Monday, April 11, 2011

Beer School: Imperial Stouts

This time a full house of 13 people made it to Clive's Lounge to get schooled on Imperial Stouts. Most beer geeks know the story of why a strong stout (or any beer) is called imperial. The best story involved Peter the Great. Apparently Petey I fell in love with stouts on a trip to London in 1698. We wanted more but it always arrived in Russia flat, sour and undrinkable. So Barclay's of London brewed an extra strong stout that could survive the long journey to the Baltic Sea. This stout export continued through the reign of Catherine the Great. As many as 10 breweries were exporting to Russia. These strong brews were created especially for the Russian Imperial Court; hence Imperial Stout.

The first beer of the night was Eel River's Raven's Eye Imperial Stout. This was the favourite stout of the attendees. It was also the most...'plain'. Standard imperial stout stuff: massive fruity and chocolate nose, followed by a face slap of coffee, bitter chocolate and dark fruits. Oddly at 9.5%ABV, the ethanol was no where to be tasted but came across as a menthol coolness.

Back to the lesson. One of the major exporters of stout was Barclays. Their big salesrep was Albert Le Coq. He exported stout into Russia until tariffs got too high and reduced his profits. In 1912, the Le Coq company bought Tivoli brewery in Tartu, Estonia. The main brews were the imperial stout and a new strong porter. This new style was referred to as the Baltic porter. This is why imperial stouts and Baltic porters are grouped together, even thought some Baltic porters are lagers. Things went well for Le Coq until 1917. World wars and Bolshevik revolutions were not kind to Le Coq. The brewery was nationalized and the porter ceased to be produced.

The next beer sampling was Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. I chose this beer because stouts are often blended with coffee to enhanced their roasted flavours. Lagunitas delivers! Great, powdery cocoa with bitter espresso and roasted peat.

We also sampled some Driftwood Singularity. This is a world class beer. Aged in bourbon barrels, the Singularity shows that strong stouts can be wood aged. A new flavour was present in this brew: umami. Umami is the fifth official taste sensation. First proposed by food scientist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908, it did not gain official status until 1985. This is the flavour of 'savory' or 'meaty'. The best sources of this taste sensation are soy sauce and Marmite. Glutamic acid comes from the fermentation of proteins and nucleotides. Fermentation of proteins - think yeast.

Next we enjoyed an Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout by Great Divide. Two words: great beer. Thanks to Dave for bringing a non aged Yeti. Everyone has their preference.

The final treat of the night was a Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (Highland Edition). This is an imperial stout brewed with Civet coffee. If it is possible to make this beer any better, it was aged in Highland Park whiskey casks. The flavours were truly decadent: smooth and thick with coffee, oak, peat and so much more. Every sip melted on your tongue with bittersweet chocolate, strong espresso creme and toasted cocoa nibs.

Thanks again to Shawn at Clive's Classic Lounge for serving up a great cheese pairing plate. Only the strongest cheeses can stand up to imperial stout: stinky blues, sharp cheddar and Guinness infused cheddar.

Looking forward to the Black IPA school in early May.

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