Style: Russian Imperial Stout aged in Port Wine Barrels
From: Stonington, CT
Brewery Notes: “Roulette started as a full bodied, robust, Russian Imperial Stout. We then aged it in Jonathan Edwards Port Wine barrels for at least a year. The result is a velvety smooth incarnation still full of roast, but beautifully married with both the oak and the rich essence of the barrel.”
The beer pours out like chocolatey midnight. It’s got a girth and viscosity that oozes out of the bottle, despite its paltry 8.5% ABV (as far as barrel aged stouts go). The beer forms a rich, foamy cap of a dark chocolate-mocha head, which fizzles to a fluffy fat scrim. The head leaves a lovely spatterwork of thin, drizzling lacing that still manages to be sheet-like, sort of like a heavily moth-eaten coat. The beer’s body is opaque midnight, and it definitely seems to carry some syrupy girth in the glass, not quite oozing, and definitely lacking alcoholic legs, but still full and rich. On the nose, the vinous nature of the barrel pops from feet away. Deep berry doused in soft oxidized honey slowly gives way to oxidizing roast malt, graphite, metallic dark roast coffee, and a more honeyed malt character that provides a gentle sweetness to the earthy and metallic finish of the scent. There is a little bit of stale oak on the nose too, and as you continue to sip, the deep vinous notes fall into the background and give way to a lovely stout scent, much akin to coffee-infused imperial stouts like Kelsen’s Vendel or Trillium’s PM Dawn. On the tongue, the beer tastes strictly like an imperial stout, save for a brief berry sweetness on the very start and lingering finish of the sip. It starts vinous sweet, but quickly tumbles to bitter and earthy roast, herbal hops that fall into the metallic sharpness of the roast, drying oaky tannins that prickle with subtle oak sugar, and then soft bready and coffee sweetness that slowly draws back out some of the wine on the finish. As I sip more, the vinous sweetness at the start begins to blend bits of dark fruit acidity into the sip, and suggests very dry cherries, dates, figs, and subtle red grape. I don’t really get “Port Wine” from the sip, but I’ve never had Jonathan Edwards Port and am admittedly not very well schooled in the art of port (nor American ‘port’ for that matter…), so I could be mistaken. To me, there is a rich winey flourish to the start, but then this beer really just revels in in its ‘simple’ imperial stout nature, but that is quite alright. In the mouth, the beer feels medium bodied, yet not really pushing full despite its viscous appearance. The carb is of a fuller nature, and fluffs and crackles the tongue nicely while the beer itself separates to slowly slither down the tongue, not displeasingly and quite drinkably, but a little too thin for where I want it. This is a sipping beer at heart, but with a delicate mouthfeel that I could put back rather swiftly. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left dry and bitter roasty with a lingering herbal hop bite that is a little too sharp. The extremities of the cheek pouches attempt to spit spittle out, but the mouth remains dry and mostly arid. Overall, this is an impressive bit of barrel aging from a brewery with only 3 (that I could find, I could be totally wrong) barrel aged beers to date. The low ABV doesn’t always take to a barrel well, but I think they were able to really carry some nice notes without drowning out the beer beneath. For my personal tastes, I wanted a little more vinous, honeyed character, especially for a port barrel, but it warmed up nicely and carried some really nice and interesting notes. Beer’d has been a sneaky one here in New England, their hop game remains superb with juicy hits like Dogs and Boats, Hobbit Juice, etc… but they are slowly showing some real chops at the barrel game with esoteric hits like a gin barrel Double IPA and a wine barrel-aged tripel, and now a low ABV wine barrel aged stout. I think this beer has been my favorite from their barrel aging escapades thus far. I have my knit-pickings, but I would never turn down a glass of this. It is very drinkable and delicious. Thanks for the bottle Nate!