Trappist Imperial Stout (Spencer Brewery)

Style: Imperial Stout

8.7% ABV

From: Spencer, MA

Brewery’s Note: “A massive, roasted, malt-forward American Trappist take on the Anglo-Russo Imperial Stout tradition.  Luxuriantly frothy foam, waves of coffee, chocolate and caramel sensations, a generous blend of dark fruit flavors.  Intense and robust.”

The beer pours out a thick mahogany color, not oozing like girthier examples in the style, but flowing with a definite weight. The beer pours with a beautiful and full cap of khaki-colored bubbles that leave a uniform, medium-width sheets of nearly-unbroken lacing along the glass; it’s sticky and dry, yet with some fluffy, fuller sections. The beer is, of course, black in color, but it carries a mahogany tint to it, and swirls in the glass at a nimbler pace than I’m used to seeing (probably because I’ve only been drinking BA Stouts lately…). Still, the body is an opaque and dark mystery. On the nose, the beer is wonderfully expressive of spicy black licorice that is tempered by fresh ground, medium roast coffee beans alongside fresh dirt, slightly decomposing loam, and rich graphite from the roast. There is the sweetness of brown bread in the smell of this beer, but it certainly does not come across as too sweet, sliding instead into bittersweet chocolate scents with just hints of creamy milk chocolate. It smells of a nice stout. On the tongue, the beer tastes of chocolate sweet that slowly oozes into rich bitter roasted wood char and coffee bitters. The sweetness doesn’t leave, but is balanced and then dried by the rich earth, the bitterness of the beer and some belly warming boozy fuzziness as the beer finishes. Dirt and loam meld with subtle savory notes in the middle, which hint at less appealing flavors while never falling fully into that trap. The finish brings an odd amalgam, like a fuller and roastier Guinness, but still with the watery smoothness that I’ve come to expect from Guinness. The flavor is graphite, medium roast coffee, then a wash of weird Ragu-ish funk that molds into more coffee roast, graphite, and brown bread sweetness with crust. The flavor is nice and rich, but the odd savory taste does roll in every few sips and raises my eyebrows. In the mouth, the beer feels medium plus bodied with a sharp, crisp mouthfeel that relaxes into the languid smoothness of the style. The carb seems a touch snappier on the palate than is often found in imperial stouts, but that really helps to keep the palate light and encourage the beer for pairing with food. It is lighter and more nimble than most in the style, mostly from the snappy carb, but also from a slightly lighter body that is often found. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left dry and roasted-tingly over the tongue, while the cheek pouches slowly eek out saliva. A slight and herbal bitterness lingers in the middle of the palate while the mouth smacks dry. Overall, this is a nice bottle of imperial stout that is really meant to be paired with heavier foods like stews, breads, or chili. The savory notes seem more and more like a subtle off-flavor to me, which is too bad, but the style is bombastic enough in flavor that this is but a minor player in a tasty imperial stout. I like how these American Trappists are trying to embrace both Trappist Beer culture and the American beer culture and I’d like to get my hands on some of their IPA for a try. Not bad at all.


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