Courage Imperial Russian Stout

In the 18th-century the English brewers had a lucrative trade exporting strong, dark beers to the Baltics and Russia. Courage Imperial Russian Stout was first brewed in 1795 at the Thrale’s Brewery in London for the court of Catherine II of Russia. Thrale’s was purchased by Barclay Perkins, which was in turn bought out by the Courage Brewery. Courage Stout was brewed continuously according to the old recipe until 1982. In 2007 the Courage brands were bought by Wells & Young’s. They revived this historic and regal brew in 2011. I’m not the biggest fan of imperial stout, but this is what imperial stout is really all about.

Here’s my notes:

Courage Imperial Russian StoutCourage Imperial Russian Stout
Wells & Young’s Ltd, Bedford, United Kingdom
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Serving Style: 275 ml bottle

Aroma: Chocolate milk shake. Luxurious chocolate, cocoa, and mocha aromas. A bit of caramel. Subtle notes of pear. Lightly herbal and licorice. Lovely.

Appearance: Opaque black. The head is a billowing, creamy, tan froth. It lasts forever.

Flavor: This tastes black. The first sip is a bitter surprise, but it smooths out from there. It starts with some sweetness like caramel dripped over cocoa powder and coffee. Mid-palate that strong kick of roasted bitterness comes back and lingers to the finish. It hangs around long after swallowing. What a swelter of flavors in between – burnt, smoke, chocolate, licorice, vanilla, mint, black strap molasses, raisins, pears. There’s a bit of black malt acidity. Alcohol is definitely there, adding a spirituous vapor to the mix. Black licorice and molasses intensifies as it warms. The finish is dry and bitter, tannic almost. There is no lingering sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Creamy-smooth. Robust, but high attenuation leaves it surprisingly light bodied (medium-high) for such a big, black beer. A bit of astringency, but not unpleasant. Warming to be sure.

Overall Impression: This is a beer to sit and sip. Put it in a snifter or a tulip and enjoy slowly. Sharply bitter, this is not the overly sweet brew that so many American RISs have become. At 10% ABV it’ll mess you up, but like with the Belgians you won’t know it until you stand up. Serve with chocolate brownies or lava cake. I think mint chocolate cookies could also be good. Or just enjoy it by itself. Top rate – this is an RIS that I want to wrap my head around.