Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout (2011 vintage)

3.9
   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1039) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 5, 2014

I poured a 22oz bottle into a tulip glass. There was no specific bottling date other than it being a 2011 release. I got the bottle at a Christmas party (thanks to whomever brought it!).

Appearance: Opaque, ink-black body. No visible carbonation. Pours to a fairly large, brown, soapy/foamy head which laces and retains well enough.

Smell: Huge black licorice notes along with toffee and some chocolate. No roasted malt or alcohol.

Taste: You don’t tend to associate Belgian character with American-style imperial stouts. So, it’s definitely interesting that Stone choose to experiment with a Belgian yeast strain plus anise on their usual Imperial Russian Stout base recipe. The result is a stout that’s only slightly different than the usual brew, though sweeter and less bitter. It’s possible this palette isn’t what it tasted like in 2011, though three years of cellaring doesn’t seem to have harmed it at all.

Up front I get a strong, fruity flavor of black cherry and blackberry. This is quickly followed by a strong sweetness of black licorice and a Tootsie Roll-like chocolate flavor. Not much in the way of bitterness, and certainly no hop taste to speak of. There might be some coffee-like bitterness hiding in the background that shows up in the aftertaste, but for the most part there’s not a lot of bitter flavor here. I was actually hoping for a lot of roasted maltiness, but it seems to have faded. As far as the Belgian quality goes, it’s difficult to pick up on since the base brew is so strongly-flavored. A hint of alcohol at the end imparts some rum and vanilla flavor, which is nice. Overall, it’s a sweet brew that’s tasty and satisfying, but far from amazing.

Drinkability: The first thing I noticed about Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout was its thin, slightly fizzy mouthfeel. That’s probably due to the yeast strain, though it is a nice change of pace from the usual stick-to-your-teeth viscous mouthfeel of most stouts of this nature. It’s no challenge to drink as it goes down smoothly with surprisingly (and somewhat disappointingly) little aftertaste. Almost no alcohol warmth, either, which is surprising considering the beer is quite hefty at 10.5% ABV. 
Grade: 8/10