Stone Imperial Russian Stout: 10.6% abv
Background: We have done a number of Stone beers in our time. Stone is a big California brewery which produces hugely bitter and dry beers. It is an embodiment of the West Coast style of brewing. Stone is pretty highly revered, but it doesn’t mean all of their beers are good. This is a Russian Imperial Stout that is not a mainstay in their lineup, and we were quite interested by this offering. Russian stouts, initially designed to impress the Czar, were high in alcohol and had very malty character to them. They can tend to be dry and low to moderate in carbonation. What we are more interested in is this particular Russian. With the bitter nature of Stone beers, we’re wondering how much like a stout is
Nose: Well you might expect to smell some chocolate, coffee, and vanilla in the beer. And you won’t be surprised to find you smell that. There is a crisp apple-like smell coming through, making the aroma pleasant and not overly rich. You can sense a sort of molasses and raison-esque sweetness coming to the forefront as the beer opens up as well. You will eventually settle upon some dry maltiness, coupled with the fruitiness. Besides apples and raisons, one can start to get a slightly tart smell coming through, which is slightly reminiscent to a tangerine. There is a strong note of black licorice that comes through, and starts to over-dominate the smell. At the end of the nose, you will get a short, acidic tartness which we felt was close to dark cherries. Overall, this is a light, but surprisingly interesting nose.
Arrival: The arrival, if you know Stone beers, might be deceiving. This ends up being a fairly sweet and modestly tart arrival. The beginning is sharp and sour. The sour note is interesting and very much not what we expected. This sourness actually lasts through the arrival and into the body. This can be related to apples and lime citrus, followed by some dry fruits like cherry and raisons. You will find in the spiciness some black pepper and just a ting of rye grain as well.
Body: The body brings out a huge amount of maltiness, with coupled notes of molasses and raisons, crisp fruits, and the residual tartness lingering from the arrival. As it gets to the end of the body, there is some slight spiciness. Here, you start to get some creaminess and milk chocolate flavors cropping up.
Finish: The finish, holding some espresso and grapefruit bitterness in the flavor, ends in complete contrast to the rest of the beer. There is some crisp apple tartness, coupled with some moderate spice and followed by gingerbread and creaminess. This beer has a medium long finish with a prominent coffee aftertaste. It still contains the tartness from before, only it takes on a different light now. There is also a subtle taste of anise in the finish to go along with what we smelled in the beginning.
Final Comments: This is an interesting beer. This lacks the power of a traditional imperial stout, as well as the richness. It seems like there should have been a little more backbone to this beer. This is a very crisp, refreshing stout. There was a defined transition between the arrival, body and finish which makes for an interesting and engaging experience. At KCM, we seem savor the moments where we find a beer that changes in flavor over time. This is a lot different than what we expected from a Stone beer. It is not nearly as overbearing as we thought it would be in the bitter character, which is a welcoming contrast to the full range of beers they offer.
Why you’d buy it: You want to try a less fruity, rich stout with plenty of flavor.
Why you wouldn’t: You are afraid of a little bitterness, or you like the bourbon-seasoned richness of a bourbon barrel aged stout.