Tag Archive: Imperial Stout

De Molen Hel and Verdoemenis Bruiladdich

De Molen: Hel en Verdoemenis – Bruichladdich Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. No head. Viscous sheen.

Nose: Brown bread. Smoked bacon. Salt touch. Nougat. Sour black cherries. Sour cider notes.

Body: Smooth. Salt and charring. Bitter cocoa and chocolate liquore. Medicinal touch. Milky chocolate. Sherry trifle.

Finish: Salt. Toasted marshmallows. Medicinal touch. Malt chocolate and brown bread. Light peanuts. Charred oak. Sherry trifle. Apples.

Conclusion: After last year’s Octomore Aged beer I was raring at the bit to try this years barrel aged beer from De Molen. Seriously, the Octomore Aged beer was a legend.

This. Well this is not a legend, but it is a very interesting beer in itself. It seems to be a mix of three main strands. The first strand is a deep bitter and charred stout; Bitter chocolate is the order of the day – lots of slow and heavy set flavour. It is a brutal backdrop that the more medicinal Islay character actually adds to rather than subsumes. Speaking of that second strand, this is actually more salted and medicinal than I expected from the lighter Bruichladdich distillery. It is actually done a bit too harsh – leading for an overly charred and charcoal beer that is what lasts out into the finish.

What saves it, to a degree, is the third strand. There is a soft nougat and sherry trifle sweetness that rises up from underneath the darker notes. This, if just against the chocolate of the first strand, would be spot on, and as the beer warms it does get much closer to this ideal. The body thickens and the charring level drops. Still a tad rough edged, but much better than at first.

The barrel ageing for this one doesn’t seem quite to work, but doesn’t manage to ruin what is a solid beer. Ok, and heavy duty, but not special.

Background: I didn’t have my tasting note kit last year, so I was intrigued to see what De Molen had for us at the Great British Beer Fest this year. This didn’t sound as instantly awesome as the Octomore, but I had my tasting note book this time so decided to give it a go. De Molen have been solid as hell so far, and as the lighter end of Islay I imagined Bruichladdich would let the base beer open up a bit. My friend Adam who also tried it was probably more disappointed with the beer than I was, so take that as a counter point.

Brewdog Dog D

Brewdog: Dog D (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 16.1% ABV)

Visual: Black and still. Fizzing up brown head. A viscous sheen left on the glass. After a few moments the head becomes just a chocolate brown froth at the rim of the glass.

Nose: Rye. Thick caramel. Habanero chilli. Black cherry. Bitter chocolate. Riesen chocolate chew. Chilli seeds. Nougat.

Body: Smooth. Bitter cocoa. Light chilli tingle. Coconut. Chocolate liqueur. Caramel. Grapes. Black cherry. Nougat. Choc orange. Cadbury’s creme egg centres.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Coconut. Black cherry. Chocolate chews. Bitter coffee with a touch of milk. Light greenery.

Conclusion: 8 years, 4 dog *s. one AB04, and – for me at least – they seem to have finally hit the balance just right for this beer. AB04 was lovely but sweet as hell – Dog A-C were more towards the Speedway Stout end of the spectrum, a tad too heavy on the bitter chocolate and coffee while still being a very good imperial stout. All good beers, but the Imperial Stout category is a hard fought one.

Here in this beer the bitter chocolate and coffee base is still there, but the barrel ageing has brought back a big chunk of the sweetness, which allows it to merge and bring out a lot of the classic dark fruit flavours – while not letting either side get too dominant.

The chilli does take a back seat because of this, and let’s face it, it was never the strongest element in this beer. Now it is but a soft tingle and a bit of greenery notes but not much more. The heat was never really a strong point. For me generally that is fine, as I find a little chilli goes a long way, though even I think this could handle a touch more.

As you get used to the beer so many elements rise up out of the depths – a nougat thickness, touches of my beloved coconut – what initially seems a delicious but comparatively simple beer grows in stature until it goes head to head with the greats.

As a side note, I wonder what they used to age this. Smart money would guess some kind of lighter end of the scale Scottish whisky, however from the flavours I could swear they used bourbon. There is a huge heap of those toffee and vanilla notes brought out that associate with that ageing. Though, as I say, smart money is on Scottish Whisky – with Brewdog being in Scotland it would seem the obvious pick.

Overall – oh come on, you’ve guessed it by this point – it is excellent. Boozy enough for my tastes, but smooth enough for those who hate tasting the abv, bitter enough to give character, but sweet enough to be so easy to drink. This beer finally see one of the Dog *s as one of the best in the style.

Background: The … erm, 8th anniversary imperial stout from Brewdog. Initially Based on AB 04, it has shifted a bit over the years. Made with cocoa, coffee and chillies, this version has added to that some barrel ageing as well. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while listening to B Dolan’s Kill The Wolf. Pretty solid album.

Siren Evil Twin Even More Jesus VIII

Siren: Evil Twin: Even More Jesus VIII (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Inch of creamy brown froth.

Nose: Bitter chocolate dust and cocoa powder. Red grapes.

Body: Smooth. Bitter chocolate powder. Frothy. Vanilla. Toffee and fudge. Muscatel grapes. Slight spice. Brown sugar. Cinder toffee. Nougat.

Finish: Liquorice. Frothy hot chocolate. Brown sugar. Big bitter chocolate. Spicy grapes.

Conclusion: Even more “Even More Jesus“. Yep, I’ve managed to get around the fact I have already done tasting notes for Even More Jesus by taking advantage of the fact that Siren have done a British version. Ha. Rules lawyering. I win.

So, again we have the aroma – one that doesn’t really give anything to get excited about – fairly standard chocolate notes. The body though…. Oh yes the body is exciting. Slightly less viscous than the original. I think. It has been a while. Still a big frothy beast of a beer.

A different frothy beast though – the liquorice is evident here, while I never noticed it in the original. Also it seems to tend more to each of the extremes – the chocolate is more bitter, the spice is more warming, the vinous notes are more grape like and the sweetness is full on brown sugar. It is less integrated than the original, more individual flavours that stand out.

While this is still lovely I do prefer the original – it is more balanced, more integrated – but this is still epic deliciousness. It is sweet as hell in the individual notes but that bitter chocolate backbone swamps around them, leaving the sweet notes as island poking out from within.

Lovely, not the best, but lovely. A very impressive take on a a legend of a beer.

Background: This beer may look a tad familiar. That is because it a take on the Evil Twin Beer “Even More Jesus”, and is made in collaboration with Evil Twin themselves. An imperial stout made with liquorice and muscovado sugar. I was a huge fan of the original beer, so when I saw the limited bottle release in Independent Spirit I grabbed it.

Widl Beer Co Wineybeest

Wild Beer Co: Wineybeest (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Brown bubbles at the edge and a dust of a head over the main body.

Nose: Intense red wine. Acidic almost vinegar touch early on. Sharp apples. Liquorice.

Body: Rich red wine, backed by sour wine notes. Sour red grapes. White chocolate froth and bitter chocolate cake back. Cheese boards.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Red grapes. Bitter chocolate. Spicy – mixed spice. Liquorice. Blackberry.

Conclusion: Am I doing Pinot Nor week or something? Or is it my birthday and no-one told me? Either way I am Pinot spoiled at the moment I tell you. Oddly this thick imperial stout seemed initially to find it harder to stand up to the wine influence than the Blackjack Native Sun Dopplebock did.

The nose, even the first sips, are massively wine dominated. Initially rich and fruity, then backed up by sour and spicy notes. All wine, all the time though. Very nice, but as long time readers (both of you) will know I get disappointed when you completely lose the base beer to the barrel ageing. It just seems to lose some of the potential that the merging of two great things holds.

Thankfully here the beer fights back, slowly but inevitably. Bitter chocolate cake and complex mature cheeseboards start revealing themselves, pushing up strong enough to be noticed past the rich wine. At a rough comparison, only about thirty percent of the character of Wildebeest shows itself, but that adds heavy stodgy flavours to this wine force. It is mainly a matter of holding the beer character – top and tail is wine, but the centre is that bitter crumbly chocolate cake.

It may not be as complexly and richly balanced as Whiskebeest, but it is far more its own thing – two strong flavours pulling against each other – not clashing, just sloshing back and forwards.

The wine is too dominant to call it a master piece, but the strength of flavour is too great to call it any less than fantastic. Unbalanced, rich and joyous wine explosion.

Background: This is a Pinot Noir barrel aged version of wildebeest. I believe in recent notes I have mentioned my lack of wine knowledge, and of the fact that despite that I have enjoyed a couple of pinot noirs. So of course I grabbed this from Independent Spirit. There were only 500 bottles of this made, and one less exists now. The wax didn’t get too much in the way of opening the bottle for once. Which was nice.

Brewdog Paradox Compass Box

Brewdog: Paradox: Compass Box (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Froths up brown, but soon descends to a brown dash over the body.

Nose: Thick toffee. Boozy caramel and salted caramel. Coconut. Fresh custard doughnuts. Shaken bag of liquorice allsorts.

Body: Smooth bitter chocolate. Toasted teacakes. Cadburys’ fudge fingers. Coffee. Boozy caramel. Bourbon. Froths up easily.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Touch of Turkish delight. Toasted teacakes and butter.

Conclusion: Should I praise a beer for having an awesome aroma, or get shirty as it fronts what the body can’t back up? I guess it depends on how my day has gone so far. So, not too bad today. You get the cheery version of the pretentious beer blogger today!

The aroma is thick and boozy, full on caramel in a salted style, backed by my favourite ever Imperial Stout note – coconut! If I could have a beer that was the very essence of its aroma, then I want this beer!

Oddly, despite my comments, the body provides much of the same – so why did I give it shit earlier on? Probably the lack of coconut in the body. Seriously I love coconut notes in my imperial stouts. It’s my thing. There is also a lovely toasted tea cake character, and it still pushes the sweet notes large. Normally I find overly sweet beers a tad one note, but here the oak seems to have done something a tad unusual. Instead of the expected whisky notes, it seems slightly closer to sour bourbon – a subtle hint, but combined with the toasted tea cake it balances the sweetness very well. Finally the finish emphasises more bitter notes, underlying the whole experience.

So, yeah, my disagreement with the body basically comes down to the lack of coconut. You can’t promise me coconut and then snatch it away!

So how is it? Well, despite the well done offset notes it still is very heavily on the sweet side. Also it lacks coconut and I hold grudges. It is however a very good imperial stout. The compass box doesn’t seem to have brought quite the same complexity here that they do in their blended malt whiskies – but I’m not complaining at what they did bring.

While I am spoiled in high quality barrel aged imperial stouts, insanely spoiled, I still very much enjoyed this. Not so stand out to be one of the top in the world, but it has no real flaws to call out. Ok no flaws that aren’t coconut related.

Background: Yet another of Brewdog’s whisky aged imperial stouts. I’m not quite sure how this one works. Compass Box do blended malts – so take malt from many different barrels and mix them together. How does that work with barrel aged beer? Do they age some in each different cask? Or is there a final cask the whisky is married in and is this used for ageing? I am unsure. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer.

Paradox Islay

Brewdog: Paradox Islay (2015 Edition) (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 13.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Caramel coloured dash for a head.

Nose: Smoke. Iodine. Salt. Tar. Brown sugar. Toasted tea cakes. Fresh cooked brown bread.

Body: Thick. Liquorice. Tar. Molasses. Salty rocks. Peat. Toffee and fudge. Sweet chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Salt. Brown bread. Bitter chocolate. Medicinal character. Coconut.

Conclusion: Oh fuck yes. Ok, for ninety percent of the people reading this, you have probably worked out where I stand on this. Some of you may even feel you don’t have to read any further. That is ok. I may have kind of summed it up. for everyone else, let’s go.

The trick with Islay ageing, I find anyway, is making sure it doesn’t overwhelm the base beer. So, I initially found it odd that at 13.8% this is slightly lower abv than most of the Paradox range these days. Despite that the base beer still manages to rock the casbah in a big way.

There is sweet chocolate liqueur into molasses level flavour along with big toffee. This is an important thing to mentioned, as it is a miracle that it could kick hard enough to be tasted beyond the tarry, medicinal beast that is the Islay influence.

If you like the heavier end of Islay then it is all here, from the big aroma to the medicinal finish. If you like big imperial stouts, then it is all here, from the fresh bready opening to the bitter chocolate end.

So, basically if you like big beers, it is all here. Thick, big, yet somehow balanced. One of the best Paradoxes Brewdog have turned out, and one of the best Islay aged beers ever.

That is saying a hell of a lot, no?

Background; I was worried I had missed this one, I had tried a sip of this a few weeks ago, before I realised that it looked like this may be a keg only release. So I made sure to run back and try it properly. The Paradox range is Brewdog’s Imperial Stout aged in an almost silly range of varied casks over the years – it started at 10%, is now 15%, yet this release comes in at an unusual 13.8% – not sure why. Drunk at Brewdog Bristol – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Weird Beard Sadako Ardbeg Barrel Aged

Weird Beard: Sadako (貞子): Ardbeg Barrel Aged (England: Imperial Stout: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thick creamy brown head of half a cm size.

Nose: Chocolate. Iodine. Beef slices. Peat and smoke. Brown bread.

Body: Thick. Brown bread. Charring. Iodine. Drying salt. Greenery. Sour dough. Some malt chocolate behind. Meaty back.

Finish: Brown bread. Smoke. Drying. Bitter chocolate. Salt and rocks. Sour dough. Iodine.

Conclusion: When you have a cask as booming as Ardbeg, you really need a big beer to go against it for cask ageing. For a case of it being done right check out De Molen’s Hemel & Aarde Octomore Barrel Aged (Yes I am aware that Octomore is from Bruichladdich – I’m just comparing intense whisky casks).

This, well oddly it tastes more Laphroaig than Ardbeg to my eyes – possibly because the barrel ageing only lets the harsher and more medicinal elements through, without the weight of the base whisky to contrast. Ardbeg was always a peaty beast, and you get that here, but it never was as medicinal as Laphroaig, which is why this is such a surprise.

The aroma is sheer quality Ardbeg, with the depth that entails, but the body comes in more as an assault of medicinal, salt iodine and the like. As I say, very Laphroaig. The feel backing it is a thick bready character – a heavy texture but flavour wise it feels quite neutral as a base for the whisky influence to work from. As it warms you do get a much needed peat meatiness that comes out, the whisky aging now giving it the backing it needs.

Now, you may notice at this point I’m talking a lot about the whisky influence but very little about the beer influence. There is a reason for that. The beer is damn near killed here – on the finish there is some bitter chocolate, and all throughout there is some sough dough, but generally? The beer just can’t compete.

Overall it is a hell of an experience, but not overly a great beer. For Ardbeg and Laphroaig fans this may mix things up a bit for you by delivering flavour but in a thicker, longing lasting experience.

For most everyone else – it just doesn’t gain much from the beer side of the equation. Just backing Ardbeg with brown bread. Meh I guess, it definitely shows the Islay style, but doesn’t add anything to it. Ah well.

Background: I tried to guess this thing’s translation without looking – I failed. I recognised the second Kanji as “Child” so, knowing this is a barrel aged beer, guessed it may be barrel or oak child. Then I found out there was a non barrel aged version so that screwed up that idea. Anyway, turns out Sadako is a women’s name, with literal translation of Chaste Child. In my defence I really haven’t needed to know the Japanese letter for “chaste” much in my use of Japanese. I’m fairly sure it is also the name of the antagonist ghost in “The Ring” but I may be wrong in that. Anyway, yes Ardbeg aged – Ardbeg is one of the heaviest duty Islay whiskys, so this should be interesting. Drunk while listening to early era Slipknot. No mocking me, I was a kid when I got into them and I like to listen and reminisce sometimes. This beer was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Incidentally, wax on bottles of beer was amusing for while, now so many beers have it that it just gets annoying. Stop putting tests between me and my beer damnit.

Mikkeller Black Speyside tequilla

Mikkeller: Tequilla and Speyside Aged Black 黑 (Denmark: Imperial Stout: 18.8% ABV)

Visual: Black (No surprise there). Thick browned froth head.

Nose: Strong spirit. Vodka and jelly babies. Toasted teacakes. Milky coffee. Cocoa. Light cherries.

Body: Tingling. Sweet chocolate fondue. Jelly babies. Bitter chocolate hints. Orange liqueur. Noticeable alcohol. Toffee notes. Burn on swallowing. Pear notes and strawberry late on.

Finish: Spirity. Very bitter chocolate. Tongue numbing. Smoke. Brown bread. Crème brulee.

Conclusion: How big is too big? And no innuendo please. Mikkeller black was always an intense one, utterly bitter black chocolate with no compromises. Always single minded. This? Well it is different, but even bigger and more intense.

Initially it seemed too spirity – there is a definite alcohol harshness and prickle, which, along with the immensely bitter chocolate finish, makes for a very harsh way out for this beer.

What I find interesting is how the barrel ageing has altered the main body – previously the chocolate was bitter as hell – now it comes in sweet and with an almost chocolate fondue style – this makes for a much needed contrast to the very spirit heavy influence, especially the harsh tequila alcohol air and slight smoke.

It is an odd mix, once you get used to the harshness there is reasonable depth to the main body, with the varied ageing adding different spirit, sweet and fruity notes to the chocolate body.

The finish however is a clumsy mess of harshness, where the main body has quirks – rough edges but in a charming way – the finish doesn’t work. A pity as it lets down the rest of the beer massively – especially as the finish lasts so long so it will be what you are experiencing about half the time.

So, I think they went a bit too big here, all the elements are trying to shout all the time and that means half the time you can’t hear anything but the loudest voice. So, it still has the impressive base of black, but there is too much clashing here. Not bad, but not really a refined beer, nor worth the price tag, So, especially at the insane abv, it doesn’t give you a better beer for it

Background: For anyone wondering, yes 黑 is the kanji for black. If it wasn’t obvious. Anyway, I have had black a few times, but never got around to reviewing it, it is a very bitter chocolate and coffee beer. So when I saw a double barrelled aged version at independent spirit I grabbed one. Well technically I grabbed two, one as a present for a friend. So that may introduce some bias into this review. Drunk while listening to Against Me! White Crosses which continues to grow on me. In fact the beer took so long to drink at the abv that I also listened to the Guilty Gear soundtrack as well. yes I took my time with this one.

Dieu Du Ciel Bourbon Aged Peche Mortel

Dieu Du Ciel: Peche Mortel: Reserve Speciale 2013: Viellie 12 mois en fut De Bourbon (Canada: Imperial Stout: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Brown medium sized head, similar to the colour of chocolate milkshake.

Nose: Bitter coffee. Fudge. Bitter cocoa dust. Very rounded in all elements. Chocolate cake and sponge. Roasted nuts.

Body: Oatmeal flapjack. Massive rounded coffee. Raisins. Vanilla toffee. Frothy texture. Rye bourbon. Shredded wheat. Sharp orange liquore.

Finish: Bitter Belgian chocolate and chocolate sponge. Bitter coffee beans. Vanilla fudge. Vanilla spirit air – bourbon style. Sharpe orange crème centres.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a beer balanced on a knife edge. I very much enjoyed Peche Mortel, but this, oh this just adds that little edge to it. It still has that booming bitter coffee, but more rounded and refined. The time in the oak gives it much more complexity in both chocolate and coffee, giving additional layers of sweetness and bitterness to both. It is that accentuation of the pre existing characteristics that pushes that part up there with Beer Geek Brunch Weasel for massive complexity to coffee expression. You can take your time even with just the aroma, feeling the fudge come out, and the coffee progressing through the aromas.

The body is buoyed by the spirit elements, an almost shredded wheat bourbon roughness, combined with vanilla sweet spirit rises up, prickling through the strong main body. This is the knife edge, the element the beer balances on. At times the perfect balancing of flavours makes it one of the all time greats, at others it rises just a tad too spirity. In both it merges all those elements before with what is an almost sharp orange liquore sub note that adds another layer of intrigue. The mix of spirit is seen even in the texture, a mix of frothy smooth and spirit needle prickles.

So, it varies, at its best it is truly up there with the best – bringing everything Peche Mortel did, but more rounded, backed by subtle extra notes and showing the full complexity of the coffee. At its worst, and this is comparative worst, not absolute – it is still very good – it is very bourbon heavy, almost like the stout is backing the bourbon rather than the other way around. Not a bad thing, but not a patch on the other way around.

Because it has that variance, even in a single bottle, it is not quite an all time great, but it has those moments where it does reach it with mad genius. This is an excellent beer. Give it a try – the standard Peche Mortel is more consistant, but this has occasional moments of absolute greatness.

Background: It has a gold band! Yay! Yep, that is the only difference is a gold label indicating it is Viellie 12 mois en fut De Bourbon – or as I put it, 12 months in Bourbon oak. I picked this up from Brewdog Bristol after the Dieu Du Ciel meet the brewers event. I had also had standard Peche Mortel on tap then, very nice.

Horizon Tokyo Black

Nøgne ø: Mikkeller: Brewdog: Horizon Tokyo Black (Norway: Imperial Stout: 16% ABV)

Visual: Black. Grey dust over it in the centre, and brown bubbles at the edges.

Nose: Real bitter chocolate. Real roasted nuts. Sour dough. Resin. Alcohol touch.

Body: Cherries. Chocolate liquore. Black cherry. Jelly babies. Bitter cocoa. Sugar cane. Orange liquore. Toasted tea cakes.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and milky coffee. Cream. Nuts. Alcohol air.

Conclusion: I was expecting to be mainly making jokes about this being a superfluous review, having already reviewed a different version of this. However, it turns out this is pretty different. This is heavier and darker, with more bitter flavours. It has some of the big sweetness, especially mid body where you get lots of fruit and jelly babies, but top end and tail it is much more raw bitter cocoa and coffee. It still had that noticeable alcohol air, but I think the heavier bitter emphasis helps offset that an makers for a better beer.

Here the sweetness mid body is a treat, not a sugar shock and, while it grow over time, the heavier sweetness doesn’t hit until the end when it is more manageable.

Overall this is a lovely imperial stout, like its Brewdog predecessor it could probably do with some time in a cellar to let the alcohol air lighten a little (I have tested with the Brewdog version, it works – two years in it was smooth as silky and lovely)

So a big gun of a beer, a bit alcohol touched, but apart from that a lovely mix of dark bitter chocolate and coffee, toasted tea cakes, dark fruit and jelly babies. Even better at 25ml it is the perfect size for beer of this strength. Now both versions of this beer I have had are excellent, but I will give the nod to the Nøgne ø version this time.

Which, considering my massive Brewdog bias, is saying something.

Background: Some of you may be thinking “Hold on, haven’t you revived this before?” In which case can I be the first to say … holy shit you have a good memory. I have reviewed the Brewdog version of this, which has slightly different abv This is the Nøgne ø version, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. Anyway, broke this open with a bit of “Rise Against”, because I finally pulled my thumb out and picked up one of their CDs.


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