Unleashing a Russian bear with all its complexity... 

It is a rare occurrence when you sample a beer for the first time, and only one word adequately sums up the experience - but that was the case recently with one of the world's scarcest brews.

The style of beer, Imperial Russian Stout, has seen a resurgence in recent years, and interpretation of both style and strength vary considerably.

Individual brewers interpretation and expression is no bad thing, but some beers veer so far from the style you begin to question the use of the term.

The beer in question, Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout hails from Munster, Indiana in the USA , and I was well aware of the brews reputation.

It is only released once a year in strictly limited quantities, and such is its rarity beer aficionados will travel hundreds of miles to the brewery on an allotted day to purchase the brew.

Customers are more than appreciative to leave with a maximum allocation of four bottles...

The origins of the style, Imperial Russian Stout are well documented, and date back to before 1781. It was Henry Thrale's Brewery in Southwark, London, which was first credited in producing  the strong export porter (later termed 'stout') that became so favoured with the Russian Court's of Peter and Catherine the Great.

Its historical parameters put it at 10%Alc/vol. and above, and much of its resurgence in recent years has been down to the burgeoning interest in the style on the US craft brewing scene. 

The Three Floyd's brew followed in this awakening and was first produced in 2002.

So what exactly is it about this particular beer  that sets it apart from others?

On pouring, the colour is typical of many Imperial Stout's, an impenetrable black with a deep brown tightly formed head and subtle carbonation. 

But, it is here that the similarities with others ends!

The aroma is very bold and giving, with complex aromas of roasted coffee bean, mocha, raisin and dark berry compote.

The aromas shift constantly, with sweet leather and sultana notes, black treacle -  and  is both heady and beguiling! 

The aromas transfer equally well to the palate, which has a density of flavour matched by few other brews.

Flavours of prune, figs, dark (70% plus) chocolate and coco essence, merge with vanilla, black cherry, and coffee dusted almond.

The flavour notes shift constantly in complexity with a host of hedonistic flavours.



One other factor that is noticeable is the beers sheer viscosity, which makes it  reminiscent of very fine port wine. Its alcohol content of 13%Alc/vol. would give it body, but not necessarily the viscose weight, and the inclusion of honey and molasses no doubt contribute to this.

The finish has great length, with flavour notes of liquorice, caramel, and warming brown sugar lingering long after the final sip.

Cleverly though all the ingredients interplay perfectly, and whilst non are dominant, they all remain brightly expressive. 

The brew itself was from the 2009 vintage and was so young and vivid in flavour (but perfectly drinkable) you wondered just when (and if!) a beer such as this would ever reach a point of maturity!

Clearly one of the worlds most extraordinary brews, and one I am very grateful to have encountered. 

And, that word that came into my mind to describe the experience on the first whirl of the aroma in the glass... was... simply - "stunning!"


With special thanks to Zhana Alendar.

                                                                                                  TO RETURN TO ARCHIVE CLICK ON ARROW TOP OF PAGE


Make a Free Website with Yola.