Every couple years or so, Bell’s comes out with a commemorative beer to mark another 1,000 batches under their belt. Similar to Batch 7000 that was released back in 2005, which I’ve heard from various folks is drinking REALLY well at the moment, their recently released Batch 9000 is a massive imperial stout coming in at 12.5% ABV.   

Poured into a snifter with a deep brown coloring and a thin head that builds with time. Aroma is soy sauce, anise, dark fruits, and mild alcohol. Maybe even a DFH 120 kind of rich caramel quality going on. Taste is very sweet, borderline cloying, more than just about any imperial stout I’ve ever tried. Bittersweet in the middle, likely from the molasses they brew with, with a fair amount of alcohol heat in the finish. Mouthfeel is relatively thin for the style, I need some viscosity here, not what I’d expect for such a huge beer.

Overall impression? I felt blitzed halfway through the snifter, and overwhelmed by sweet malt, which given my predilection for other sweet imperial stouts like Darkness 2008 was surprising to me. But this beer really needs to lay down for a year or two and mellow out before it gets pleasantly drinkable, which is exactly what I’m doing with the rest of my bottles.

Rating: B

Where I Bought It: Zipp’s Liquors
Availability: Limited Release
Price: $16.99 per six pack

 

Been waiting for this one to hit the shelves since I learned about it back in September.

I believe Brau Brothers Rainwater Oak-Aged Stout is the first imperial they’ve offered, what they call a “Very Special Old Dark,” or VSOD. And I gotta say, for their first foray into this hefty category, I think Brau Brothers hit on a winner here.

The balance on the beer is superb…not too hot, not too sweet, a great interplay between the deep malt aromas and roasty flavors. Although it isn’t as “imperial” as some others in the mouthfeel, not as dense or chewy as I prefer, it’s a relatively minor gripe considering everything else this beer has going for it.

Jet black pour with a decent hoppiness in the nose. Cocoa, roasted coffee, wood, nuts and a distant smoke also come into the mix. Taste is pleasing with roasted barley, chocolate, and some bitterness. They aged the beer on Madeira oak, and it hangs out in the background, very subtle, still allowing the other aromas and flavors to shine through. The 10% ABV is very well masked, only a hint of its heat cutting through in the finish, making this one of the more drinkable imperial stouts I’ve had in some time.

Rating: A

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It’s been more than six weeks since I published my last dedicated review, with a smattering of stories mixed in here and there. Call it the post-GABF slump.

Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve tried to hold myself to a loose goal of two, sometimes three, stories a week. But following my trip to Denver, I think I pretty much expended most of my beer writing energy for a while. Which has been just fine, however, since life has been a bit busy around The Captain’s abode, to say the least.

In addition to putting in some long hours at work, my wife and I have been anxiously preparing for the birth of our daughter later this month, and I couldn’t be more excited. 

It’s been a significant mental shift, and at times a bit tricky balancing my love affair with yeast with all the changes and new responsibilities that come with preparing to be a new father. Instead of brewing or bottling homebrew, I’m following IKEA-like diagrams to assemble cribs and glider chairs. Instead of heading up to The Blue Nile, Acadia Cafe or Town Hall to sample the latest wares, I’m attending baby classes at the hospital learning about proper swaddling techniques and how to securely fasten an infant car seat. Who knew babies needed to eat up to 8-12 times per day? Wait…so does that also mean…well, good thing I paid attention in the diaper class.

With less than three weeks to go, we are in the long-awaited final stretch…and when I say “we” I’m of course referring primarily to my beautiful wife who has been nothing short of amazing throughout this entire process. Pretty sure there’s a reason women were blessed with the ability to bear children as opposed to men. Because if I were in my wife’s shoes, I would have likely thrown in the towel months ago, considering my threshold for pain and discomfort is that of a soccer player flopping on the ground after stubbing his toe on a blade of grass. 

Pregnancy is an amazing thing…it’s difficult to put into words the emotions of love and total awe that I’ve felt watching our little family grow with each passing day. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time, and I’m trying my best to fully take in every moment of it.

Somehow amidst all the baby prep, I did manage to make my way out to this year’s Darkness Day at Surly, what proved to be another incredibly fun experience meeting new friends and enjoying some of the best craft beer in the country.

Not having much free time to run out with my fellow beer geeks in town and take in what seems to be a large number of bars tapping Darkness 2009, I decided to crack the wax on one of my bottles on Halloween night (seemed apropos) and sit down to immerse myself in this year’s vintage (or is it bintage?).

Poured into my 2008 commemorative snifter with a very deep and rich ebony appearance befitting its name. A nice mocha colored head briefly formed, but quickly retreated under the strength of the beer below. It’s cliche, but this beer truly does benefit from warming to near room temperature. I’d cooled the bottle down for an hour in the refrigerator to about 55 degrees, and the hop character, certainly much more perceptible in this year’s batch than 2008 (and closer to 2006 and 2007 versions), came off a little too dominant in the nose for my taste compared to the somewhat muted malt, I’m certain a result of the chilling. Not sure what varieties were used, but somewhat dank and earthy (guessing Fuggles), not citrusy or piney.

After giving the glass some time to warm, the aroma came right back into balance, providing a suitable segue to what is truly a spectacular malt foundation complete with flavors of molasses, coffee, roasted barley, and chocolate. More of the bittering hops in the finish, mingling with cocoa and a faint alcohol burn.

Aroma and flavor aside, one of the common denominators across many of Surly’s offerings that I’ve always loved and admired is the mouthfeel…whether it’s Furious, Bender or a huge beer like Darkness, there’s a trademark chewyness that you frankly don’t find in many other beers. Call it something like a “house flavor,” or simply Todd’s unique brewing stamp. Whatever the case, it completely sets Darkness apart from most other imperial stouts out there, making it a perennial front runner in my book as one of the best examples of the style.

So bottom line…what kind of beer are we dealing with here? I think an offering that surpasses nearly every expectation that’s been heaped upon it, delighting with nuanced complexity sip after sip. However, taking into account all my genuine superlatives in describing Darkness 2009, I’m ever so slightly partial to last year’s sweeter, more malt-forward version, which I realize is the distinct anomaly in the Darkness portfolio to date.

Rating: A

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5:15 a.m. and 37 degrees…
The chill in the air was already seeping into our bones as our group of six rolled up to Surly Brewing in the still of pre-dawn, eagerly awaiting our first taste of this year’s vintage of Darkness. Not a single soul was standing in line on the street, save for a few tents pitched on the nearby lawn and a lone RV parked near the front gate.

We planted our flag in the ground at the head of the line, set up our chairs, and opened the cooler filled with rare and difficult-to-find beers…Russian River Consecration Batch One, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous, Alesmith Speedway Stout, Three Floyd’s Dark Lord, Ballast Point Sculpin, Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza, and The Bruery Saison Rue. Within minutes, we were joined by a couple bleery-eyed guys who had driven up from Chicago that same night, and after the obligatory Vikings/Bears and Twins/White Sox taunting, we cracked a few bottles and happily shared some beer with our new friends.

Darkness Day 2009 was successfully under way. 

6:15 a.m. and 38 degrees…
A snaking line of fellow craft beer lovers quietly formed down the street as we set up our bean bag boards and started in for what would be a nearly six hour slog before the doors opened at noon.

Thermoses of hot coffee and bombers of good beer were passed around to folks huddled together in winter coats, mittens, and warm blankets. There was a quiet understanding amongst those of us in line…we were a small tribe of beer lovers, gathered from near and far enjoying each other’s company and generously sharing resources to ensure everyone’s experience was a good one.

The cool morning slowly pressed on.

8:05 a.m. and 41 degrees…
I took to our small propane camp grill as the sun broke above the horizon, churning out brats and cheddarwurst like a short-order cook. 

Several Surly staff and volunteers began rolling in to prepare for the day, including owner Omar Ansari who generously wheeled out not one but two kegs of Coffee Bender for the crowd to enjoy. Unbelievably fresh and potent with intense notes of cold-pressed coffee set upon a rounded backdrop of caramel, cocoa and silky oatmeal. A perfect way to usher in the morning.

9:45 a.m. and 42 degrees…
The tasting table magically appeared out of nowhere 50 feet down line from us, and we quickly brought a number of our bombers to share. Glasses were happily filled with the likes of Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper, Alesmith Anvil, New Glarus Unplugged Old English Porter and Wisconsin Belgian Red, Three Floyd’s Dark Lord, Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold, and countless others.

Several friends bellied up to the table, including Shawn and Mike from The Beer Genome Project, Brad from Hop Cast, and fellow Twin Cities home brewer Nate (thanks again for the empanadas). We all quickly forgot about our frozen feet and numb fingers with each sip of incredible beer.

11:30 a.m. and 44 degrees…
The line weaved several blocks down the road, nearly 800 people holding tightly onto their own special pieces of real estate like burrowed ticks. Volunteers began checking ID’s and passing out wrist bands. A palpable sense of excitement rushed through the crowd as the kilted bag pipers emerged, tuning up their instruments to ring in what promised to be an incredible afternoon filled with Surly’s finest.       

12:01 p.m. and 45 degrees…
The line quickly poured in through the gates, trampling over the bedding of straw that had been strewn over the muddy ground in front of the stage set up for the afternoon’s line-up of bands. Logistically, the operation was a smooth one, very well-organized to ensure everyone got into the brewery and received their allotment of Darkness in an orderly fashion.

After purchasing our bottles of Darkness, we bought a handful of beer tokens and got a pour of this year’s vintage…utterly divine, and noticeably different from last year with less dominating molasses and sweet malt flavors. Perfectly balanced, likely the best batch yet (more extensive review to come).   

1:30 p.m. and 45 degrees…
We mingled outside the brewery, sampling several other fresh Surly beers including Wet, Fest, and Tea-Bagged Furious on cask. The first band of the day, Kruddler, ripped through its aggressive set, a perfect soundtrack to the prolific craft beer enjoyment taking place yards away amongst the Surly faithful. It’d been a long, cold day for our small group, thankfully filled with new friends, incredible beers and many great memories. We left a happy bunch, already looking forward to next year.

Huge thanks to Omar, Todd and all the Surly volunteers for the beer, the time and the effort that went into making it a great experience for everyone.   

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Contrary to popular belief, attending the Great American Beer Festival is not just all about drinking phenomenal craft beer and celebrating the growing beer culture across our country. 

OK, fine. I lied. That is really what it’s all about.  

But drinking fantastic craft beer for an important charitable cause… now that’s something anyone can get behind.  

Friday afternoon at the GABF I was able to attend the Denver Rare Beer Tasting at the Wynkoop Brewery nestled in Denver’s LoDo district, an event benefiting the Pints for Prostates campaign. Sponsored by All About Beer and BeerAdvocate.com, proceeds from the 450 tickets sold went to help support education and advocacy efforts to promote screenings for prostate cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in men in this country.

Wynkoop is the city’s first brewpub, founded in 1988 by Denver’s current mayor, John Hickenlooper. And what a cool place for the event…ornately decorated wood décor and furnishings throughout, large timber pillars and pressed tin ceilings dating back to the mid to late 1800s when the building was used as a mercantile exchange for miners and pioneers settling the western frontier. The entire upper level was packed with people clamoring to get a few sips of some incredibly rare beers, including:

  • Alaskan Smoked Porter 1999 & 2008
  • Allagash Fluxus 2009 
  • Bison Reunion ’09 — A Beer for Hope Double White Ale 
  • Samuel Adams Utopias 2009 
  • Brooklyn Wild 1 
  • Deschutes Double Black Butte Porter XX 
  • Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra 2006 
  • Foothills 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Aged Total Eclipse Stout 
  • Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine 2008 
  • Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Glacier Harvest ’09 Wet Hop Ale 
  • Highland Big Butte Smoked Porter 
  • Jolly Pumpkin Biere de Mars Grand Reserve 2006 & 2007 
  • Lost Abbey The Angel’s Share 2009 Brandy Barrel Finish 
  • Mich Brett 
  • New Belgium Trip II 
  • New Glarus Golden Ale 
  • Odell Crimson Shenanigans 
  • Oskar Blues Wet & Whiskeyed Gordon
  • Rogue Ales John John Hazelnut 
  • Saranac Imperial IPA 
  • Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Scotch Ale 
  • Stoudt Old Abominable Barleywine 2007 
  • Stone 2008 Old Guardian Barley Wine Aged in Red Wine Barrels
  • Wynkoop Barrel Aged Berserker Mead

We arrived toward the tail end of the event, so unfortunately much of the selection had already poured out. But I was able to get my hands on a few notables, including Foothills 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Aged Total Eclipse Stout, probably the most intense bourbon-style stout I’ve ever had (think Goose Island BCS on steroids), as well as Avery Voltron, an intensely puckering wild ale. I also tried the Lost Abbey Angel’s Share, and New Belgium Trip II, both incredibly solid.

Probably the most interesting beer of the night was Michelob Brett, what I’d consider to be the rarest beer of the lot considering there was only a single experimental barrel in the entire country developed by brewmaster Adam Goodson. According to Adam, they fermented in primary with their standard lager strain, then dosed the beer with brett and conditioned for many months to give it its distinctive leather, barnyard characteristics. A seriously good beer, and much more balanced and smooth in its brett quality than most other beers I’ve had of this variety.

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greatdivideLike many of us in the Upper Midwest, the fall season marks a favorite time of year filled with long drives up the North Shore to see the colorful progression of changing leaves, evening hay rides through winding farm fields, and the soothing smell of spiced cider wafting through the kitchen…

Hold on…what in the hell am I talking about? This isn’t Martha Stewart Living.

Fall means football. And even better, it also means the introduction of a slew of flavorful, aromatic seasonal beers.

The cooler months are historically the high season for beer, with brewers in northern Europe traditionally bringing out the strongest and maltiest of their wares that had been safely conditioning in cool cellars and caves through the hot and humid summer, such as Oktoberfests and doppelbocks. And with the slight chill in the evening air providing portent of the months ahead, it has me turning my focus to heartier, more warming brews.

I’m of course talking about the prototypical fireside beer…the glorious stout.

Despite some peoples’ perception of stouts as undrinkable glasses of motor oil (Bennigans, everyone’s favorite “Irish” bar and restaurant, ironically used to list Guinness under the appetizer section of their menu), they can often be one of the smoothest, most drinkable beers around, exhibiting a surprising spectrum of nuance in flavor, aroma and texture amongst the category. 

To talk about the history of stouts you need to also describe another closely related beer…the English porter. The name was coined in the early 1700’s by street and river porters, part of London’s blue collar working class, that preferred a darker, richer beer made with roasted malts. It wasn’t long before some versions of the beer became more broadly known as stouts, characterized by their higher alcohol content and greater bitterness and roasted qualities. Guinness started using the term stout to describe its beer in 1820, though they’d essentially been brewing the style since 1780.

Interestingly, stouts also have a long association with oysters, likely a popular food pairing in British pubs, with several versions being brewed with a handful of the shellfish in the mash or barrel. And yes, the rumors that women in northern Europe were (and apparently still are) encouraged to enjoy the occasional stout to aid in nutrition during pregnancy are, unfortunately, indeed true.

Stylistically, stouts (much like porters) can be somewhat of a catch-all term, encompassing a very wide swath of beers. But the common denominator is generally the incorporation of roasted barley which lends a dryness and roasted flavor that can be described as coffee, chocolate, or dark fruits. Some of the more commonly recognized varieties include the English stout, Irish dry stout, sweet stout, oatmeal stout, foreign extra stout, American stout, and Russian Imperial stout.

Your average Twin Cities beer lover doesn’t need to look far to find a bevy of fantastic examples at their local bar or retail outlet, with many of them brewed right here in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

English Stout
The standard bearer of the style. As described earlier, not that dissimiliar to many porters, but marked by a more pronounced malt and roasted characteristic, and slightly higher alcohol content.   

label_stoutLocally, August Schell’s Stout is a very nice example, and in fact one of the highest rated in the category, according to Beer Advocate.

“Schell Stout began as our Snowstorm offering in 2006, and due to its overwhelming popularity, it entered into regular production in 2008,” explained David Berg, brewmaster at August Schell Brewing in New Ulm. “The underlying philosophy behind the recipe was one of balance. The malt chosen was all from the UK, with just enough hops to keep the beer from being cloying. It’s not a beer that assaults your tastebuds. Instead, it’s a beer that requires the drinker to think about what they’re tasting to draw out the subtle complexities.”

Irish Dry Stout
guinness-is-good-for-youFollowing on the template created by the English stout, the Irish dry stout evolved after brewers in Ireland attempted to offer a creamier beer of greater body and strength, with an underlying dry, astringent finish. Today, most people know this style thanks to the ubiquitous Guinness, founded in 1759 in Dublin. Guinness is revered as one of the original mass marketers in Great Britain, reaching a pinnacle during the 1930’s and 1940’s with its iconic toucan mascot and slogans like “My Goodness My Guinness” and “Guinness for Strength.” Today, if you travel to Dublin and take a tour at their St. James Gate brewery (as I did a few years ago), they make a point in playing off the secretive “black stuff” used in their recipe, which is likely just some form of black patent malt to give Guinness its distinctive burnt, dry finish.

In addition to Guinness Draught (the stuff in cans here in America) and their recently released 250th Anniversary Stout, some locally brewed examples include Central Waters Irish Dry Stout, a seasonal release, and Furthermore’s Three Feet Deep, a beer that offers an interesting smokey nose thanks to their use of peat-smoked malt, making it very reminiscent to a nice scotch.

Sweet Stout
Sweet stouts are an English style originally gaining popularity around World War II. Historically known as “milk” or “cream” stouts, some also referred to it as “nourishing” stout, no doubt reflected in the advice of doctors in the early to mid 1900’s touting the beer’s health benefits for pregnant and nursing women. Legally, the “milk” designation is no longer permitted in England, a result of rationing during WWII when the British government required brewers to remove the word from labels or advertisements. 

The name is derived from the use of lactose, or milk sugar, as a sweetener which goes unfermented in the wort, providing a silkier, creamy mouthfeel and texture. They can literally come off as sweet, or in some cases a tinge of sourness, not that unlike spoiling milk in the most extreme examples.  

Minneapolis Town Hall recently had a cask of their delicious Coconut Milk Stout on draught, like smooth, liquid Almond Joy in a glass (though to my knowledge you’ll have to wait a while before it returns), or you can try Brau Brother’s Cream Stout, an offering that leans more on the lactose side of the equation.

Oatmeal Stout
Oatmeal stouts are an English seasonal very closely resembling sweet stouts. But unlike the sweet stout that uses lactose to provide its distinctive mouthfeel, oatmeal stouts use…well, you get the picture. Generally speaking, oats are a relatively small component of most brewers’ grain bills, maybe making up 5-15% of the total composition, as they tend to gelatinize into a gooey mess in the mash, potentially causing issues with the lautering process if not handled properly. So typically, the goal is to develop a more silky texture, with comparatively less emphasis on any “oatmeal” kind of flavor and aroma as one might expect. As a homebrewer, it’s definitely one of my favorite styles to make.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout from England is the classic example, easily found at many retail locations in the Twin Cities, or try Goose Island’s Oatmeal Stout, a beer that gives oatmeal and chocolate a whole new meaning.

Beer lovers in the Twin Cities have a number of locally brewed options to choose from, including Minneapolis Town Hall’s Black H20 Oatmeal Stout, Great Waters Blackwatch Oatmeal Stout, Flat Earth’s Black Helicopter, a stout brewed with Dunn Bros. coffee, and of course Summit’s Oatmeal Stout, found only on draught at area bars.

“Our Oatmeal Stout was first brewed in 2004 as a limited release beer, but quickly turned into a favorite so we decided to make it part of our regular line-up,” said Mark Stutrud, brewmaster and founder of Summit Brewing Company. “It’s poured with mixed gas (nitrogen and CO2) which gives it a tan, creamy head and smooth character.  The stout is dark brown in color with notes of chocolate, coffee, and caramel.  And the toasted oats give the beer a very velvety, smooth mouthfeel that sets it apart from others.”

Foreign Extra Stout
lionForeign extra stouts were originally high-gravity stouts brewed for markets outside Great Britain, designed to withstand the warmer shipping temperatures that could spoil less potent beers. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is the most widely available example, which has been made since the early 1800’s.

A very closely related subcategory to foreign extras are tropical stouts, domestic versions of foreign extras brewed in warm climes such as the Caribbean. Interestingly, they are often brewed using lager yeasts, a practice more likely attributed to local brewing traditions (think how many lagers surprisingly come out of Mexico and the Caribbean) as opposed to technical consideration during fermentation. Locally available examples include Lion Stout (now in cans), a fantastic offering from Sri Lanka.

American Stout
American stouts follow closely to foreign extra stouts, offering a deep roasted and burnt malt characteristic, and as one might expect, more perceptible levels of hop bitterness. Like the American craft beer industry has seen with bold and extreme styles like double IPA’s and barleywines, experimentation is also a hallmark of this style, with some brewers adding coffee, chocolate or other ingredients to differentiate their beers. Many craft brewers have also taken to aging their beers in oak casks previously used for storing bourbon or other hard liquors, imparting a kbsunique complexity not found in most ales.

Sierra Nevada Stout and Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout are both good choices, and be sure to check out Michigan-based Dark Horse’s line of holiday stouts, which includes their fantastic Tres Blueberry Stout. Also, now that Founders distributes to the Twin Cities, be on the lookout for their Breakfast Stout, and if you’re very lucky, the highly rare Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a bourbon-barrel aged version of the original.

Russian Imperial Stout
darklordThe big daddy of them all…the Russian Imperial stout. Brewed to very high gravity, usually approaching (and exceeding) the 22 degrees Plato range for all you homebrewers out there, and copiously hopped to balance the intense level of malt. First brewed in 1796 by Thrale’s Brewery in London for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia, the style today is widely celebrated by many notable craft brewers nationwide as the ultimate expression of brewing in its extreme.

Dark Lord, brewed by Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana, is held up as one of the shining examples of the style. However, as I can attest from personal experience, it’s extraordinarily difficult to find unless you travel to the brewery one day out of the year to get it. Bell’s Expedition Stout is another fine choice (and much easier to procure), as well as North Coast’s Old Rasputin.

Closer to home, Brau Brothers has plans to release an imperial stout later this winter, according to CEO and brewmaster Dustin Brau, with details to be announced very soon.

And of course, no discussion on imperial stouts would be complete without highlighting Surly Darkness and the brewery’s annual Darkness Day festival, a one day event in October that has gained widespread attention and reputation as one of the best craft beer convocations in the country. The event draws beer lovers from across the nation to share in the glory of what is, at least in my opinion, one of the best beers on the planet. You can also find it on draught very occasionally around the Twin Cities, if you happen to be in the right place at the right time (rumor has it there will be a cask of Darkness at the upcoming Autumn Brew Review).

“When Todd first brewed Darkness in June 2006, I wondered ‘how am I going to sell 12 barrels of this stuff’?” said Omar Ansari, founder of Surly. “We had no idea up front it would become the phenomenon that it has. The first year it was only sold in growlers and kegs, and you’d see people driving in to places like The Blue Nile ordering a couple glasses and pouring it into sealable containers. We knew then we had to do something about it. So when the laws were changed the next year to allow us to sell 750 ml bottles from the brewery, we hosted the first Darkness Day festival, and each year it’s gotten progressively larger.”  

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For whatever reason, Dieu du Ciel (God of the Sky) is one of those breweries that has slowly elevated itself into mythical status in my mind.

Based in Quebec with two small brewpubs in Montreal and St. Jerome, I think their somewhat exotic locale (in a Canadian sense) is what drives most of it for me, since the odds of me ever physically visiting these guys are about as good as Brett Favre finishing out this coming season injury-free. Expectedly, they brew in small quantities, and I don’t believe they bottle everything they make. In short, their stuff can be very difficult to come by. So when I heard the fabled Peche Mortel* (Mortal Sin), currently ranked in the top 20 on Beer Advocate’s “Best Of” list, had found its way to the shelves of The Four Firkins, I made a bee-line to pick up a bottle.

Poured with a nice craggy, cratered head that fell apart slowly. This really does make most other coffee beers smell and taste like Sanka. Probably the most pronounced coffee richness I’ve ever experienced except for, well, a double shot of espresso coffee (hold the sugar). Also a bit of oak, smoke and leather in the aroma. Taste is equally impressive, a combination of the darkest chocolate, roasted malt and a very dry, bittering coffee flavor that quickly coats your mouth. A bit hot in the finish, with a fairly hefty 9.5% ABV. While there is some nice complexity going on, probably a bit too aggressive on the coffee front overall for me to give it an absolutely world-class ranking in the imperial stout category. But man, is this a beer. 

Rating: A

* On a side note, what is it with brewers in Quebec going with these quasi-spiritual, Gothic themed beers? Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde and Don de Dieu? Dieu du Ciel’s Rigor Mortis and Resurrection?