Stone Imperial Russian Stout | Stone Brewing

2,742 Reviews
Stone Imperial Russian StoutStone Imperial 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

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Reviews: 2,742 | Ratings: 8,337
Photo of odeed
3.4/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2004 bottle....damn this is black!!!not something to be messed with at all!(but really,what stone is right?)
pours almost no head,with VERY BLACK apperance.not much carbonation,and has a little syrupy taste to it.for serious imperial stout lovers only.

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Photo of WhiteOak
3.4/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Ltd Spring 2009 Release

G- Riedel 6416/07

A- Black, showing black-olive green under direct light. Expansive foamy head settles quickly.

S- Average smell of roast and burnt malt, yeast. Some chocolatey currants/raisins.

T- Straightforward roasted malt and hop bitterness fight for dominance. Touch of coffee. Perhaps a bit too much hop bitterness, proportionally.

M- Viscosity and CO2 are within acceptable balance, but really a touch too much gas here.

Serving- Bomber

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Photo of LPorter33
3.41/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Purchased 22oz Bomber of limited early 2005 release from Bauer Wine & Spirits (Thanks, Nick!). I bought this many months ago and had it sitting in my fridge for awhile. I was waiting for the perfect moment and person to share it with, and just happened to get a random guest drop by tonight, so out came the bottle opener, in my desire to intoxicate her by my charm, i.e. get her drunk. So here goes....

Appearance = Thick and black as the darkest night. Liquid seems extremely dense and heavy. Very little carbonation and head which surprised me. Looks like Texas tea.

Smell = Dark, toasted malt with hints of really bitter baking chocolate. A bit of tanginess and sourness I'm guessing from the hops. Smells lighter than expected in the alcohol department. I was imagining a stronger presence of overpowering fumes.

Taste = Sweet, powerful and full of intense alcohol like flavors. This is a very well blended beer with the syrupy sweetness coming in nicely. It's just a bit too overwhelming for my taste buds. I can appreciate this beer and realize it's quite well made but it's not my ideal. It did go very well with a strawberry yogurt Zone Perfect bar though.

Mouthfeel = really thick and coating. I enjoyed the way it warmed the inside of my mouth. Like getting a massage for your gums.

Drinkability = I wouldn't be able to have more than a 1/2 bottle of a 1/2 bottle shared. It's just too overpowering. I think I need more food to compliment this beer, like a calzone from Bova's Bakery.

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Photo of Gryphon69
3.41/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

bottled on 2-21-2014

A- Black, no light coming thru, light mocha head that fades fast, nice sticky lacing all over the glass.

S- Jumbled...dark roast, chocolate, brown sugar, dark fruit, it has all the right smells, but its all jumbled togather like one big mess, the longer I let it breath the cleaner it gets but still hard to separate.

T- Dark Fruit up front, some roast, alcohol, cocoas.

M- Full bodied, thick, syrupy, heavy. good

O- The highlight is the mouth with the thick and syrupy textures, the smell is lacking and the taste I would put a ok / average. The alcohol is not hidden and starts from start to finish. Worth trying but wont spend much to keep it on my shelfs.

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Photo of jegross2
3.42/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Reviewing the Imperial Russian Stout (2012 vintage) from Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, California.
Score: 82

2012 vintage bottle purchased from a new bar in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs called "The Beer Market." Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 06/29/12. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Color is jet black with a thin strip of caramel of highlight atop the glass. Creamy mocha-colored head off the pour settles to a ring around glass. Average lacing, average lacing. 3.5/5

Smell: Milk chocolate, light roast and anise/black licorice. Hint of fig. Touch of dark chocolate too. 4/5

Taste: A lot more anise flavor on palate than nose. The bitter, acidic black licorice flavor is prevalent throughout. Chocolate and cocoa too. A little unsweetened dark fruit, and a straight alcoholic booziness towards finish that is "metallic" in flavor when the beer is on the colder side. A hint of roasted chocolate comes out as the beer warms up. 3/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Oily mouthfeel. Acidic, mildly bitter and surprisingly "boozy." 3.5/5

Overall: This is the first time that I have ever had this beer, and given its reputation, I must say that I was thoroughly disappointed. I found it to be nothing special, and way too boozy and licorice-forward. Given how much licorice flavor I got from this brew, I can only imagine how much is present in the Belgo-Anise variation from 2011. Still, you can't beat the price point...

Pairing: Stilton cheese.

Cost: $7.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

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Photo of beerluvr
3.43/5  rDev -21%
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 ej285701
3.43/5  rDev -21%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2006 release, 22 oz bottle

Pours out thick and black from the bottle into a Chimay goblet, with a light brown half inch head.

Like the bottle says, the aroma is of anise, dark fruits, alcohol, and roastiness. However alcohol seems to be the most dominant.

Taste is similar to the smell, anise, dark fruits and alcohol. Some roastiness in there as well, but not as much as the smell. No hops to balance the sweetness. Very cloying.

Nicely cabonated and a fairly light body for an imperial stout. The carbonation is lost about half way through my glasss however.

Average drinkability. The sweetness definitely hinders this. It seems like a chore to finish the whole bottle. The 2005 release was so much better than this. It seems odd that this was the same recipe. My other two 2006 release bottles will remain in my basement for a year or two, hopefully developing some positive characteristics.

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Photo of pdoran10
3.43/5  rDev -21%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Shared with my sister from a 22oz. bomber a few months ago, 2009 vintage. I think I've finally found my first beer in BA's top 100 that I don't like nearly as much as others.

The pour into a standard pint glass was exciting. Good carbonation produced about a half inch of rich head. The smell was complex, of roasted malt with a definite hop presence. This is one thing I love about Stone's beers, their aggressive hops! I am left disappointed by the taste. I get roasted malt right away, but then I am hit by a pretty biting alcohol taste. Surprised that this bothers me. I've enjoyed many bigger beers than this. Not impressed with the taste. Maybe with some aging and mellowing...

Anyways, mouthfeel was solid. Good consistency for a imperial stout. Feels solid and not sticky in your mouth. Drinability was not good. I could taste biting alcohol and it made me hesitant to want more than one glass.

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.43/5  rDev -21%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2012 Stone RIS
Pours a 2cm head of dark tan to brown foam, densely packed, small bubbles on bottom with medium-sized ones persisting on the top. Head has above-average retention, lasting a few minutes and leaving some substantial spiderwebs of lace on the glass as it descends to a thick ring around the glass and a thin island of foam atop the body. Body is an opaque dark brown to black color, carbonation is not visible either in the center or through the sides of the glass.

Aroma primarily of roasted malt (charred toast) and ethanol, with notes of chocolate, anise, and sweet, dried fruit (prune) esters.

There is no clearly discernible flavor of chocolate, roasted coffee, charred grains, vanilla, ethanol, or anise, but these all exist within the beer, blended with precision and efficiency. Ethanol flavor noticed starting at the back of the palate, becoming increasingly strong as the beer warms. Lingering aftertaste of pure dark chocolate, burnt grains, and ethanol.

Beer's body is heavy, with mid-level carbonation that creates a thick and slightly foamy mouthfeel. Alcohol burn noticeable from mid-palate onwards, particularly in nostrils and throat. Finish is dry, with slight stickiness around the palate.

Not sure why this is such a highly rated imperial stout, as the ethanol isn't well-contained, and the flavors are rather muddied and obtuse.

2013 Stone RIS
This is my second year trying Stone's RIS, and my impressions the first year do not seem to be incorrect: the ethanol isn't well-contained, the flavors are largely an undecipherable merger of roasted malt and booze, the aroma isn't particularly noteworthy, and this feels warmer on the palate than an alcohol-heavy mouthwash. Definitely a very average beer that's overrated, one I won't seek out again.

Pours a 2cm head of dark tan to brown foam, densely packed, small bubbles on bottom with medium-sized ones persisting on the top. Head has above-average retention, lasting a few minutes and leaving some substantial spiderwebs of lace on the glass as it descends to a thin cap of foam atop the body. Body is an opaque dark brown to black color, opaque, carbonation is not visible either in the center or through the sides of the glass.

Aroma of moderately dense milk milk chocolate, toasted marhmallow and bread, and vanilla extract in ethanol. Considering the brewery, I'm surprised at how this is not an over the top roasted malt, hop, or ethanol bomb.

Major flavors are of mild milk chocolate with fairly potent ethanol and more modest burnt bread, anise, and marshmallow flavors. Front of palate picks up roasted malt, burnt toast and marshmallow, anise, and slight ethanol. Mid palate experiences milk chocolate, burnt toast and marshmallow, and ethanol. Back of palate notes ethanol, prune ester, anise, milk chocolate, burnt bread. Aftertaste of bittersweet chocolate, charred toast, mild bitterness, and faint ethanol.

Beer's body is heavy, with mid-level carbonation that creates a thick and slightly foamy mouthfeel. Alcohol burn noticeable from mid-palate onwards, particularly in nostrils and throat. Finish is dry, with heavy stickiness around the palate.

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Photo of RossCain
3.44/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured from a 22oz bottle dated Spring 2010 into a snifter

A: Pours a deep, thick and viscous black with a small cocoa colored head. You can just tell from swirling the glass that this is a full bodied beer.

S: Deep roasted malts upfront mixed with notes of raisin and prunes. Unfortunately, there is an off-putting waft of soy in the back of the aroma which I just cannot wrap my head around.

T: Big, bold and robust notes of dark chocolate upfront with a big roasty malt profile. The flavor really punches you in the mouth in a thick and coating manner but it surprisingly finishes with a certain sweetness that slowly fades from the palate.

M: Thick, viscous, full bodied with the right amount of carbonation. A tad bit stressing on the palate after sipping for a while by the surprisingly smooth/sweet finish helps to balances things out. There is a certain warming character of the alcohol in the stomach but what else would you expect from a 10.5% brew?

D: Big and flavorful, this is certainly a tasty and well crafted brew. I couldn't imagine finishing more than a bottle and again that would likely be the only beer of the night. I was a tad disappointed by the character of soy that kept popping up in the aroma which put a damper of a sorts on the experience.

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Photo of Minkybut
3.44/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured this big beer from the bottle to a 50 degree tumbler. Very black beer with a tan head that did not stay around long. Smokey smell and taste with roasted malts and burnt peat overtones. A very complex brew in my opinion. Very high alcohole and I thought a bit of a burn on the after gulp. Interesting brew that if you like super heavy brews you should try. A bit tight for me and I do noth hink I will buy again.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.46/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter, 2011 Classic Release.

A very large head and classic cocoa like light brown head is formed. Head has got some staying power. Body is a good dark nearly black super dark brown appearance of classic walnut. Very nice sheeny lacing that is spotty with a hint of legs. Very nice looking beer here.

First whiff and bouquet is a shock. That smell first is manure, earthy, and not in a pleasant this is great terroir way. This smells like (you know). Afterwards is a whisp of airy malt and roast but some dry spices. Earthy feeling subsides a bit, but the first whiff was not pleasant but seems to disappear in the background. Pouring more and opening it up brings back what I call "the stench".

Taste is odd. Salty. In fact it is EXTREMELY salty, with hints of roast and malt burnt character. Burnt char on the swallow and much taste of carbon as well. Body is a little wet which is surprising for the high ABV. More sips lets the salty jerky meat quality subside, bringing out this bigger carbon like palate.

This is quite a disappointment but it's so far the biggest char tasting Russian Imperial I've had to date. However, it seems like I've had so many better ones before I just can't see what the big deal is. Where's the variety? Where's the punch? Where's the body? Where is that so called angry Stone kick? Not here... this is not for me at all.

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Photo of bruachan
3.46/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

this is a "limited early summer 2004 release". don't remember where i picked it up

not even going to bother talking about the appearance

super sweet, dextrinous aroma. some deeply roasted malts play around too, but it's mostly sweet that i smell. i would have expected the flavors and mouthfeel to be more melded and muted, but the heat is still there. it transitions right into the bitterness, too, which is a little odd. i get some oaky vanilla, but nothing like the yeti that actually spent time in oak

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Photo of bfirkin45
3.46/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Very dark black. Tan, brown head lingers shortly and then dissipates. Wish it lingered longer.

Smell: Roasted malt, caramel, toffee, licorice, and chocolate aromas.

Taste: I get a smooth caramel taste with licorice and fruit undertone. Even and mellow complex flavors.

Mouthfeel: Alcohol comes out as it warms. Carbonation is light, and over smoothness of lingering and after taste.

Overall: Not one of my favorites. I have aged it over 6 months so far and the flavors have changed... just not for the better in my opinion. Heavy licorice flavor almost. More of an English RIS with low hop profiles. Good but not great.

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Photo of Sorgasm
3.47/5  rDev -20%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

a - dark as night with a thick mocha head.

s - "is that beef jerky?" smokey as hell.

t - pretty straight forward. good flavor, but lacking the complexities i would expect from a truly exceptional imp stout.

m - thick n creamy; true to style.

d - nothing that dark and strong can ever be considered a session beer, but for the style it is very drinkable.

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Photo of goblue3509
3.48/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Pours a dark cola color with no light able to get through. There is a brownish head that is thick and gives way to some moderate lacing. The smell is of roasted malts with a hint of chocolate and a slight alcohol smell. The taste is of chocolate tones with a roasted malt backbone, the taste mask the alcohol fairly well, however, the taste of alcohol becomes more prevelant the more you consume this beer. The mouthfeel was silky yet a little slick, the alcohol presence i thought was felt more through the mouthfeel than the taste. Overall it is a very good beer, however, after consuming more and more I began to notice the mouthfeel coming out more and more along with the alcohol, overall a solid good beer.

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Photo of nightwing002
3.49/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2010 22 oz poured into a Bruery tulip glass

A - poured black jet black into glass with a nice one finger brown head. head dissipated fairly quickly and laced nicely on glass.

S - smelled of chocolate, burnt coffee, and some alcohol

T - first thought was very bitter coffee taste that gave way to an acidic taste. very warm feeling from the alcohol. got a little better as it came to room temp.

M - decent carbonation that gave a nice mouth feel

D - good for a stout, but seemed like it would benefit from a bit of aging. definitely a sipper in its current state. i couldn't finish this by myself. i will try an 09 bottle soon to see if aging will make a difference.

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Photo of biking4beer
3.5/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bomber split with a friend and poured into a pint glass.

This beer is black, black. No light gets through. Poured aggressively and still only ended up with a slight tan head that dissipates to a whisp. Decent lacing.

Good aromas with this one. Roasted malts, coffee, chocolate. Chocolate, probably dark, is the big one here.

Taste is of ths same. Dark chocolate is the predominant flavor, but it's almost too sweet. Very bitter. Burnt/roasted malts. Coffee/espresso. Too bitter in the finish. Alcohol is very prevalent.

The carbonation is low. It's a very creamy beer, and thick, but not thick for an Impy Stout. I found it rather thin for the style.

Drinkability is definitely low. I'm glad I had someone to share this bomber with. I even had a hard time getting down my half. I have few more bottles of this, and I probably won't even touch another one for a year. Normally I would wait six months, but I had the same experience with a 6 month old 06 on tap. This one is not ready to be enjoyed in my opinion.

I did have some Green & Black's 70% Dark Chocolate with this beer (after my notes). It definitely helped quell the bitterness, but the alcohol remained. I typically like both those characteristics in a beer, but it's too much in this one right now.

I'll revisit this review after some aging.

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Photo of Derek
3.5/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

A: Pours like used motor oil (that's AWESOME). Black, slight redish tinge, tan head... a little retention, lace.

S: Burnt, fruity, bready.

T: Bitter, roasted, tar, molases, black currents. Certainly some depth to the flavour. Bold hop bitterness, initially slightly sweet, with a dry, sherry-like finish that's quite bitter. Did I mention it's bitter?

M: Thick, syrupy.

D: I find it a little harsh.

An interesting brew. Currently rated #2... but I think it'll start to fall as the hop heads come off their Bitter Blitz.

Thanks Len!

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Photo of BabaJohn
3.5/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Looked great in the snifter with lots of carbonation clinging to the sides and a thick tan head, though this faded fast, as expected. Aroma was of sweet caramel, chocolate and molasses, with the characteristic roast and coffee smells as well. At first taste, earthy flavors in the front of the mouth gave way quickly to malty chocolate, followed by strong alcoholic warmth and a bit of herbal hop finish. I found that the malt intensity could be slightly overwhelming and out of balance (how else did they get a 10.8?) If I were Stone I would knock down the gravity just a bit to even things out. My drinkability rating was particularly low as I'm not inspired to knock this one back due to the combined alcoholic slap in the face and the overwhelming maltiness. Still, this is a very respectable and tasty beer in the style.

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Photo of SmangTown
3.51/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

L- Very dark almost black color. Brownish tan colored head and little bit of lacing that goes away.
S- Very boozy. A little roasty with hints of coffee
T- Boozy with mild notes of toasted coffee. Kind of bitter compared to some stouts I've had.
F- light with mild carbonation.
Overall- average at best. I'd recommend for trying an imperial Russian stout. Easy to drink but nothing special. Wasn't a fan of how boozy it was.

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Photo of ptykozoon
3.51/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours pretty close to jet black, no head left and the thinnest frothy circle around the glass.

A lot of dark fruit - raisins, plum. Cinnamon, dark chocolate, brown sugar.

Taste is bitter coffee and dark chocolate. Smoky cinnamon. Abrasive.

Mouthfeel is crisper than I'd prefer for a beer of this type, very light and airy. ABV tastes around 10%.

I am not sure if the years have really added to the taste. Still a good beer but a bit rough around the edges. It could use more fruit or delicacy to balance out the heat and harshness.

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Photo of dutesanch
3.52/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Poured a 2015 from the bottle into my 16oz Stone logo snifter. Not for me I guess. A little watery and lacked the taste I expected considering how highly regarded it was. Maybe age helps. Smells great though.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.53/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottles courtesy of thetomG and akbeerfiend. Thanks guys!

From a bomber into a snifter

APPEARANCE: A black pour creates a two finger, thicker looking tan head with good retention. Jet black body with zero carbonation evident. Head slowly fades to a good wisp with a bit of lacing clinging to the sides .A ring remains and leaves some dots of lacing after every sip. Good looking brew.

SMELL: Roasted malt, caramel malt, and some pure chocolate. Touches of licorice and dark malts as well. Medium strength.

TAST: Big roasted flavor, caramel and dark malts, with hints of black licorice and dark chocolate. Aftertaste is bold but quick, with lots of roasted flavors in there, some dark malts and coffee notes. Bitter-sweet finish and the alcohol is well hidden. Decently bold enough flavors. Good, but not great.

PALATE: Medium-full body with medium carbonation. Semi-creamy on the palate, goes down fine with a bit of a prickle after the swallow. Finishes rather dry on the palate.

OVERALL: I can definitely see why this is considered a classic, but don't think it measures up to some of the stouts that have followed it. A good aroma and taste profile, but certainly doesn't stand out next to some of the others on the market. A brew I'll have again if I find it, but I don't need to seek it out again. Interested to see how the other bottle ages though. Will update this review in a couple years. Thanks for this one boys.

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Photo of keithmurray
3.53/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - jet black with a bit of mocha head

smell - roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate, tobacco, vanilla bean

taste - hops, dark chocolate, vanilla bean, booze, roasted coffee bean

mouthfeel - loads of carbonation upffront, the booze is readily apparent, full bodied beverage, has more hops than i'd prefer from an RIS

overall - this is a pretty good and reasonably priced RIS ($5.49 for a 22oz)

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Stone Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing
4.34 out of 5 based on 8,337 ratings.
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