Review Date 12/16/2002
In all my years
of beer enthusiasm I’ve always been struck by the limited preconceptions
many people hold about what beer is and how it should taste. Most folks
automatically think of a standard macrobrew like Budweiser when they hear
beer mentioned. Of course, there’s much more to beer than just one style,
even if that style is the runaway favorite among American consumers.
To be fair, too, it’s not reasonable to expect that everyone should share my interest and excitement over fermented malt beverages. Its one of my hobbies, and I suppose a wine maven might be equally dismayed at my lack of knowledge concerning that beverage. And so forth and so on. At any rate, it is our differences that make life interesting, after all. Wouldn’t the world be boring indeed if God had made each of us identical to the other?
I suppose by now you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout. Everything, actually, because whatever your notions of what beer should be are, be prepared to have them challenged by this unique and delicious brew. If you’ve never before tasted it, you’re most certainly in for a treat unlike any beer you’ve tasted.
In December of 1997 I scribbled these notes about the beer:
This beer is a treat. Dark coal
in color with a big foamy tan head. The nose is absolutely dominated with
raspberry notes. In the palate, the big and chocolatey malt character blends
perfectly with the raspberry flavors to give the beer a candyish raspberry
cordial quality. This seems to me to be more of a dry stout than an
imperial, but the beer is probably better balanced for it. And well balanced
it is. I could easily drink this wonderful brew day and night! Delicious!
Adding fruit to a beer is not unusual, of course. Don’t expect to see Lemon Budweiser anytime soon, but the Belgians have been brewing up lambics with the addition of cherries and raspberries for centuries. Here in America, many microbrewers have taken on the habit of adding fruit to wheat beers too. And even the stodgy Germans are occasionally known to add lemon to their Weiss beer, although it is done by the drinker, not the brewer.
Usually, though, the marriage of fruit with beer is based upon a lighter bodied ale, generally a wheat beer. Not so with Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout. Here, Easton, Pennsylvania’s Weyerbacher Brewing Company has merged the rich, dark flavors of stout with the refreshing taste of raspberry. Certainly, this is not the first time such a pairing has been tried; veteran beer drinkers will recall Bell’s Cherry Stout as another such attempt. Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial is, however, one of the best beers in its class that I have ever tasted.
This is a winter seasonal from Weyerbacher, and it makes a perfect sipping beer for a cold winter’s night. My preference is to sip it unaccompanied by food to fully enjoy its rich complexity, but I can imagine that it would make a wonderful companion to a fruit tart or a rich chocolate dessert. Weyerbacher adds whole raspberries during fermentation in just the right amount to impart the desired level of flavor without throwing the beer out of balance.
Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout pours to a jet black color with a towering foamy tan head. Powerful notes of raspberry are readily discernible in the nose. In the palate, the big and chocolaty malt character blends perfectly with the raspberry flavors to give the beer a candyish raspberry cordial quality. There are notes of coffee and dark chocolate throughout and a slightly bitter roasty finish. There is also a warming alcohol presence after sipping.
The base beer has always seemed more of a dry stout than an imperial to me, but the beer is probably better balanced for it. However, I do feel that Weyerbacher Raspberry Stout seems to have edged a tad closer to an Imperial in intensity, though still not so much so that the fruit flavor is overwhelmed. Certainly, the alcohol content is commensurate with an Imperial at just over 8% by volume.
I love the balance of this beer. I love the marriage of flavors. I just wish it was easier to obtain. Currently, distribution is mainly confined to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, DC, and Virginia. If you do come across Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout, don’t miss it. It’s a treat for any palate that will have you reconsidering just what beer can really be.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.