With all the hubub this past weekend over the resignation of one of the White House Czars, it seem fitting that one of our Sip With Us Saturday Beer was a beer originally  crafted for a czar, in the most historical sense of the word.  Since we  picked this beer on Friday, and Van Jones announced his resignation Satuday evening, we here at Thank Heaven for Beer are beginning to wonder if our articles posses some supernatural oracular power!

All kidding aside, the Imperial Stout, authentically a Russian Imperial Stout, is not Russian, but was brewed to woo the imperial court of Catherine of Russia by Thales brewery.  Thales was bought out by Courage Brewery, and the beer, originally called “Imperial Russian Stout,” was renamed “Courage Russian Imperial Russian Stout.”  When Courage shut down, the Imperial Stout’s production was transferred to Sam Smith’s brewery in Tadcaster.  The beer, which in its prime boasted a 10 percent ABV, didn’t last long.  However Sam Smith’s began producing the beer again as interest in bolder brews began to revive in more recent years in the UK and abroad.

So in a sense, while the current version is only 7% ABV, one could argue that Sam Smith’s hold the title to most authentic Russian Imperial Stout by reason of lineage.  More info can be found at the Thales website.

The Pour:

Sam Smith’s Imperial Stout pours a smooth and jet black into the glass.  There is formidable head, releasing a explosion of aromas.  After the thick tan head dissipated, a stick lacing is left around the edges of the glass.  the head did not dissolve completely around the edges of the glass and as I drank the beer, a lacing pattern covered the entire interior.  The beer looked slightly oily as the light glanced off of it.

The Aroma:

A deep roasted aroma fills the air, bready grain, sweet chocolate aromas, toffee, and (unlike other reviews I’ve read) I picked up an a strong vanilla flavor.  In fact, it was so pronounced, I pictured the brewer pouring a little vanilla extract into the boil kettle.  Comprehensively, the aromas combine to produce a chocolate candy aroma.  I must pause to point out:  Most pale lager session drinkers would be freaked out by a dark black beer, expecting a bitter cold black coffee experience.  If only they knew what pleasant flavors lurked below the surface!

The Taste:

First off, the beer flows in to the mouth with utmost ease.  It is an exceptionally smooth experience from lips to esophagus.  The flavor is so similar to those present in the aroma, which is not always the case for me.  The vanilla flavor is so upfront, it is unmistakable.  Sweet, sweet malts never overpower the senses to be interpreted as sickening sweet, as the most subtle hops balance the beer.   Dark roasted malts dominate all others.  Fruit flavors were not very apparent in my opinion, besides a slight dried fig flavor.

Overall Thoughts:

This is a great, go to beer.  To be honest, I prefer some American incarnations a bit more (i.e. Old Rasputin, Dark Lord) as I think they offer more complexity.

Nate’s Rating

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★½☆ 

Among other Imperial Stouts: ★★★☆☆