Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#14 Stone Imperial Russian Stout Clone - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 9.3%
Serving Temp: 45F
Grade: B

Since imperial stout is my favorite style, this ought to be my favorite brew so far.  Unfortunately it's not.  This was the last of the beers brewed with filtered well water, and now looking back, the beers I've made since have been a significant improvement.  It's hard to identify exactly what the effect is, why the character is so different, but it's noticeable, and I'm glad I put so much time and effort into learning about mash chemistry.

So what does it taste like?  Well a giant imperial stout of course.  It's dark, thick, sweet, bitter, and dry in roughly that order.  There's no head, and at first sip, it has quite an oily viscosity with a rich chocolaty flavor.  As it warms, the carbonation seems to wake up and breathe some life into the beer.  The body lightens a bit and the subtle fruitiness of the English yeast comes out, but also a hint of something off.  I've become especially sensitive to plasticy flavors after my early misadventures, so that was my first thought, but a better way to describe this one is more like a breath of pure oxygen with the beer.  It's not burnt rubber, but just enough of something off to be noticeable.  Despite the heavy body and the initial sweetness, the stout finishes quite dry.  If I had to pick my favorite quality of this beer, that would certainly be it.

Overall this beer is ok, but not great.  Chris pointed out that it is certainly better than some commercial imperial stouts we've had, and I would agree, but it's also no Firestone Walker.  My first problem with this beer--aside from the fact that it was a huge mess--is that it's a little undercarbonated.  I let it bulk condition for over a month and didn't add fresh yeast at bottling, so it took a couple months to carbonate.  Even now it could use a bit more carbonation.  Lesson learned.  Next up is that strange oxygen flavor.  I suspect the yeast are reacting to the water somehow--perhaps in cahoots with the bittering hops and alcohol--but have no way of knowing besides my beers since have been just fine.  Fingers crossed that this is the last time I have to bring this up.

Despite these flaws I really like some aspects of the recipe itself.  It's a really rich beer, but with enough bitterness that it finishes dry, necessitating a next sip.   I may have to revisit this one, but if I continue to experiment as I have been, it may be awhile before the recipe comes up again.  I just had Mikkeller's Beer Geek Brunch which reminded my how great the oatmeal-coffee combination works in a stout, so that may end up being my winter stout this year...

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