be more intense, more extreme and in your face. But this is what Red Hill does right to me - good beers done well stylistically.
73 / 100
Pours a dark cola colour with mahogany hue around the edge, small ochre head of medium to large bubbles disperses quickly, leaving a thin ring around the edge. Lacing clings to the glass in stunning cascades. A lot of carbonation feeding the rim. Very fine, proud-looking beer.
Nose is a delicious mélange of sweet, dark aromas. Huge chocolatey aroma, dark with blood orange, molasses, brown sugar and some sultana sweetness. Very slight tartness suggests fresh, the rest of it suggests sweeet... Jammy and good. Very enticing.
Taste has a plummy character first, with a murky jam sweetness pervading the front to mid. Aspects of cocoa and espresso descend into a spicier palate, with hints of mint and jaffa orange. Slight treacle on the late mid adds an earthy sweetness, a bit overdone in fact, and makes that small part of the palate a bit insipid - almost like an over-sugared espresso. It's the one weak part of the palate, but unfortunately it falls towards the back, where a further injection of burnt malt would be most welcome, to make this a phenomenal roasty stout. It does have a nice lingering bitterness though, and a delightful kiss - with some tongue - of alcohol at the very conclusion. Just needs to carry its power all the way to the end.
Nice warmth from the booze, with a nice mouthfeel overall. Does have a slight sizzle on the tongue, and I'm not too keen on carbonation in an RIS, but otherwise good.
Overall this beer hints at 'harsh' but never goes all the way. Pretty great beer.
81 / 100
Pours black as night. Held right up to intense halogen lighting, gives a very slight potential hit of dark mahogany brown, but seriously it's dark. Head is actual dark brown, made up of large uneven bubbles but very large, leaves some nice webs of lace behind and sinks in a bubble-popping style. It's a magnificent-looking beer.
Nose is deep and rich with large over-roasted characters, no espresso but large dark chocolate and cocoa characters, plus a lot of deep spice notes - aniseed and black pepper, hints of mint and menthol, pretty amazing and very enjoyable nose.
Taste is pretty intense and deep. Strong dark cocoa and chocolate flavours on the front palate give way to some very dark burnt characters on the back that give off a nice bitterness that is ashy, yet pleasant, and very palatable. Hints of mint and star anise on that, and some slight espresso notes on the mid, plus slightly sour woody characters towards the back. Leaves a slight woodiness more than anything on the finish, but also an odd sweetness, like fruit & nut mix. An awesomely powerful flavour, with a tingle of alcohol towards the back. Very dark and burnt, but very good.
Pretty full mouthfeel, slight sting from the booze, but chewy and solid. Impressive, anyway.
Pretty damn drinkable for what it is. Intense, but very reasonable as a beer. One would want to have an argument with this beer, but it's just too reasonable and dammit, it makes too much sense. Just roll with it. It's right.
85 / 100
Pours an incredibly deep black-brown. Indeed, the "brown" in black-brown is probably psychosomatic. I can't really see any lightening in the horrible abyss of this beer. Head is an incredibly massive head of dark brown foam, easily five-fingers, and far more extensive than the three fingers of body. Looks heavy, rich and black. Seriously. This is what I expect in a Russian Imperial.
Very dark notes on the nose - but not incredibly robust. Certainly characters of charcoal, roasted grains, and dark sugar, but it's not as powerful and offensive as the best RISs I've had.
The palate is very well put though. A very strong robust ashy bitterness, just leavened slightly with notes of high-cocoa percentage chocolate. It's bittersweet - and the "sweet" in bittersweet is certainly noticeable. Mouthfeel is clinging and smooth, but maybe not as thick as it could be. Still, a very robust and very good RIS palate. Very strong, bitter and robust, and bursting with blackened, charred characters.
A pretty damn good Imperial Stout. It really has all the classic characters that I love. While it doesn't break the mould in excitingly challenging ways, it does present a pretty extreme package, and it does provide a very good canonical exemplar of what Russian Imperial Stout should be.
73 / 100
Tried on tap at Sydney's Local Taphouse. Very excited to see it there.
Pours a deep, dark, horrible black. Very opaque, without even much lightening of the colour at the edges or when held to the light. Head is a tick and foamy mocha brown, rather light for an impy. The body doesn't look particularly dense, but otherwise looks pretty good.
Rich high-cocoa chocolate on the nose, dusty with a lingering whiff of blackened malt. Certainly lacks on sweetness, but that's what you get. All things considered, not terrible heavy or robust considering the style, but otherwise very nice.
Deep dark characters on the palate with a vague back-palate of booze. Very ashy, very charred, and it really lacks some body and sweetness to back up the astringency. Feel is very light, a shame, because a thick, chewy, silky body is a necessity in the style.
Not the best imperial stout I've had, and not even the best Australian example I've had. Hey it's not a bad beer, and I love that more Australian breweries are cranking out the more extreme end of the brewing spectrum, but it's certainly sub-par for the style.
Pours a nice dark colour, light is sort of visible through it but it's pretty much black. Not much head - a ring of burnt sienna bubbles around the top. Lacing is a decent ring but sinks pretty quickly. Looks pretty mediocre for how dark it is, although it is nicely dark.
Nose is a zap of intense aromas, in particular some mega ethanol, almost like white spirits. A nice roasted coffee fragrance tries to temper this, but to no real avail. Smells slightly roasted but mostly sour, with a hint of bourbon, some very boozey fragrance along with it. Impressive character in a beer, but not well balanced.
Taste has a lot of roasted notes throughout, but in a bittersweet way, like unsweetened chocolate. Fair espresso flavour and a bit of a chemical flavour, like insect repellent. Just a little bit though, and it may just be more an ethanol character. There is a sharp zing to the mouthfeel because alcohol is obvious, does have a nice warming kick to it though.
Overall this isn't a bad drop, but it disappoints me. Just seems to lack nuance; it has a strong flavour but it doesn't burst forth, and doesn't have much of a journey from palate A to palate B. I suspect it's just drinking too young at the moment, it seems very alcoholic but the deeper flavours haven't had a chance to mature and blossom yet, and tame the alcohol burn. If I get another chance to review an older bottle I'll revise my judgement but to my mind this isn't drinking very well yet.
89 / 100
Bought at Monument Wines and Spirits in CA, brought back to Australia and cracked open with friends to mark my 500th BA review.
Pours a dark, somewhat viscous and oily black, just hints of dark brown around the edges, with a thin film of deep brown espresso bubbles. No lacing, and very little retention, but I expected little else from the highest gravity brew I've yet sampled. Body is surprisingly liquid in the glass though - it doesn't quite linger in its movements as much as some of the other heavy stouts I've had - say Mephistopheles, or Goose Island Bourbon County. Still, a very pleasant, dark and dangerous looking beer - one you have to respect.
Nose is a thick black punch of roasted, blackened charred grain. Heaps of toasted blackness, turbulent notes of smoke and desiccated coconut, vinous notes of peppery shiraz, and a faint whiff, if not a very noticeable one, of spirituous booze. All up, an exciting and tantalising melange of characters.
Thick, silky and wine-like on the palate. Lots of body to the feel, with a creamy welling of vanilla sheened excess. Flavour is soaked with booze, heaps of vinous oak-barrel characters, a little resin, and plenty of dark, charred malt - a character that would be overwhelmingly dominant in any other brew. The alcohol is much more prominent here, though, and the long, spirit-like warming glow that imparts, is part smell, part taste, part feel, and partially sensed through intoxication. It's a heady and mind-tingling brew. Thoroughly exciting.
A very different brew, and one that is very challenging to get my head around - the booze is certainly its most dominant character, and it's as though the entire beer has been crafted around making the alcohol character work. No doubt it will mellow with time, and I'd love to see what it's like in three or four years - it may well have matured into an absolutely astounding brew.
86 / 100
On tap at Sydney's Local Taphouse US Beer SpecTapular. I'd had this before in America, but a chance to sample it on-tap on my home soil?? Phenomenal!
Black. That's all that can be said about the appearance. Not true, a big thick head of light brown bubbles crowns the abyss. Really quite creamy. Retention is excellent. Lacing phenomenal. Awesome looking stout.
Lots of espresso coffee and toasted grains on the nose, very tasty. Note very thick. Notes of smoke and very dark bittersweet chocolate. Really quite heavy and irrational. It makes you question your own existence. Phenomenal.
Great rich, butch and in-your-face palate. It dares you not to like its dark, rich and heavy roasted characters. Full of charred grain, sweet malt and heavy and thick as hell. Mouthfeel is chewy and rich.
Holy hell, an amazingly complex and heavy imperial stout. Very rich and blasted with alcohol. I'm pleased to sip it, but I couldn't slug it down.
75 / 100
Oh, pure pitch black pour. Brown head, burnt sienna in colour, very very thick and sinks like a sturdy, well-built ship with a holeproof hull. That is to say, it doesn't sink at all. Forms a thick frothy crown. Lacing is sensational. That's the beer to end all beers. I couldn't imagine a better-looking beer.
Nose is burnt espresso, very dark and slightly ashy, without the bitterness that goes along with that. Very pleasant, earthy roastedness. Slight espresso and cocoa. Slight hoppiness on the back as well? Very good indeed, but seems a bit subdued - doesn't have that nostril-tearing intensity I remember.
Taste is an intense, bitter roasted flavour, a lot of espresso, bitter cocoa and red grape skin, cherry and jaffa orange. Very tasty and sweet, with nice bitter roasted characters coming through on the mid-to-back, plus an insane kind of meaty, honey-roasted character. Very pleasant indeed, lots of dark characters but very drinkable.
Does have a strong alcohol hit on the back though which reminds me it's heavy going and not sessionable, but this is in all other respects a damned fine drop.
90 / 100
Pours very thick, a dark, dark opaque brown, with a rising head of incredibly fine brown bubbles, about the colour of chocolate shavings. Lacing is insane: tiny intricate patterns making a miniature Jackson Pollock print on the inside of my glass. Hell yes, what an amazing looking beer.
Wonderful roasted chocolate notes on the nose, big, rich and sweet, but with lightly smoky notes of wood-fired barbeque, burnt toffee, coffee bean and an odd light ozone character. Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing. Very raw and fresh, full of body and attitude, but also just plain tasty.
Smooth and slick mouthfeel is what I notice initially, thick and shiny like melting high-fat icecream. The taste is deliciously bittersweet, full of rich high-cocoa chocolate, mocha coffee and toffee. Only later do the true carbonised characters come through, with a black, high-roast character just lingering on the edges of the palate. Just so damn smooth, rich, sweet and delicious.
Hell yes, what a delicious beer. A rip-roaring RIS that is also a delicious treat. Raw, but refined. Heavy, but smooth. A perfect balancing act, showcasing the art of the Imperial Stout. Bravo!
89 / 100
Big and chunky 750ml ceramic bottle with swingtop. 2008 vintage.
A very thick, opaque black body is my reward, plus a crunchy dark toffee-coloured head of thich pancake bubbles. Lacing is extreme. The way the bubbles settle out on a pour tells how thick this is. Phenomenal.
Dark, rich, sweet, plummy, carbonised, charring, delicious. There's a pleasant organic overtone to it as well, with contributions from the aromas of turned earth and orange peel. What a great and mixed perfume of dark delicious scents.
Delicious, rich and sweet palate - thick as treacle and amazingly heavy. Like melted high-cocoa dark chocolate mixed with Benedictine. There's certainly a noticeable heat here too, but there's that levity in the palate again, a slight hint of citrus, which just accentuates the other complexities. It's like a touch of salt to bring out the spices in a rich meal. Wonderful.
Mouthfeel is very heavy and thick - it's like honey in the mouth.
Wow, what an impressive brew. Heavy as hell and extremely complex. Yes - those Americans sure know how to tkae the essence of a style and make it big and loud.
86 / 100
Lovely cascade out of the bottle, a very dark black-blood-red hue, just giving a glimmer of ruby when held to light. Head is a creamy crest of beige bubbles. Good lacing. Just delicious looking.
Dark chocolate-sweet notes on the nose. Not huge but tasty and sweet. Hints of something slightly tannic as well, like tea leaves or red wine cork. Nice.
Very solid, roasted and smoky characters on the palate. Dark and bitter - everything implies fire and charcoal, except that it has this wonderful airy sweetness that never drags it right down. Back palate is quite ashy, but in a pleasant drinkable dryness. Mouthfeel is creamy and thick, but with a pleasant levity. Very nice.
Extremely drinkable, despite the darkness. Just creamy, rich, sweet, and slick. A superbly balanced and extremely well made brew. This beer cements Samuel Smith's reputation for me.
60 / 100
Great head when poured, thin film now. Very, very solid cradle of lacing. Copper-tinged black colour. This is truly, madly, deeply a great-looking beer.
Unusual nose. Pear (Yes, pear) is a big aspect of the smell, with a spiced, cinnamon edge. Nothing really dark or burned here, which deserves kudos. It's an extraordinary smell for a dark beer but that doesn't necessarily equal extraordinarily good. It's good, just not extraordinarily.
Slightly more dark on the flavour with a cocoa kind of undercurrent and a sout, cabernet kind of finish, but not really cabernet-flavoured. A slightly simple drop, with flavours that are nice but subdued. Mouthfeel is excellent. This seems to have a healing power - my mouth is in pain when this beer isn't gushing through it.
Overall this is a nice, drinkable drop, but it doesn't command too much of my respect.
77 / 100
Pours a very, very opaque black hue - possibly the blackest beer that's ever blacked. Held up to one of those energy-saver fluorescent light tubes it has the slightest glimmer of glow from beyond. The head builds slowly when poured but gathers momentum for a thick chocolatey cloud of foam that sticks around. It gathers a few pockmarks here and there and sinks slowly. Leaves delicious-looking lacing. Quite lovely lacing, really. Quite lovely everything.
Nose is thick and rich with a burnt, cocoa character, very aromatic even from a fair distance. It's a delicious nose and very pungent, but also a trifle simple. It's played very loudly, but it's still just the one note. And to be perfectly frank, while it's a great example of a stouty nose, it's not really that unique.
Taste is as powerful as a a turbo-charged steamroller with a jet engine, with a sour burnt character on the front palate which in all honesty is closest in taste to charcoal. It's unusual and arresting, but it certainly doesn't make one recoil, as eating charcoal might. This is largely thanks to the mouthfeel, which is deliciously creamy as it coats the mouth and glides down the throat. The palate is a little short but there is a nice lingering and drying finish with quite a coffee touch to it. The front is a little stinging really, but it tapers off to a bold-flavoured but subtle finish, and it's really only stinging because it's so incredibly potent.
This is certainly not a beer for everyday drinking, but for a special occasion or a beer tasting - fireworks.
90 / 100
Pours from the bottle in a satiny black curve, smooth as polished alabaster. Looks like a cylinder of black metal in the glass. Colour is, genuinely, black. Black as hot tar, black as a Hallowe'en Midnight, black as the unyielding void of an ocean abyss. I've never seen a beer quite so devoid of light. Head is a very thin, but sticky and fine lace of chocolate brown bubbles. Sits looking dormant but dangerous. Lacing is superb, leaving cosmic rings in the wake of the black hole. What a dark, devilish and devious drink.
Wonderful aromas on the nose, and not just the rush of ashy blackness that a beer of this depth of colour might suggest. Deep sweet hints of chocolate, malt biscuits, and rum, and an amazing lighter note of berries, tea leaves or even citrus. This leavens the fragrance, leaving it balanced superbly between the heavy cremated body of Stoutness, and the fragrant lift of floral tropical fruits. Somewhere in there is the creamy, sweet middle; delicious, luscious, but conscious of the bane of many a stout in being too solid and charred.
The overwhelming character of this beer seems to be its texture. Even before the flavours appear in the mouth, there's the silky, glistening body gliding over lips and tongue, like rivulets of quicksilver. A sweet and slick caress coats the palate, and only after the touch does one notice the rich, permeating flavours arising like fragrant wafts. The darkness is here in force on the palate though, a deep, earthy, crushed cacao-nut bitterness, being stalked by the smoky spectre of High-roast carbonised coffee bean. There's a psychosomatic crunch to the palate, as the black flakes of the charred malt seem to be ingratiating themselves into the melange.
A full sweep of dark, diabolic deliciousness. By half a glass, I can feel the demonic grip of the 10%, but my palate has detected only a delicate dissonance, a dancing drop of dark rum or brandy. Delicious.
This is a exceptional and much appreciated beer. I cannot stress enough how wonderful it is that an Australian brewery brew beers like this. If it were not a stellar example of the style, I would still be grateful to Murray's. But a stellar example this is, and worthy of all the praise that can be bestowed upon it.
86 / 100
Pours a very, very deep black-brown, opaque almost. Only the very edges, tilted and held towards light, give you any indication this is anything besides pure black. Head is a rocky, fluffy cushion of light brown, densely-bubbled foam, fed by an initial cascading carbonation. Lacing is exceptionally good, leaving geometric patterns down the length of the glass. Wonderful.
Very nice blend of hop fragrance and sweet dark aromas on the nose. A pleasant citrus/grapefruit/vegetation character layers the top, while a deep undertone of chocolate and molasses adds weight and body to the smell. Wow, what a wonderful blend.
Taste is also amazing - an initial light hoppy bitterness crescendos to a delicious resiny bite, layered with hazelnut tones, before the palate dries out to a long, roasted chocolate finish. There's such a perfect balance here between the wonderful fragrant hop notes and the earthy tones of the roasted malt.
And does it say 8.1%?? Where on earth is that alcohol hiding? Not a hint of heat to it, I would almost have sworn this were a beer to session like there was no tomorrow, so smooth and drinkable is it.
A top-notch beer, not just full of character, but full of intelligent character. Well balanced, well rounded and well conceived.
81 / 100
Pours a very, very deep and dark black, with just flashes of blood-red hints at the very edges. Head is a solid, crusty cap of coffee-crema brown. Tiny streams of minuscule bubbles float up at the edges. Lacing is exceptional. An excellent looking beer.
Dark, smoky characteristics on the nose. Dusty dark chocolate, roasted grains, barnyard, even a light meaty character. It's not overly powerful, but it is dark and pleasant.
But wow, the taste is where it packs a punch. Light roasted bitterness first up, mellowing to a chocolate-coffee sweetness and a lingering chalky dryness, but still toasty and warm. The alcohol is exceptionally well hidden, leaving just that residual heat on the palate. Long and drawn out on the palate, lots of complexity but all on a hearty and solid base. Mouthfeel feels just slightly too light to me, for such a heavy-flavoured beer, I was expecting something a bit smoother and creamier on the feel.
But this is a very tasty, and very robust beer. Lots of character, lots of flavour - too heavy for more than one in a sitting, but worth waiting around for the occasional sip.