Notes of a Beer Nerd: Schlafly Imperial Stout
***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns or comments***
Enjoyed on 7/5/2010
Brewery: The Saint Louis Brewery, Inc.
Location: Saint Louis, MO
Beer: Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout
Presentation: 25.4 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped
Style: Imperial Stout
Barrel: Jim Beam Bourbon
Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees
Notes From the Bottle: We aged this Imperial Stout in Bourbon barrels, which contribute caramel and oak flavors to balance the roasty maltiness of the stout. This 2008 vintage will age well in a cool, dark place for several years but is ready to enjoy now. Try it with a piece of chocolate and see why we went to all the trouble!
Food Pairings: Smoked meats, foie gras, chocolate
Cheese Pairings: Gouda, Parmesan, cheddar
Beer Advocate: A-
Rate Beer: 99 (3.8)
There is a prevailing trend in beer marketing these days which finds brewery owners/salespersons/distributors attempting to enter a new market by dispatching out their most buzzed about beers far before their standard offerings. One of the first examples of this that I noticed, recently after moving here from Philadelphia, was Southern Tier of Lakewood, NY, who broke ground in WA by exclusively shipping their Imperial Series. Goose Island of Chicago, IL staked their claim with Bourbon County Stout before shipping Christmas Ale and most recently Matilda, Pere Jacques, and Sofie. Boulevard Brewing of Kansas City, MO went straight for the jugular with their ever-expanding Smokestack Series. In all of these cases, beer nerds like myself found themselves watering at the mouth right from the onset.
These breweries are, in many ways, relying on people just like me to offer them free advertising in articles just like this one. It is my perspective that, if you make a beer that not only gets me excited when reading the blogs, but also blows me away when I drink it, well….you’re welcome Schlafly. You deserve the free advertising.
Schlafly (pronounced Sch as is the sound of the sh in the word shenanigans, la as is the sound of la in the word lackadaisical, and fly as is the sound of flee in the word flee, or so I was told by a friend from MO) is, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, no exception to the “ship out the buzz beers first” rule. Only two of their beers have made it to Washington so far, both of which are members of the Barrel Aged Series – the beer reviewed here, in addition to a barleywine aged in medium toast, new Missouri oak. In observing the Schlafly website, I’d be lying if I told you these weren’t the two beers I’d be most excited to try by the brewery. All signs seem to be pointing toward positivity and productivity with regards to this marketing tactic. My greatest hope is that this continues, with any brewery that is eying the Northwest for its newest marketplace. This beer nerd wants your rarest, most extreme brews first…please.
In news of a nature that seems almost completely in contrast to all that I’ve written above, it was recently reported on beernews.org that Saint Louis Brewing is looking for a buyer. Thoughts immediately shift to the surprising buyout of Anchor Brewing by Griffin Group, the people behind Skyy Vodka (ugg!). You never know what could happen to a brewery’s product after such a tectonic change in the upper ranks of a business. Just in case, let’s try to gather up the goods before things have the chance to go south.
As it turns out, I have enjoyed a bottle of this brew once before on 6/30/09, same vintage. I wrote a review for the grand archive on that day, and I’d very much like to share it here. Re-reading it actually spawned a chuckle, and therefore I feel I’d be selling you all short were I not to include its details. Consider this a marriage of Notes and Archives.
From the Archives: “There is a black hole in the glass and it is pulling me in. The head grows about an inch high on a vigorous pour but pretty quickly thins out to a wisp and medium-sized bubbles around the rim. The head is, very surprisingly, just off white, not brown.”
“It smells and tastes just as delightful as my highest expectations. Above average sweetness levels, in the very best way possible, at least for my tastes. Jim Beam Bourbon barrels made the fuck out with this stout. Vanilla and chocolate dream. Oak pillows and smooth, silky sheets. An alcohol quilt warms me up. Caramel and chocolate syrup. This shit is the real black gold!”
Yes, the archive entry is quite terse and slightly profane, but surely packed with passion – there is no doubt that we are looking at a stellar brew here. Lets see what an additional year of aging and an extended word count has to offer.
Pours black with a contrasting, near white but just barely tan head of big bubbles….surprisingly big. The ring that remains after the cloud cover passes is much thicker and taller than most and continues to be built on larger than life air pockets. The sugary sweetness leaves a snail trail on the insides of the glass.
Bourbon scents greet you with most vigor. Oak, vanilla, caramel, smoke, chocolate…it’s a veritable ice cream parlor in here. Yes, that’s right, I just encountered a whiskey soaked drunk gentlemen stumbling through an ice cream shop. Okay, allow me to remove us from suck an uncomfortable scene. I’m now picturing blue-hot flames rising from a fancy, booze-infused, caramelized desert. Possibly Biscotti that has acted as a sponge in a bath of whiskey and then drizzled with vanilla, chocolate and caramel syrup.
In many ways, this is my perfect bourbon cocktail. The bouquet is there, the elegance is there, even many of the flavors are there, yet the throat numbing alcohol is significantly paired back so that I can enjoy the process of swallowing it down with some succession without loosing my mind in the process. Though, as this is a beer and not a liquor, the potency is on the high-end, but in no way arresting.
The mouthfeel is slightly less viscous than what I might describe as cloying or mouth coating, and thus the booze seems to linger more notably, immediately following the swallow. But, after several moments, that heat subsides and the back corners of the mouth fill with a vanilla flavor that just may be the most pleasant attribute of the entire experience. As it warms…to put your nose into the glass is akin to being completely encased by a bourbon barrel – to live within the barrel. Close your eyes and be yourself infused in that great American distilled masterpiece.
The roasted malts play a significant role as well. No doubt, the base beer had to have substantial merit to make a contest of this one. Those recently emptied barrels were ready to punish any and all trespassers. As successful as they were, one cannot drink this down without significant countenance for a sweet tooth. I cannot stress enough that what lays before me in this glass is liquid desert. There is absolutely no doubt to why the brewers suggest pairing this one with chocolate. I swoon at the thought of what astronomical plane bears the terminal gravity of this stout.
Make some calls, do some driving, spend some dough, get these beers now while they stand unscathed by corporate America. Taste the best of the Midwest. You wont be sorry.
If you like Schlafly Imperial Stout, you should try…
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery’s Rabid Duck Imperial Russian Stout; Portsmouth Brewery’s Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout; Iron Hill’s Russian Imperial Stout
Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.