Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout - Gus #41

So last night I bottled my Belgian Dark Strong Ale, ObscuritĂ©.  I decided to pop a brew while I was working on it.  I walked to my cellar and this popped out at me so I grabbed it and chilled it slightly.  This is a Odd Year release from Stone.  In 2011 they release Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout.  This is a cool thing they do every odd year (2011 and will release some this year in 2013) where they release one of their brews done in a different way.  This release was their Imperial Russian Stout (IRS) brewed with star anise and oak chips, fermented with Belgian yeast.  I love Belgian brews and since I was bottling one of my own it fit perfect.  I've held on to this bottle for a long time now.  Last night seemed like the right time to let it loose.

How it rates with others:

YouTube review:
Jamison (tantrum777)
Ryan aka StumpyJoeJr
Chris of Beer Geek Nation
Peter the Master of Hoppets

ratebeer review:

About the Beer:
Style:  Imperial Stout
Alcohol by Volume:  10.50%
IBUs:  Unknown
Serving:  22oz Bomber

I poured this brew into a snifter glass.

Appearance:  Pours dark brown as it goes into the glass.  It settles almost black with about a finger and a half of off white to tan head.  Tight white bubbles in the head due to the bottle conditioning.  The head did dissipate after a few minutes.  Alcohol legs on the glass as I swirled it.  Barely any light coming through at all. What does get through, and I mean barely any, is only on the edges and it gives the edges a clear very dark brown appearance.

Aroma:  Really big star anise/licorice notes right off the get go.  Being brewed with the star anise in there of course helps that.  I think the Belgian yeast probably enhanced this over time with the brew being bottle conditioned as well.  Some hits of bitter chocolate and roasted coffee bean in there.  There is a sweetness in there as well.  Not really any alcohol present.  The aging probably cooled some of it down that others experience with a fresher bottle.  The hops have faded a bit as well giving way to the malt aromas.  Overall the licorice and roasty notes are the big players with some underlying coffee and chocolate bitterness.  The spice aromas from the Belgian yeast are there as well but a little muted by the other aromas.  Maybe some hints of vanilla but if they are there, it's just barely.

Taste:  This is almost just like the aroma but a little sweeter and more roast in the flavor.  The licorice is right there with some of the dark chocolate.  Coffee is there as well but downplayed by the anise/licorice notes.  Sweetness with the licorice kind of gives it a root beer flavor a little bit.  Alcohol, like the aroma, has been converted into more of a sweetness instead of being too hot.  Carbonation is still at a good level, probable due to the Belgian yeast still working in the bottle.  I will say there isn't as much Belgian spice as I would like to have.  Being brewed with that yeast and bottle conditioned, I was looking for a little more.  I think the anise was just the big player and kind of overpowered the other flavors.  After taste is coffee and dark chocolate with a dry finish.  Medium to medium/heavy mouthfeel that was surprisingly easy to drink.  

Verdict:  This is a very interesting brew.  I think the extended aging helped with the hot alcohol aromas and flavors that were there when fresh.  It had big licorice flavors and sweetness.  The roasty notes were a little subdued by that.  I really wanted to see more from the oak chips.  It had a little vanilla maybe but not too much.  It was fairly complex and had a ton to offer but, I do prefer their regular IRS to this one.  It would be interesting to see what this one is like with just the Belgian yeast as some others have said.  Belgian style stouts are usually pretty tasty.  All that being said, I'm really glad I kept this bottle and let it sit for a while.  I also love the way they alter it on the Odd Year releases.  I'm going to score this one a B.  Definitely above average but not quite as good as their regular IRS.  I have a 2012 bottle of IRS that I will pop open when they release this years batch.  I'll make a comparison of the old and new batches.  I just have to remember to buy more that I usually do!  For pairings, I think this would go great with a Cigar or some type of ribs.  The licorice and sweetness would cut the savory flavors of some really nice smoked ribs.

Thanks for checking out another review and let me know what you guys think.  I'll get a review of my BDSA that I bottled while drinking this one soon to let you guys know how that turned out.