A smart idea by Durham Brewery: create a “virtual tasting event” where people everywhere try their favorite Imperial Stout and then tweet about it. CAMRGB (Campaign for Really Good Beer, not to be confused with CAMRA) also supported the event, and from what I’ve seen on Twitter so far it’s been a rousing success. Since I am the first one to jump on the bandwagon of any totally made-up holiday (International IPA Day, anyone?) or event related to beer, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two bottles I popped open for this global (OK, mostly British) event of virtual beer goodness.
Look: Surprise, surprise, it’s a brownish black. It has hardly any head, but what there is is nicely toffee-coloured.
Nose: Booze and caramel sweetness. And booze.
Taste: I’ve had this in the cellar for almost exactly a year (give or take a few weeks) and it’s really grown and changed. First you get a really strong hit of dark, dark chocolate that sort of stays in the background for the whole time you have this in your mouth (and for a while after that). Then you get dark espresso beans and quite a strong liquorice vibe that I don’t remember at all from the “fresh”, non-cellared variety – a kind of very faintly aniseed/sugar spiciness that really adds body to an already full-bodied beer. Then you get some burnt/brown sugar, very briefly, because this is not a very sweet stout at all. It ends on a bit of bittersweet roast/caramel note with the burnt toast bitterness taking over. This all takes place against a background of soothing alcohol warmth.
Mark: 5/5. Alongside the India Pale Ale Double Black this is one of my all-time Kernel favorites, heck, one of my all-time favorites, period. Glad that hasn’t changed in the year this beer was in the cellar.
Look: It’s black. No kidding? I was expecting light blue.
Nose: Coffee, non-specific fruit/berries, bit of yeast.
Taste: Very different in character from the Kernel – much sweeter off the bat, with caramel, brown sugar and toffee on the tounge. The sweet flavours develop quickly into much fruitier territory: dried fruit, raisins, cherries. Then you get chocolate and a more bready sweetness, like cookies or cake batter. Towards the end there’s quite a bit of roast flavours going on, mainly coffee and burnt sugar. At ABV 9.0 it is surprisingly light-bodied, and very pleasantly so – it’s not at all oily like many imperial stouts and yet has a very pleasant, runny mouthfeel. I bet this will age well.
Mark: 4/5. It’s very balanced and a very fine example of the style but lacks that je ne sais quoi to really take off. Still, if I could have a few more Imp Stouts like this, I’d be happy.