Imperial Russian Stout | Stone Brewing

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Imperial Russian StoutImperial Russian Stout
8,420 Ratings
Imperial Russian StoutImperial Russian Stout

Brewed by:
Stone Brewing
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.60%

Availability: Spring

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 09-21-2001

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 8,420 |  Reviews: 2,771
Photo of ngandhi
4.4/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

No head. . . . at first. Stone Imperial Stout is so viscous, the bubbles struggle to make it to the top. When they finally do, forming a thin but beautiful pure brown head, you can see them fighting to hang around, but this bastard kicks them out on the street.

At refrigerator temperature, this stout is thicker than any stout I've ever had. At room temperature, I expect it to set. Yet, the liquid flashdances against the stripper's pole of your tongue before prancing away down your throat like a hooker high on ecstacy for the first time.

Sweet and alcoholic on the nose. Fruit, some say currants, maybe cherries, with green hoppiness in the background.

The initial taste enlivens the front and sides of the tongue; floral, very sweet with figs, prune, rum-plumped currants, and some light cherry, yet inordinately balanced with hop bittering. Creamed coffee. This is the archetype for imperial stouts. It manages to achieve the brutal malty viscosity that everyone longs for, while giving the beer a strong hop backbone that has an aftertaste of raw, whole leaf hops. Also some alcohol -- warming, but never intrusive. Sherry. Medicinal fruit finish.

Russian Imperial Stout is perhaps the toughest style to balance because so much goes into it: twice, maybe three times, the base malt to get an acceptable gravity, ridiculous amounts of dark specialty grains, and more hops than the average brewer could probably afford for a batch. And, in the end, it's all a crap shoot; you can't know if your recipe is good and, because it's so heavy and expensive, it's a tough one to experiment with. Stone pulls it off without a hitch. This is well-balanced for an imperial stout and, therefore, for any beer.

They're really pushing it by serving the stout in 22 oz. bottles. At a private tasting, three people (including me) shared a single bottle and that was almost too much. I just finished my bottle -- in half an hour -- and I think I'm in trouble. This is a real "I love you man . . . No, I really love you, man" beer. I live in Illinois and was lucky to come across two bottles of this. If I ever find anything from them again, I'll take it. Stone: WE NEED YOU, please distribute here again!

I can't believe how loud the hop flavor is in this beer (yet, not too bitter and, unlike Out of Bounds Stout, not too leafy). How does it get through all that malt?!

Relax, relax.

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Photo of granger10
4.97/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

OH MY! This one was amazing! Dark, thick, black, syrupy, explosive with flavor. Lots of roasted malts in this one. Burnt barley seems to come to mind. Chocolaty sweet, like eating a chocolate cake. Alcohol is there but definitely not too strong. I notice a fig flavor as well. Man oh man, I couldn't get sick of drinking this one. As of now it is my all-time favorite. I love the Imperial Stouts and this one doesn't mess around! Slightly weak head and low carbonation are the only setbacks, but I believe Imp. Stouts shouldn't be too carbonated. If I ever see this at a store I'm buying the whole stock the store has to offer!

Many thanks to Sheepnutz for delivering this beer!

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Photo of WaltTrombone
4.8/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

WOW! This beer is entirely worthy of it's acclaim!

This was a bottle of the Late Spring 2003 release, and if it tastes this good now, I can only imagine how good it'd be after cellaring for a while!

It poured as black as motor oil after 15,000 miles, with a fluffy tan head that had good staying power and left sheets of lace behind. Aromas were of malt, coffee, currants, raisin, prunes, leather. Tastes bombarded my happy tongue, with raisin, prune, espresso, grapefruit. There was some alcohol warming after just a few sips, and followed by flavors of caramel, blackberry, chocolate, and anise.

The mouthfeel was thick, silky and smooth, with a fine carbonation. It finished with espresso, malt, and prune.

Outstanding beer!!! I can see why it's rated so highly. If any other brewery were to put the word "Imperial" on it's offerings, I would doubt it, but this beer is truly worthy of the adjective!

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Photo of rkhaze
4.8/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2003 edition. Drank this a couple nights ago but wanted to review it as my 20th brew, and what a brew it is!
Poured an absolute black with a head that said hi and then melted into the body. Didn't leave lace but coated the inside of the glass with a nice version of a beer oil slick! Smoky aroma with some cocoa, coffee, molasses, licorice and brown sugar. There was also an alcohol presence, my mouth watered just smelling this.
Sweet roasted grain flavor with cocoa, espresso and licorice really coming through. Noticeable alcohol warmth, but well integrated into the package. Tangy bittersweet, fruity aftertaste with an almost salty characteristic. Reminded me a bit of a toned down Danish licorice. This beer is so rich, complex and tasty it's almost an overload to the palate. Gets tastier and more complex as it warms. The first time I had a 22 oz. of this, it took 1 1/2 hours to finish! Definitly a sipping beer.
Thick, full, creamy and viscous mouthfeel. This is what an Imperial should feel like as it rolls across the tongue. A savory, slow drinking beer. Great with a cigar!
The best beer I've had in the last five years and one of my top five ever. Only hindered by the drinkability, but still not bad for the style. Very highly recommended and worthy of all the hype.

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Photo of winomark
4.35/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What a choice for my 20th review!

Appearance: Jet black, with no light showing through at all. Nice chocolate head clinging to the edge of the glass. I would mistake this for Jagermeister with carbonation.

Aroma: Smoky malt and chocolate tones. Peaty and coffee as well. A massive nose.

Taste: Sweet alcohol and malt coats the palate. Smoky, peaty flavors present, and hops make themselves known in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Coats the mouth entirely, with a lingering viscosity and smokiness. One of a kind.

Drinkability: My no means an everyday beer, but one aht is good enough to indulge in whenever possible. Another Stone stunner.

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Photo of Nay
4.55/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Fantastic big stout. Not syrupy big, so I had a couple, but a couple is the max for this lightweight. Nice West-Coast bitterness balances what must be a fair amount of unfermentables hidden in there. Big mouthfeel, but not so much that it needs to be undercarbonated.

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Photo of goz
4.45/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours an opague jet black, with a small but dense dark brown head that mostly diminishes, leaving chunks of lace. Aroma is huge, roasted grain, coffee, burnt caramel, and somewhat vinous. Flavor is grainy, a good bit of fruitiness/dark fruit flavors come through, especially as it gets closer to room temp. Thick, syrup like body, extremely flavorful, truly amazing brew.

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Photo of cokes
4.61/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is basically pitch black...except to a geek like myself who held the glass to the light in every conceivable manner in order to acheive some ruby-orange edges. Brown head makes an appearance, decides it is not needed, and leaves.
Beautiful nose full of woody smokiness, charcoal, coffee, chocolate, prunes, figs, and liberal alcohol.
One of the most complex brews I have ever had. Starts off with big time expresso notes. Smoke resides here as well. Burning embers of charcoal. Then in rushes some fruity sweetness. More variety of fruit than I expected. Obviously prune/plum but also blackberry, peach and grape. Turns milk-chocolately at this point. Alcohol shows up, but not rudely. Hops are big, but do not quite balance the immense load. This is the only qualm in the taste dept. The cloying residual sweetness rides long into the finish. Think of roasted/carmelized milk-chocolated covered peach. Needs a little more bitterness for stability. But wonderfully tasty overall.
A little thin for an Imperial. Definately full bodied, but it doen't coat the mouth as well as some.
But it goes down like a dream. This is certainly a top notch imperial. But a slight step down from my elite class.
Thanks to Bighuge for securing a bomber of this for me.
(rating: 4.55)
Spring 2003 Release.

Black. Black and deep. Blacker than memory. Black and opague. Ponderously Black. Entrapping Black. Black.
Brief visit from its tan head buddy.
Nose is a step down from what I recall, but still captivating. Burnt wood, milk chocolate, and wine-ish alcohol.
This doesn't quite sodomize the drinker like, say, Expedition or Rogue, but rather unfolds its complexitiies simply and magnificently.
Begins with a torched fig sweetness. Cafe Au Lait and chocolate quickly join. Roastiness is substancial, but it doesn't reach the char of some. Flamed vanilla beans, and deep, vicious caramel. Roasted walnuts and delightful woodiness. Oak mostly. Seems aged and refined beyond its 6 month birthdate. Plums and raisins dominate the later half. Loads and loads of blackberries throughout.
Chewy. Hairy. Star Wars fans, bellow your "aaahhllaaargh" now. Brown sugar is all over. Dark rum alcoholness. Leafy hops add a slight flavor of forest and growth, but otherwise go unnoticed.
Almost full bodied. And almost the best Imperial.
This is frightfullly gulpable. Equally sippable, which this is better suited for.
Really a top notch Imperial. Overall, better than I remember.

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Photo of beerguy101
4.52/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2002 version. Eclipse black color. Head is medium. Aroma is roasted malts, fruit esters and dark chocolate. A big bold full bodied Imperial Stout. Deeply roasted malts, fruity (touches of cherries, plums, apricots and raisins), vanilla, chocolate and coffee. It has a nice hop bite. Its very smooth for all the flavor stuff going on here. Soft and creamy texture. Mild and soft carbonation. Excellent sipping beer. Hides the 9.6% alcohol very well. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is smooth. Aftertaste is slightly sweet.

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
4.3/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

An awesome brew, this strong stout is near perfection in virtually every category. The incredibly dark look is topped by a small, but impressive dark milk chocolate head that tends to form slowly and leave too quickly. Still, what remains behind is a fairly impressive lace effect from the residual layer of foam.

The smell is roasty and warms the mind just hinting at the great flavors that are going to come from the thickly inky body. And come it does, with volumes of roasted coffee taste and a thick mouthfeel that informs that this is not your average stout. The overall effect is so full of the coffee and bits of caramel as to nearly overwhelm the senses. The only weakness in this lovely presentation is the limiting effect of the alcohol; limiting as to the sense it gives the rich, tasty brew and limiting in terms of being able to drink more than a little of this great beer.

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Photo of scottum
4.2/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours out BLACK with a short light head which leaves a nice lace. The darkness is real my friends. Dark in the look, but also dark in the feel. Mouthfeel is big and black. The taste is good. Not the best Imperial in the land, but a good one none the less. I'll let this Imperial review to be the chance to recomend Magic Hat Nailbiter as the best in the land. Storm King is also quite good. But failing those two I would reach for this over an Old Rasputan which is also good stuff. I love the style, what can I say? I'm glad that this beer was finally retailed in Boston the week I left town so I got to try it.

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Photo of Winter
5/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22 oz bottle. "Late Spring 2003 Limited Release". Pours black with a thin dark brown head. Thick lacing. The aroma consists of chocolate, coffee, dark fruit and has a pleasant overall sweetness to it. Full-bodied mouthfeel is very thick and syrupy. Almost chewy. Flavors of molasses and honey covered chocolate roll ever-so-sweetly over the tongue. Taste turns a bit vinous at times with flavors of plum and raisin. Finishes up with a mildly balanced hop bitterness that adds another delightful level of complexity. Behind all this goodness, veiled in the shadows of the blackness, lurks an ass-kicking 9.47% alcohol. By the time you notice it, it's too late.

There are very few beers that linger in my mind days after consumption begging to be had again. Stone Imperial is one that's been tough to get out of my head. This could quite possibly be the ultimate Imperial Stout.

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Photo of dmarch
5/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This was a very tough decision to make. Should any beer be worthy of perfect 5's? Finally, I decided that it wasn't fair to Stone to deduct a point somewhere just because there should be no such thing as a perfect beer. After tasting this, I think I may have been wrong. I honestly don't think any imperial stout could top this. Jet black in color with a thin tan head that just seems to hang around for an eternity. Roasted coffee is dominant in both the aroma and the taste. There are also traces of plums and raisins. What more can I say? As far as this particular style goes, I don't think you can top this.

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Photo of Boilermaker88
4.32/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2003 vintage; poured from a 22oz bomber .
Pitch black color. No light could penetrate, even when held up to the late afternoon light. A veritable black hole as no light could get through. A rather wispy tan head formed and quickly disappeared.
Smell was an assault on the olfactory senses. Aromas of roasted espresso beans, caramel, prunes, dates, figs, and a heady whiff of alcohol to foreshadow what was next.
Taste was even more intense. Strong flavors of mocha/espresso, carmelized dark brown sugar, dark dried fruits, and roasted barley combined for a syrupy sweetness tempered by a faint hops taste and an alcohol kick in the finish.
Feel was thick, smooth, almost oily. Filled the mouth and was rather cloying.
Damn, I'm still full from this beer and it's been 3 hours! A great tasting brew that hides the ABV% well until it gets close to room temp. Then the alcohol really comes out and sucker-punches you. This offering from Stone is what all those fizzy yellow "dark beers are heavy" beer drinkers have nightmares about. Tough to work through one of these brutes alone but worth the taste treat.

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Photo of Indybeer
4.7/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle. Poured a pitch black, with a massive head, some good lacing on the glass. Aroma is roasted barley, espresso coffee, chocolate, and even alcohol! Whew!! The taste is like drinking a quadruple espresso, with chocolate, syrup and a shot thrown in. We're talking big taste here! Creamy smooth and easy drinking even with the high alcohol content.

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Photo of UncleJimbo
4.57/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

22 oz brown bottle, capped, no date, but vinage ("Late Spring 2003") listed on front label.

This stout poured an opaque, black color with creamy brown foam (with coaxing) that settled but clung to the glass a bit. The smell was a very pleasant sweet roasted barley aroma with grain, malt, and oatmeal? in the mix. The taste was sweet and malty with roasted barley, chicory, fruit (figs, raisins), hints of coffee, and toffee, and a trace of alcohol. The hops were present in the finish. The mouthfeel was smooth, sweet, creamy, and warming, with full body. The aftertaste was nice and lingered. This was a very enjoyable Imperial Stout! Dangerously easy to drink.

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Photo of xgrigorix
4.78/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Spring 2003 edition, 22 ounce brown bottle.

Pours thick, & completely black. Capped by a dark espresso coloured head. A perfect 2 fingers, with the appearance of rising dough. Various sized bubbles break the surface with the promise of whats to come.

An intense nose with notes of roast espresso, anise, grapefruit, & a hint of solvent.

Complex flavour, featuring notes of cinnamon, espresso, and all of my favorite dark fruit buddies: raisins, plums, & black currant. A bit of warming alcohol, is followed up by a semi dry finish including a bit of grapefruit. The hops are quite punchy, but not overwhelming. They make their presence known without making a bitter stout. As it warms it begins to take on a minor perfume like aftertaste.

Thick, chewy, and syrupy. Viscous, like carbonated 5W-30.

This stuff is liquid desert!

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Photo of RoyalT
4.92/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – Black as night with a ruby tinge. The head was kind of weak but lasted the glass really well.

Smell – Super stout flavors. Huge coffee and chocolate mixed with molasses and malt to make this an olfactory orgasm.

Taste – My Lord! The big coffee (Starbuck’s finest) has a lot of company in here. Raw brown sugar is a big player, along with chocolate syrup, prunes and raisins, kahlua, light toffee, and a complicated flavor that reminds me of tiramisu. This thing is awesome.

Mouthfeel – Low carbonation, typical for the style, and a smoothness that is beyond reproach.

Drinkability – I don’t know how Stone gets their brews so smooth, but this went down like silk.

Comments – I’m wary of being the newbie that rates beers too high – especially after my Ruination spasm attack (I’m still twitching) – but this brew embodies everything I believe a Stout should represent.

Update – The Stone RIP has established a reputation as one of the best beers made in America, and it is very well-deserved. In comparing the 2003 to the 2005, the only dig I can find is that the Appearance isn’t “perfect”. Otherwise, it’s as close to straight 5’s as you can get without gettin’ there.

The nose is incredible and changes dramatically as the beer warms. The sipping flavors come so fast they really make you slow down when drinking. You almost want to set up a tent out in the street and start telling people about it.

The Mouthfeel is impeccable and just does fall short of some of the best that I’ve ever had. Drinkability? You gotta be kidding me! I raise a toast to Greg and the entire Stone staff for putting everything together (once again). Cheers!

Update – I popped one of my cellared summer-released 2005s in June 2006. It’s just starting to get into the sweet spot. The alcohol is picking up steam and the sugars are opening up nicely. It still has plenty of body and will be perfect on its second b-day.

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Photo of alexgash
4.87/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2003 edition. Awesome. By the way, thanks Chaduvel for this one. Brewed in California, delivered by refrigerated truck to Boston, purchased by Chaduvel at Juliana's, flown in baggage to SLC, driven to Logan, and consumed shortly thereafter. What a life for this magnificent 22 oz. beer. Split this one with Kluk. Poured darker than the 4000+ mile motor oil I just drained out of my subaru. Not as thick though (thank god). Formed a small to medium sized tan head. Smell was dominated, initially, by freshly cut barley and roasted espresso. But I also picked out plenty of alcohol, raisins, and other complex fruity/chocolatey mixtures. Amazing. Taste was much like the smell. Big roasted malt presence but the alcohol and the chocolate and the sweetness of the overripe fruits balance this well. The finish was warming and just bitter enough. The lacings on the glass are great. Very thick, rich, and syrupy; just how I like my imperial stouts. My half of the bomber was gone too soon...need more...hmmm...I can really feel this alcohol. Thanks again Stone. 3 for 3!

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Photo of cretemixer
4.42/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2003 release

Pours darkest auburn but rests in the glass like a black hole. The creamy head is the color of lightly creamed coffee with a little two tone swirl effect going on. The head settles to a "cling-ring" after a few minutes leaving no lace.
The aroma is as promised. Rich and thick with notes of toffee, raisins and licorice.
The first taste is of mildly bitter coffee, with a shot in it. The alcohol is apparent from the get go and warms all the way down. Becomes dryer by midglass and a hop bitterness comes into play as well. The dark fruits in the aroma are there along with bitter chocolate towards the finish as it sweetens up a bit.
I was expecting this beer to be a bit more viscous. Don't get me wrong, it is full bodied and slick in the mouth, but I was expecting a bit more thickness to it.
Overall a very drinkable Imperial Stout and one worth seeking out.

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Photo of Rumrunner
3.96/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

22oz. bottle

A very complex stout but somewhat on the sweet side for me.

It pours a great dark brown with a deep tan head. Very nice lacing. The smell is sweet malts and alcohol. There is also some sweet fruit scents mixing around as well.

The flavors are very sweet creamy mocha. Some light roasted coffee and a heavy taste of molassess. The flavor of alcohol is present but it does not hurt the flavors too much. Some prunes and fruit but not much hops. The flavors are complex but the sweetness is not what I look for in a stout.

A nice syrapy mouthfeel. This is a heavy creamy stout. Excellent body. It drinks impeccably smooth.

Overall I enjoyed this stout. I just did not love it and I can think of others that I would purchase before this one.

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Photo of kmcnair
4.9/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Spring 2003 release, 22oz bomber.

Oh where to begin... what an incredible honor it is to drink something so good. This exceptional imperial stout pours a thick opaque black and leaves a thick sexy tan head in my glass.
The smell is very rich, sweet and licorice. The taste is thick of roasted coffee, licorice, currant, smokey and is delicious. Leaves a nice lace on my glass. Mouth feel is exceptional, very warm and smooth. My 22oz bomber is more than adequate, but I feel as if I could drink more and more. This is the epitome of an Imperial Stout, do not pass this one up if you have the option.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.33/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours out of the bomber a deep dark leathery brown of 5W-30 motor oil vescosity only to settle as if its been through the engine much longer and without a filter. That means black to the unmotorized-friendly. A waffer thin, tightly sponged, light cocoa brown head sits atop which fades to a skim always present, lace sticks in ink blot patches.

Smell is subdued but moderately present of dark roasted malts and black malts, quite lusciously so...a light sense of dark fruits favoring raisin, plum, fig, and alcohol warmth mixing in the nose with some chocolate sweetness and coffee notes in there as well.

Taste is quite creamy rich and moderately hefty, but mellowing of dark roasty malts with a slight coffeeness, hops arrive quickly with favorable rich bitterness that fits in quite nicely helping finishing this out with some chocolate twingy tangyness.

Quite a nice easy heavily creamy full body, rich, lusious, and filling, with an incredible lingering chocolate and mild hop bitter drying finish with a bit of alcoholic warmth showing up late taking effect on your head after half the bottle or so.

One excellently done stout in its drinkability, it goes down so wickedly; nearly dangerously smooth and easy for an Imperial Stout its just a knock-down dazzling splendid yummy packed treat that makes you crave every sip after yummy little sip.

Big Thanks to Gusler for the bottle!

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Photo of mikeys01
4.62/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I managed t bring a few bottles of this magnificent imperial stout back to CT from a recent trip to California. These are 22 oz bombers, marked spring 2003 release. Intersting aroma of coffee with slight hint of anise just on opening the bottle. Pours out black as night, nice light brown head, and the amazing aroma just builds more in the glass. This smells like an imperial stout, all right. Very full, complex taste, with the coffee flavor most evident and hints of chocolate most prominent. The alcohol warms the throat on the way own, with a nice sweet aftertaste. All I can say is yummy...

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Photo of zerk
4.37/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled at room temperature.

Pours black and completely opaque, with a tan halo of foam encircling the glass. Aroma is a mixture of coffee, roasted malt, and port wine. Flavor begins somewhat sweet with notes of coffee and chocolate, then becomes somewhat vinous, and tannic. The finish has an ample amout of earthy hops. Mouthfeel is smooth and thick... has the consistency of cough syrup.

This is one very wonderful and very big beer.

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Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing
Beer rating: 4.33 out of 5 with 8,420 ratings