Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Brewer’s Note: “Brewed with ten varieties of malted barley, this stout is smooth as silk, yet complex and rich in body. Serve this guy at cellar temperature. Put another log on the fire, sit back and enjoy the friendship of this ultimate winter warmer.”
It’s snowing fat drops of cold fury outside, and I have decided to not drive anywhere for a while, so instead I’m dipping into my cellar for a nice, aged RIS. Today I’m trying my hand at Founder’s 2013 Imperial Stout. My initial review (https://beerinmybellyblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/founders-imperial-stout-founders-brewing-company/) of this beer found it far too “big” in flavor. In fact, I think I used the word big in nearly every sentence of that review… I did have the pleasure of revisiting this beer over the summer with a little age on it, and I found that all of the flavors had beautifully melded together into a fine concoction. I figured more time would only further the fineness of the beer, so I have left my final bottle waiting till I time that I really wanted a stout, and alas, here we are.
The beer pours much like it did last year. Thick and viscous, yet darker than the most eldritch of night terrors. It sits in my glass as midnight, even as Pax, the storm of peace, slams the outdoors with thick fat snowdrops. Opacity is a given in this beer, as are the quick legs of alcohol that evaporate just as the eye recognizes them. The minor head that the beer briefly holds is made of miniscule, mocha colored bubbles, and does leave touches of spotty and thin lacing on the glass.
On the nose, the beer smells of musty chocolate, slight oxidation, and tinges of sweet and bitter coffee. It also smells a bit like a corked wine, which tells me that this one may have not held up to age as well as my summer time sip. Pity. As it opens up, the scents do meld into slight milk and baker’s chocolate notes, which is more pleasing. There is even a hint of licorice and cherries, which I appreciate quite a lot.
On the tongue, the beer tastes of sweet malt that mingles with middling bitter roast and touches of herbal-bitter hops while alcohol oozes over everything with a slight heat. The bitters and heat are more pronounced on the finish. As I sip more, the oxidized notes do pick up at the beginning of the sip, but the beer is so thick and chewy that the other flavors simply wash even a trace of oxidation away by the end of the sip. The flavors begin as wet cardboard and baker’s chocolate, quickly swirling into light roast coffee with cream, dark chocolate, basement must, and a hint of licorice. The finish draws hot alcohol over the tongue, mingling with chocolate to suggest Irish cream and coffee. In the mouth, the beer feels full bodied though it has thinned a little with the passing of a year. Mouthfeel is silky smooth, yet chewy, almost touching on syrupy, while carbonation is so soft that I hardly notice it. After the beer has left the mouth is left with light pools of spittle in the cheeks and a slightly dry feeling. Lingering aftertastes of roast coffee beans dance on the tongue nicely alongside rich milk chocolate notes. Overall, it is a shame that this beer suffered some oxidation. I can sense the beautiful beer beneath the oxidized notes, and the bottle is by no means awful, it is just a little off in flavor. I fear that a similar fate has been dealt to the rest of my aging bottles, but only time will tell. A note to those who cellar: Moving is death to some of your beers, as the temperature fluctuations allow far too much oxygen into the beer. Find a place that will not move, and cellar your beer there.
I was having lunch when I decided it was time for a beer, so I tried putting the stout beside my sandwich, though I knew the pairing wouldn’t work. The sandwich was placed on the rustic bread from Trader Joes, had a spring mix for greens, black forest ham for meat, and Daiya non-dairy cheddar cheese for cheese… because lactose intolerance sucks. I added spicy brown mustard and Tabasco’s chipotle hot sauce to the mix. Paired with the beer, only the bread and cheese come through while the more delicate flavors are sopped up by the aggressive taste of beer. The bread becomes very oaty and full of grain flavors, in a surprisingly nice pairing, while the sweetness of the cheese (which I normally hate in non-dairy cheeses) was mellowed into a bearable sweetness with nice complexity. This pairing is not advised, but hey, sometimes it happens. I think this beer would be better served with a big rich dessert of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and brownies. Due to my awful lactose intolerance though, I fear I will never find out if that works… It would also work, however, with a rich artisan bread coated with butter and a nice dark jam. Cheers and beers folks.