Imperial Stout (Samuel Smith Brewery)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

7% ABV

Ingredients: Water, malted barley, roasted malt, cane sugar, yeast, hops.

Brewery’s Note: “This distinctive type of beer was originally brewed to withstand the abuses of shipping in foul weather to Imperial Russia. It was a favourite of Russian nobility whose taste for the finest food and drink was world famous./ A rich flavourful brew; deep chocolate in colour with a roasted barley nose and flavour that is a complexity of malt, hops, alcohol and yeast. Fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’. Best served at about 15°C.”

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The beer pours rich, chocolatey black. It’s opaque, with a middling girth to its body, but a certain svelteness in comparison with the fatty pantheon of its American brethren (offspring?). It pours with a lovely, tight crown of light-khaki bubbles that dwindle to a healthy, fat scrim. On the nose, the beer smells of rich, dark chocolate, brown bread crust, light roast coffee, and some nuttiness that toes the line of nutter butter. It’s simple, rich, bready, and beautiful on the nose, all in a stately, English fashion. On the tongue, the beer tastes bready and chocolatey sweet, with a light nuance of Hershey’s syrup paired with a touch of burnt char, peanuts, instant coffee, and just a light, belly warming heat from booze on the finish. A bitterness rides throughout the sip, distinctly British with an herbal, leafy bite, crescendoing slightly on the finish and lasting into the aftertaste in perfect balance to the sweet loveliness of the beer. Acidity is very mild, suggesting prunes and plums on the middle of the sip. Balance is absolute in this beer, allowing for a huge drinkability to go along with a surprisingly rich flavor. In the mouth, the beer feels medium-plus bodied, with definite syrupy smoothness alongside a middling carb that provides a nice crackle. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left slightly neutral-crisp with a very light slick of sticky saliva on the tongue. Still, a heavier syrupiness lingers on the tongue, reminding you that you’ve sipped a weightier beer. It’s weird that this beer seems so small by today’s standards. We live in a world where imperial stouts are barrel aged, and always clock-in above 10% ABV, yet Samuel Smith – the kings of ‘classic English beer’ – have continued to brew this beautiful example of a clean, (I hate to put it this way, but it’s the easiest way to…) simple, and just a pleasure to sip Imperial Stout. Samuel Smith brews classics, this is no different.

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