Happy New Year to one and all from Mac’s Brew Pub. I’m looking forward to a 2016 filled with good beer and brewing. I’ve been drinking a lot of big dark beers for the last couple of months. Here are my thoughts on a couple of Imperial Stouts I recently tasted. Please read responsibly.
Tart Cherry Stout (Smokestack Series): Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO. 11% ABV.
Tart Cherry Stout is a Special Release Ale in the Smokestack Series of beers from Boulevard Brewing. Their Smokestack series is a, “. . . special collection of bigger, bolder, more complex brews,” typically with a higher alcohol content than Boulevard’s core brands. Tart Cherry Stout is an Imperial Stout fermented with tart cherries, and bottle conditioned.
They beer pours black as midnight with a huge dark tan head. It is well carbonated (due to the bottle conditioning) and though the head subsided, it remained throughout the session, as did the effervescence. It has much more carbonation than a typical Imperial Stout.
The aroma has a slight note of cherry, but it’s not tart. The flavor features cherry and tartness along with chocolate notes. The high carbonation thins out the texture/mouth feel. Tartness lingers on the tongue, but it’s not overwhelming. The aftertaste is also cherry, which rapidly fades to a tart and bitter sensation before the cherry returns and lingers.
Tart Cherry Stout is a nice cherry chocolate stout. It’s 11% ABV, but there is absolutely no booziness. However, the high carbonation level detracts from the Imperial Stout experience. With a beer this big, I expect something thick and chewy with a little bit of alcohol bite. The high carbonation thins out the body and cuts down on the residual sweetness expected from a big Imperial Stout. You definitely need to let this one warm up to 60° F for drinking – it will cut down the carbonation and increase the body. It also increases the cherry flavor, which is not necessary.
I purchased this beer at Costco for $10.99. It comes in a corked 750 ML bottle that popped like a bottle of champagne when opened.
Fyodor’s Classic (2015 Series): Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA. 13% ABV.
This is another bourbon barrel aged offering from Stone Brewing in San Diego, but it’s not just another Stone beer. It is the 2014 version of Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout aged for seven months in Kentucky Bourbon barrels. I love Stone’s IRS, but this beer towers over the non-aged version.
Fyodor’s Classic is pitch black and creates a 1/2″ cocoa colored head when poured into a tulip glass. The head fades rapidly to a thin ring along the perimeter, which left no lacing during the session.
The aroma is sweet vanilla, coconut, bourbon, chocolate and raisin. the initial flavor sensation is sweet, with a CO2 bite on the tongue. This swiftly transitions to a slightly sweet cocoa, then to coconut/vanilla (from the bourbon barrel), and finally to a very pleasant semi-sweet dark chocolate and coffee that lingers for quite awhile.
Fyodor’s Classic is well carbonated, but retains a thick, chewy mouthfeel and body, yet it’s not too sweet. In spite of the high alcohol content (13%), there is no booziness noted, even as it warms. However, the alcohol immediately starts warming the throat and belly, with warming to the rest of the body right behind..
Fyodor’s Classic is a world class beer. The aftertaste is where this one really excels. The taste magically transitions from one flavor to the next, but that transition is so slow and seamless there is no definitive point where one can say, “that’s exactly where it changed.” This beer is unbelievably complex and wonderful.
I purchased this 500 ML corked bottle of Fyodor’s Classic several months ago at Total Wine for $18.99. It is a limited edition, but because it’s expensive, it is still available.
I can recommend both of these beers. Although Tart Cherry Stout is very good, I will not purchase another bottle. It is definitely worth the price ($10.99 if you can still get it at Costco), but I prefer Imperial Stouts with a little more sweetness, viscosity and body. Fyodor’s Classic, as previously mentioned, is a top notch beer. It is worth the hefty price tag ($18.99 per bottle at Total Wine) and is sure to be a treat to any Imperial Stout connoisseur. The usual caveat applies to both of these beers: fizzy yellow beer drinkers – don’t bother.