Jul 6, 2011

Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout

Stone Belgo Anise Russian Imperial Stout photoMmmm…. stout.

This seemed like as good a point as any in the stream of Saranac reviews to have a little half-time show. The reviews for that Summer variety pack will continue tomorrow, but in the meantime, let’s enjoy a stout.

I’m a big fan of Stone Brewing’s Imperial Russian Stout. I try and get a couple extra bottles to set down for a while each time a new year is released — there’s a handful in the basement right now ranging from 2008 to this latest batch. I’m also a fan of Stone’s concept for their off-year, Belgo series. Every other year the brewery will be releasing an alternative version of one of their brews. In this year’s case, it was two: their Old Guardian Belgo, which I liked, and this bottle of Imperial Stout, which I only sort of liked.


This brew pours as black as night in the dead of a Siberian winter with a quickly fading dark brown head.


There’s a good deal of activity within the nose as components of dark roast coffee, wood, a large helping of anise/licorice and a moderate peppery yeast presence all come together.


The first initial sips revealed a tasty blend of licorice (that really shines through in the finish), wood, dark coffee and Belgian yeastiness. The fuller, thicker mouthfeel slowly pushes all of these elements over the tongue smoothly. The finish has a good bit of bitterness in the background that hangs around for a bit. The 10.5% ABV doesn’t really start to make itself apparent until the beer begins to warm (about half way through the bottle for me). This is also the point at which drinking the beer sort of began to become a chore to finish. It’s not an overly powerful beer in terms of the alcohol so that really wasn’t an issue. It was the anise within the beer that started to wear on me. The more and more I drank, the more dominate that flavor became. By the time I took my last drink, I was all too happy to be done with the licorice-like flavor.


This is one of those beers that I would have enjoyed so much more had I only consumed it in a limited quantity. A full 22 oz bottle of it’s anise-infused flavor was just a bit too much for my palate to handle over the long haul. I enjoyed the wood aging and the Belgian yeast influence, but they weren’t enough to tone down the anise through the life of the beer. In the end, I’m glad I bought a bottle of it, but I’m not sure that I will be checking it out again in the future.

Rating: 3.75/5

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