Review Date 2/3/2010 Last Updated 12/29/2012
Welcome, comrade! Please, take shelter from the harsh Siberian winter. Come and warm yourself by the fire and enjoy a tall, restoring glass of Stone Imperial Russian Stout. What's that you
say? You're not in Siberia at all? No worries.
I'm not either (although this winter's frigid temperatures could easily make one believe they were). But even if you're not in Russia, you can still bring out the Russian in you with Stone's exquisite example of Imperial Stout.
The original imperial stouts, of course, were rich, full-bodied, high alcohol brews produced in England and shipped to the Czars in Russia during the 19th century. Hence the name, Russian Imperial Stout (or Imperial Russian as Stone labels theirs, just to be different). Stone Brewing, of Escondido, California, seemingly never does things in the expected manner.
Imperial Russian Stout is a seasonal brew for Stone, and they release it in early summer on tap and in 22 ounce bomber bottles. Last summer, I bought a few of the latter, and managed to sock one away for a while. Imperial stouts, after all, were brewed big to stand the test of time and rigors of a long trip from London to Moscow. So certainly mine could last until winter.
I enjoy beers such as this one as a nightcap on an icy cold winter's eve. Stone's mammoth version surely fills the bill, big and warming as it is with an impressive 10.5% alcohol content by volume. The beer has 90 IBUs of bitterness, imparted from Warrior hops. Here's my take:
Stone Imperial Russian Stout pours to an opaque jet-black color with a moderate-sized but quickly fading creamy tan head formation and a spicy licorice nose. Fittingly, I chose an imperial glass for an imperial stout , and made my pour into a CAMRA "guaranteed full measures glass", which is lined at the half pint and pint levels and allows space above the full pint degree for the head. I was able to decant about 90% of my bomber bottle into the glass allowing for the head, which is about right.
Taking a sip, I'm immediately impressed with the big, rich silky smooth mouthfeel that just glides over the tongue. It's packed with huge notes of licorice, black coffee, dark chocolate, and hints of raisin and prune. There's a big alcohol warmth in the finish along with a punctuating roasty bitterness that make this one huge mother of a beer.
This is an absolutely delicious sipping brew, sinfully smooth and satisfying, perfect for an icy cold January evening here in Atlanta (or London or Moscow for that matter). Worth every penny of the eight or nine bucks a bottle it commands, I recommend buying extra to lay down. After all, next winter will probably be a cold one, too.
Update 12/29/2012: Tonight, I was fortunate to find a rare variant on Ston'e delightful Russian Imperial Stout on tap at my local Taco Mac: Stone Imperial Russian Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Subtle bourbon notes, chocolate, rich espresso, subtle licorice, dark fruits, bitter dark chocolate, underlined with vanilla. Very warm alcohol finish with some roastiness. Decadent viscous texture but remarkably smooth. 11 ounce pour for $7, amongst the best seven hundred pennies I've ever spent.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.