Thursday, December 30, 2010

All Hail Imperial Stouts!

Get your sip on like royalty!





The crown of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia,
one of the original fans of the Imperial Stout. Holla!
Coffee lovers, the Caribbean-blooded, beer lovers who favor more potency and full-bodied concoctions...whoever you are, quality ale vendors are stocking the shelves with the wave of "imperial stouts" that are causing quite a stir around town. I was just stepping my phone game up at Verizon and I ended up giving recommendations on stouts to get while they're out. And then this morning, my sister called and asked me the same thing when her IT guy asked for suggestions. Seeing the trend here, I thought I would do all my peoples a favor and recommend three definites to put in your shopping basket while they're available particularly in Atlanta (the Old Rsputin below is national). Nice and thick, imperial in strength (8-12 percent ABV) thanks to the demands of the Russian czars of the 18th Century who had the English send them a hopped up, super strong version of their stout to last the long journey overseas. The result was a robust, malty, roasty  brew that had everyone going nuts! Now in 2010, American craft brewers have pimped the style and perfected it to a whole different level especially for the winter season. Grab 'em while they're hot...errr...cool.

Note #1: Do not serve them ice cold. Slightly chilled will really let these stouts breathe and present all of their character regarding smell, appearance and taste.

Note #2: Try and hit up local pubs that specialize in pouring specialty brews on draft. Beer bars are bound to have limited editions of stouts that pour thick and creamy which will keep bar stools warm throughout the U.S. I went to The Porter in Atlanta's Little Five Points and had the Old Rasputin (see below). Delish! The glass is hot, too!

The Terrapin W-n-B Oatmeal Coffee Imperial Stout aka "Wake N Bake": I always look forward to this one out of Athens that is seasonal, coffeeish and just straight-up delicious at 8.1 percent abv! Coming from Terrapin's celebrated (and potent) Monster Beer Tour series, they used to call it the Wake-n-Bake, but some hayters said there was reference to indulging in smoking some kind of plant or whatever (cough!) so Terrapin had to abbreviate the name but notthe flavor! I say to hell with that and call it what it is. With coffee added by town favorite, Jittery Joe's," forget Folgers; this is "the best part of waking up"!



The wax top is what you want!
Sweetwater Happy Ending Imperial Stout 2010: I have been waiting a whole year for this stout and when I saw a package in my mailbox from the SweetWater crew out of Atlanta, I was practically skipping to my bottle opener. That is until I opened the box and saw that it was a bomber with a hand-dipped wax top, something unprecedented with the Happy Ending (they do it with the Festive usually). The HE big bottles of yesteryear usually had the top wrapped in foil, but this time around, the bottle looked so stealthy, dark and stylish complete with the dripping black wax, I couldn't even open it. Instead, I chose to shelve this 9 percent abv beauty and head over to the bottle shop to grab a wonderfully priced six pack for $8! Grab a six and bomber while you can since this is a "Catch and Release" limited edition. It'll make you say "Ahhhhhhhh!" when done.

Old Rasputin Imperial Stout: You can't lose with this one. The closest thing to perfection when it comes to imperial stouts, so the North Coast Brewing Company (ironically based out of Fort Bragg, California - go figure) graciously made this available year-round! Coming in four packs, its an awesome quartet that will warm up the coldest Russian winter.
(9 percent abv)

Honorable mentions: Victory's Storm King deserves a crown (9.1 percent abv), Ten Fidy is the best canned stout on the planet (10.5%), I always recommend the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (10% abv) and Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout perfectly complements a roaring fire and good conversation (9.5 % abv).
Make sure you pour these bad boys in glasses for the full effect: cascading bubbles, a great head and sipping bliss! If you have some local favorites, feel three to add them in the comments! I know I left a few out but I just wanted to do three here.

Drink imperial stouts like a king and bring in the New Year royally!
Cheers!
Ale

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