Sunday, May 22, 2011

Black Sheep Imperial Russian Stout

I had heard great things about this beer from several people and was interested in trying it, but it seemed my only hope would be to find one of the bottled versions until my visit to the Dewsbury Beer festival, where, there it was, on gravity, just tempting me to try it. It was certainly not a let down.

Black Sheep are not renowned for brewing outside their comfort zone, and only rarely do we find new beers from them to sample, so this was a coup for more than one reason. Let me explain.

The beer was initially brewed for a competition in St Petersburg in Russia, where the brewers of Masham were to be going head to head with another 11 brewers of the style to create the perfect example. The brew run was small, by Black Sheep standards anyway, consisting of 50 barrels. These were split, so that 20 were to be casked for selected pub outlets, and 30 to go for bottling. And there was a 'pin' to be transported by clipper to Russia for the judging.

I was often getting feedback from others that had been lucky enough to sample it in certain pubs in Leeds and York, and was gradually becoming more sure that my only chance to try it would be in its bottled version, that was until I happened across it at Dewsbury.

I must admit that I am not the world's greatest fan of Black Sheep beers, but I know that they can brew decent dark beers, as I rate their 'Riggwelter', but would the 'Russain Stout' stand comparison? Well I must admit that it did. It is unusual in my opinion for tasting notes to mirror what I have in a glass but this time they were spot on.

The brewery website mentions aromas of pineapples and banana, which I did not get, but also port wine, which I did. The taste was a hit of liquorice, and raisin which took over from a short flavour of peppery hop, and developing into a warming finish. It was all there, in abundance. At 8.5% it is not a quaffing ale, but at that strength it is a beer to be savoured and all its complexities enjoyed.

If someone can brew a better 'Russian Stout' than this I should be interested to sample it, and if you want to try it, look out for it in bottles. It would make a perfect antidote for the darker nights of winter. I just hope the Russians appreciate what a small Yorkshire village can brew, and that they give them the award their effort deserves.

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