Happy Tuesday everyone! Sorry for my lack of posts over the past few days. This past weekend was Oktoberfest around here, but now that the festivities are over, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. What better way to do so than with a stout. And not just any stout. It’s Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout. So let’s get our zsar on, and go have some fun.
Upon opening the bottle, I’m greeted by an earthy blackness. Chocolate makes up the base, with black licorice adding an herbal bitterness around the edges, and black cherries contributing some sweetness at the back end. The chocolate shows up first, spearheading the earthy push. The cherries add a subtle sweet tang before the black licorice brings up the rear with a bitter, slightly sweet aroma. Under everything is a syrupy heaviness of molasses that ties it all together, making the sweets and bitters and earthiness hold hands and get along. And it does so quite well, as the aroma is smooth and mellow, but packing that rich, stouty punch that lurks just below the surface.
The first bottle taste reveals notes of smoke, bold coffee and chocolate that make up the main flavor profile. Heavily roasted malts chill out just behind these notes, adding an earthiness that enhances the smoke and coffee. Black licorice and molasses arrive next, clinging to the cheeks and the back of the tongue for a bit, bringing their sweet, herbal notes to the mix to balance out the dryness of the smoke and coffee. There’s a bit of an alcoholic tang under everything that, slowly but surely, beats your tongue into submission. The flavors come in waves with each taste. Smoke and coffee at the front, riding on a chocolate base. Next is the roasted malts that contribute just the smallest amount of sweetness along with setting the stage for the earthy notes. Finally, the black licorice and molasses finish up with a semi-sweet herbalness that transitions into an everlasting malty aftertaste. The chocolate is present throughout everything, adding a bit of floral darkness at every twist and turn.
Poured into my Stone Imperial Russian Stout snifter, the aromas become subtle and mostly floral, with slight hints of oatmeal, vanilla and black licorice. The aroma notes are pretty much the opposite from the taste so far. Light and unimposing, with only the faintest hints of darkness. But, those hints are enough to remind you that it is a stout. Deep reaching herbal tangs show up here and there, bursting quickly through the floriality like some kind of raging, spectral moose. It’s a little odd to smell such lightness from this pour, as the beer is the darkest liquid onyx. Deep, foreboding and ominous, with a thin khaki head that does little to conceal its tasty power.
The first post-pour taste is another surprise. It is very crisp over the tongue, yet it runs thick and syrupy. The flavors appear to be just as confused, bringing bitter and sweet notes to the tongue at the same time. Apparently, pouring this beer turns it into a brew of delicious contradictions. Surprisingly, the flavor diminishes from the tongue quite fast, leaving a nice maltiness that hangs out at the back of the mouth. Coffee is the major flavor under everything else, accented by roasty smokiness and dark chocolate acting as the bitter notes, with a dash of black licorice for good measure. The sweet shows up courtesy of the molasses from earlier, as well as a subdued return of black cherries. The sweet notes diminish much faster than the bitterness, as the coffee and chocolate bring total darkness back to the mix like a cold Siberian night.
Overall, this is a monster of a beer. The flavors are huge, complex, mysterious, and potentially brutal. But, like a Russian circus bear, it has a heart of sweet, mellow tastiness, buried deep within its rough exterior. Every dark flavor that you can think of seems to make at least a brief appearance here. Coffee, chocolate and roasted malts mix with black licorice, black cherries, molasses, vanilla, and oatmeal to create a rich, smokey, super heavy brew. Sweetness from the bottle disappears when poured, leaving the bitter notes to pick up the slack. Its after taste is a full flavored and ultra lingering blend of malts, coffee, and a slight herbal sweetness at the back of the tongue. And, it looks as dark as it tastes. Be sure to take your time with this beer. Drinking it too fast will surely call down the wrath of Lenin, who will no doubt end your Imperial tastiness. It also packs a kick buried under all of those flavors, so don’t rush. Savor everything. The only real negative is, as always, its price. But if you pretend that the price is in rubles, not dollars, it’ll be cheapest beer you’ll ever buy.
Like many stouts, this would go best on a cold day, huddled over a meager fire. Drink this to keep warm. It’d also be great at night, chilling out after a long day. However and whenever you drink it, be sure to enjoy. In Imperial Russia, Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout earns you! And, an A-.
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9/10 A-