Friday, June 19, 2009

Imperial Russian Stout

I had a milestone birthday not too long ago and many (most?!) of my friends bestowed upon me gifts of fine drink. What does that say about me? Never mind. One such gift was a 1 liter bottle of Pozharnik, Espresso Russian Imperial Stout brewed and bottled by the Pennichuck Brewing Company. If I read the label correctly the name of the stout means fireman: a person who works at the fire brigade. I am not sure what the name has to do with the stout. The label indicates it was brewed with coffee & vanilla beans and aged in whiskey barrels. It also proudly proclaims it was a 2007 Great International Beer Festival Silver Medal Winner. The web site says this brew is 10.0% ABV. There is something about the old style flip top that makes me smile. It does not guarantee the brew will be top notch any more than a real cork does for a bottle of wine, but it is nice presentation. I would say that it is a feature that you can break this open and put it away to finish it the next day but... we know better. In my home, an open bottle is an empty bottle. This stout had a nice aroma, generous and long lasting head, and a rich dark color. After admiring it for all of 27 seconds, it was time to drink. There were plenty of subtle flavors with bold chocolate taste leading the way and only a moderate bitter aftertaste. A high alcohol content brew has a different taste than your run of the mill mass produced beer. Done poorly the brew tastes, well, strange and imbalanced. My bottle of Pozharnik was well balanced; a finely executed recipe where the alcohol, the full bodied texture, and the balance of flavors melded quite well. It was not until my second glass of stout that I realized this was a higher alcohol brew. The night I had the stout I was alone and had some time to kill. In retrospect this stout is better saved to share with a friend along with a good food pairing. I did enjoy it, but by the time I had the last glass the taste was a little overwhelming. This is not a brew to have regularly but rather as a special treat. Enjoy this rich brew with a big juicy burger hot off the Weber with a comrade who appreciates a hearty stout. It would also stand up nicely to a ribeye or prime rib. Prepare your palate with a mild pale ale while grilling and then be ready for a nice surprise when you flip the top. The Czar's master brewer had this one right.

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