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Imperial Russian Stout | Black Sheep Brewery PLC

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Imperial Russian StoutImperial Russian Stout
32 Ratings
Imperial Russian StoutImperial Russian Stout

Brewed by:
Black Sheep Brewery PLC
England, United Kingdom

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by mdagnew on 07-19-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 32 |  Reviews: 18
Reviews by BedetheVenerable:
Photo of BedetheVenerable
3.58/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

330 ml brown pop top…best by October 2012
Very cool artwork and awesome story; Black Sheep’s first-ever (to my knowledge) ‘big’ beer. Picked up at the brewery in summer 2011 and poured into my half-pint Black Sheep Goblet…split with my wife

Pours black into the glass, but shows beautiful garnet highlights when held up to the light. A big, creamy light-tan cap soon falls to about a half to a quarter of a finger but then hangs on nicely

Smell: Dark fruits, yeasty notes, and just a hint of Granny Smith apple up front. The aromas are definitely focused on fruit rather than roasted/caramel malts here. With warming, a ghostly hint of dark caramel emerges. The lack of roast is surprising, but if I recall correctly, Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout has a similar profile. Maybe it’s an ‘authentic English RIS’ thing. Either way, it’s not unpleasant.

Taste: I can see why this is a somewhat polarizing brew. There’s much more in the way of dark fruit (a bit of black cherry, perhaps) than roast here, which a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily expect in an RIS. There is a little bit of roast and some tar on the finish, however. Bitterness is fairly high, both from hops and from the sort of chalky burnt malts on the finish. Having just watched a Brewing TV episode about open fermentation, and being told by our tour guide that the brewers Black Sheep fermented this beer in one of their original slate Yorkshire Squares (i.e. not the new, stainless-steel, round ‘squares’), I think I am beginning to understand why this beer has the strong ester profile it does. Black cherries, cherries, apple, a ghostly hint of dark chocolate, tar, and ultra-dry roast on the finish sum up the taste profile, and it’s likely that open fermentation in the Yorkshire Squares, perhaps alongside the use of brewing sugars, contribute to the significant ester profile here. Alcohol is warming in the stomach, but a bit too apparent on the palate for a brew of 8.5% abv.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is just shy of what it should be for the gravity, though this is likely explained by the use of brewing sugar. Either way, it doesn’t feel too light.

Overall: This beer is not nearly as bad as reviews on here would suggest. Looking back at my review of Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout, I notice some of the same characteristics (esp. the dark fruit, hint of apple, and strong ester profile). Sam Smith’s beers are, it should be noted, also fermented in Yorkshire Squares, and I’m thinking that it’s likely the squares that are responsible for the big ester profile of these beers. From the reviews, it seems that a lot of people don’t like this, but as a die-hard fan of classic English ales, this is a pretty tasty beer. I have only two complaints. The first is that, in a beer of this style, I really would like just a touch more roast character. It doesn’t have to be anywhere near the massively roasty levels of American versions, but a bit more would be nice. As the beer approaches room temperature, there are some dark caramel flavors that come out to balance the esters, but a bit of chocolate/coffee/etc would be nice as well. Secondly, the alcohol could be ratcheted back just a touch, but it’s not really that big of a deal at the current level. In sum, this is a good beer. It’s a peculiar beer, but it’s definitely good beer. I can’t remember the exact price, but I think this went for between $6-8 a bottle, which is pretty expensive. If this wasn’t just a one-off (which I’m pretty sure it is) the price drops this from what would be a high B into the lower end of that range. Either way, I’m still glad I have one more of these left to enjoy before October. Glad to see one of my all-time favorite breweries branching out a bit.

Low B, but not B-

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More User Reviews:
Photo of DeanBB
3.44/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Photo of Marius
3.75/5  rDev +6.5%

Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.7/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A 330ml bottle with a BB of Oct 2012. I bought this ages ago from Trembling Madness in York; it's been cellared in my garage ever since. Originally brewed to participate in the 2011 Great Baltic Adventure - sending Russian Imperial Stouts from the UK to Russia. I really like the label art.

Poured into a Delirium chalice. A deep black hue, though ruby highlights appear when held to the light. Good carbonation. Yields a huge head of creamy light-tan foam with good retention; this slowly subsides to a surface layer. Aroma of rich, fruity malt with notes of dried fruit, molasses, yeast esters, vanilla, mild spice and faint stewed hops. Quite sweet and a tad cloying, with a huge warming whiff of alcohol in the background.

Tastes of rich, sweet malt with a fruity character and a prolonged finish. Notes of dark malt, molasses, caramel, dried fruit, chocolate, yeast esters, vanilla, faint spice and stewed hops. Fruity and complex, with a considerable hint of alcohol in the background. A restrained malt/hop bitterness upon swallowing. Mouthfeel is thick and velvety, with a spicy, tingly sensation that pervades the palate. Quite astringent. Aftertaste of sweet, fruity malt and stewed hops.

A decent RIS with good complexity. Lots of fruity malt and tons of yeast esters (perhaps too much). The aroma is great, though the flavour feels like something is missing - the depth just isn't there. This doesn't seem to be bottle conditioned, which I think would have added extra character. Also a bit too hot and boozy - this aspect could be more attenuated. An impressive and tasty effort, but falls short of greatness. Worth sampling if you have the chance.

 1,664 characters

Photo of dwren89
2.96/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: dark, dark brown with deep garnet hues when held to light, big tan head, too opaque to judge clarity

Aroma: milk chocolate, roasted coffee, dark chocolate,

Taste: Very chocolatey. Dark chocolate on the uptake, a little roastiness in the middle, and lingering milk chocolate flavor on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, smooth. Too light bodied to be a real Russian imperial.

Overall Impression: More like a milk stout than a Russian Imperial. The dominant flavors were all roasty and chocolatey, with a milk stout mouthfeel. There just simply isnt enough complexity to call this a Russian imperial in all fairness to the style. That said, this is a very drinkable and tasty beer that would go well with any chocolate cake and ice cream.

 758 characters

Photo of Ciocanelu
3.75/5  rDev +6.5%

Photo of MrKennedy
3.18/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

330ml bottle from Platinum Liquor and poured into a Victory Golden Monkey tulip.

Has a thin pour, and looks a light black with hints of brown when held up to the light. Has a beige head of foam at two fingers that gradually reduces to a layer just above film.

Smell has plenty of cocoa there, some bread and strawberry fruit also some sort of booziness as well, which reminds me (as an irregular wine drinker) of merlot and the heat that comes with it.

Taste has a lot of that merlot-ish booze from the smell in there, plenty of heat as well. Some roasted malt as well early on and makes a comeback late.

Plenty of heat in the mouthfeel, lots of carbonation as well. However a consistent smoothness underpins it all.

Bit of a booze-bomb with a good deal of heat from it. Some overall solidness to it and a decent enough nose seems to help in getting it by.

 861 characters

Photo of CrazyDavros
3.24/5  rDev -8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours black with an off-white head.
Nose shows sweet chocolate liqueur, port, dark dried fruit and fudge. Very sweet-smelling.
Pretty similar flavours; burnt caramelised fruit, port, alcohol. Big vinuous notes override most of the roast. Tastes like grape juice....

 283 characters

Photo of Beer-Ed
3.58/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of UniversitateaDeBere
3.6/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Photo of hdtrice
3.49/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Photo of eric5bellies
2.88/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Drank from my Gage roads tulip

A - Pours a deep Mahogany colour with some transparency. Tanned head that retains ok before reducing to a film and laces.

S - Not too much other than sweet dark malts and dough.

T - Up front some nice vanilla flavours closely followed by roasted malt the finish is a little boozy.

M - A little bit watery with minimal carbonation.

O - A solid RIS but there are better around. It lacks some cencent body and aroma.

 449 characters

Photo of pin
3/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Photo of MeetMyBackhand
4.2/5  rDev +19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Near perfection on the tongue, with a nice bitter/sweet finish.

63 characters

Photo of mdagnew
4.2/5  rDev +19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml bottle from The Vineyard, Belfast...

Poured jet black - nothing gets through even when held up to the light. Creamy brown head poured quite thick and fizzy then faded fairly quickly to almost nothing... very faint lacing...

Aroma - Strong roasted malts, chocolate mixed with strong espresso coffee, some blackcurrent/blackberry notes, leathery, woody, light liquorice, some vanilla traces, some tar, spicy hops, treacle/burnt sugar, some alcohol traces...

Taste - Strong roasted malt bitterness, some smokey notes, definite black coffee, creamy dark chocolate, peppery hops, faint liquorice, some nutty sweetness, treacle..

Feel - Quite sharp and dry with some smoothness coming through after... medium bodied... very drinkable - hardly noticed the 8.5%

Overall - An excellent Impy stout and up with some of the best.. recommended..

 853 characters

Photo of sd123
3/5  rDev -14.8%

Photo of Mendicant
3.75/5  rDev +6.5%

Photo of leitmotif
3.5/5  rDev -0.6%

Photo of mmapes
3.62/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Brought home from York. 330 ml bottle. Not pure black like some imperials. Very dark brown. Seems more like a porter.

Smells like dried fruit, prune, maybe a bit of bitter chocolate/smoke on the nose.

First sip - smoky, pruney. Sweet but bitter. Long finish. Complex, with smoke and bitter chocolate. Light body for a stout.

Second sip - complexity comes through. Bitterness offsets sweetness.

Would buy again if I were in Yorkshire.

 440 characters

Photo of StJamesGate
3.48/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Chesnut-tinged midnight brown with creamy sepia head that leaves wispy trailers. Cola, salami, burnt caramel, and charcoal on the nose.
Molasses, black currants, demerara sugar, a sweet roasty hit and cocoa powder end with no real hops.
Caramel raisin chew finish and minty bitter linger. Medium even leaning towards light, slight cling, dry, no burn.

Interesting at first in trying to create a less plodding, dark-flavored version of the style: the nose is zesty for an RIS, lots of white smoke, and the tastes are all high and bright. But it all doesn't justify the ABV, and with the lack of body, plays more like a strong brown ale or overstrength regular stout. Maybe it needs a few months at sea (this was brewed for the Great Baltic Adventure) to cut the sugar and deepen a bit, but I doubt it would help.

Ultimately insubstantial.

 839 characters

Photo of AlexAfonin
3.75/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of interzen
4.14/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

330ml bottle served into a tulip glass

Look: Dark brown, almost black with a big, diffuse tan/khaki head. Big head retention and a decent amount of lacing. Ruby-red highlights if you hold it to the light.

Smell: Roasted malts, coffee and chocolate predominate with a slight tang of alcohol.

Taste: Chocolate and coffee predominate - coffee to begin with, before the roasted malts kick in and you're left with a long, dark chocolate finish. Not a massively complex flavour profile, but not bad nonetheless. Slight alcohol heat in the finish.

Feel: There's a decent enough body and it's fairly smooth but compared to something like Sam Smith's Imperial Stout or Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout this feels a bit on the light side.

Overall: I thought I was familiar with most of Black Sheep's output so this one was a new one on me, which given that it was apparently a limited run isn't that surprising. I'd hesistate to call this a 'proper' Imperial stout as it lacks complexity and body - it's more like an over-clocked milk or oatmeal stout. Even so, it's not at all bad - if you like stouts and see this it's worth a shot.

 1,127 characters

Photo of horshack7
3.6/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark brown and on top is an off white head only about a finger thick.

Aroma: Dark fruits, light smokiness, whiskey, pumpernickel, mild espresso.

Taste: Raisins, plums, grape, prunes, smokiness and some roasted malts.

Notes: Very tasty all around and drinkable. Cheers.

 283 characters

Photo of wisrarebeer
4.06/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased in North Yorks while I visited last fall.

Best by 18 Aug 2013

A: deep copper brown color, off-white/tan colored head, thin veil
S: great traditional Black Sheep nose, slight astringency and extremely dry in keeping with the brewery's taste profile, deep roasted malt
T: traditional Black Sheep dry taste, roasted barley upfront, maybe not what you'd expect from a typical IRS but, combined with the brewery's dry taste profile, not bad at all
M: thinner but pleasing, some astringent dryness throughout

 514 characters

Photo of bylerteck
3.1/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle from Local Provisions.

A - Pours black with decent carbonation. Film of beige retention. Spatterings of lace and an island film of retention.

S - Quite a bit of chocolate and some coffee in there as well.

T - Roasty with some chocolate. Quite straight forward. Roasted malt dominates the flavour profile with some chocolate.

M - Light to medium carbonation and a medium to full body with a sweet licoric finish.

O/D - Really, really lacking complexity for an Imperial Stout. Just not alot going on here. Drinkable and fairly tasty. Just nothing to rave about really.

 579 characters

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Imperial Russian Stout from Black Sheep Brewery PLC
Beer rating: 3.52 out of 5 with 32 ratings
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