Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stone Chai-Spiced Imperial Russian Stout

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1326) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 15, 2015
Stone Brewing Company is known for making some eccentric and experimental beers, especially during odd-numbered years. They haven’t been afraid to tinker with some of their classics, like the Imperial Russian Stout, and for 2015 they’ve essentially turned it into a pumpkin beer. Now, obviously there’s no actual pumpkin in this beer, but the spices used in it are the same as those used in many pumpkin brews. Personally, I enjoyed these flavors, but I preferred traditional, unfettered Stone IRS more.

I poured a 22oz bottle into a goblet. It was bottled on 2/25/15.

Appearance: Inky black color, completely opaque. Pours to a small, dark tan, foamy head which mostly dissipates and leaves little lacing.

Smell: Akin to a pumpkin beer with a similar spice palette and accompanying aroma. Enjoyable, but no imperial stout scent.

Taste: If I were drinking this blind, I might not even be able to tell it’s a stout, let alone a Russian imperial stout. There is a “dark” flavor sensation at the beginning of the swig: mostly black patent malt with a touch of roasted barley. It’s actually not particularly sweet or even bittersweet. The spices come rushing in rather quickly, and there’s a lot of them: cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, black pepper, and black tea. To me it tastes like a pumpkin stout without the pumpkin (not that you can really taste pumpkin in pumpkin beers anyway since it’s a bitter, squashy flavor). Not being a tea drinker I have no frame of reference as far as what Chai Tea tastes like, so who knows how close this comes to emulating that taste. All that being said, these spices are at worst interesting and at best pretty enjoyable. It’s almost minty at first with a slight capsaicin warming sensation at the finish which clears out the sinuses.

I do find it a little disappointing that the base recipe isn’t more prominent. I’m not sure why Stone decided to release this as an IRS variation since it bears so little resemblance to that great brew. Marketing it as a spicy dark ale, or an imperial pumpkin stout would seem to be a smarter way to go (but far be it for me to tell a brewery how to run their business).

Drinkability: One of the reasons Stone IRS is so great is due to its huge body. The Chai-Spiced variation seems like a different beer in its delivery. The mouthfeel is a little thinner, more carbonated and much cleaner-finishing. Instead of carbonated motor oil, this is closer to just a strong stout rather than the 10.6% ABV beast it should be. At least there’s no alcohol distraction whatsoever; which actually makes it almost dangerously drinkable. I’d love to pair this with dessert on Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas 
Grade: 8/10

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