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.

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Ratings: 8,420 |  Reviews: 2,771
Photo of euskera
4.9/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Big, beautiful 22oz bomber. Late spring 2003 edition. Black as oil, beautiful to behold, with a nice caramel-brown head that dissipates into a head not unlike the "crema" on good italian espresso. Smoky, roasty chocolaty aroma that feels excellent on the nose. Taste is robust and warm, unbelievably delicious and complex. Anise, bitter dark chocolate, roasted espresso and even a little port wine on the finish from the alcohol. I can't wait to see how this tastes after laying it down for a while. My what a masterpiece. The only reason it isn't a 5 all around is that with that alcohol content, one and you're done...

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

2003 "late spring" bottle. Black. Just light gets through it, like oil with 10000 miles on it. Head is brown and fairly small. Scent is overwelming. Dark chocolate, tons of coffee aroma of the starbucks mocha variety, some slight fruitiness underneath all this and a hint of alcohol. The sum of all this ends up smelling like coffee ice cream...Damn!! This is one incredible tasting beer. Starts off with some sweet chocolate then explodes into a huge sweetened coffee flavor. Don't let your 2 year old get ahold of this stuff...they'll love it!! Finishes with a very slight hop bitterness, and the aftertaste is a welcome lingering sweetness, basically as if i'd just put down some coffee ice cream. Alcohol is only evident in the warmth of my belly. Smooth silky mouthfeel and terribly easy to drink. This is one the best ever of any style. Incerdible. BELIEVE THE HYPE..IT'S THAT GOOD!!

Note:Would be all 5s (I can't imagine a better beer) but no straight black beer should get a 5 in appearance IMO.

Edit: 2004 - I just did not enjoy this beer as much this year...maybe just me, or maybe the beer..but it was less creamy and more fruity..not what I like in a stout

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Photo of bigbelcher
4.11/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Very strong and young. This is one beer worth setting down for a year or two and then it will be remarkable. Stone has either gotten smarter and is producing more of these special releases or the market is slowing down for them. Last year it was impossible to get this beer, this year it is available at a couple of places.

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

This is the most fantastic beer I have ever had. It was like being reborn into a world of velvet smooth, soft as silk, juicey heaven.

This was jet black. Could not see throught it with mag light next to it. The brown head was so intense you could land a harrier jet on it and not disturb it.

The smell was aromatic and intense and came at you like a charging clydsdale. Coffee and dried fruit.

If there was a drinkable version of a feline jaguar, this would be it. Powerful roasted malt, silky slick on the palate. Soft but prominent hop betterness. No harshness at all.

The mouthfeel was smooth almost sexual. The alcohol was like transparent silk wrapping on the blockbuster body.

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Photo of beergeek279
4.72/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served in a 22 oz. bottle., 2003 edition The color was oil black (pouring the same consistency) and held a great head. The smell was very sweet. The taste was a malty sweetness, with a taste reminding me of licorice/anise. The mouthfeel was somewhat heavy, but the alcohol was barely noticable even at this ABV. For this high an alcohol, this is certainly quite drinkable, and I could enjoy a couple of these.

For my 50th review, I wanted to choose a great beer, and the 2003 Stone Imperial Stout is about as good as they come! I'll be waiting on future releases of this Imperial Stout with enthusiasm!

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Photo of JohnnyDuvel
4.62/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

My favorite Stone thus far. As is the case with Speedway and Expedition, there is a rich body and sweet malt profile to balance the bitterness. I love the motor oil appearance, and the rich coffee-like mouthfeel. Certainly stronger and richer than Samuel Smith, but not as balanced or drinkable, IMO. However, I would rate this as good as any other imperial I've had, and if Stone ever becomes available in my area, this would be a regular purchase.

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Photo of Jon
4.63/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This stout pours midnight black. Opaque. As in absolutely no light gets through. A fizzy brown head sits atop the dark liquid, which is a beautiful sight. As the beer breathes for a bit, copious amounts of roasted malt, along with notes of triple-shot espressos, West Coast hops, and alcohol all seek attention from the nose. Taste is incredibly complex, with black currants, incredibly roasty malt, bittering hops, coffee, and alcohol all present. Mouthfeel is very nice and oily, but not overly so. For such a huge offering, this is the most drinkable imperial stout I've ever had the pleasure of drinking. The alcohol content is certainly there, but it never becomes overly prevalent. Overall, this is one exceptional imperial stout.

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

This is probably the darkest looking stout I've had. First scent to hit my nose as I uncapped this 22oz bottle was cocoa and espresso. Reminded me of an espresso gelato I once had. Very enticing aromas, from a deep black brew with a thin head resting atop. Chocolate, espresso, intensely roasted malts and hints of alcohol and yeast. Velvety smooth stout, extremely smooth and approachable with a slight dryness at the end. Superbly balanced and pure decadence. This is the best product I've had from Stone brewery. I drank this bottle at approx. 65 degrees.

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Photo of Bierman9
4.67/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

15APR09 - Tax day! And what better way to celebrate a whopping refund of $3.00 than with the latest edition of Stone's RIS. Dense,deep black liquid is topped by a thin, fine layer of mocha-hued bubbles. Lace is still good. Aroma is detectable from a distance, with lots of coffeeish roastiness. Love the mouthfeel; LOVE it! Rich, smooth, creamy and chewy. Gets no better. Lots more roastiness hits the palate, with coffee, chocolate and mocha melding together. Black currants and a smidge of anise are here, too, with subtle floral hopping laying down a nice layer of linger. Damn good stuff again this year... Flip-flopped appearance and smell from previous entry... Prosit!

look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | drink: 4.5

*** ***

24OCT04 - Sampled the '04 version today.... still ebony-like in its darkness, with a tan, fine, creamy head... Super lace. Rich nose replete with roasty, coffeeish notes and dark fruit hints. Creamy smooth and, once again, chewy in its mouthfeel. Lots of roasty flavor; more dark fruit notes...lasting hop bite....super bier!! Very similar to '03, in my opinion.... Kicked up a notch to 10.8% this year.... same rating.... lovely stuff from Stone! Prosit!!!

overall: 4.65
appearance: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | mouthfeel: 5 | drinkability: 4.5

*** ***

22JUN03 - I figure this 2003 version will be a good bier for another top-shelf "summer" day in New England: 59F, raw and rainy! Oh yeah!

Out of the bottle comes the North Sea crude....well, it looked dark and as thick as oil anyhow! Deep, dark brown, bordering on black, with no chance of any light escaping this black-hole whatsoever. A hard-pour created a frothy, dark tan head with tight, compact bubbles. Lacing is a decent covering on the glass sides.
Initial whiffs bring out some roasty, chocolate notes. Probing further, dark fruit (black currants, raisins) aromas come forth with malty sweetness. The body is full, and it has a big, chewy feel on the palate. Smooth as silk! Oh yeah!!
The flavor is a top-shelf combo of malty, roasty sweetness, black currants, dates, raisins, a pinch of molasses and brown-sugar, and an alcohol-induced warmth. I expected Stone to whip-up a larger hop hit at the finish, but this one is a touch restrained, yet still quite up-front and tasty. Even with 9.47% ABV this bier is eminently drinkable. Yet another supremely quaffable Stone bier! Prosit!!!

(5.0/4.5/4.5/5.0/4.5 = 4.65)


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Photo of Dmann
4.83/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

What a beer!! I have never seen a beer so black and so thick in all my life! This baby poured like 10W30 but had such a heavenly smell to it...hints of plums, chocolate and coffee without much carbonation. This sucker was black through and through, no light could get through whatsoever. I let it sit till it was just below room temp, took my first sip and was amazed. It felt like a thick syrup going down, then I tasted the chocolate and coffee flavors followed up by a huge yet incredibly smoothe alchohol flavor. This was a thick ass beer and it took my about 45-50 min to sit and enjoy the whole bomber bottle. This is one to seek out now and try, then geta couple more and cellar them!

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.67/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Before I start my usual hyping up of the Stone Brewery, just stop me and leave the house and seek out this beer. This is not just any beer this is a beer to be experienced and relived annually like a tradition, only it saddens me to think about the batches from the last two years that have escaped me. This is the 2003 limited spring release, and I am in heaven simply heaven. Pours like crude oil (according to the bottle, but you must see it for yourself), honestly this beer is viscous and opaque it eats up the light that attempts to shine through it. Dark black body with the pleasant thin moccha toned head floating atop of this dark abyss. The aroma contains layers of light milk chocolate tones, dark roasted barley malt, hints of anise in the background, deep plum or any overly ripened fruit in a light brandy liquer all topped off with a light hopping of signature Stone hops to boast it's west coast roots along with an underlying nose of alcohol gracing my olfactory nerves. As the temperature rises so does the amount of alochol that shines through in the flavor of this classic Imperial Russian Stout. A creamy based chocolate/coffe presence along with sweet buttery notes that elegantly dance on my palate. An overall warming effect creates a sense of ecstasy, with notes of fruit tones and acohol notes that are in one word heavenly. Mouthfeel is full and heavy syrup esque, but goes down suprisingly very smoothly. Low carbonation that complements the overall quality of this beer, and definitely a one bottle at a time experience no session beer found here and none wanted from an Imperial Stout of any kind.

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

Presentation: ~10oz. from draught in a tulip glass at the Stone 12 event. Served a bit cold. Cost: $5.

Appearance: Intensely black in a way that one can imagine a black hole absorbs light. Probably the darkest stout I’ve seen with the possible exception of the Expedition. Generated and kept a remarkably resilient, tight-grained head, which was beige in color.

Smell: Combined the phenolic quality of spent hydrocarbons with a determined fruitiness that prevents this from being acrid. The smell of a metric ton of roasted malt compressed into the size of a die. Emits the singular fruity aroma of Kenya AA.

Taste: Smoky, tarry, and strongly bitter in a pleasant way; relieved by a subtle sweetness provided by the taste of long-cooked fruit, steeped in eau-de-vie. Stone’s classic mentholated-hoppiness lurks in the background. The usual stout descriptors of coffee and chocolate don’t suffice. It has that extra dimension that separates it from the unremittingly bitter Storm King. It’s hard to come up with the appropriate description, but the fruit-and-earth undercurrent was somewhat reminiscent of a sauce I once had on truffled foie gras. It was supposedly composed of black currant preserves and Pedro Ximenez sherry, cooked down over a long period of time into a barely liquid sauce. It’s this fruity depth that calls to mind Kenya AA rather than espresso; Valrohna Grand Cru Manjari rather than just chocolate. A finish as long as John Daly’s drives.

Mouthfeel: Faint but present carbonation. Body was full, but not as chewy or viscous as Expedition.

Drinkability: Another Stone Beer whose drinkability is best judged by the degree of self-restraint required to stop drinking it. Fortunately I knew I would be spending the night in the city, otherwise I’d have been in BIG trouble.

Probably my second favorite Imperial Stout after Expedition. A real achievement in balancing the classic, core bitterness of a first rate stout with the added elements of dark berries, wine-like flavors, and a definite tang. Mouthwatering.

Bottom Line: Maybe this is what Ferrari is really using in the Enzo at $60/quart.

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

Wow!!! As soon as I opened this bottle the air around me was permiated with the thick and full aroma of this stout.

The apperance was pitch black. A tan head slowly formed and discipated leaving a nice lace.

The smell was overwhelming, mostly coffee with a lot of hop aroma.

The taste was exceptional. First I could taste a nice coffee flavor and the alcohol at the end with hops all over the place. Very robust and different. In a class of its own.

Mouthfeel was excellent, it felt thick and creamy with a moderate ammount of carbonation to spice it up.

Despite the wonderful traits to this brew It was very rich and full and difficult to drink after half of the 22oz bottle.

A hunk of white cheddar cheese complimented this fairly well in my opinion. This beer could be a meal in itself. Everything I would look for in an imperial stout. Go Stone Brewing!!!

"Mmmm Beer..." Homer Simpson

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Photo of PhantomVodoo
4.18/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 edition on tap at Brew's.
Opaque and black as night. Brown head that laced nicely.
Aroma of alcohol, dark ripe fruits, and something I can't really describe.

Taste of sweet, roasted malts. Hops are there to balance. Dark, ripe fruit. The predominant flavor is something I can't really describe. Alcohol is evident, but not overbearing. Pretty smooth for a beer of this magnitude. Good balance, not overly sweet or bitter. Finishes nicely.

Nice, full-bodied mouthfeel.
Very drinkable for a beer of 9.5%ABV.

Overall, this is a very good beer I quite enjoyed. A big beer not to be taken lightly.

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Photo of DESTRO
4.6/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

grabbed 3 of the bombers the other day. pours black and thick like motoroil and has a brown/tan head. looks like a manly drink. the smell is wonderful bringing to thought currents, berries, chocolate and roast with a nice hop kick. the taste is, well, intense to say the least. nice hop flavour mixin it up with coffe, chocolate, port, smoke and that nice imperial alcohol spice. this stuff is thick and heavy and extremely creamy and pleasant in the mouth. the drinkability is high for the type of beer, and the high abv really makes itself known after a bit of drinking. top notch brew.

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

I had this awesome beer in a 22oz. bomber poured into a tulip-style glass. It pours a thick black with half a finger of reddish-tan head. The head goes away quick, and there is no lacing. The smell is a sweet malty flavor of coffee and spices. The taste is just fabulous. Hints of chocolate and toffee under roasted coffee and caramel. There is just the right amount of hops to balance it all out. The mouthfeel is just awesome, very heavy. This is still a drinkable beer at 9.47%. A really great example of an imperial stout!

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Photo of Mess
4.08/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

With a beer that swallows all light, Stone has outdone itself with this fine interpretation of the style. I wondered if I should have dared to be selfish enough to take on the entire 22oz rather than share it with a friend; I perservered through the guilt. Black as the ace of spades, the beer pours thickly and smoothly with a consistency reminiscent of the bottom of a coffee pot lined with spent grounds. Atop sits a fluffy, dark brown head. A whiff of chocolate-coffee sweetness and alcohol are apparent throughout the beer's pint-plus lifespan. A soft-silky mouthfeel encompasses the tongue while yeasty flavors with roast coffee and dark chocolate nourish the senses before the smooth liquid drapes down the back of the throat. This is a delicious treat on its own or for dessert. It kept me warm and filled my belly - enough to where I wished I didn't eat the meal I did before hand! - and would pair perfectly with chunky chocolate chip cookies (which would probably stand straight up in the tasty stuff). Stone's Imperial Stout is an excellent flavorful beer that was easy to put to my lips and yet one that's best to take time with. Can't wait to taste this vintage once it's been cellared for a year.

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

Mmmm—illicit Stone Imperial Stout 2003 vintage... It looks pretty much like I’d have expected—jet black (though a little brown can be teased out around the very top of the pour line) with a VERY brown head of bubbles that lasts about as long as I’d have expected on a beer of this strength and viscosity. Ain’t no Dry Irish Stout… The smell was not quite as expected., though… A huge bouquet of dried, roasted coffee beans mixed with powdered cocoa and smoked, salted jerky to create some very unusual aromatics, even for a beer as necessarily complex as a big Imperial Stout. The murky, viscous body contained the whole range of expected flavors—coffee, charred beef, licorice, port and evil black fruits that have no name. Still, the interesting aspect of this beer to me was the slightly salty, slightly menthol-like aftertaste—is that the roasted barley mingling with the high alpha hops and 9.47% ABV? My chest actually feels hot and cold at the same time—like I’ve drunk Vics soothing chest rub diluted with soy sauce. Luckily the taste isn’t quite so foul ;) “Complex” doesn’t do this one justice any more than “viscous” does. Next to an un-aged Lee’s Harvest Ale (of which I took a hydrometer reading at over 1.040 once) this is the thickest beer I’ve ever consumed. Certainly there’s enough unfermented blackness in my glass to brew a Guinness.

The whole time I drank this beer, I kept having intermittent, incomplete flashbacks to my mother’s kitchen. I don’t know exactly which flavor was taking me back on that Freudian journey, but I have a guess. My mom used to bake a lot pies. The signature of my mother’s handiwork was the little stream of fruit and dough that stuck to the outside pie plate and burned there. I think this beer tastes like chasing that little hunk of carbonized starch with 80 proof port (if there is such a drink).

A monster, indeed. I’m really curious to see how this beer tastes in a year. The flavors are not at all rough or segregated, even at this VERY young age. The beer flows seamlessly from the glass into the mouth, creating a uniform, though thoroughly complex flavor profile. Kudos again to the boys at Stone for not only brewing massive beers, but brewing beers with flavorsome substance too.

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

"Limited Late Spring 2003 Release" - I've been anticipating this one for a very, very long time. Pours darker than black with a brown head that goes away farely quickly. I found myself swirling this viscous liquid around the glass and watching it cling to the sides of glass like Jager. Flavors of roasted malt, coffee, chocolate, and a hint of spice. This was nice and fresh and should age very well. I tried like hell to sip this one, but it knocked me on my ass anyway. But it was in a good way.

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

Wow! Beautiful aroma, great flavor, everything is exceptional with this beer. Another world class beer from Stone. If you enjoy your Russian Imperial Stouts with more "chocolatey" than "coffee flavor, this one is for you. Originally sampled 24 May 2002

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.77/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

"Limited Late Spring 2002 Release" - roughly one year old right now. There's been enough said about the specifics of this beer that I'm sure I don't have to start with "Pours as black as night...". I'm not a huge fan of Imperial Stouts, but this one just became one of my all time favorites!

I was quite impressed with the level of maltiness present in the aroma, and the complexity that goes along with it. It's quite cocoa-ish, but also fruity. It has a touch of the "burnt currant" that's so common to the style, but this is more ripe and juicy - and it's the fruitiness that I recognize in the other Stone beers (particularily the pale ale). But it's even more complex than that with some very light citrusy hops and an oak character that really makes it interesting. But surprisingly, it's not that roasty. In fact, overall, it's more of a Baltic Porter. There's a touch of alcohol in the nose as well, but it seems to enhance rather than hinder.

The flavor follows the same routine. It's quite impressive with a rich-but-not-cloying maltiness that delivers buttered brown sugar, cocoa, fresh wort, creamy coffee, ripe raspberry, nuts, dried fruits, sweet bread crust, red wine, and caramel. It's well-balanced by a bitterness that supports, but also hangs in the wings.

Highly recommended!!! Although the alcohol will stop you.... you'll want to drink a few of these!

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Photo of beerluvr
3.43/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2002 version. Pours out with a light tan head that collapses upon black as night opaque liquid. The nose is very plummy/dark fruit-like. Taste is very malty, deep dark and rich, with prune and and malt sweetness dominating. Alcohol soon follows with warming and soothing sensations. The hops are there...just not enough for my taste, I was expecting to taste a bit more with this being a West coast brew. Finishes tangy, more sweet than bitter. Nice, but there's more exciting examples availiable out there.

Thanks to "Gloworm" Gusler for the bottle.

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

spring 2003 release sampled 01-31-04. inky black with an giant chocolate milk colored foamy head. big nose of soft coco, roasted dark malts, with a touch of espresso. a few sips indicates this is an extremely well crafted brew. extroadinarily rich tastes of milk chocolate, roasted malts, and vinous fruit. it has what i would consider the quintessential imperial stout taste, though i found the body to not be as thick and chewey as i had expected. where this brew shines is in it's full, soft, deeply rich and complex flavor, without coming across as being over the top. superb craftsmanship. i guess to sum it up, i found it to be almost understated, which is not a bad thing, but not what i expected, especially after tasting some of stone's other offerings. a world class imperial. absolutely lovely.

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Photo of RBorsato
4.03/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very black with a low dark brown head and low carbonation but leaves good lace. Roasty malt and chocolate aroma with a good bit of alcohol present. Bitter hoppy aroma (not Cascade-ish). Burnt malt character and very bitter hoppy balanced flavor. Not as citrusy hoppy as Victory's Imperial Stout; just more bitter - not in a good way. Full bodied with an alcohol presence.

Will age my next one to see if it gets better.

Label states: "Limited Late Spring 2002 Release"
Tasted: 04/19/03

(22 oz / )

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Photo of Darkale
4.73/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Arrogant Bastard proved that Stone owns the right to call itself a premier brewer; I thought I would check on their Imperial Stout to see if AB was a fluke.

It's not a fluke.

It truly pours like some kind of lubricant; the reviewers are not kidding. The head is heavy and tasty but not particularly deep nor resilient. Aroma and taste are a strange mix of malty, raisiny, fruity and mildly spicy flavors. Wonderfully chewy, and the sweet fruitiness almost makes it sparkle (as if something that pours like motor oil in Siberia could be said to sparkle!).

Like Arrogant Bastard, Stone's Imperial Stout makes me smile from cap-off until the last line of foam is in my mouth.

I used to think Guiness was a stout.


It's like swallowing Christmas lights during Midnight mass. Wow. What a stout.

For the record, it's March of 2003 as I write this, and the stout was the spring of 2002 version, and apparently has been patiently waiting for me in one of my local beer stores (with no ill effects) for the last several months.

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