Catching Up on a Couple Russian Imperial Stouts

It seems we’ve been busy getting out the beer news lately, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried a few new brews here and there.  Here’s a couple of Russian Imperial Stouts for you from Widmer and Rogue.

In 2005, Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. began a new “W” Brewmasters’ Release, brewing up a special one-time-only release.  So far, they’ve run the gamut from an IPA to a Crimson Wheat to a Belgian Style Ale.  Last year, Widmer hopped on the Black IPA band wagon. This year, they brewed up W’11 KGB Russian Imperial Stout.  This beer is solid black with a medium tan head that doesn’t stick around too long.  The aroma is faintly chocolate and a bit of roasted malts.  It is full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel which is typical for a Russian Imperial Stout. There’s a good amount of roasted malt and dark chocolate in the flavor along with a moderately high amount of alcohol warmth (9.3% abv).  There are subtle hop bitterness undertones which become fairly noticeable in the finish. It is a pleasant example of the style, but won’t knock your socks off.

One evening at The Rhino in Missoula, I noticed Rogue Ale’s XS Imperial Stout on tap and figured I’d better give that a try.  This one is also solid black with a thick, medium tan head.  There are aromas of sweet malt with some roasted malt notes and a bit of alcohol. This beer comes across as very big – not surprising given the 11% abv. There’s a full mouthfeel.  Flavors are dominated by bitter hops following some initial sweetness and alcohol.  The roasted malts of a robust stout are in the background behind the bitterness.  It is definitely a Rogue Ales stout, which is to say they love their hops at Rogue. The roasted malts come through a bit more as it warms, but the bitterness persists.