Friday, December 16, 2011

Imperial Stout Tournament of Death: Round 1

Here it is what we have all been waiting for…FatCat’s Imperial Stout Tournament of Death round 1.  What better way to ring in the holidays than to drink tons of imperial stout.  In case you’re behind on the cards, imperial stout is FatCat’s absolute favorite beer style in the world.  As part of my holiday celebration I’m going to enjoy some of the best stouts I could find all year.  This is not a shootout and thus not a blind tasting. We sampled each beer and ranked them in the order we preferred drinking them. I invited some FatCat veterans over and we got through round 1 of the tournament. Here are the results. 

Warning:  Beware of Zombies!

FatCat’s Ranking:
The Czar #1
The Zombie Apocalypse #2
Old Rasputin #3
Stone 2011 Imperial Stout #4

Greg’s Ranking:
The Czar #1
Old Rasputin #2
Zombie Apocalypse #3
Stone 2011 Imperial Stout #4

Super Dave’s Ranking:
Zombie Apocalypse #1
Old Rasputin #2
The Czar #3
Stone 2011 Imperial Stout #4

The Winner:  The Czar 
The Czar starts off with a huge nose begging you to dive in the thick malty goodness.  The nose starts with big malt sweetness with hints of bittersweet chocolate snaking its way out of the top of the glass.  The mouthfeel is very thick and chewy.  The taste mirrors the nose with big malt complexity and bittersweet chocolate on the finish.  This was definitely the thickest tasting of all the brews in this round.  The malt sweetness layers nicely and is big and complex.  There were subtle caramel notes up front followed by darker malt sweetness.  This leads to the signature bittersweet chocolate and some bitterness in the finish to bring the brew into acceptable balance for the style.  This brew is a real treat and is one of my favorite imperial stouts out there.  A bonus is it is reasonably priced and widely available in our area.  I love the Czar!

Second Place:  The Zombie Apocalypse 
This is one of my first homebrew attempts at an imperial stout.  I threw the whole gauntlet of ingredients at this one including some molasses.  As with most of my stuff this brew came out under carbonated.  One day I’ll figure out my kegging system and adequately carb something.  This brew is black as night and thick.  The nose is anise and black licorice with some sweetness playing around.  The mouthfeel is nice and thick but not as thick as the Czar.  The taste is big with hints of molasses and black licorice.  There is some initial malt sweetness that dives into the black licorice/molasses finish.  There are not any chocolate notes, of which I would prefer, but there is adequate sweetness to  balance the molasses twang.  The molasses twang in the middle of the palate mellows as the brew warms.  The finish is nice and clean with a slight hint of molasses in the aftertaste.  Overall this is a nicely complex brew with a big body to boot.  I’m happy with the outcome of my brew and it faired well in this tasting.

Third Place:  Old Rasputin 
When you mention imperial stout this is one of the first brews that pops into my head.  It is the quintessential, widely available, cheap imperial stout.  This is the first imperial stout that I experienced which pushed me further into my craft brew addiction.  Old Rasputin was by far the most bitter of all the brews in the tournament.  This also had the thinnest body of all the others.  The brew starts with some malt sweetness and moves to a drying bitterness.  There was a bit of astringency from the roasted malts but this tended to balance the maltiness in the other parts of the brew.  It had an almost metallic quality on the front of the tongue.  Overall this was not a very sweet stout, it was dry in the middle of the palate and bitter on the finish.  Old Rapsutin had dryness/bitterness which gives it coffee-like qualities throughout the palate.  I think this brew is very good and is one of the most refreshing examples of the style.

Fourth Place:  Stone 2011 Imperial Stout
This brew had the least interesting nose of all of the brews.  There was some hop character poking through with a minimal malt aroma.  The Stone had a decent mouthfeel but was fairly thin overall.  There was a fair amount of bitterness and a slight hop character in the finish.  The taste was flat in character compared to the other brews in the tournament.  It had some malt character but couldn’t compare to the others in complexity of taste.  I was super excited to try this brew and was very disappointed it was not as good as I had hoped.  Sad thing is this limited release stout is less interesting than imperial stouts available to us on a daily basis.

Extra Brews with abbreviated notes: 

Expedition Stout
The overwhelming bitterness had weakened from just a few weeks ago.  Still the bitterness was over the top for an imperial stout in my opinion.  The bitterness did subside as the brew warmed.  Dave and Greg were very impressed with it.  The complexity is developing with age and I can’t wait to see what this will taste like in 6 months to a year. 

Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy
This one had a smoky character not present in any of the others.  Good complexity with good mouthfeel.  The smoky character was dominant but the malt seemed to stand up well to the smoke.  This brew is very interesting and I want to taste this brew when I have a clearer head.  Stay tuned!

Why do I love imperial stouts?  Each of these stouts was completely different in flavor profile than the others.  The complexity of this style is amazing and it’s hard to find two imperial stouts the same.  Every bottle is a new delicious adventure and that’s what keeps me coming back to this style.  Imperial stouts I think I love you! 


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