Saturday, January 7, 2012

Imperial Stout Tournament of Death: Round 3

Here it is, the pinnacle of our Tournament, Round 3, the all star round.  Here we pit the biggest and baddest brews I could find against each other.  All the hype goes out the window and we see if these brews can live up to their reputations.  I wanted to throw in Oak Aged Yeti as sort of a control group.  It is one of my favorite imperial stouts and is easily available.  Will the Yeti stand up to the likes of Parabola, CBS, or Goose Island?  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.  The same FatCat veterans came over and we wrapped up the first ever Imperial Stout Tournament of Death!  Here are the results.

FatCat’s Ranking:
Firestone Parabola #1
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti #2
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout #3
Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout #4
Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout #5

Greg’s Ranking:
Firestone Parabola #1
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti #2  
Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout #3
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout #4
Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout #5

Super Dave’s Ranking:
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti #1
Firestone Parabola #2
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout #3
Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout #4
Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout #5

The Winner:  Firestone Walker Parabola
The Parabola came in with high expectations.  It was my favorite beer of 2011 and is always highly touted in reviews.  The Parabola proved the hype to be true and destroyed the competition.  Parabola starts with a sweet and boozy nose.  Although the nose is not as big as the Goose Island, Parabola does make a statement.  The brew starts with good sweetness and then the bourbon starts hitting early in the palate.  The bourbon leads into a good oak character followed by a fair amount of bitterness.  For me the reason this brew was better than the others was the balance between the sweetness, bourbon, oak, and bitterness.  Some of the other brews were huge in sweetness and booze but that was it.  While the others relied on brute force to accomplish the job, the Parabola was a Kung Fu master.  It hits your palate in 4 different places before you realize what happened.  This is one of the brews I would consider a work of art.

Second Place:  Great Divide Oak Age Yeti
This was my dark horse in the tournament.  The Yeti doesn’t rely on hype, giant sweetness, or bourbon to court you.  It instead employs a solid malt character with good semi sweet chocolate notes.  Then a solid bitterness kicks in giving this imperial stout an almost refreshing quality.  The Yeti’s secret weapon is the oak character that coats your entire mouth as you enjoy this brew.  The oak, chocolate, and bitterness play a delicious symphony in your mouth.  Once you start drinking Yeti you never really want to stop.  One drink leads to the bottom of the bottle and that leads to a happy beer geek.  This widely available brew just beat out some of the biggest hyped beers available in our area. 

Third Place:  Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
One word can describe this brew and that is HUGE.  The nose has huge sweetness and booze.  The mouthfeel is huge with a big syrupy character.  Sweetness is huge, supplemented by bourbon on the finish.  One description that came to mind while I was drinking this was “milk chocolate”.  It tasted like I was drinking a Hershey’s bar.  Luckily the smoothness of this brew pulled the milk chocolate character together with the bourbon finish and made it very enjoyable.  I think some age will level some of the sweetness off and make this brew a little more decadent. 

Fourth Place:  Schlafly 2008 Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
This one surprised me as to how big it was.  The nose was just as potent as the Parabola and gave the Goose Island a run for it’s money.  The taste was big in sweetness with a moderate bourbon finish.  It was like the Goose Island’s little brother.  The mouthfeel was a little thin compared to the others which hurt it in the standing.  This had some prominent molasses character mixed in with the sweetness that added to its complexity.  Overall this brew was impressive especially when you factor in availability and the relatively low price point.

Fifth Place:  Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout
I think the group had the highest expectations for this brew and it was the biggest disappointment.  In my opinion this brew was almost exactly the same as the regular Founder’s Breakfast Stout.  It had the same coffee presence with the bittersweet chocolate mixed in.  About the only difference I could tell was the maple syrup in the finish.  Instead of having the regular breakfast stout dry finish it had the maple syrup sweetness on the end.  I wouldn’t consider this an improvement. 

This round was awesome!  All of these brews were outstanding in their own right and we were very happy beer geeks by the end.  If you tried any of these brews on their own, any of these brews would be impressive.  However that's not what we were trying to accomplish here.  I wanted to know how these brews compared to each other and if they were overhyped.  I'll wrap up all three rounds in a separate post and we'll get to the bottom of this tournament.


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