Stone Imperial Russian Stout | Stone Brewing

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2,715 Reviews
Stone Imperial Russian StoutStone Imperial Russian Stout

Brewed by:
Stone Brewing
California, United States | website

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

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Reviews: 2,715 | Ratings: 8,250
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Can anyone say "dessert?" This beer is definitely that-- a rich, heavy, Imperial Russian stout that tastes like coffee and chocolate. Given the choice of a piece of cake, a bowl of ice cream, slice of cheesecake, or any other incredible edible dessert, I would pass them all up in favor of the Stone Imperial Russian Stout.

I liked the way the beer poured-- created a nice, creamy head, but dissipated a bit as I drank. No lace on the glass, but I don't expect that with a beer with as high an alcohol content as this one. It took me almost two hours to drink the 22 oz serving, and as the beer warmed to room temperature the flavor became more "coffee like." Yum.

I'm a huge fan of Stone-- I like that all of the beer they brew has an incredible hoppiness that I can taste. Although not as hoppy as their Ruination Ale, I can definitely taste hops in this beer. Just a tad of a bitter bite at the end.

Great job, Stone! I'll keep a bottle of this to age-- I bet the flavors will just get richer with time!

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Photo of SamN
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bomber bought at LiquorMax in Loveland. Poured into a chalice-like glass.

A- Pours thick black, like motor oil. Nice big brown bubbly head. Hella thick, hella black, hella awesome. Wish the head stuck around longer. Little lacing to speak of.

S- Whoa nelly, this here's a big boy! Coffee, molasses, raisins, vanilla, malt that reminds me exactly of the Celebrator I reviewed earlier today, nice light alcohol backdrop. Serious stout aroma. Boo ya!

T- Again, this is a big beer! Coffee and malt, of course, but buried deep in there are wood, hops, toffee, a sort of "fishy" taste (not a bad thing) and a creamy characteristic that is my favorite part of this beer. Alcohol isn't overpowering either, in fact, it's pretty well hidden, although I'm sure I'll find it at the bottom of this bomber. Very unique for this style, and I really like it. Tasty tasty.

M- Chewy and thick, big body and the right amount of carbonation. Feels good to swirl it through my teeth.

D- Drinkability suffers because this is such a damn big beer, it may be a struggle to finish this whole thing after I just ate a huge dinner. Better to split this with people.

A great stout from a great brewery, thanks Stone, you guys rule!

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Photo of ExplosivoSR
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2010 poured into snifter

A – Midnight black. Held up to light it shows just the slightest bit of light penetration. 1 finger of tan head dissipates rather quickly into a thin layer. No lacing

S – Chocolate, roasted malts, espresso, slight bourbon as well.

T – A ton of espresso up front, with the chocolate on the back end. Slight booze finish, with the malts and chocolate showing up again. Flavor lasts forever.

M – Chewy, but a bit thinner than expected. Not too much carbonation.

O – Very well balanced, with great flavors. A real gem. As long I’ve lived in San Diego this is my first time trying this beer, and it jumped up into my top 5 IRS.

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Photo of micromaniac129
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This baby smells super awesome with lots of depth. My first snif has a big big roasted malts aroma. Following in aroma one can also smell bitter chocolate, fudge molasses, coffee and licorse. Hints of alcohol say warning, warning, warning.
A thick deep mocha head sits on top of a black hole. No lacing and carbonation is unk.
This is juggernaut of a stout. It drinks thick of roasted and burnt malts and it's flavor depth is almost endless. I can definitly pull out molasses and coffee, bittersweet chocolate, licorise or ouzo from Crete when we came home from the desert.
Drinks smooth and heavy on the palette with a long lasting flavorful after taste. Oh, there is also sutle alcohol warming to finish it off.
Yes this indeed is a fantastic brew and quite easy to drink, but slow down there punk and sipper it.

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Photo of Jacobob10
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

As recommended to me, I let this bottle sit for about 5 months prior to drinking. I don't know how I resisted the urge to drink this fine beer, but somehow I found it within myself to do so.

The pour out of the bottle was very nice. Dark black color, opaque, with a small dark tan head. Exceptional aroma, lots of chocolate, roasted barley, and coffee. The taste brought it all together into what is probably one of the most complex beers I have ever tasted. There is a touch of sweetness at the end too.

Amazingly drinkable for such a strong and complex brew. In my opinion, this is one of the best beers in the country, and one of the best beers I have ever had. Seek it out and enjoy.

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Photo of bensiff
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This dark beauty poors dark and thick consistent with the style. It has a slight tan head with nice lacing.

Its aroma is filled with alcohol, dark chocolate, and coffee notes. Mouthfeel is full as this high gravity drink delivers a powerful yet surprisingly smooth punch given its high ABV. Taste is outstanding and by far the best I have encountered in this style.

Overall this rates highly with exceptional drinkability. Due to its heavy hitting nature resulting in a slow sipping intake, I suggest a nice cigar accompany this one to bring out the best in both. Take the two in on the back porch with a friend and a debate of philosophy, theology, and politics and you have a glorious night...just remember that drinking this Russian doesn't mean that you aren't a good red blooded American even if commy's come up in the debate.

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Photo of rgctlc
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Presentation- This is the spring 2009 batch purchased from the most awesome Charleston Beer Exchange in Charleston, South Carolina. It was filled on 4/19/09 and consumed on 4/22/09.

Appearance- With a refridgerated 3 day old growler there is perhaps a slight pressure release so on a normal pour it did not result in an overly abundant head. The consistancy is thicker than less malty beers but the motor oil comparison is kind of cliche' at this point. It is noticably "weighty" when it hits the glass. The lacework descends sharply when the stout begins to warm and the espresso-like color makes you know you're into a chewy, malty beer experience.

Smell- Aside from the before mentioned espresso comparison, this stout(like most others)comes alive when it gets warmer. Huge grainy notes on a cold first pour but after the temp rises we're running the whole gamut of coffee, currant, dark chocolate, alcohol and bready aromas. One thing I've noticed with this stout is the mellow hoppy smell- which surprised me considering this is a Stone beer. I expected a more pronounced hop aroma.

Taste- Way complex- completely changes character when the temperature changes. Deceptivly drinkable..until the 10.5 ABV kicks in. We're talking classic roasted malt, chewy stout and bread pudding-like flavors. However, there's no cloying sweetness which marrs other potentially great RIS's. One thing that surprised me, however, was the restraint on the hop drop- not what I expected from a Stone beer(and I LOVE Stone beers).

Notes- Like most of you, I LOVE this RIS. It warms the soul and after drinking it it gives you the feeling that all is well in the world. Stone is consistant in making awesome beers and I'm glad that I can get it here in the Low Country.

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Photo of hophead247
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Small somewhat creamy light brown head that mostly diminished. Pitch black color. Aroma of bread, molasses, caramel, chocolate, coffee, toasted malt. Light alcoholic sniff, plum, prune, date, licorice. Very complex aroma. Full bodied with an alcoholic texture and a soft carbonation. Excellent balance between the moderated sweet malt and bitter flavor. Berries sweet and lingering finish. Smooth and very nice thick beer. Definitely one of my favorite RIS.

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Photo of Wetpaperbag
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A- Served in a Stone RIS glass. The beer itself is very dark black, like the darkened winter night of Czarist Russia. There was a nice thick two inch tan head that subsided at a slow pace.

S- Many smells came to me when drinking this beer. Chocolate, roasted malts and anise were the front liners.

T- The taste was very much like the smell, the roasted malts coming though, the anise blended in with a chocolate taste, it is just delicious all around. The beer was everything you would expect a RIS to be. I love this beer, it is one I look forward to coming out each year because it is just so excellent.

M- Very smooth and surprisingly light in the mouth.

D- Yes please! Not thick, that ABV is well hidden and it just goes down so smooth. I love this on tap. I have had it out of a bottle many times and out of the tap just seems to be better. The place I got it from is going to maybe put it on nitro so that should be very interesting.

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Photo of WYVYRN527
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Might be my new favorite. I opened a 22 oz. bottle and poured it into my trusty pint glass. Black with a very thin head that dissapates almost immediately. The aroma is soft, and chocolate and roasted grains shine through. On the palate, espresso, bitter chocolate, and vanilla strike with force. The hops aren't very present until the very end, where it has a very mild, dry finish. This medium bodied beast could be a session stout, even though it has strength and body that rivals a Sherman tank. I love this beer, and it's unfortunate that it isn't sold here in the Minnesotan tundra.

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Photo of Roman5150
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottle poured into Duvel glass, purchased from Stones River Total Beverages in Murfreesboro, TN

Paired with swiss gruyere cheese

Appearance: Pitch black, 1 finger mocha head

Smell: Chocolate, caramel, coffee

Taste: Very chocolatey, caramel, roasted malts, slight coffee aftertaste, bready and even a slight hint of dark fruits.

Mouthfeel: Perfect, very full

Overall: One of my favorite stouts, too bad it's so hard to find for me. Very chocolatey, and it's jsut so balanced you don't taste any alcohol. Got my hands on 2 of these and two espressos. This wold be my first choice to convert a non-stout person into a stout lover. Another amazing brew by Stone, never disappointed.

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Photo of Vancer
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

For review 500, I saved this bad boy for the past 6 months, giving it the Stone requested “quiet” time. Aging works - the alcohol recessed and was well hiddened.

What a pour, oil black, thick and gooey. No head but a thin brown ring – just check out that sliding oil slid around the glass (snifter, of course!).

Tons o’ plum, raisins, anise – the works in the aroma. On the sweet side, you can get a little bourbon barrel in the background.

Dry and powdery, this is just an awesome brew. I just wish the hell we could get Stone in Illinois, or Missouri. This would make for a great evening brew with friends – sharing about 6 bombers thru a cool fall nite sitting in front of the bonfire.

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Photo of brewcrew76
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Spring 2006 release

A - Pours a solid black, so dark there are no highlights to be found anywhere. Thin brown head that disappears quickly without lacing.

S - Strong aroma with bitter chocolate dominating followed by roasted malt, caramel and a touch of coffee.

T - Bitter chocolate, coffee, dark fruits with a hint of toffee and caramel. Very complex.

M - Full bodied with light carbonation making this thick and and warming.

D - A great beer with the only thing keeping me of drinking many of these is the ABV which is expected in an RIS. A very tasty beer.

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Photo of PittBeerGirl
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A- Pours deep motor oil black with a thick foamy light brown head. Head eventually completely dissipates and some lacing is left behind near the top of the glass. When held up to the light nothing penetrates the opaque blackness.

S-Smell is rich in deep chocolate malt and warm roastiness. The alcohol is slightly noticeable in the background along with hints of licorice and anise. The smell is slightly sweet and very welcoming.

T-Taste is very similar to the smell. Rich, semi-sweet dark chocolate malt upfront with hints of licorice and anise. The dark chocolate intensifies for the finish and becomes slightly bitter as a big toasted malt character emerges. What lingers on the palate are hints of bitter dark chocolate, toasted malt, and toffee-all wrapped in a soft alcohol blanket.

M- Medium carbonation with a heavy and rich body with a slight alcohol slickness. The body is not to thick-which increases drinkability immensely.

D- This is one great RIS. Stone produces some awesome dark beers. I was really impressed by this one as well as the smoked porter. This one is very rich-but not too rich and it is my favorite RIS so far. I will definitely purchase this one again. This beer is definitely worth the hype.

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Photo of beerbart
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Hard to beat.
Nearly coal-black, the darkest black coffee.
A rush of chocolate and vanilla, both, at once.
Slippery-smooth, so easy going down.
A hint of alcohol but through a glass darkly, so rich and --
remember when "dank" meant good?
Whew. It's a hale fellow well-met... at midnight.

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Photo of watsonmd
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Awesome... 22 oz bottle, serves at 51 degrees, snifter.

A: Black, with thick tan head. solid.

S: STRONG coffee, chocolate, malt

T: Wow. strong, sweet, thick, coffee/oak/vanilla/coffee/malt/cherry(?)

M: Coating, thick, lingers, and strong. Slight sweetness, but also a hint of aromatics (hops?)

O: Need more of this one. For the price, should get a case!

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Photo of ThreeWiseMen
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

'08 vintage bottle shared with Brent (Swimsum). Thanks for the hookup buddy! I've been waiting a looong time to try this one.

Appeaance: Short, brown, creamy, head sits atop a thick pitch black body. Nice lacing. Decent retention - dies to a creamy halo after 5 minutes or so. Looks like a good RIS, but nothing really stands out as special.

Smell: Smokey, meaty, and floral. Hickory and dark fruits maybe? Caramel is quite prevalent, as is roasted malt and (to a lesser degree) coffee. Floral hops and estery alcohol bring the quaff to a close. Although I'm not sure if any distinction exists, I would call this an English-style RIS (as opposed to an American RIS). The main components of the aroma are sweet, fruity, and smokey, whereas American RIS's focus more on black coffee, dark chocolate, pine, and charred wood. This is the best English-style RIS I've ever come across.

Taste: Similar to smell: meat, smoke, caramel, coffee, leafy floral hops, and roasted malt. Chocolate is also in there, but it's more subdued than the other flavors. I had heard a lot of mixed reviews about this beer, the majority of them underwhelming. Now that I've tried it myself, I must say that I absolutely love it! Great job Stone!

Mouthfeel: Syrupy, thick, sticky, creamy, hearty, and moderately carbonated. Very smooth. Leaves a sticky residue on my lips.

Drinkability: I want some more of this soooo bad! I was expecting an absolute hop-bomb from Stone, but this turned out to be delicate and harmonious. This is one beautifully addictive RIS.

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Photo of JWD
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

One of my favorites

A- BLACK almost the darkest ever, medium head and lace.

S- Sweet, dark fruit and chocolate, some bitterness and roasted character.

T- Wonderful thing working here, roasted malts and chocolate and a hoppy finish

M- Good, but not the thickest, oily, and coating IRS i have had.

D- Great, Stone has done a great job on this one as it is my favorite stone offering to date.

Few minor twaeks and this can be as good or better that the best of them, i think it is better than the Abyss and close to Darkness and will have some work to catch the DL. IMO

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.77/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

(2005 Vintage)

Appearance: Oh my, yes. Pours out a rich, inticing jet black body. The foamy tan-colored head recedes quickly.

Smell: The welcome aroma delivers a sweet scent filled with rich espresso, roasted barley, molasses, and anise. A soft scent of port wine can also be found here. Lastly, an inspiriting alcohol vapor fills the nose.

Taste: While tasting this beer I scribbled some complimentary notes down on a notepad, but didn't get all of them because I went through the world's entire supply of ink and paper in the process.

The world's entire supply of ink and paper, I said.

That said, this brew is tremendously malty, with sharp notes of coffee and chocolate. Undertones of vanilla and molasses are present as well. Hop flavor is gentle, barely peeking through the immense gamut of flavors present. Yes, the alcohol is apparent, but quite soothing.

The long finish leaves a sustaining roasted flavor on the tongue. Delicious.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and quite chewy at times, while maintaining an unequaled velvety texture.

Drinkability: The very best RIS I've tasted yet.

So, yeah, I liked it. I had very high expectations for this beer, and it met every single one of them.


(My thanks to AndoBrew for sharing this one with me.)

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Photo of DaPeculierDane
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2006 Vintage - Bottle purchased at Ledger's in Berkeley

Better reviewers do a far better job on this masterpiece than I can ever match so I’ll simply add this: Believe the hype. Believe every word of it. Stone’s RIS is nearly perfect. Jet black. Bubbly dark tan head. Vinous aromas, dark fruit, chocolate, and a massive, unparalleled roastedness. Flavors of huge burnt dark roast coffee, nuts, vanilla, chocolate, dark fruits, everything one could ask for. Mouthfeel is perfect. Smooth, balanced, well hopped, partially covered to fading alcohol. Drinkability isn’t really applicable here. My brain tells me that drinking three would be suicide by my toungue says, more, more, more! I guess that’s high.

Highly recommended.

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Photo of niknar
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Stone has quickly become my favorite craft brewer. Here is just one reason why:

Pours out a very thick, very black color with a modest (but far from understated) head. The average coffee is not as thick and black as this lucious offering. The head is colored something akin to the froth created on the top of a steaming mug of hot chocolate - milky brown and bubbly. Well developed lacing as the head settles and consumption begins. The aroma is very complex. Distinctive notes of coffee, chocolate, faint hops, and rich roasted malt. The flavor is immaculate. Initially, this offering strikes strongly with roasted malts, caramel malts, and coffee / toffee flavors. Followed closely behind is an assault of hop bitterness that lingers on the roof of the mouth. The finish is dry and bitter at the back of the mouth, with the sweet reminiscences of heavy malts left behind on the sides and front of the tongue. Also of note is the presence of alcohol in the taste... 10.8% shines through! The mouthfeel is excellent... something similar to eating a ham sandwhich... perfect! Drinkability of this offering is limited slightly by the high alcohol and thick substance of its body. However, don't let the numbers fool you... a six-pack of this stuff would probably give an elephant a run for its money!

Enjoy! Highly Recommended!

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Photo of mbunje
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Could be t he best beer ever. This is the spring 2010 version that I am having in June 2011.

A opaque black with a tan head. Disappears to form just a ghostly shadow of foam on the top. Really ominous.

S rich chocolate and espresso with a hint of spice....nutmeg?

T dark chocolate with a drying finish. This might be my favorite vintage of IRS

M thick, chewy, espresso

O one of the best IRS ever. Couldn't have more than a couple.

Must have top 10 beer of all time. Awesome.

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Photo of DonDirkA
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Stone Imperial Russian Stout tulip glass. Nose of anise and dark chocolate. Roasted malts and coffee are there but on the back burner. Slightly boozey but not very noticeable. Coffee comes across more strongly in the taste. Its dark roasted coffee and chocolate with a vein of anise running throughout. The flavors all blend together towards the end and fade out leaving hints of coffee and black licorice behind.

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Photo of BrewMan13
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Oh my, when I saw this at my local beverage center for the 1st time, I snapped up 3 bombers on reputation alone, never having tasted it before. And am I glad I did!
Nice blacker than midnight appearance. Head is very dark brown and recedes slowly. Some lacing. A small amount remains for most of the drink.
Taste is very intense. I cant describe the flavors as well as some others have, but I pick up on heavy chocolate malts initially, some roasted malts midway through. Both flavors seem to continue and are accompanied by a slight alcohol flavor at the end of the finish, along with a hint of hops. Everything is so intense and complex, I know I am missing something. Just try it and taste for yourself.
I feel that a great IRS should have a flavor so intense that it drowns your tastebuds and leave them gasping for air by the end. This one follows that exceptionally well. While it may not be sessionable, I've been craving my 2nd since I had my 1st, a very fine accomplishment, which is why the drinkability score is so high.
I think that the fact that a beverage this dark, flavorful and complex and another beverage so light and flavorless as Coors light are both "beer" (I use the term loosely in regards to coors light) is proof enough that there is more variety of flavors in beer then wine.

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Photo of Brent
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Holy cow! All other stouts, imperial or otherwise, shall henceforth pale in comparison. This is one over the top, take-no-prisoners monster stout. Pushes the envelope on how much flavor can be crammed into a liquid - my tastebuds were overwhelmed and threw in the towel after about four sips. Coffee, molasses, dark chewy malt, you name it, its in there. And did I mention thick? You could just about spread this on toast with a knife. A little sour and astringent at the end, so that it finishes clean enough to invite another quaff. Well done, Stone.

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Stone Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing
96 out of 100 based on 2,715 ratings.
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