Soon after writing the stout beer style guide, I was fortunate enough to come across an unfamiliar brew, which attracted me with its flashy cylinder box detailing Kremlin and overused “Russian” font. The perpetrator was a new special reserve, bourbon wood-aged brew – St-Ambroise Russian Imperial Stout.
The label at the bottom of the cylinder, which said “Extra Strong Stout,” and the 9.1% ABV indication, confirmed that St-Ambroise means business.
Having only tried a few Russian Imperial Stouts – not all of which were good – I was excited to try this new brew. Behind the flashy red cylinder, hides a common brown-glass 341ml bottle with familiar St-Ambroise label.
The pour: As I poured the brew into the glass, the beer’s body looked thick, oily and left an appetizing, fluffy brown head on top of the snifter glass. The color is dark brown without any possibility of letting you see through the brew and the colour remains constant even at the edges of the glass.
The nose: This beer is very aromatic as you will discover during the pour. The aroma is full of bourbon-barrel oak, vanilla and chocolate.
Body and Mouth-Feel: The palate is bitter sweet, chocolate and caramel deliver the sweetness while oak and hops close with a pleasant bitterness. The aroma of this beer is very well reflected in its taste. And just like its appearance suggested, the beer possesses a full body and a thick molasses-like texture. Medium-low carbonation fits in well with other qualities of this brew.
Finish: St-Ambroise Russian Imperial Stout finishes with a fuzzy warm feeling as alcohol makes its appearance on its way down. The chocolate will accompany the alcohol afterglow creating a pleasant lingering aftertaste.
Overall, St-Ambroise Russian Imperial Stout is a complex and surprisingly satisfying beer. In fact, like many big beers, this one is satisfying to a point where you will probably stop at having just one. This one is best enjoyed in small quantity, poured into a snifter or a goblet.
This beer delivers a great drinking experience and I imagine this one would make a great companion for a rich chocolate cake.