I’ve been getting pretty lax about posting to the blog, but it’s not due to lack of beer drinking so much as lack of commitment. I do vow to continue to post up about relevant local beers though, which is what I’m doing now. With the recent influx of so many great import beers here (Dieu du Ciel, Trou du Diable, Mikkeller, Bruery, and so on) I’ve found myself drinking unusually few local beers so far this year.
I’m planning to swing things back into equilibrium this summer, though I’m at the mercy of a) the local importers of craft beer and b) my own free will. In any case, today I’m posting up about the beer I drank last night, a pretty fresh 2014 RIS from Parallel 49. As can be seen above, this bottle comes waxed with a burgundy wax, a symbol of age-ability. I have last year’s RIS in the fridge also but I wanted to start with a fresh bottle as a basis of comparison in recent memory.
Both the nose and taste of this particular stout is heavily centered around the roast character. There isn’t a lot of adjuncts present, but the roasted malts are rich and expansive. I pick up chocolate on the nose but not very much in the taste. I taste more vanilla and a little bit of coffee, plus some licorice back there. Interestingly, despite being aged in whiskey barrels, I’m not getting a lot of oak or whiskey. That is in stark contrast with one of this beer’s local adversaries, Driftwood’s Singularity, whose primary palate point is big bourbon flavour. Parallel 49’s RIS take a bit of a different approach and it’s by no means a bad thing – I think there are plenty of folks who would prefer this over Singularity, most notably those who aren’t big on bourbon.
I look forward to cracking open the bottle of last year’s RIS and will report back when I do.
Pro-Tip: Use the two-fang bottle opener common to wine openers to “bite through” the wax. Other style openers likely won’t be able to cut through the wax without you having to cut some wax off first.
Sierra Nevada is based out of Chico, CA and as such is not terribly common here in BC. The odd release does make it here, including (fortunately) their Russian imperial stout, Narwhal. This is their 2013 bottling so it is quite fresh.
The beer pours an ink black with oily texture and sparse brown head. The carbonation is quite light. The aroma has a roasted quality, and is made up of bitter chocolate and alcohol notes. There is definitely a spirit quality in the nose that signals that this is a fresh RIS. There is a touch of black liquorice and molasses coming through as well.
The taste is primarily dark, dark chocolate. Very little sweetness at all – the chocolate is bitter like very dark or baker’s chocolate. Vanilla is the secondary flavour, with only the slightest hint of coffee. The mouthfeel is lighter than I expected though not exactly light, and the carbonation is surprisingly present being that there was so little head – it tastes as though there is a significant hops presence that is coated in bitter chocolate that you can’t taste the hops. Despite being so young, the finish is only mildly ‘hot’ with alcohol. The alcohol comes across like… sangria to me. There is alcohol- and wine-soaked fruits in there somewhere. The ABV of this brew is 10.2%, putting it smack dab in the most common range of imperial stouts.
Imperial stouts are a beer style that can age well but do not necessarily need or improve with age. Aging stouts is very much a personal decision, as for every gain in the flavour profile there is a loss somewhere as well. I bought a four-pack of Narwhal so I will be aging at least two for the sake of science, but at this point I don’t expect that aging will improve this beer. The alcohol is under control currently and the baker’s chocolate notes are probably as hard-hitting as they’re going to get. I really enjoy this beer and am glad it is not overly sweet as some RIS’s can be, though I do wish the body was a little thicker.
Fresh back from a letter press workshop where I made myself a website logo, and with a new Driftwood pint glass, I figured it was time to open my only bottle of 2013 Singularity which has been a cornerstone of my collection for a couple months now. I really do wish I had picked up a couple more bottles so I could age them; having only one meant I was drinking it within the year as aging really requires a baseline ‘fresh’ tasting to compare to.
I had heard great things about the 2013 batch of Singularity and I’m a big fan of both Russian imperial stouts and Driftwood. Sounds like a winning combination.
First off, the wax on this bottle is amazing stuff. More rubber than wax. Damn near impossible to chip off, but was able to get a bottle opener on it with a few chips gone. Next up is the immediate aroma – sweet molasses and some alcohol bite. Let’s not forget this stuff is 11.8% ABV. There is even a bit of a soy sauce or teriyaki quality to the nose that my girlfriend picked up on. Definitely some rich and very dark fruits in there, like merlot-soaked figs. At first it’s all molasses but with a little more patience you start to realize how complex this nose really is.
Then there’s taking a sip. The body is very thick and velvety, absolutely what I love about RIS’s. It is sweet, very sweet. Molasses and brown sugar dominate while plums, figs, currants, dates, raisins, and more fill in the spaces between. The alcohol is present and offers warming and a slightly spirit-like quality especially towards the end. I could see this being too sweet for some and personally, though it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t need to be this sweet. But between its thick richness and the splendid mixture of sugars and fruits, it is a most excellent beer that I’m really enjoying.
An update as I finish off the bottle – the booziness increased as time went on and the beer got warmer, and I started to feel like I was drinking an excellent spiced rum to some degree. I think this would really benefit from some cellaring time. The alcohol presence is not a bad thing but does limit the speed at which you drink it for sure (good thing at nearly 12% ABV). More and more I became aware of how serious the beer I was drinking was.
I do wish I had more, but fortunately there are so many other great RIS’s out there. I will be buying at least three Singularity 2014’s though.
Russian imperial stouts (often referred to as RIS for short) are about as big as beer gets. Big flavour, big alcohol, and big price-tag. They were originall developed for export to Russia, hence the name. The high alcohol content may have been to prevent freezing. Or maybe just because it’s damn good.
Parallel 49 put this particular expression out near the end of 2012 and it didn’t take long to disappear from popular liquor store shelves, despite its $13 price tag. Barrel aged (though not sure for how long), there is a hint of oak in this brew. On to the brew:
The nose is sweet, with a mixture of black cherry? and molasses. The colour, well it’s a stout. You can guess. The head is small and dissipates quickly. This beer has modest carbonation, enough but no more. Upon sippage, at first it’s chocolate I was picking up but towards the finish all I tasted was molasses. No coffee in here that I detect, just sweet roasted malts filled with dark chocolate and molasses flavour. Some fruitiness as well. I had stored this beer at room temperature for about 4 months and I think in that time it developed nicely, as it didn’t have as much fruit flavour as I had been led to believe it may. If I can find another, I’ll put it away until next winter.
While the name appears to be a play on Apple product names, there’s no mention of such in the fine print. It does exhibit a couple Apple type qualities though – it is expensive (over $10 for this 500mL bottle), the packaging is pretty slick with a meticulously engineered texture to the label, and the product is highly refined. I think this is where the comparison stops, though.
I was encouraged to buy this beer (which I had previously not heard of) by the fine folks at Legacy Liquor after casually mentioning I like stouts. This was described as “one of the best stouts in the world.” It is brewed in New Zealand and comes in at 10% ABV. It is considered to be a bit of a unique take on the veritable Russian Imperial Stout.
The iStout pours a thick, intense black. The head is medium brown and doesn’t stick around – this isn’t a very carbonated beer. The body is as thick as it looks from the pour, and the flavour is plentiful and complex. Roasted coffee and chocolate are both present, along with a strong molasses flavour. It is slightly sweet with an equally impressive hops presence that balances it fantastically. The finish is clean and comes straight down the middle – not too sweet and not too bitter. No doubt this is one of the best, if not the best stout I’ve ever had.
I have since added another to my cellar, along with a couple other 8Wired brews to try in the near future. I have a very good feeling about this particular brewery.
From East Van With Love is a collaborative effort between Parallel 49 and Gigantic Brewing of Portland OR. ‘With Love’ actually relates to the last names of the two guys brewing the beer, but they are easy names to work into a sentence. This is an imperial stout with the addition of maple, then aged in bourbon barrels.
I was very interested in this beer but a little concerned that it was going to be too sweet due to the maple syrup. I shouldn’t have doubted the folks at Parallel 49 and Gigantic Brewing – the maple is subtle and does really add to its character rather than become its character.
The bourbon influence is huge in this beer, much moreso than the average bourbon barrel aged beer. This is something that will change over time – as a young imperial, the bourbon is sharper than it will be after some cellaring. It is a serious beer at 11.5% ABV, but is smooth and easy drinking. Rich dark fruits and subtle peat is present from the bourbon influence, along with a spirit quality and of course the maple. The roasted malts and earthy hops work in great unison.
It will be interesting to see how this beer develops over time – it has a “Best After Jan 31st 2015” stamp on the label, but it very good already, especially for those who want the extra bourbon punch. I spent a small fortune building an inventory of these (they are available from the brewery for $12.60/bottle), but it was money well spent.