Panda Brew: Mocking Imperial Stout (China: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Slightly fizzy. Loose bubbled large brown head that leaves a sud rim.

Nose: Dry coffee. Roasted nuts. Liquorice – predominantly dry black liquorice bits.

Body: Viscous. Dry black liquorice. Vanilla. Roasted nuts. Bitter chocolate. Caramel as it warms.

Finish: Black liquorice. Bitter roasted nuts. Sour dough and cloying sour cream. Gains bitter hop character over time. Bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ve had a few liquorice infused imperial porters, and I’ve run into some Imperial Stouts with a level of liquorice influence – but this is the first IS I’ve had with this much liquorice kick.

It is a very dry delivered beer, full of roasted nut character, and yes, the dry liquorice mentioned – it doesn’t give an inch to to the usual more sweet stylings of the imperial stout style. Instead this goes for a surprisingly heavy bitterness route – pushing out bitter, roasted hop character that builds to quite the intense and long lasting finish.

Warmth gives some, minor, concessions to the expected sweet style. You get mild caramel and vanilla, and a real bitter, but recognisable cocoa, chocolate backing. It is still a harsh flavoured beer, but is closer to expectations in style. Just. It is cloying, bitter, roasted and liquorice led. Technically I should hate it. I do like liquorice, in moderation, but not massively so in beer, and not to the levels used here.

However, with all that said, it is well made. Viscous, weighty with heavy mouthfeel that gives good grip to the flavour but doesn’t make the bitterness too clingy. Not world class, but another well made beer found on this trip. It you want more liquorice in a well made stout – well, here it is. It is well made, and well textured, but pushes flavours in a way that isn’t really aimed at me. So, good, but not one for me. Your mileage may vary.

Background: This was a bit of an accidental find – I was looking for the Beer Nest in Chengdu when I found that they had another Panda Brew brewpub here. Since Panda Brew had been pretty good quality, and a good guide when I had got lost before I decided to drop in and try one of their beers. This “ Mocking Imperial Stout” Looked like one of their special releases with the fancy bottle, and since I hadn’t done an imperial stout yet this trip I decided to give it a go. Anyway, this was a simple pull off cap to open, and was drunk from an absolutely tiny glass that came with it. The bottle lists this as a pretty high for a stout 66 IBU.