Tag Archive: Imperial Stout


Lervig: Toasted Maple Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 12 % ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dash of a grey head.

Nose: Liquorice. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla.

Body: Treacle. Marshmallow. Maple syrup. Very thick. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla. Light butterscotch. Fudge. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Maple syrup. Liquorice and blackcurrant hard sweets. Chocolate liqueur. Vanilla. Molasses. Light charring. Bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, between this and the Barley Wine I had recently Lervig are really wooing me back into the fold. Why did I ever doubt them?

I have to admit the first impressions weren’t in its favour. While it had lovely toasted notes in the aroma they were matched and quickly overcome by masses of liquorice. As I think has been established over the years, I don’t mind liquorice in moderation, but I think when it is overused it can ruin a beer.

So, I was nervous as I went in to take the first sip aaaandd – this thing is intense! It is thick as heck, frothy and syrupy, but just about manages to not do those elements to excess. There is a toasted teacake breadiness as just a hint under the thick maple syrup and treacle notes that make up the main stay with other, softer, notes coming out over time. The vanilla beans and smoothness makes it feel like a barrel aged beer, but without the loss of intensity and weight that ageing sometimes brings

The finish bring in the heaver contrasting notes. The liquorice comes back, tied now to blackcurrant notes in a hard sweet like fashion that keeps in manageable. There is a light charring and sweeter notes that slowly fade out into bitter cocoa. That bitterness is just what is needed to keep such a heavy sweet beer manageable.

This has a very distinctive feel – half way between toasted marshmallows and toasted teacakes in a super thick beer. It has a distinctive flavour as well with the maple syrup very evident while not being too dominant. It is distinctly rewarding with huge complexity and manages to feel barrel aged but without the drawbacks.

A great beer then.

Background: Grabbed this a while back – basically saw the words “toasted” and “maple syrup”, followed by “Imperial Stout”, and grabbed it. Since I grabbed it I started becoming less enamoured with Lervig, then back totally into them again. I have been very changeable recently. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – not sure what is going on with the can image – looks kind of like what would happen if Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four burnt to death. Don’t think that was the intended imagery. Anyway, put on The Germs’ MIA compilation CD. Really stripped down punk that I got into after hearing they were an influence on Bad Religion. Pretty fun, if kind of rough sounding.

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Uiltje: Mind The Gap (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 19.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin grey-brown head.

Nose: Boozy. Orange with orange dried fruit sugars. Treacle. Fudge. Thick. Crumpets. Strong alcohol. Marshmallows.

Body: Very thick. Oily thickness. Treacle. Sugared orange jelly sweets. Thick chocolate fondue and bitter black chocolate. Nut oils. Walnut.

Finish: Oily. Creamy. Light charring. Bitter chocolate. Strong alcohol. Tarry. Walnut. Maple syrup. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Fuck me this is a heavy beer. Oily, thick and tarry. I don’t think I have run into a beer with a mouthfeel this heavy since … well… ever. So, as you may have guessed, the alcohol is strong in this one. It took me a while to discern notes in the aroma as I had to get used to the low level, just straight up boozy character it had. Similarly, in the finish there just floats a rough raw spirit feel over everything else in there.

Now there are also some equally huge, but good quality, flavours in there -a serious level of creamy and bitter chocolate comes out. Also there is what seems to be its main selling point, which is a really big, sugary jelly fruit sweets kind of style. There is a good beer in there, just a beer that should be about 10% lower abv than it actually is.

I mean that thickness is unique, and interesting, – but as a trade off for that you get real rough spirity booze into dry charring notes in the finish that seriously hurt the beer. Now, this isn’t shit – it isn’t, say, Start The Future level rough as a badger’s arse bad, but with the exception of that ultra tarry thickness, there is nothing here that you could not find in an easier to drink and cheaper imperial stout.

So, now to be nice for a moment. It does have lovely calls to crumpets and marshmallows in the aroma which are very appealing. It has good savoury nut notes under the orange sweetness which is a much needed balancing element. Finally, considering the abv, the alcohol is only very present, not utterly brutalising, which is, well, something.

I still cannot recommend it – a good idea ruined by a too heavy abv.

Background: Ok, well, Yeah I grabbed this one because it looked ridiculous. 19.8 bloody percent and 330 ml. That is just taking the wank. Also it is made with ..deep breath …. rye, oranges, coffee and maple syrup. Because of course. Also, this is from the Netherlands – so why is it themed after the London tube? Or at least seems to be. I know nothing of Netherlands public transport. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Napalm Death – Scum. It seemed one of the few albums big enough to cope with a nearly 20%s abv beer.

Brewdog: Omnipollo: I Wanna Be Your Dog (Sweden: Imperial Stout: 12 % ABV)

Visual: Thick oily black. Thick creamy brown head. Still.

Nose: Nougat. Condensed cream. Sugared nuts. Milky chocolate. Black cherry yogurt. Black forest gateaux. Vanilla.

Body: Black forest gateaux. Vanilla fudge. Black cherry yogurt. Milky chocolate. Bitter black chocolate. Bitter cashew nuts. Slight caramel.

Finish: Black cherry yogurt. Vanilla fudge. Black forest gateaux. Truffle oil. Unsweetened cocoa. Crushed peanuts. American style pancakes.

Conclusion: Damn. This is two great beers. It is the beer it wants to be and manages to be, then the beer it didn’t set out to be but also is. That was a convoluted sentence, let’s try and break that down.

The beer it wants to be, and is, is pretty good. It is intensely creamy and nougat like from the get go – heavy but not sickly. Lots of the sweet touched nuttiness, and lots of vanilla fudge. It is definitely going for the creamier, nuttier, fudge filled style stout and does that well. That is enjoyable, but if that was the only beer it was then I would be disappointed. By itself an overly fluffy, milky style stout can end up feeling like you a drinking a glass full of marshmallows while trying to play a variant of the fluffy bunny game.

Then there is the beer that it did not intend to be but it is – and this is what makes it special. A black-forest gateaux to black cherry yogurt beer. This is more emphasised up from, letting the creamier notes take centre stage later as it fades.

Thus, I am a fan – up front the cherry meets cream comes across as a balance of bitter chocolate, dessert styles against savoury and sweet nuttiness – and this balance last pretty much to the end of the beer. Near the end the creaminess does become over done – but you can counterbalance that by holding the beer in your mouth longer and letting the bittersweet balance come out – it just takes more work than normal.

So, a bloody good beer – lots of depth – eventually seems to move away from its best points and makes it an effort to get back that beautiful balance but it is still possible. Depending on how you like to try your beers that may be an acceptable trade off or not, but for me it is very impressive.

Background: This is described as a whisky barrel aged coffee pecan mud cake stout. I figure of all of those, the only parts actually used in making it is the oak ageing and possibly the coffee. I couldn’t read most of the can as it was in Swedish, so I am guessing. Yes, I know I could have typed it into google translate, but I am feeling lazy today. At least I’m honest on that. Anyway, Brewdog have had a bit of a rough patch recently but are generally very good brewers – Omnipollo generally knock stuff out of the park, so hopes were high. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store. Due to “I Wanna be your dog” sounding vaguely S&M themed I put on some Genitorturer again. Also because that band is ace.

Brewdog: Choco Libre (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Small dark brown head but one that froths up easily on a swirl.

Nose: Bitter cocoa. Brown bread. Chilli seeds. Slightly milky coffee.

Body: Brown bread. Chilli seeds. Milky chocolate. Light chalk touch. Bitter coffee. Light cream at back.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Chilli seeds. Bitter, roasted coffee. Hershey’s chocolate. Light chilli warmth, Pepper.

Conclusion: For an imperial stout that shoves a whole mess of damn skulls on the bottle, and packs itself with tons of ingredients, this actually feels kind of middle of the road.

Let’s address the chilli first, as that is the part you would expect to stand out the most. Well, it doesn’t do much. Now, I’m not a huge fan of chilli heat – so not being a mouth burner doesn’t bother me. However I am a big chilli flavour fan, so the lack of any real influence in that area does bother me. What we get us a light tingle character which tastes kind of light mild chilli seeds being chewed, which develops into a mild warmth in the finish. It adds savoury notes to the beer but little else.

So, onto the base beer then – not particularly thick for an 8% and up beer. It isn’t that it feels overly thin, just not particularly present. It could be the chilli – it does seem to have an odd influence on the mouthfeel. So possibly that is another (negative) influence that ingredient is having.

Apart from that there are moderate coffee and chocolate notes – not bad, not stand out. Solid but unexceptional and without a huge range to them. The savoury notes from the chilli mix with a set of bready notes that gives a solid flavour profile, if not mouthfeel.

The most unusual element that comes out is a slight sour cream touch to the chocolate – kind of akin to Hershey’s chocolate. An interesting touch, but doesn’t really lift up the beer to make it stand out.

Average, which is a disappointment – with all the extra ingredients it shouldn’t seem so mediocre. Meh.

Background: Ok, let’s open up with, as always, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Cool, that is that done. This is an attempt to recreate a spiced Mexican chocolate drink, but in a beer, which seems cool. Looking at the ingredients it is made with oats, coffee, cocoa nibs, cinnamon and chilli and well as the usual four. Quite a set. This was grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store and drunk while listening to Ulver – Childhood’s End. I seriously love Ulver’s work, and this set of covers of psychedelic 60s tracks is another brilliant haunting set of music.

Frontaal: Imperial Dutch Stout (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small, short lived creamy brown head.

Nose: Medicinal – iodine notes. Peat smoke. Sugared pastry. Brown sugar. Doughnuts. Tobacco.

Body: Medicinal. Peppermint. Chocolate. Peat smoke. Custard doughnuts. Sour green nuts – cashews. Iodine. Roasted potatoes. Caramel.

Finish: Dry. Bitter. Charring. Roasted potatoes. Medicinal.

Conclusion: Not … not what I was expecting. This is a medicinal, iodine touched, charred and slightly peaty stout. Which if they had pitched it as an Islay barrel aged stout would be exactly what I expected. This however has not been aged in Islay barrels and tastes nearly nothing like the imagery of the waffles that were used in making it. There are some sweet notes in the centre of the beers – calls to caramel notes, but that is nestled within the heart of a very medicinal feeling stout.

As what this beer wants to be, that of a sweet waffle stout, it is a mixed bag – with a tendency towards the bad. It really does not deliver the idea of a stroopwafel in the beer. Now it does have doughnut like elements, some caramel, but generally it is a beer that leans on the harsh side of the style. So, don’t buy this beer if it is the gimmick that appeals – it kind of sucks at it, so that way lies disappointment.

Now as an Islay style beer, which it never wanted to be and has no element listed which can explain why it is so close to it, well as that it is pretty good. Lots of medicinal and smoke notes over those light sweet notes and a thick base – it is fair intense – not perfect – but definitely one I can enjoy as that.

So, to paraphrase something I once heard – This is a beer that misses its aimed for style by so much it ends up as a good example of a completely different style. Make of that what you will.

Background: OK, I grabbed this because it is a beer made with stroopwafels. I didn’t even know what stroopwafels were at the time. I just knew I wanted a beer made with them. It turns out stroopwafels are waffles made with two layers of dough and a caramel syrup like filling. Sounds awesome. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to what I consider to be one of the most beautiful albums of all time – Ulver: Shadows of The Sun. So haunting, so amazing.

Amundsen: Dessert In A Can: Chocolate Marshmallow (Norway: Imperial Stout: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Viscous pour. Thin white dash over the body instead of a head.

Nose: Marshmallow. Condensed cream. Fudge. Milky chocolate. Praline. Pecan. Nut oils. Oily in general.

Body: Bitter chocolate and sweet cocoa dust. Cream. Walnuts. Praline. Marshmallow. Chocolate ice cream.

Finish: Cocoa dust. Marshmallow. Chocolate cream cake. Chocolate ice cream.

Conclusion: Ok, I both love and hate the fact this beer sums itself up so perfectly – it basically tastes like chocolate ice cream covered in marshmallow. It is useful that it does so, but it does leave me little left to do.

However, I am a professional (Ok, an enthusiastic amateur with delusions of competency), so I will try to describe it more than that.

The chocolate elements are well done – chocolate ice cream is dominant by the end, as I indicated before. – but there is a hint of bitter chocolate notes at the front, and a more substantial, and while sweet, less sickly sweet cocoa dust character. The marshmallow is there in the thickness as well as the taste, so it definitely fully delves into its gimmick.

More than that it has a nuttiness – mixing pecan and walnut along with an oily nut character; Elements that add a savoury to bitter undercurrent to this otherwise very sweet beer.

Generally it does its one gimmick, and adds a few founding notes – doing it well. You know what you are looking for in this beer and you get it. Not a world shaking super beer, but it definitely does the job it sets out to do, and just a touch more.

Background: I’ve seen some backlash against the so called “Dessert beers” online, and while I can kind of see why, I am still a fan. Some people dislike them as they are moving away from making a beer a beer, and instead trying to copy other things. Some people just dislike them due their seeming omnipresence at the moment, which I can kind of see, but like all the others, it is just a thing in fashion at the moment. I saw it with hoppy IPAs, sours, gose, barrel aged beers, and now dessert beers – whatever is popular seems played out – but there are still tons of other beers, and this fad too will pass. Taken as an occasional treat, I enjoy the concept. This one is another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit. Incidentally the label on the can gets rubbed off pretty easily – as I found when I took it home in a bag with other beers – hence the worn down quality of the can in the photo. Is it just me or does the white line up to the “A” make it look like someone has etched a cock on the can? This was drunk while listening to Nightwish – Dark Passion Play. A mate introduced to to Nightwish over Christmas so been giving them a listen.

Evil Twin: Even More Coco Jesus (USA: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black and still. Creamy brown head.

Nose: Hazelnuts. Cocoa dust. Bitter black chocolate. Burnt brown sugar.

Body: Creamy thickness. Treacle toffee. Chocolate fondue. Caramel. Nougat. Coconut. Burnt brown sugar. Frothy. Golden syrup. Slight smoke and slight medicinal.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Dry coconut. Bitter coffee. Brown sugar. Treacle. Smoke. Maple syrup late on. Slight salt touch.

Conclusion: Oh hello Even More Jesus, welcome back! So, how are you? Still big huh? Still creamy and full of flavour. Cool, though it does feel a tad drier this time around – possibly the coconut notes are doing their thing which causes it – they seem to come out more natural and dry here rather than the sweeter, gooier coconut macaroon style I am more used to.

Anyway, this is still recognisably Even More Jesus – still a huge beer – the sweeter elements are more evident here, with the smoke touch and such kept until the end. Oddly, for all I love coconut in Imperial Stouts, here it feels like a weaker element. It is a little too dry, as I referenced before, not so much as to heavily hurt the beer, but it doesn’t feel like it enhances it either. A kind of natural change that seems out of place when put against the intense treacly, syrupy sweetness that is also thrown into the mix.

This, therefore is a mix of a more sweet up front, with the extra syrup notes, and a drier end as the finish finally comes out with the medicinal and smoke notes meeting the dry coconut.

Still great, but I would say not as great as the standard edition is – there is less balance between each note – something the original has down to a fine art. If this is the only Even More Jesus you can find it is still worth it, but if you can get the original, do. It is the best and fucking amazing.

Background; I keep going to place Evil Twin in Denmark, even though they are based in the USA now – it is going to take me a long while to get used to the switch over. Even More Jesus is one of my favourite Imperial Stouts of all time, and I have grabbed every chance I can to do notes on a different version of it. So, this one, made with maple syrup and coconut practically leapt into my hands from the shelf. I’m a big fan of coconut in beer, so hoped this could take Even More Jesus to the next level. Another Independent Spirit grabbed one, drunk while listening to Propagandhi – Potemkin City Limits, in my opinion easily their best album and an utter classic of punk.

Odyssey: Fiendish Breakfast (England: Imperial Stout: 9.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large, solid, creamy brown head.

Nose: Salted bacon. Dry malt chocolate. Peanuts. Light smoke. Cocoa dust. Kippers.

Body: Thick textured, with creamy milky chocolate. Slight bitter cocoa and hop prickle. Light tart black cherries. Salted. Bitter coffee. Smoke.

Finish: Creamy coffee. Very bitter cocoa kick. Smoke. Mildly salty. Brown bread and slight sour cream. Slight chives. Dry roasted peanuts. Some dry treacle notes.

Conclusion: This feels heavy – a very thick, creamy body packed with deep bitter notes- most emphasised in the usual imperial stout notes of coffee and cocoa being delivered in a more bitter fashion than normal. Then a salted character shows through, backed by whispers of smoke that give slight Islay whisky styling.

What I find interesting from this is that some of the special ingredients really show through, while other seem but subtle hints. We have already seen the salt doing its thing, and the smoked malt having a subtle influence – The treacle thought? Not really there that much – a few dry notes coating the tongue in the finish, and I’m guessing it contributes to the sweeter notes of the main body, but not immediately evident as itself. The more evident sweetness is instead given when you get sweeter takes on the coffee and chocolate that acts as release from the more bitter cocoa and coffee that dominates it.

As mentioned the salted aspect does not hide itself, but what I found odd is how the smoked character that is so closely linked doesn’t have the huge bacon stylings that the beer’s name suggests – the aroma does show bacon, but the body and finish is more an inhaled ash kind of light dusting over the beer.

There are light off sets to the heavier notes – hints of tart berries, and yes, that treacle in finish – but generally this is big and grounded in bitter and savoury notes making a weighty imperial stout that goes against the showy sweet trend of the moment.

It is a slow drinking thing, definitely enjoyable, doesn’t wow me like Odyssey’s hop master-works do, but I can’t doubt its quality. It feels like a beer to drink, and the just slip down through the floor with. It just drags you down with its weight. Not one I will rave about, but it is a beer that fills its every moment with heavy set character. Intriguing, if not must have.

Background: I’m more familiar with Odyssey for their hop forwards beers, which are bloody amazing, but this Imperial Stout made with oats, salt, smoked malt, roasted coffee beans and treacle did catch my eye, and money from my wallet. Grabbed from … yes, Independent Spirit again … they have tons of good beer, leave me alone. Went a bit unusual with music for this one – put my player to list tunes by least played and check out some tracks I hadn’t listen to for a while.

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.

Wild Beer Co: Jambo! (England: Imperial Stout: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Black with an impressively large and solid coffee froth coloured head.

Nose: Raspberry and cherries. Wheat. Cocoa dust. Fresh tart notes. Orange peel. Light cloves. Strawberry crème chocolate – Belgian chocolate style.

Body: Frothy. Tart black cherry and raspberry. Tart grapes. Bitter black chocolate and smooth Belgian chocolate mix. Bready backing. Rhubarb. Gooseberries. Milk.

Finish: Raspberry coolers. Milky and bitter chocolate mix. Gooseberry. Brown bread. Malt chocolate. Rhubarb. Black cherry.

Conclusion: You know, Imperial Stouts are big, big beers, that will not be news to most of you. It is a rare thing however for their flavours to get shoved to the back of a beer. Prepare your shocked faces. Here, it has been. The base, the chocolate you expect from an IS is there, and the bitter chocolate specially show top and tail. The heart of the beer though? The heart belongs to the tart fruit.

There is definite tart raspberry, delivered in raspberry cooler style – fresh and mouth refreshing, but that is far from the full story. There is distinct cherries – initially red and then into black cherry – there are even rhubarb hints. This beer uses the chocolate stout base as weight to allow it to go hog wild with the tart fruit.

The tartness leverages a contrasting milky character in the finish to balance the fresh air -a satisfying, if odd, mix. This isn’t a beer accentuated by fruit, this is a beer about the fruit – using the beer as a delivery method.

So, is it good? Yeah, pretty good. Not many beers like this are around, and less so ones this dedicated to the concept. Like many unusual beers, it is not super polished, so I would judge iy by how much you like the idea. Do you want a tart fruit led stout? One that can pushes tart grapes and gooseberry notes at the edges of a red fruit beer? Then this is for you. Otherwise, if you want a more standard Imperial Stout then this is not for you.

It’s that simple.

Background: While I used to rave about Wild Beer Co, these days I’m more split – they still turn out some excellent beers, but their experiments have been a bit hit or miss lately. Still, there are many brewers going with the standard styles – doesn’t hurt to have a few experimenters in there as well. This one is one of their more standard sounding beers – an Imperial Stout made with raspberries and cocoa nibs. Jambo is apparently a Swahili greeting. It has a very different meaning in some parts of Scotland. I won’t go into that here. Anyway, went for some Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to listen to – the heavier darker notes of it make it still my favourite of their works.

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