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This one was aged in Barrels. Ooooh La La. 2008 Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout Review

January 31, 2010

Some evenings just call for a big bruiser of a beer. Evenings like after a work crisis erupts at 5pm right as you are supposed to be walking out of the door and on your way to a good draft beer. Days like this are why big, bad, Imperial Stouts exist. Actually, they exist thanks to Peter and Catherine the Great of 18th century Russia. Their high tolerance to alcohol had breweries concocting bigger, badder beers. The high alcohol content served not just to impress but also to keep the beer from freezing as it made its way from Europe to the Baltic lands. This king of beers was intended to impress royalty, hence the term “imperial.”

Thank goodness for me I happened to have a big ol’ 750 sitting in my fridge of beer royalty. I purchased Schlafly’s 2008 Reserve Imperial Stout a few months ago and just haven’t felt the time was right until tonight. It’s funny how a crisis at work can cause you to crave a behemoth of malt and hops to strip away the tension. I got a six pack of Raging Bitch from Flying dog on my lunch hour today, but for some reason a barrel-aged ruler-of-stouts was where my mind was fixated.

Having visited and toured the Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis, MO I have become quite fond on St. Louis’ largest American owned brewery. The tour was amazing (and free), the beer was good (and free), and being a breweriana collector their gift shop was par for the course (not free). I’ve tried many different Schlafly beers and have been impressed by quite a few. If you are ever in St. Louis this should be your first stop, not AB-INBEV, although they run an impressive show too. The beer just isn’t as good.

THE BEER

Beer: Schlafly Reserve 2008 Imperial Stout

Brewer: Schlafly (The Saint Louis Brewery)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.5%

IBU: 75

Serving: 750 ml, pour into large tulip glass

Here was have a Schlafly Reserve beer. It looks they have done only two styles in the Reserve Series, this Imperial Stout and a barrel-aged Barleywine. My version is a 2008 vintage, but I believe they release a new vintage each year. The beer is aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels to give that distinct character. I need to brush up on my whiskey palate to help pick out those flavors more. Barrel aging is only going to get more prominent. The beer weighs in at 10.5% Alcohol by Volume and according to the website is 75 IBUs. Not much other info is available for this one. Schlafly doesn’t seem to be making a huge deal out of their Reserve Series. They just want you to age and enjoy these Godzilla-brews.

The bottle is a big dark 750, capped, not corked. Still being what I consider to be a craft beer novice, help me out here. Are big Imperial Stouts typically corked? A blurb on the back suggests pairing with chocolate. The only other Imperial Stout I have had is from Goose Island and it’s their 2006 Bourbon County Stout. I got a 4-pack two years ago man-oh-man is that thing aging fantastically (I’ll drink Bottle #4 when it has been exactly 5 years from bottling). Let’s see how this Schlafly stands up.

REVIEW

The beer pours dark, but not black. It is more like a very, very dark ruby color. Not much light gets through, but it’s more than you would expect. A short, tight, tan head sits firmly on top to protect all those roasted malt aromas. Lacing is miminal.

The aroma is surprisingly hoppy. I’m getting a sort of noble hops vibe at first. Shortly there after the roasty, coffee, chocolate aromas take over and remind you that you are, in fact, drinking an Imperial Stout. A good swirl also realeases plenty of alcohol aroma too. It’s quite inviting. You almost feel comforted knowing you can sip this beer until it reaches room temperature and it is still going to taste good.

As soon as you swallow the mouth is engulfed in a roasted malt and sweet chocolate flavor party. I do not have any chocolate on hand, but I can imagine why Schlafly is so vehement on recommending some. As the beer warms the bourbon really starts to come out. It’s pretty obvious this one was aged in barrels. The flavors aren’t overpowering; They are powerfully pleasant. I could sip this one until a second bottle reaches maturity. The roasted malt character is so smooth it is hard to explain. Many “big” beers tend to overwhelm the taste buds, but Schalfly’s Imperial Stout is just fine letting tongue bruisers deck it out while it sits with the pretty ladies on either side. It’s a smooth talker. The only downside is that the flavor isn’t as complex as I would have liked.

The mouthfeel isn’t motor oil thick, but more like melted chocolate ice cream. It is smooth, but not thick and tacky. The 10.5% ABV doesn’t go unnoticed and adds a delicate end note to a finely crafted beer. Drinkability…how does one relate a 10.5% ABV beer to drinkability? The beer itself is good. The flavors and aromas deliver, and there is no doubt this isn’t intended to be poured into a beer bong. The only problem is that with such a high ABV I am already feeling the effects and I could still still my glass up again with whats left in the bottle. I’ll sum up drinkability by saying this: It takes all of my self control the take the eentsy-weentsy sips I’m taking. My taste buds are screaming for more while my equilibrium begs for a colonel-ordered retreat.

Overall Schlafly’s 2008 Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout can hold it’s own with the best in the style. It is only lacking in aroma, but once one starts drinking a beer aroma usually becomes a moot point. I would recommend this to anyone with $10 burning a hole in their pocket and a desire to experience a brewery that thrives in a city controlled by a Macro.

THE MATH

Appearance: 3.7/5

Aroma: 3.7/5

Flavor: 4.2/5

Mouthfeel: 4.0/5

Drinkability: 3.8/5

Overall: 3.88/5

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 75%

This is a very good beer. Anyone with an open mind towards dark beer (non-experienced drinkers lump all dark beers together in the “I-dont-like-dark-beer” category) will more than likely enjoy this brew. The flavors keep from overpowering you and the bourbon character will help this appear to whiskey drinkers as well. Anyone who gives this beer a shot and can handle higher alcohol percentages might find themselves in the craft beer aisle from now on.

LINKS

Schlafly

Beeradvocate

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