Bring Out Your Dead
Bellwoods Brewery

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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #70
Ranked #1,070
4.36 | pDev: 8.72%
Bellwoods Brewery
Ontario, Canada
Notes: This decadent imperial stout was transferred to cognac barrels after a long primary fermentation. Aged for just over a year in the barrel, this velvety brew is one serious piece of work. Upgraded by our brewers this year to have a slightly lighter body and more pronounced barrel and original contents character.
Reviews: 36 | Ratings: 136 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of superspak
4.33/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got in a BIF from Coronaeus. 500 ml bottle into snifter, 2018 vintage. Pours dense pitch black color with a 2 finger dense and rocky dark tan head with fantastic retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Dense soapy lacing clings on the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation. Fantastic appearance. Aromas of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, licorice, raisin, prune, cherry, fig, date, apricot, cognac, toasted oak, red grape/wine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, and dark bread/crust; with lighter notes of oaken vanilla, smoke, charcoal, leather, tobacco, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/toast/oaky earthiness. Minimal booze in the aromas as it warms. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of dark/black/roast/bready malts, cognac barrels, and light-moderate fruity yeast/earthy hop notes; with big strength. Taste of huge dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, licorice, raisin, prune, cherry, fig, date, apricot, cognac, toasted oak, red grape/wine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, and dark bread/crust; with lighter notes of oaken vanilla, smoke, charcoal, leather, tobacco, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/toast/oaky earthiness. Light herbal, grassy, woody, peppery, roast, charred bitterness; and cognac tang/tartness on the finish. Lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, licorice, raisin, prune, cherry, fig, date, apricot, cognac, toasted oak, red grape/wine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, dark bread/crust, vanilla, smoke, charcoal, leather, tobacco, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/toast/oaky earthiness on the finish for a while. Amazing complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/black/roast/bready malts, cognac barrels, and light-moderate fruity yeast/earthy hop flavors; with an awesome roast/hop bitter/sweet, and tart/tangy cognac balance; with no cloying, acrid, astringent flavors after the finish. Lightly increasing dryness from lingering hop/char bitterness and tart/tangy cognac barrel notes after the finish. Medium carbonation and fairly full body; with a very smooth, creamy/silky/velvety/bready, fairly sticky/chalky/acidic/tangy/tannic, and lightly slick mouthfeel that is great. Lightly increasing warmth of 11.4%, with minimal lingering barrel booze after the finish. Overall this is an amazing cognac barrel aged Russian imperial stout. All around incredible complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/black/roast/bready malts, cognac barrels, and light-moderate fruity yeast/earthy hop flavors; very smooth and dangerously easy to sip on for the huge ABV, with the mellowly bitter/charred/acidic/tangy/tannic/drying finish. Great soft feel. Amazing balance between super rich malts and cognac barrel presence/integration; with nice earthy hop presence, and restrained fruity yeast complexity. Light residual sweetness with lingering dryness. A highly enjoyable offering, and amazingly spot on style example as expected.

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Photo of Beersnake1
4.29/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2017 vintage poured from fridge temp. This one pours jet black with a nice light brown head. Nose is chocolate, cognac, licorice, and wood. Taste is really interesting. A lot of black licorice, but also some clove notes, cognac, cherries, wood, lactose, toffee, dark chocolate, and some sweet candy. This really tastes interesting, and I really like how the cognac barrel has added a new dimension. Not something that I often taste. The back end and aftertaste is a bit bitter, but that's fine with me. I kind of get a coffee ground taste in my mouth. Mouthfeel is thick and viscous. Overall, I love it.

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Photo of Holderness
4.07/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2018 vintage

L -- Easily one of the darkest beers I've ever seen: not only does 1,000 lumens not pass through the glass, but it barely passes through the edge of the glass it is being shined on. Finger of deep brown head produced with moderately aerated pour. Decent retention and good lacing
S -- Cognac comes through big time. Also espresso, bittersweet chocolate, herbal hop, hint of roast, booze. Booze is a bit harsh
T -- Largely follows the nose. The heavy cognac character carries over from the aromas and imparts this lightly tart cherry/grapeskin-like character that melds pretty well with the intense bitter chocolate character from the malts. You can definitely tell the base beer is a bruiser RIS
F -- Thick and silky. Minimal carb. The cognac lingers on the finish
O -- Reminds me a bit of the barrel aged Pannepot variants given the light fruity tartness the cognac imparts. A good brew although not worth the $23 spent on a 16.9 oz bottle


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Photo of Mysticmage
4.49/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A special beer for special occasions - why not Christmas!
Pours dark of night - think, viscious oil will make your heart quiver. Thick like caramel coffee this one offers zero collar due to intense density here but swirled in a tulip for some froth. Would have preferred a bit of collar here but can make an exception for this chewy brew. Nose is quite complex. Rich coffee, chocolate gravelly goodness. Gunpowder earth will repel many drinkers but stick with this one. Tried at various temperatures and incredible how the beer evolves - warmer likely better here. Cognac soaked barrels only add to the fun here offer sweet atumnal overtones to take you on a dizzing ride. Tastes of strong brewed coffee, wood chips, with excellent syrupy, sugary finish to provide a chewy, complex mouthful. Now, at 11.4% unless you are enjoying with friends this one will cripple you and is far to dense to enjoy it all at once. So here is what I did....I treated it like a wine. Enjoyed two small glasses with a friend (who hated it btw) and then capped it and withdrew the oxygen. Tried again the next day - good as new! So, you can enjoy this one over several days with the right equipment and at $16 a bottle...why not! A wonderful brew by what appears to be a great brewery however really for the experienced. The inexperienced will detest every sip I sense and give up. This beer require patience, calmness, a fire and feet up. This is one to be savoured and when I did I was not ready to die by any means but love another day for more. Well done Bellwoods!

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Photo of Treyliff
4.46/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2017 Vintage
550ml bottle poured into a tulip

A- pours jet black in color with a one-finger creamy dark brown head that has good retention and leaves some lacing behind

S- plenty of cognac barrel on the nose, notes of dark fruits, leather, nutty, some floral notes & oak. Undertones of charred malt, chocolate & light earthy coffee

T- classic RIS flavors up front, intense dark charred malt, figs & chocolate. Barrel character comes out mid-palate with some vinous notes, as well as figs, pepper & tobacco. The finish continues with the barrel and lingers of dark charred malt

M- medium body with moderate carbonation leads to a creamy mouthfeel that continues into a silky smooth, slightly warming finish

O- an outstanding base beer with plenty of cognac qualities from the extensive barrel aging, outstanding

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Photo of Ciocanelu
4.25/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sample at Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen 2018, Yellow Session.Dark brown color. Aroma has dark malts and a bit of sugar. Taste is malty, balanced with roasty bitterness on the finish. Decent but lacks some complexity.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.49/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This one pours a fairly dark black, with a small head, and basically no lacing.

This smells like heavy roast, with vinous cognac, some nuttiness, chocolate, and oak.

Like most Bellwoods barrel aged beers, the barrel is nicely integrated into the beer, and not incredibly dominant. There's a killer oak character here, with a little bit of cognac. The cognac adds a fruity vinousness. There's a little bit of vanilla, and a lot of dark chocolate. This is like a super complex truffle.

This is medium bodied, chewy but not exceptionally thick. It's a definite sipper.

Bellwoods describes this as decadent- and that's definitely an apt description.

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Photo of Smakawhat
4.46/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a Bellwoods stemglass at the Brewpub. Vintage 2015 Cognac.

Classic walnut brown body, nearly black but also with some red edges towards the head. Minimal head creation, but very dark mocah brown with a faint same colored collar. Subsequent pours make a bigger collar but fleeting head as well, but it's a great mix of dark head and lighter colored body than anticipated. Great looking stout.

Aroma is a great spot on take on barrel aging. Creamy hints of vanilla and hazelnuts at first, with excellent brandy and woody warm aromas. Light controlled roast faint dark chocolate, and kirsch more cherry qualities but with a controlled boozy character. Big rich and bodacious.

Palate continues to bring the goods. Creamy nuts on the mid palate with a mild round oaky flavor. Heated kirsch warmth, almost more like mule wine but with richer brandy tones. Light dark cocoa powder, some of the flavors are taken back by a hint of faint fizz on the mouthfeel but still manages a silky texture without any problem.

A great barrel aged stout, and EXCELLENT cognac one as well. Very impressive.

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Photo of bobv
4.46/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark mocha head.
S:Bitter chocolate and then milk chocolate as it warms.
T: Follows nose to a "T."
F: Velvet!
O: Please, please, please; may I have another?

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Photo of polloenfuego
4.24/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a deep black with a thin head that doesn't last, but does provide some nice lacing. Smell is sweet and you can pick up the barrel nicely. It's a not overpowering but instead quite pleasant. Flavor is spot on. A touch of sweet, the base stout provides some coffee and some cocoa and then the barrel comes in warm and tasty. Cognac is the perfect barrel for this beer. Feel is medium to heavy in body, lower carbonation, and a sweet almost sticky finish.

I've had this both aged and fresh (this review) and I prefer it fresh. Aged brings the barrel too far forward and results in a headache in a glass. Fresh is a beautiful balance of base and barrel that leaves you wanting more.

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Photo of akdo
4.7/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I had a pint of this Imperial Stout aged in barrels of cognac at Bar Volo in Toronto. It was on tap.

Look: The beer was pitch black with a one-finger high tan head. Unfortunately, the head dies out quickly as you are smelling the beer and ends up being a creamy crown. Moreover, as we drink the beer leaves a few marks on the glass.

Smell: The nose is very strong is akin to light chocolate and lightly roasted coffee beans. All in all, we barely feel the alcohol in the malt profile, which is like a sweet cognac stripped of its alcoholic warmth.

Taste: The palate is a replay of the aromas. The taste of cognac barrels is very well hidden in the sweetness of the dominant notes of chocolate and low-key notes of lightly roasted coffee beans. Despite the sweetness provided by the beer's being aged in barrels of cognac for one year, the beer never tastes like milk chocolate.

Feel: The beer is medium-bodied as the notes of chocolate combined with lightly roasted coffee beans and cognac confer a nice and light sweetness. Although dry, the finish is not astringent, which makes this beer surprisingly drinkable despite its 13% ABV. Moreover, like any excellent Imperial Stout, this beer has an alcoholic warmth that can be felt in the chest.

Overall: I would recommend this beer! However, the only reservation I have was with the head retention, which I would love to see last much longer. Other than that, I love the combination of cognac, chocolate and coffee beans in the taste. In fact, the cognac acts like a sweetener rather than an overpowering element.

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Photo of mctizzz
4.43/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours beautifully black with a nice Espresso head. Smell is roasty/smoke with a sweetness that I'm guessing comes from the congac barrel. Feels nice and chewy. Taste is first fudgey, then Espresso, then smokey, but ends a little burnt. Overall really good, but dialing down the smoke at the end would do wonders.

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Photo of mmapes
4.18/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

2014 vintage bottle, opened in November 2015. Poured into a goblet. Inky black, small tan head. Not sure what straight cognac would smell like, but we get distilled spirits. Hints of chocolate and fig. Maybe a little earth. Luscious rich mouthfeel, dark fruit like raisins or prunes, with a smoky or woody finish. Drying astringent finish - not my favorite finish, but great for the style. (Thanks to Andrew for the trade!)

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Photo of kevinlater
4.38/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

4oz sample at bar hop's "greatest hits" event. pitch black with dark brown head. standard imperial stout nose (roast, chocolate, coffee) with a touch of cognac. more cognac in the nose as it warms up. the taste has loads more cognac -- it is roasty, licorice-y, and chocolatey in the front, and then the cognac takes over mid-palate to the finish. notes of jam-like prunes, figs, raisins too. medium-plus mouthfeel. truly a "wow" beer

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Photo of hoppymcgee
4.38/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This review is for the 2014 vintage; 12.2% ABV.

L: Really dark; viscous; just the right amount of creamy head.

S: Cognac! Sweet cherry licorice.

T: Not so sweet! Almonds, vanilla, swiss mocha. Roasty, but not acrid (like a properly roasted coffee).

F: Body holds up to the ABV.

O: A tasty beer that does not show its ABV.

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Photo of CantankerousCaveBear
4.5/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 Vintage

Aromas of the typical RIS spectrum, dark fruit, roasted malts, molasses, baker's chocolate, caramel, with an oaky/tannic presence. I can detect the Cognac. Tastes precisely what it smells like, with some espresso notes, rich malts. Has a persistent sweetness, without going into milk stout territory. I would characterize it as being on the drier side of things though. The dried fruits from the cognac barrel are apparent, as is an almost 'woodsy' spirit like taste. There is a spicy component as well. Very viscous, the smoke, earthy and peaty notes make it an even more robust experience. I don't know what cognac barrel was procured for this beer, but older brandy tends to be woody and spicier, whereas younger variants are floral, and more subtle in their fruitiness. This is a marvelous stout. The guys from Ossington are doing great stuff. Even more sublime on tap. This is on equal footing with KBS and BCBS, make no mistake.

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Photo of SebD
4.29/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 Vintage

Appearance: It has a nice jet black color to it. It has a nice thick creamy tan head that dies down moderately slow and leaves some lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of cognac, sweet dark fruit, molasses, chocolate, roasted malts and some oak.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has some cognac, sweet dark fruit, molasses, dark chocolate, light coffee, roasted malts and oak.

Mouthfeel: It has a low carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied by great flavors and aromas.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of andrenaline
4.4/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Props to Pino for the stellar trade... A perfect celebratory brew in honour of the birth of our son.
A - pours pitch black, thin layer of dark mocha head, some retention and no real lacing.
S - burnt oak, dark roast coffee, leather, burnt chocolate and sweet candied alcohol notes.
T - loads of flavor, molasses, black licorice, dark cocoa, sweet cognac booziness comes through nicely, leafy green hop notes linger alongside roasted coffee and burnt chocolate.
M - Medium bodied, smooth and a touch of stickiness. ABV is very well hidden.
O - It's everything it's cracked up to be and more. A worthy celebratory ale and super stoked to have gotten my hands on a bottle.

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Photo of Corson
4.41/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to Coronaeus for the bottle! Bottle # 924/2100, 2014 edition poured into a tulip. Poors thick black with a sliver of bronze head that quickly diminishes to nothing. Instant woody cognac smell with chocolatly, liquorice smell. Taste is very similar to the smell, cognac comes out strong with some liquorish, chocolate tones with a bit of fruity undertone. Had a bit of a bitter after taste and is quite thin. Don't know where the 12.2% abv is hiding, but as I'm drinking more of the 500ml bottle I'm realizing their not lying and it's in there. Overall this is a great beer, really excited I got to try this and I've got some other Bellwoods stuff to try. Wish had another one of these to sit on and try in a year or two.

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Photo of AugustusRex
2.36/5  rDev -45.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Had on tap at the brewpub. Really enjoyed the 5 oz pour.

Bottled Version (500mL)
Looks syrupy and black. Reminds me of pu-erh tea mixed with engine oil. Looks like poison.

Smells like cognac and strong roast, notes of peat.

Tastes like ashes soaked in alcohol. Surprisingly very dry.

Almost undrinkable.

Looks like I have one for trade.

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Photo of FondueVoodoo
4.43/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 Edition

Velvety smooth with no alcohol presence. Notes of chocolate, coffee and some dark fruits all balanced with some cognac and wood barrel notes. Slight bitterness on the finish. Another incredible Bellwoods offering.

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Photo of Luisc94
4.75/5  rDev +8.9%

Served from bottle 1370 of 2100 in to a snifter.

A: as Black as the inside of a coffin at midnight. Dark Tan 1 finger hear.

S: Instant Cognac with some Chocolate and Licorice. Roasted malts with Dark fruit undertones. really Balanced.

T: Similar to the Smell, allot of Cognac and dark Chocolate, Some dark Coffee and the dark under tone fruits. Dark chocolate is more noticeable but still very balanced.

M: I can only describe it as creamy deliciousness.Not as thick as Hellwoods or Skeleton key but very well incorporated in t he beer. there is some slight bitterness at the end but balanced with the slight sweetness it has.

O: One of my favorite beers I,ve ever tastes. Magnificent. If you ever come to Toronto visit Bellwoods brewery Toronto. Definitely a world class brewery. Characterized with their brett beer and barrel aged greatness.

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Photo of DaveBar
4.37/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Purchased at Bellwoods for $22.00 500ml bottle. Number 131 born in April of 2013. Served at 6deg C in a tulip but it warmed up well

A- 4.25- Super black no head at all. Very dark.

S- 4.75- Almost perfect. The cognac barrels shine through here. Lots of chocolate and malt

T- 4.25- Excellent. Just a touch better than Founder's Oatmeal Breakfast Stout with cognac hints. Just was not left in the barrel long enough

M-4.25- Creamy good. Very heavy and meaty.

O- 4.25- Excellent. Imagine the next try will get the barrels down right.

Food Pairing

I didn't have anything to eat there this time. Maybe next time. Sure would go well with a nice beef stew


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Photo of mick303
4.37/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Reserve bottle from April 2013, enjoyed July 2014. Poured into a wine glass, thick pitch black with a good dark tan lacing. Smell has got a lot of barrel cognac character, boozy plums, pick up a lot of sweet sherries character, cherries, roasty dark chocolate, some raw brown sugar to it, quite a bit if sweetness to it.
Taste is a full on experience of dark intense roasty stout with a sweetness from the cognac barrels. Dark chocolate, sugary raisins, cranberry, plums, roasty malt, red currents, with a strong oaky undertone. Quite a sweet and vanilla character to it, raw sugariness to it, with a definite dark roast chocolate malt combined with some strong sugared fruit cognac, great complexity and valance with a nuanced and tasty barrel character. Mouthfeel has some drying alcohol to it, but overall a good hearty balanced stout character with a coating oakiness. Delicious with a great balance, a bit sweet but that's the only fault, so complex and tasty.

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Photo of biegaman
4.73/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bring Out Your Dead looks as though it were spawned by Satan himself. It's not just dark, it is utter darkness. Even its head is coloured like rust and looks like broken fragments of clay pottery as it capsizes in the middle and drifts towards the side of the glass. Fascinating.

Poorly executed barrel-aged beers are nauseating. Properly executed barrel-aged beers are enchanting. This one is a dream - it marries the cocoa and coffee flavours of stout with the vanilla- and caramel-accented notes of flowers and dried fruits of cognac. My Spidey-senses tell me this is the beginning of a masterpiece.

The flavour has enough roasted malt to extinguish even the strongest chocolate cravings. Dark chocolate, anyhow. There's very little sweetness to this beer, only the traces of golden raisin and dried cherries inferred by alcohol esters. Otherwise it's black espresso and fudge all the way.

Any beer of double-digit strength - let alone one as dark as this and aged in cognac barrels - is sure to dehydrate you pretty quickly. All it took was a few sips to dry my mouth out; the oak isn't tasted so much as felt. Ditto for the alcohol. Still, the beer has the composure of a seeing-eye dog and is smooth as the baby Jesus' bottom.

It's a shame I haven't another bottle because this is a prime candidate for aging; it is exactly the kind of structured, substantial and special stout to build your cellar around. It is a super big beer made in an ultra small batch. Bellwoods would be crazy not to try to replicate this again; even a beer half as good would be worth the $12/bottle I paid for this.

When I first tried this fresh I thought it might be one of the best barrel-aged stouts I'd ever had. Trying it again half a year later I can now confirm that; more of the cognac features have come to the fore, adding increased complexity to an already rich and masterfully accomplished beer. Bring Out Your Dead, ironically enough, brings about the true pleasure in living.

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Bring Out Your Dead from Bellwoods Brewery
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 136 ratings