Anyway, tonight I am reviewing Courage's Imperial Russian Stout. Which, if my reading serves me well, is a popular style of brew this year around where I am. I have never seen the like before and so I did ask for a selection of Christmas beer and I got it. Yay!
This comes in a tiny little bottle (275ml) and so straight away you know something about this beer is going to be different. It's also 10% ABV - apparently so it didn't freeze when exported from Britain to Murmansk back in the 1750s. Finally, it also conditions in the bottle for up to 13 years, presumably so that it could last once it arrived in Russia without having to make numerous resupply trips over wacky stormy seas (yes, thank you KLF).
I can claim no knowledge of the veracity of the historical story. However, on opening I can say that the pressure is high and so the head is vigorous and feisty. No whiff of CO2, implying that this was conditioned well and not with added gas in the bottle. The aroma is heavy and malty, with hints of chocolate and wet wood (no, really), and there is a smidge of citrus if you're looking for it, which I was. After the head has died down a little you can get close to the beer itself.
First sip is very chocolatey, reminds me of the Triple Chocolate Stout that I reviewed ages ago, but not so much that it overpowers things. Pleasant sparkle to the fizz with tones of citrus fruits, but these are mild like apples and pears rather than oranges or lemons, mostly one gets the malt and the weight of the beer. This is, I suppose, like Stout ought to be, heavy and malty and interesting. If you met this sip on the street you'd either strike up a conversation and take him home to meet the parents or else you'd quiver in fear and worry that you'd appear somehow less than human by mere comparison. Second sip is much the same, implying good staying power. You can feel the strength of that 10% ABV though, this is not a sessionable ale, but that's why it comes in dinky little bottles.
Overall, this is a heavy, winter warming beer. It's one you'd best enjoy on a cold evening, huddled round a crackling open fire keeping the frost at bay. Wrapped in winter furs, hunted yourself from the wild woods, telling tales and singing songs with good rough company. Don't shave. Don't shave anything for a few days. Don't wash except in water from beneath cracked ice. Then get that fire going, huddle, talk in low voices, laugh long and with feeling, and crack open one or two of these as you smile and joke with your companions. It will be worth it.