One of my most interesting discoveries this season of immersing myself in winter beers as a genre has been the “Imperial Stout” whose history is just as interesting a discovery (see Dunham’s “Imperial Black IPA”).
While these are not beers for the faint of heart owing to their intense flavours and high alcohol levels (in this case 8.5%), they are truly fit for the season. I’ve previously reviewed a couple of Imperial IPAs which merged the IPA style with Imperial Stout – but I hadn’t yet reviewed an actual imperial stout… until tonight.
Beyond the alcohol, the flavours (typically coffee, chocolate, and smoke) and the deep dark almost black colouring define an imperial stout. Indeed, in terms of colour, the imperial stout generally ranks as the darkest of beers going and this is no exception.
One of the facets I quite liked about the labeling on this beer is the comprehensive information provided on the back label, including a small table that lists
SRM (59) IBU (78) ABV (8.5%)
Style (Imperial stout) Service Temp (11˚C) Format (341ml)
It would be nice if most beers followed similar suit.
But let’s go back for a second. I said SRM. What the heck does that mean, you ask? I was equally baffled, I admit — so we both get to learn something new. So “SRM” = “Standard Reference Method.” It turns out this nifty little scale is a standardized scale to measure “colour” in a beer (just like IBUs measure bitterness). Who knew?
Anyway, at “59” this beer is well off the chart which ends with “40+” which is where imperial stouts start and fall. That would explain why even when I held this actually clear beer up to a light bulb, I still couldn’t get light to pass through it and denote the colour. For all intents and purposes, this is a black beer.
Not surprising, the taste is as dark and full with a huge creamy chocolate overtone hitting first. This is then followed by some coffee and then an understated but earthy bitterness. I say understated because with 78 IBUs, this puts this in IPA territory, but you wouldn’t guess that from the taste. This is because the diacetyls dominate as does the alcohol. I would further suggest that they are both dominant because in a sort of English style (as claimed by the label), the beer pours almost flat and the carbonation minimal … fit is present on the front of the tongue, yes, but minimal. Personally, I think the beer master nailed it here – as the minimal carbonation really allows that wonderful creaminess to emerge, unimpeded, and the flavours beautifully follow suit.
The taste is wintery and has a lot in common with a number of beers I tasted at the winter beer festival. There is definitely some spice like anise, some dark fruit (like dark figs), and the aforementioned earthiness – all of which grow in presence as the beer warms to the recommended 11˚ and which, along with the alcohol, make this beer big and rich, like a figgy-pudding. The finish is sweet and smooth making this a great dessert beer if ever there was one … and you will find especially able when paired with a cheese plate of aged cheddars, blues, and otherwise strong and earthy cheese. The only thing that would make this beer better would be a bear-skin rug in front of a nice fire … with the right company.
Stats: Black IPA. 8.5% ABV, 78 IBUs, Tingwick, Quebec.
Colour: Black; filtered clear.
Mouth Feel: Low carbonation with huge diacetyls and amazing creamy finish.
Purchased: Quebec (e.g. BroueHaHa)
Pairing Notes: Dessert cheese plate with aged cheddar, blue cheese, and dried fruits like figs and dates.