Tag Archive: Imperial Stout


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.

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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.

Boundary: Zapato: You’re Not Getting Any (Ireland: Imperial Stout: 9.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Blueberry. Grated chocolate. Milky chocolate. Slight sulphur eggs and brown bread.

Body: Chocolate liqueur. Blueberry. Toffee. Chewy mouthfeel. Bitter chocolate.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Blueberry pie with sugar dusting. Light dust. Bitter cocoa and bitter coffee. Nutty. Muesli.

Conclusion: I’m a lot further through this bottle than I thought I would be before I started with this conclusion. Thus, at 750ml and a hearty 10% abv I expect that my writing is likely to be nearer to the incoherent level that normal. Enjoy! I’ll try and tidy up on upload.

Part of that is that this is easy drinking for the abv – it has none of that “Boozy” character that normally comes with it. It does have a chewy mouthfeel , but not a heavy one – robust but nowhere near the thickness that a lot of stouts bring – let alone oatmeal ones, especially in this abv range.

Another reason that I am further through the bottle than I expected is that I am taking my time to see if a bit more is going to come out. The beer comes in with the base chocolate and coffee you expect of a stout, and the base blueberry you would expect considering that it used used with the beer. This all comes in smoothly delivered, but even giving time and warmth little else comes out. It is hard to complain that it is doing the job that it set itself, but I kind of expect beers, especially big beers like this, to have a bit more than that these days.

It is … ok.. I mean it feels like quality brewing in that it is very smooth for the abv, keeping good mouthfeel and the blueberry use is very well done to allow it to come through without dominating the beer. The whole abv to weight ratio shows a good understanding of texture and how to get the most out of a high abv beer in feel – it just has very little flavour range to go with that.

Enjoyable, does the job, but nothing spectacular for the style – especially for such a strong beer. It you want a stout with blueberry – this is a stout with blueberry and does it well – it just doesn’t stand out.

Background: Ratebeer lists this at 8.6% ABV, and since there is a label on the bottle giving the new abv and covering the old I’m guessing previous batches were at the lower abv. They also list it as a sweet stout, which I couldn’t justify at the abv, so I’m listing it as imperial stout. Anyway a collaboration imperial milk stout made with oats and blueberry. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the madcap metal that is Evil Scarecrow.

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.

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!

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