Thursday nights at the Flying Saucer in Kansas City equals rare beer being tapped. I like Thursday nights. Tonight was extra special, as two beers were tapped. Yes, what a time to be alive. The beers of the night were Stone Imperial Russian Stout and Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout. For being built off the same beer, they were two totally different tastes.
Bottles of these beers were released in Kansas City last week, I picked up a bottle of the regular version, not really sure if I’d like the Belgo Anise. I’m not a huge fan of black licorice (I blame it on Jager, and a few birthdays that ended poorly because of it), so I didn’t want to buy a whole bottle of something I might not actually like before trying it. (Sometimes I make rational decisions. This night, though, was not about sound decisions. I started with a Boulevard Collaboration 2, then the Avery White Rascal was on fire sale, so I figured I might as well get one to fill the time before they tapped the Stones. Misjudged the time. I was about halfway done with the White Rascal when they tapped the beers. Of course I made the logical choice in ordering both of them at once, pounded the rest of the White Rascal, and started in on the stouts. Also, let’s discuss how good of an idea it is to drink heavy imperial stouts during one of the hottest streaks we’ve had in a long, long while. At least we were in the air conditioned bar. These are not summer porch beers.)
Any worries I had about confusing the two beers quickly disappeared, as the Belgo Anise version has a strong anise scent. I decided to start with it, as I didn’t know if I’d like it, and wanted to “save the best for last.” So yeah. Strong black licorice smell, followed in the taste. It might just that I focused on that particular flavor, but the anise was a little overpowering. I didn’t get a lot of the Belgian yeast flavor. From their site -
This 2011 Odd Year release pours pitch black with a deep tan head, with aromatic notes of anise, coffee, and cocoa jumping from the glass. Coffee and dark roasted malt flavors dominate, with a robust complement of anise and oak, which leave a lingering blend of vanilla, licorice, and dark malt on the palate. This one will age nicely for several years.
Talking with the Stone rep last night, he echoed the aging sentiments. The anise might mellow as it gets some time, and the Belgo aspects would come out more. After reading that and talking with him, I do kind of wish I grabbed a bottle while I could, just to see how it changes. My buddies with me liked it a lot, and I recognize that it’s a well-crafted beer, with lots of stuff happening, but it’s just not my thing. If you like the flavor of anise and/or Jager, then you’d probably enjoy this beer. I’m very glad I was able to try some, and would definitely drink it again. . . in about two or three years, after some mellowing. I’d give it a B+ overall. I’m not going to knock it much for not being my thing; people really like it, and I can see why. It’s just not for me, the anise was a little too much.
The Imperial Russian Stout, however, is in my wheelhouse. I started my love affair with beer on stouts, so they’re dear to me. Russian imperial stouts were a revelation, like a big brother version of the dry stouts or chocolate stouts. Full-bodied, smooth, and higher alcohol. Exactly what I wanted. And Stone’s IRS exemplifies the style. More info from their site -
Brewed in the authentic historical style of an Imperial Russian Stout, this beer is massive. Intensely aromatic (notes of anise, black currants, coffee, roastiness and alcohol) and heavy on the palate, this brew goes where few can – and fewer dare even try. The style originated from Czarist Russia’s demand for ever thicker English stouts. Expect our version of this mysterious brew to pour like Siberian crude and taste even heavier!
After the Belgo Anise, I couldn’t taste any of the anise flavors in this one. Lots of the chocolate and coffee flavors from the roasted malt. So good. So smooth. Very drinkable for 10.2%. By the time I got to drinking it, the beer had warmed a little, to nearly a perfect temperature. You don’t want these guys to be too cold, the flavors will get a little muted. As it warms, everything starts getting released, it gets a little heavier, and magic happens. Really glad I have a bottle, now it’s a matter of playing the waiting game and getting the right night to drink it. At least 6 months from now, if not longer. (Luckily I have plenty of other beers to drink, but that’s a topic for another post.) This beer gets a solid A, creeping up to the A+ range. The only thing keeping it down based on last night is the climate. On a cold winter night, this would be perfect. On a hot summer evening, it’s still damn good.