Tag Archive: Imperial Stout


Lervig: Way: Three Bean Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 13% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thick look on pour. Thin creamy brown head.

Nose: Thick. Tofu. Liquorice. Crushed hazelnuts. Aniseed. Oily coffee notes. Cinnamon. Cream. Chinese stir fry. Sherry spirit soaked sponge and raspberry jam.

Body: Thick. Oily. Jam sponge. Tofu. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Liquorice. Bready. Savoury core. Cocoa.

Finish: Fudge. Savoury beans. Brown bread. Cinnamon. Sherry soaked sponge. Liquorice. Vanilla. Slight charring. Oily.

Conclusion: This is a very savoury stout at its core, wrapped in sweet trappings. A lot of the savoury character I’m guessing is due to the tonka bean used in making it; I’m not overly familiar with tonka beans so I can’t say for sure if that is the cause. The best way I can describe it is like a thick, tofu character mixed with green bean savoury taste. Similarly there is a moderate liquorice character which also adds to the more savoury side of the beer.

Outside of that thick, unusual core is a more traditional chocolate stout style – oily sheened with coffee notes. Even here is the more stouty side it has some less common elements with cinnamon and spirit soaked sponge thickness to it.

That thickness really is the thing that stands out about about this beer. In all elements this has it is very robust – now that level of thickness is not unexpected at 13% abv but it doesn’t bring a lot of the other elements you would expect at that strength. For one the alcohol is very much hidden in a thick, complex beer, it does not feel boozy nor burning. It doesn’t have insane sweetness from the malt, nor heavy bitterness from coffee. Lots of the usual notes from high abv stouts are not here.

So you end up with a very interesting, very savoury tasting beer with only some sweet edges. Unusual in that it really builds a range of oily and savoury notes and uses the stout weight with them. It may not be a beer to have all the time, but damn it is good for an occasional try.

There are lots of elements here that could be intrusive if used too heavily, but instead delivered in a restrained fashion, especially shocking for a 13% abv beer. If you are bored with there being too many identikit imperial stouts, then give this one a go. You won’t regret it.

Background: This was listed as a collaboration beer, made with the Brazilian brewery “Way Beer”, however the bottle doesn’t mention that. Looking online there are bottles with both brewers logos on so I’m guessing the collaborated on the original brew, and this is a re-brew made with the same recipe. Probably. This is an imperial stout made with cocoa, tonka and vanilla beans. I grabbed it from Brewdog’s guest beer a while back – let’s face it imperial stouts don’t go off easily. Again drunk while listening to some Jackamo Brown – very cool and chilled.

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Founders: Lizard Of Koz (USA: Imperial Stout: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Medium sized frothy brown head.

Nose: Caramel. Vanilla toffee vodka. Sugared blueberry pie. Chocolate syrup. Treacle. Light liquorice. Black and red cherries. Coconut macaroons. Nougat.

Body: Sherbety lemon. Tart blueberry. Chocolate fondue. Light aniseed. Glacier cherries and sultanas into fruitcake. Nougat. Liquorice. Slight prickling alcohol. Bourbon.

Finish: Blueberry. Sweet milky chocolate. Vanilla fudge. Fruitcake. Nougat. Slight prickling alcohol air. Light nettles. Light charring. Golden syrup cake.

Conclusion: Whelp, this is a very sweet one and a spirity one at that; A combination that creates an odd but not unpleasant contrast – and definitely tells you that this is a very big beer that you have in your hands.

Right from the off you get the blueberry nestled amongst heavier, syrupy chocolate and treacle flavours – however even against those heavy flavours there is no mistaking the blueberry pie character. A similar thing comes as you take a sip – distinct sweet and lightly tart berries amongst a deep, thick, syrupy sweet imperial stout base. What is unusual is how the bourbon ageing shows itself so roughly – the traditional vanilla does show itself in the aroma, but in a very spirity way; Once you get to the main body it is very much raw bourbon spirit coming through , or even some blended whisky style – rather than being a subtle influence on the beer you can really taste the bourbon itself.

Around that set of big notes there goes manage to be a good chunk of more subtle notes – coconut to nougat notes float in the aroma delicately – though only a thicker, chewy nougat survives through into the heavy body. Similarly a mix of cherries becomes heavier, stodgy fruitcake flavour when it reaches the body. The aroma works the subtle notes, the body brings the force.

Together? Well it is a tad raw – lots of sweetness, lots of tells to the alcohol weight, lots of spirity character; Enjoyable as hell, but refined it aint. Maybe some time ageing will sooth that out. Right now it is fun but very rough around the edges. It definitely uses the blueberries well, but the use of oak ageing feels too overt. Still good, but unbalanced as fuck and stupidly sweet. Make of that what you will.

Background: I nearly grabbed this in Germany – I had seen it there and thought that the odder Founder’s beers don’t turn up very often so it may be worth grabbing. I decided against it and instead grabbed some more local beers that I just could not get in the UK. Good thing as well – The week I returned to the UK Independent Spirit got it in. The amount of times I grab beers abroad only for them to turn up for the first time in the UK weeks later, I was glad to dodge that curse this time. Anyway this is a blueberry, chocolate and vanilla infused Imperial Stout that has been aged in bourbon barrels. Which sounds awesome I have to admit. A big beer like this needed big music, so I shoved on some Meshuggah! Oh yeah!

Brewdog: Abstrakt AB22 (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown inch of froth.

Nose: Smooth chocolate fondue. Rich, complex coffee. Light salt. Lightly medicinal and spirity. Slight subtle green fruit. Slight bready character. Bitter cocoa.

Body: Slight medicinal and salt. Cocoa. Very smooth. Rich creamy coffee. Slightly light at the front. Light blended whisky background. Bready.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Clean whisky character. Toffee. Chocolate bourbon biscuits. Chocolate fondue. Clean alcohol feel. Slight tequila. Bready. Bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Hmm, it seems we are back in for very competent Imperial Stout time again. A very competent imperial stout that doesn’t really stand out from the glut of IS time again. A very competent barrel aged Imperial Stout that doesn’t stand out from the crowd time again. I need to think of new things to say on a well worn topic it seems.

Ok, the base beer is the very competently done coffee and chocolate stuffed imperial stout; So, as you can probably guess it is a mix of bitter cocoa and rich coffee. It is generally well done – though it does feel slightly light up front, probably due to the time ageing in the oak which tends to sooth bigger beers. Still at 12.5% it really should not feel light at times- that is just a let down. Apart from that point the coffee is complex, the cocoa well delivered – it is just that that look is really overdone at the moment. Brewdog alone have done metric shit-ton of beers in this style – so this doesn’t seem unusual enough or stand out enough to be worth the high cost an Abstrakt beer demands.

The whisky ageing on this is Speyside, but it I had to call it blind then the light medicinal notes in it would have called me to Island or Islay areas. It doesn’t have much of the fruitiness or extra sweetness I associate with Speyside, instead having mainly a generic kind of cheap blended whisky style. Not the good stuff either, just some vanilla and a generic whisky feel. I think more than anything this is what lets the beer down. It isn’t bad, but compared to the many better barrel aged beers, the ageing here seems very simple in what it adds to the experience.

It is worth noting that as time goes on it also loses some of the subtlety – becoming more dominated by the bitter coffee flavour. By the end there is not much else being done there. The coffee is still great but it feels kind of one note.

So despite being a very competent beer, and it does add something from the ageing – it ends up feeling a fairly standard Imperial Stout these days in the style -not something special that is worth dropping ten quid on, or worth treating as a one off release. A good enough beer, but nowhere near worth the cost.

Background: Been a long time waiting for Abstrakt 22 – originally it was to be a spiced brown ale I think, but that didn’t work out how they wanted so instead we get this – A speyside barrel aged coffee and chocolate stout. This was grabbed direct from the Brewdog store and was broken out to drink after coming back from an awesome Gogol Bordello gig. If you ever get the chance to see them live I recommand it, they have wonderful energy to their sets. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer.

Uiltje: Lekker Bakkie Kobi – Cognac Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 14.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Pours with a large creamy brown head that quickly descends to a more normal size.

Nose: Spiced rum. Creamy chocolate. Thick marmalade. Cognac. Cherries. Red and white grapes. Strawberries.

Body: Thick and creamy. Sherry trifle. Rum and port. Rum soaked raisins. Brandy cream. Creamy chocolate. Strawberry syrup. Cognac. Slight liquorice. Nougat. Figgy pudding. Glacier cherries.

Finish: Creamy cognac. Marmalade. Milky chocolate. Fondue. Strawberry ice cream and syrup. Fig rolls. Slight liquorice.

Conclusion: Oh god this is rich. Very thick, very creamy, very heavy indeed. In a world where high abv beers seem to be ashamed of that fact, hiding themselves behind super smooth, comparatively light bodies, it is refreshing to run into one that wears its full weight on its sleeve. In fact, it wears it on its sleeve and then sews on patches made of spirit scrawled obscenities to double down on that fact.

It isn’t harsh though, isn’t burning – just spirity, weighty – it doesn’t have that flaw of high alcohol, just the immense presence that comes with it.

The base body feels fruity with dark figs, raisins and cherries – but most of the room there is taken up by the wide range of spirity notes that the cognac ageing has brought in. It feels like its has been aged in multiple barrels rather than just cognac – you get what feels like spicy rum, brandy cream, and of course the thick marmalade cognac notes. It is lovely. The barrel ageing utterly dominates, but the solid base below is far from lost. There is little subtlety left, but it manages to keep the more intense flavours for pounding complexity.

As time goes on a chewy nougat character builds, adding a more thick mouthfeel to an already heavy beer. Even the late addition of liquorice doesn’t feel out of place – in fact it comes in as a much needed dryness amongst an otherwise intensely sweet monster. Now, this isn’t a beer for everyone – while not sickly sweet, it is still very intense in the sweet character, so not for those who prefer a drier, roasted or more bitter stout.

Stupidly sweet, and stupidly heavy, but makes it work. Very fun, very good, very barrel aged.

Background: Ok, from the very Starbucks looking label, I guessed this was going to be a coffee infused stout – but nope. According to the bottle, they planned to do that initially, but changed their mind after trying it after it had been aged in Cognac casks for 19 months. Fair enough. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, and drunk in the slightly cooler weather while listening to some Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance to be precise. Some slightly cheesy but fun metal.

Siren: Bourbon Milkshake (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin off white head.

Nose: Lots of toffee, caramel and vanilla. Milky chocolate and bourbon. Rye notes. Vanilla custard.

Body: Massive cherries – both red and glacier. Treacle. Chocolate milkshake and chocolate liqueur. Nougat. Lots of toffee and caramel. Light pepperminty and menthol. Golden syrup.

Finish: Treacle. Palma violets. Red cherries. Chocolate milkshake. Light greenery and peppermint. Lactose. Vanilla toffee. Light oak and menthol. Bourbon. Slight liqueur notes.

Conclusion: There’s a lot more going on to this that I first thought, or even expected. It opens with an aroma that hollers out the bourbon ageing; Lots of caramel, toffee and vanilla notes; Lots of spicy rye bourbon influence, and lots of smooth vanilla character from American oak. It is like a whole wodge of bourbons pushed into one. Pretty great, but, frankly hardly unexpected from a bourbon aged imperial stout. So after taking in the booming, detectable from afar, aroma I took my first sip.

Boom. A complete change. The first thing that hits is cherries, sweet like a barley wine with golden syrup and nougat coming in against the more expected chocolate character for an imperial stout. Still toffee and caramel from the bourbon showing through here, but with so much more as well.

So, at this point it is a milky imperial stout meets barrel ageing, meets barley wine, meets ESB fruitiness. Already thick and packed with character and varied notes. There is, however, one more, final element. And here it is both kind of good and kind of bad. A kind of minty, greenery, menthol peppermint note. It is a refreshing note, and that works well to lessen the overwhelming intensity and sweetness of the rest of the beer. However, occasionally it could do with being a bit lighter and let the rest of the beer shine more – it can be a bit too dominant at points.

Still, it is a minor weak point in a hugely complex, rich and rewarding imperial stout. Not 100% spot on, but still just managed to claw itself in as one of the all time greats of the style If you like Imperial Stout, definitely go for it. It has all the thickness and richness of a good IS, but takes it in its own distinctly awesome direction.

Background: This one was highly recommended to be by the good people of Independent Spirit, so I grabbed a bottle and put it aside for a later date. It’s an imperial stout, hardly like it is going to go off, right? It’s an imperial milk stout made with vanilla, muscavado and honey then aged in mixture of George Dickel, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and other bourbon barrels. This was the first beer I did notes on after a gap after returning from Germany and was drunk while listening to some of the excellent Miracle of Sound.

Brewdog: Dog F (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 17.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Small brown grey head.

Nose: Cocoa dust. Chilli smoke. Barbecue sauce on ribs. Beef stew.

Body: Barbecue sauce. Chocolate. Moderate chilli heat. Golden syrup. Sugared orange sweets. Cognac late on. Smooth. Dried banana. Brown sugar. Smokey.

Finish: Chilli heat. Chocolate. Orange liqueur and caramelised brown sugar. Smooth cognac. Cocoa dust. Banana custard.

Conclusion: I’m glad I jumped back onto the Dog ( Ascending Letter) series with this one. I was considering holding off, as the last one was very similar, but the promise of cognac ageing lured me in. I try only to do new notes when the beer is reasonably different – and trust me, this is definitely significantly different.

Smooth, and because of that feels far below the heavy duty abv it is packing. There may be some alcohol heat to it, but I wouldn’t know from drinking it – mainly because this packs a higher chilli heat than any of the rest of the Dog (x) series up to this point, so any alcohol heat it does still have is lost under the respectable level of chilli heat. It isn’t overpowering – I definitely like my chilli more towards flavour than heat, and I found it reasonable – but it is still a very distinct presence here.

It is strange, this uses habanero as its chilli, but the smokey heat and flavour actually reminds me more of my favourite chilli – the chipotle! This definitely means that I am looking on the beer more favourably as it has that lovely flavour mixed in with a smooth and viscous texture which creates a distinct almost barbecue sauce type of flavour as a base for the beer.

Now the beer does lose some of the complexity that usually comes with the Dog (x) series due to that heat being so present. A lot of the coffee, black cherry and such are gone. Thankfully the cognac ageing is here to bring some all new complexity back into this! It brings golden syrup and erm .. cognac, orange and such notes. The oddest additional note is a set of banana notes, which I have no idea which ingredient caused them but I am very glad they are there – adds a soft sweetness under the intensity. This is very far from the original Dog A in flavour, and even further from the AB 04 roots before that. This is distinctly its own thing

The beer that existed before is barely seen here – now more a texture, and a chunk of bitter chocolate – the beer it has become however is awesome.

A great entry into a high quality series.

Background: Dog F is the distant relative of one of Brewdog’s early hits of a beer – Abstrakt AB 04 – a chilli, chocolate and coffee infused imperial stout – it evolved a bit into their anniversary beer Dog A which upped the chilli, altered the coffee and added vanilla, which then had a a bourbon aged version when they hit Dog D, and now a cognac version with this one Dog F. I think the recipe has changed a bit each time, but I’ve only gone back to do new set of notes on the really big changes. As well as the barrel ageing, this has changed the chilli used this time – going with habanero, while AB 04 used naga chilli. Probably some other changes as well, but those are the big ones. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. I grabbed this from the Brewdog online store and put music on shuffle while drinking, so a fair eclectic mix of metal, punk, electronic and anime soundtracks came up. These days I am getting a bit weary on the waste associated with things like boxing up bottles as this does – however as a 10th anniversary beer I guess it has better call to do so than most.

Brewdog: Paradox Rye (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15% ABV)

Visual: Black. Short lived brown creamy head that settles to a loose bubble dusting.

Nose: Milk chocolate. Tiramisu. Bourbon. Caramel. Crushed rye crackers. Praline. Crushed walnuts and coffee cake.

Body: Bitter chocolate and coffee cake. Smooth. Low alcohol character. Caramel. Vanilla fudge. Cocoa dust. Slightly bready. Bourbon comes out as it warms.

Finish: Coca dust. Rye crackers. Crushed peanuts. Chocolate cake. Coffee cake. Crushed walnuts and pecan pie. Spirity air. Bourbon.

Conclusion: This has been less influenced by the rye bourbon ageing than I had imagined – at least at first. Initially the alcohol feel, and bourbon feel, in this is pretty low. Alcohol warmth but that is about it on that side.

Instead it is very smooth – chocolate cake and coffee cake styled luxury imperial stout. A lot more nutty that previous Paradoxes though – which I presume is a more subtle piece of influence from the time in the oak.

Strangely there is very little of the big vanilla notes that you tend to get with American oak ageing. Even as the beer warms, and a bourbon air comes out in the finish, it is more subtle than usual. This finally revealed oak ageing influence seems a mixed blessing. It gains a slight spirity feel as it warms. I prefer this sort of thing to feel integrated into the beer, while here it seems to float as a separate note rather than part of the beer itself. Also, for all the beer seems to gain a good nuttiness, in general the beer feels like a very smooth base Paradox separate from those spirity notes. There are comparatively few added elements outside the bourbon air.

So, a mixed blessing, but still a blessing to have spent time in the oak. The oak rest has made it smooth as hell, and the base notes are emphasised in exceptionally good ways because of that. Praline for the chocolate, rich for the coffee cake, and the aforementioned great range of nuts. Very good – it just feels like it needs either less oak influence to ditch the spirity air and indulge the luxury, or more oak influence to add more complex layers to justify the spirit air.

So, not perfect, but a very luxurious smooth imperial stout. Feels like either a great example of what you would want from an unaged imperial stout, or a slightly weak take on an aged one. Make of that what you will.

Background: Ok, we all know the drill by now – big imperial stout. Aged in barrels – in this case Rye bourbon. As always I am not an unbiased actor in Brewdog beer. Grabbed from the Brewdog store. Think that covers the usual stuff. Despite being canned now, this still comes in a presentation box. Which seems a bit of a waste of material, and looks a tad silly. I used to be up for the more fancy things around beers, when they were used occasionally for really special stuff. They are used for so much these days the novelty has worn off and it just looks like an unnecessary waste of resources. Wanted some simple but heavy music for drinking this – so shoved on some Obituary. Nice, heavy and guitar led. Job done.

Brewdog Vs Beavertown: Coffee and Cigarettes (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Brown coffee rim of a head and a dash of a head across the main body.

Nose: Tar. Peat. Brown sugar. Smoke. Thick treacle and caramel. Ash. Honey. Rich coffee. Crushed muscat grapes.

Body: Ash. Smoke. Mild bitter chocolate. Rich coffee beans to coffee cake. Light carrot. Smoked meat. Spiced red grapes.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Smoke. Smoked meat. Shortbread. Bitter coffee. Slight salt air. Slight carrot cake. Cocoa dust. Ash. Spicy grapes. Treacle.

Conclusion: You know, you can rarely criticise Brewdog beers for not matching their concept. This, well it matches the concept to a tee. This has coffee, rich and full up front with thinner and more raw notes at times; This also has ash, smoke and such cigarette imagery. Quite peated and full up front, dry and smokey at the end, with smoke meat dished out throughout to help the idea.

Despite all this, which is impressive, I am a tad disappointed. Please let me explain why. The aroma is a booming beast – tarry, smokey and meaty. It hints and brown sugar and rich, sweet and spicy dark fruit. Frankly amazing. Not quite explaining the disappointment, am I? Give me a mo.

None of the above is entirely absent from the body, but it is far more restrained. Drier really, and a touch lighter. Not thin, but far from the beast of an aroma that dragged you in. A lot of the notes aren’t their at the start as well, they take a long time to develop. The spice grapes especially take some time to build up, so the initial impression are a distinct let down from the wonderful aroma.

When it has built up is is a) Very good and b) still nowhere near as booming as the aroma. While the nose is tarry, caramel thick and full of the burnt sugar the body is dry coffee cake and cocoa dusting. Not bad but distinctly different in intensity.

It is still good though – lost of coffee, spice grapes and caramel taste late on – lots of salt air but far from Islay heavy duty. It is drier than most Imperial Stouts, lighter all times but still complex with tons of well defined smoke and coffee notes. So, despite my criticism I enjoyed it – just a tad too dry, a tad too reined in. Small flaws but with a bit extra boom this could have been a classic.

So, good beer that does the concept well and well balanced. Maybe they made it how they did as a bigger beer would have blown out the balance. Who knows? Any which way, very good, but not ten quid a pop good. For that cost I demand a lot from a beer. Nearly worth it, but not quite for me. Hopefully I’ve given you enough info to decide for yourself if you think it would be worth that much to you.

Background: As I always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This one, a collaboration with the excellent Beavertown brewery, is one with a heck of a lot shoved in. Made with oats, muscovado sugar, coffee then aged in three different whisky casks – Islay, Rye and Bourbon it sounds like from the description at the Brewdog Store. This was drunk while listening to the experimental funk, guitar mash up wonder that is Praxis: Transmutation. Not broken that out for a while, still weird and awesome.

wild-beer-co-billionaire

Wild Beer Co: Billionaire (England: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate caramel brown head.

Nose: Salted caramel. Malt chocolate. Cocoa dust. Bean paste.

Body: Toffee. Chocolate fondue. Slight moss. Slight oily cooked fish skins. Savoury tofu middle. Slight subtle pickles.

Finish: Chocolate milkshake. Toffee. Tofu. Bean paste. Lactose. Fudge.

Conclusion: Well, this is quite the savoury (Well probably umami, but I’ve never really felt quite qualified to describe that taste), yet sweet also mix. The base stout has all the extra thickness that enhances the Millionaire style. It gives a very solid chocolate, salted toffee and fudge base. No real bitter notes but manages to not push itself to sickly sweet despite that. The lactose instead gives a very chocolate fondue to chocolate milkshake effect.

The savoury elements though are what make it stand out. Initially there wasn’t much in the way of these more unusual flavours – There was a slight moss and lichen taste but over time as the beer thickens a bean paste and tofu flavour (the tasty kind not the shitty bland kind) comes out. It gives nice solid weight to the beer, and as time goes on, those lovely savoury flavours take up a more and more central place in the beer.

It is very solid and far above the already decent Millionaire – it uses the large heft of a 10% abv beer to give it all the weight it needs to pull off the slightly unusual elements. The individual elements are not really distinct, but instead combine together to make an overall feel of the elements in a very different beer.

Very much enjoyed this – both as a beer in itself and as an unusual take on the imperial stout. The exact opposite of the sickly sweet style that seems so popular these days and oh so much better for it.

Background: I’m confused – Wild Beer Co made the beer Millionaire, then Gazillionaire – now Billionaire. Now I know Gazillionaire isn’t really a number, but it sounds bigger than Billionaire, it just does – so it seems an unusual progression. Anyway, this is a bigger version of Millionaire – to a degree – it is made with lactose, sea salt. Caramelised miso and tonka beans. Which sounds both odd and fucking awesome. This was drunk while listening to some Louis Distras, and was done shortly after starting the DLC areas of Dark Souls 2. I earned a treat is what I am saying. Not finding main Dark Souls 2 that hard currently, but the DLC areas are nicely brutal. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

independent-spirit-left-handed-giant-black-angus
Independent Spirit: Left Handed Giant: Black Angus (England: Imperial Stout: 9.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Brown bubbles at the edges but only a thin grey dash at the centre.

Nose: Peaty. Wet moss. Brown bread. Smoked bacon. Slight medicinal notes. Cake sponge. Oily cooked fish skin.

Body: Bready. Creamy. Smooth chocolate. Light gin notes. Vanilla. Touch of sugared oranges and orange liqueur. Tart and creamy lemon mix. Chocolate strawberry. Milky coffee. Blue cheese. Nougat.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Creamy lemon. Bready. Bitter coffee. Cream. Chocolate strawberry. More cocoa as it warms. Nougat and vanilla ice cream.

Conclusion: Terrible. Utterly Terrible. No, not really. Was just saying that to wind up everyone at Independent Spirit. Because I am evil. Anyway, cruel jokes aside – going into this I wasn’t sure if it was their Arran or their Fettercairn cask that was used to barrel age this. I thought the Fettercairn was more likely, as the Arran had only been bottled recently, but wasn’t 100% sure. So, now having sipped this (then confirming with the shop, but sipping is the important part) I am 100% certain it is the Fettercairn. It is unmistakable.

Anyway, will get to that later – as we have something a bit different to the usual Imperial Stout story here; However first we have the fact that up front is is exactly what you expect – A heavy, smoked Imperial Stout that booms, all peaty, forthright and meaty. Tempting, but no hint of the barrel ageing here.

This bold, booming front then soothes down into a creamy, lemony and orange influenced body – utterly shouting the Fettercain influence over the chocolate and coffee notes that you would expect. It wears the weight of the smoke openly, but ends up creamy and sweet heading out into a very different last note on the finish from the peaty smoke that welcomed you on the nose.

This develops even more with time and heat – the smoke style brings subtle blue cheese as it warms, which adds a well used savoury note to go with the sweeter creamy style.

The more traditional chocolate and coffee notes, while there, and more present when warm, actually feel more like a backbone for the more unusual notes to do their work. The smooth texture the barrel ageing brings has given a lot of room for the interesting notes to float. Often a smoother Imperial Stout can feel too light for me, but here it just seems to give room for the lemon,cream and such like to work.

You have a very competently made and very different beer here. Heavy up front, smooth out back with surprises in-between. Very good indeed, and I’m not just saying that to avoid getting barred from the shop.

Background: Bias warning: Independent Spirit jokingly said they would ban me if I gave this a bad review. I am 90% sure they were joking. Probably. Anyway, grabbed from the aforementioned shop this is their collaboration beer of which only 188 Bottles exist. It is a smoked Imperial Stout that has been aged in the cask that previously held Independent Spirit’s Fettercain whisky release. Drunk while listening to Massive Attack: Mezzanine. It is almost cliché by this point to love the opening track – “Angel” but it rocks, and the entire album is wonderful background atmosphere for drinking music.

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