Russian Imperial Stouts

It’s been awhile since I posted any beer reviews.  Today I review two Russian Imperial Stouts, one by Joseph James Brewing Company, and the other by Widmer Brothers.

Russian Imperial Stout: Joseph James Brewing Company, Henderson, Nevada.  9.5% ABV.  This beer is aged in bourbon barrels for that unique flavor.

The beer pours jet black, with a dark tan, thick head that fades fairly rapidly.  The aroma is chocolate and vanilla sweet.  The flavor follows the aroma without any surprises.  It’s chocolate with a very nice bourbon taste.  It’s sweet, without the typical stout coffee flavor and bitterness.  The hops balance the sweetness somewhat, but it is by no means a bitter beer, nor does it display any happiness in the flavor (or aroma).  This one is all about the chocolate and bourbon (vanilla).  I highly recommend this beer, especially if you like Russian stouts, and even more so if you like bourbon barrel aged beer.  It’s excellent, but a little pricey.

I sampled this from a 22 oz bomber (sealed with wax).  I purchased it from Total Wine for $15.99.  I actually purchased two bottles – I’m aging one in our wine cellar.  This beer is a real treat, but is definitely a sipping/dessert beer.  In my opinion, it’s worth the price, so go ahead and treat yourself to something special.

Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout ’13: Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, Portland, Oregon.  9.3% ABV.  This is an imperial stout brewed with raspberries.

Raspberry Russian pours black with a dark tan creamy head.  The aroma is floral sweet, with raspberry quite evident in the nose.  It possesses a medium body, not as velvety as many other imperial stouts (Stone IRS, Joseph James bourbon barrel stout, Little Levi’s Bourbon Barrel Stout, Mac’s Black Forest Stout), but nonetheless, has a nice mouthfeel.

The flavor is somewhat typical IRS – chocolate and coffee notes, with roasted barley bitterness.  The coffee is more evident than the chocolate, but even that is tempered by the raspberry sweetness.  I would say the coffee predominates with the raspberry next and then the chocolate in the background.  There is a lingering bitterness on the back of the tongue well after swallowing.

This beer is OK, but not what I expected.  The raspberry lends a very unusual flavor.  It’s not your typical bittersweet beer.  I saw this at Total Wine, was intrigued by the name of the beer and the description (IRS brewed with raspberries) and decided to give it a try.  It’s not bad, but in my opinion, not worth the price ($12.99 for a 22 oz bottle).  Having said that however, I must add that Sheila tried it and liked it (the girl who doesn’t like dark beer).  Go figure!  I don’t think she would drink 22 oz of it, but liked it a lot when tasting just a small sample.

Now that you know what’s out there, go have a beer adventure (try some new beer).  Cheers!

Mac’s Brew News – January 27, 2013

The computer at Mac’s Brew Pub died the week before Christmas so I have been unable to post anything for the last several weeks.  We just replaced the computer on Friday (January 25, 2013), so I hope to start posting regularly to this site again.  I trust that each of you had a happy and fulfilling holiday season, and hopefully things are going your way in this new year.  There is a little technical jargon in this latest newsletter, so please refer to the terms and definitions category if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.

Mac’s Brewing resumed operations on Monday January 14, 2013.  I brewed Mac’s Bourbon Barrel Stout.  It’s the same recipe as Little Levi’s Bourbon Barrel Stout, but I have tweaked the procedures somewhat to get a little closer to what I had in mind when I created the recipe last year.  Last time I ended up with a ridiculously high final gravity, so this time I mashed the grains at a significantly lower temperature (151° F in 2013 vs. 156° F in 2012).  This makes the wort more fermentable.  Since this is a very high gravity beer, even a more fermentable wort should end with a relatively high final gravity, and with all of the oatmeal in the recipe, I’m not worried about drying this beer out too much.  Also, I’m using oak cubes (instead of oak chips like last year) and soaking them in bourbon for about a month in order to get a stronger and longer lasting bourbon barrel flavor.  I plan to age this stout on the oak cubes for 6 – 9 months, which should also impart the stronger bourbon barrel flavor.

I had 80% efficiency with my mash and the wort went into the fermenter with an original gravity of 1.105 (that’s high!).  It was transferred to the secondary fermenter after a week and was already 11.1% ABV.  The fermentation should continue slowly for a couple more weeks and I anticipate Mac’s Bourbon Barrel Stout should end up around 12% ABV.  I’m getting a buzz just thinking about it.

It sure was nice to make beer again.  I haven’t brewed since May, 2012, and I almost forgot how.  I plan on brewing again soon (should be able to make two batches in February – buying the ingredients next week), and I’m really excited to get back into the hobby.  I’m still finishing up with our remodel, but the end is in sight, so I’m turning my attention (and efforts) back to endeavors with Mac’s Brew Pub.  I really want to work on that kegerator project so I don’t have to bottle any of these recent brews (the bourbon barrel stout should not be any problem – it won’t be ready for kegging or bottling  until October or November 2013).

I have sampled a bunch of beers in the last couple of months, and will post the reviews as soon as I possibly can.  Maybe I can work on those ASAP and be caught up within a couple of weeks.  That’s it for now, but stay tuned for those beer reviews.