't Smisje Great Reserva | Brouwerij Smisje

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't Smisje Great Reserva't Smisje Great Reserva

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Smisje

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
Catherine the Great Imperial Stout aged in Cognac barrels.

Added by Gueuzedude on 01-03-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 27 | Ratings: 38
Photo of John_M
4.32/5  rDev +22%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled today at Max's during 72 hours.

The beer pours a slight hazy brown color with good head retention and lacing. The nose is impressive, with coffee, chocolate, vanilla and smoke. This is a very fine smelling beer. Flavors replicate the nose, with the spice and smoke balancing the sweetness very nicely. Both the nose and the flavor profile are hugely impressive, with a boatload of flavor. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a long finish. Alcohol is well disguised, and this beer is remarkably drinkable for its abv.

Another very nice effort from the folks at Smisje.

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Photo of patmcd
4.32/5  rDev +22%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I really didn't know much about 't Smisje, and almost passed on the great opportunity until I went to my favorite brew shop and the sales associate very excitedly told me 1) ONE case was imported to the entire state and 2) It's aged in Cognac barrels. My only regret was not buying a second bottle.

I was a bit hesitant to buy it initially, because it was a ridiculously hot summer day and I didn't want an extremely dark and heavy imp stout that I usually associate with the winter time. However, I was informed that Belgium Imp. Stouts aren't typically like their American/Russian counterparts, and they are actually pretty translucent and lighter brown in color.

12oz bottle into poured into a snifter.

As now expected poured in a dark brown, with a noticeably burnt sienna/red accent. Poured a nice thick, creamy beige head which left lacing all the way down to the bottom. The head settled to a neat 1 finger thick.

On the nose the aroma of the alcohol of the cognac definitely shined through with hints of vanillay-oak and dark chocolates.

On the Palette, the cognac is certainly a featured element which lends it sweet to a semi-sweet, luxurious caramel a hazelnut. I also detect a hint of tart berries. The stout wasn't overloaded with bittery hops, which really let the intricacies of this brew reveal themselves. Sip slowly, because there is much to experience. There is an appreciated mild and cutting alcohol burn that lingers in your throat, but I enjoyed it as if I was drinking a cognac.

This was extremely smooth, and in terms for imp stouts light and silky.

Sipping on this beer on a late summer night, was one of the most relaxing beer experiences I've had in a long time while drinking a beer. I must find more.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.32/5  rDev +22%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

't Smisje Catherine the Great Imperial Stout Man Cognac Barrels. (Wait, that doesn't make sense.)

't Smisje Great Reserva, brewed & bottled by Smisje, Oudenaarde, Belgium. No other information. Except, 10% Alc/Vol.

Well, let's find out what it is by drinking it, shall we?

Dark brown body, small, cocoa-tinged head on top, slims down to a tight ring.

Aroma: Ooooh! Aaaah! That's whiskey-up, people! Deep, dark, dank, rich, ridiculous! Maple, licorice, molasses, vanilla, and the darkest chocolate. Incredibly indulgent. Bourbon and brandy are running rampant here. Whoa.

Taste: Pow! Alcohol is not hiding, fairly prominent, practically biggish. Getting bigger, rising higher, getting stronger. Full-bodied, but not quite as full as I'd like to keep up with every other big thing in this beer. Large amount of sweetness here, terrific bourbon-y flavor.

What's the base beer? I can't say, but it's not evident, doesn't show, it's pretty much covered by the barrel-aging. Not that I care too much, it's terrifically tasty. Oh, it's just damned delicious.

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Photo of ToasterChef
4.2/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from my notes. The notes are based upon a 6oz pour from one of a trio of bottles shared among the patrons of the Lion's Pride last night. The Great Reserva is a version of the Catherine the Great aged for six months on cognac barrels. It has a dark brown color and a single finger of light brown foam. It is translucent, with a very dark center, but I can see some light sneaking in around the edges. It is most important to note that this does not look at all like I expected a big barrel-aged stout to look. Smisje can make a world class stout that doesn't look anything like it's American counterparts. There is a slightly funky, sweet smell. I didn't pick up on as much of the cognac as I thought I would. The flavor has some sweet toffee malts. I can taste some of the cognac, but again, it's not excessive. The amout of alcohol is very good and doesn't overwhelm or distract. It has a medium body (again, not like most big stouts I'm familiar with) and medium carbonation. There is plenty of alcohol and carbonation in each swallow to tickle my tongue. It doesn't have much mouthcoating; it is more of a cloud of estery vapors that I can feel after I swallow. I certainly wouldn't call this a session beer, but for a high ABV Belgian stout aged in cognac barrels, it is remarkably drinkable. If you are lucky enough to see a bottle of this beer, buy it!

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.91/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy dark brown with a big, frothy crème head. Nose is a tangerine or apricot kind of thing with the expected dark sugar tones. Flavor is oddly smoked, like a rauch. Kind of that meaty and bacon thing you get from the German styles. But there's also that Belgian ale character at the same time. Feel is full with carbonation. Liquid is typical. A nice hearty ale. Interesting and different types of character, but a good one to drink.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.9/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A soft, careful pour in to my 25cl tulip glass still sees my glass filling up with four fingers of head and then an additional finger rises above the rim of my glass threatening to over flow. The head is a tan color with a varied, rocky surface. The beer is a dark amber, well brown color that shows a lightly hazed, red color when held up to the light. The aroma is fruity, quite spicy and actually quite nice. I think that a lot of the rich fruitiness is derived from the Cognac barrels; notes of cherry, a touch of strawberry, sweet currant notes and a nice, concentrated raisin note. Pepper like spice, some clove, and some woody allspice as well as a tannic black tea like character add complexity to the nose, which is otherwise quite fruit dominated.

Spicy and well carbonated peppery notes greet my tongue up front. The beer softens a bit as it rolls across the tongue with a touch of cocoa and a dark fruitiness. Brandy soaked raisin flavors, concentrated plum, and some complex fig notes seem to capture the fruit flavors here. There is a touch of chalky, cocoa and toasted caramel character to the finish of this beer. The toasted character also takes on a wood-like note as well as adding some nuttiness to the flavor. I like how light bodied this beer is for a 10% abv beer; there is just enough heft to this beer, but it is far too quaffable to be safe. The nutty flavors really become quite a bit more pronounced as this beer warms up a bit. There is a touch of tartness here as well, it boosts the fruit character a bit and reminds me just a bit of tamarind.

This beer has seriously mellowed compared to the non-barrel aged version, the roast character plays a much lesser role here and the off-flavors of the base beer are not to be found here (thank goodness). This is actually quite tasty and I really like the boosted fruit character that the Cognac barrel added to this beer.

Purchased: Plaza Liquors, Tucson AZ

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Photo of Viciousknishs
3.82/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- pours a burnt orange russet color with two fingers of off white head. Ok head retention.

S- Man, if ya like cognac you should be all over this brew. Overwhelming musty oak, cognac(there it is again) and rich topsoil tones pretty much characterize the aroma. Some cherry pit and very heady alcohol hit the nose on the finish.

T- substantial cognac flavor dominates this brew with notes of musty oak, cherry pit and sugary fig. Lots o' alcohol heat on the back end that somehow works quite well. Earthy finish with some maltiness and booze lingering in the palate.

MF- sugary slick mouthfeel. Thick body with an active carb that seem to simmer down as you sip.

D- one hell of a sipper. Although its only 10 percent it drinks almost like a spirit.

Overall a very interesting beer. Wish the beer had held up to the barrel.

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Photo of ColForbinBC
3.79/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

11.2oz bottle poured into a snifter, split with Keanlacrosse

The body pours an ice tea color with a thin off white cap. Not much retention or lacing. The nose is of sticky caramel, candied granny smith apples, pear skins, oak tannins, and cognac. Light earth, leather, and tobacco poke through as it warms. On the palate, oak tannins, caramel, and candied tart apple skins hit first. Caramel, earth, leather, toffee, and tobacco notes come through before a finish that is sweet and tart. Alcohol warming is hugely present, making this an ideal sipper. Medium body with minimal carbonation. This is an enjoyable after dinner sipper. Complex flavors and aromas and just plain tasty.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.75/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

Pours a dark, nearly opaque black-brown with a half-finger of bibbly, very light tan head that leaves little lacing behind. The smell is almost entirely wood, though some notes of smoke, brandy, coffe, and dark malts are also hanging around in the background. The taste is a bit if a step-up: the brandy and wood are still in good abundance, they allow the dark malts, figs, molasses, and brown sugar to share in more of the spotlight. The body is almost heavy, with light carbonation and a generally smooth feel. The relatively high ABV and thickness and the prevalence of the wood, though, keep the drinkability from climbing higher.

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Photo of metter98
3.7/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is cloudy brown in color and has a small head that's off white in color. Despite a very light amount of visible carbonation in the rising bubbles there is a good amount of head retention.
S: There aren't a lot of cognac aromas in the nose, which has more notes of chocolate and oak.
T: The cognac flavors are more pronounced in the taste and particularly stand out in the finish. There is some bitterness and notes of oak and pepper.
M: It feels light- to medium-bodied on the palate. The limited amount of carbonation makes this feel a bit thin and there is some alcohol burn.
D: The beer is easy to consume when it is sipped, although I'm not sure if I would have this again because I thought there would be a larger presence of cognac.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
3.66/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - a nice amber iced tea color, lots of pale mocha foam. Graduations of rings hit the glass as the head falls and holds at a quarter-inch.

Aroma - a nice sugary sweetness balanced with a good Belgian yeastiness.

Taste - mild malt influence. The abv heat is in force pretty quickly. The swallow has a mild tartness and bitterness. Some yeast on the swallow, the flavors working out together better after some warming.

Mouthfeel - a moderately crisp brew yet quite smooth. Not oily slick or anything but creamy and fulfulling.

Drinkability - a stiff nightcap, not quite as much flavor as I'd hoped for given the strength. Not a bad bottle of suds though.

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Photo of UnDeadly
3.65/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

11.2 oz bottle, Urthel snifter

Appearance - Strangely light-colored, a dark, burnt amber color. Pour with a moderate head, but no lacing. Pretty good retention though that hung in there for a good 10-15 minutes.

Smell - I guess it smells like cognac? I don't know, I don't drink the stuff myself. Slight notes of brown sugar and oak as well. It's nice, but relatively consistent and unremarkable.

Taste - Pretty nice, the flavors really came together as the beer warmed. Light notes of rum and milk chocolate came through the front, and then glide smoothly to the back with a buttery oak. There is very, very little bitterness to the beer that is only found in the aftertaste. Very late in the aftertaste I start getting cigar/tobacco notes as well.

Mouth Feel - Well carbonated, and this beer should definitely be consumed at warmer temperatures. I got a sting early on that went away. Very silky and buttery.

Drinkability - It would have been nice to have a larger bottle of the stuff, but oh well. I think this beer would be great with a smoke to be honest, and that is something I rarely even think about beers. Pretty high on the ABV, but overall pleasant.

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Photo of mikey711
3.62/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a bottle into a oversized wine glass. Heavily carbonated, filling up to the top with white foam on top of a dark murky brown. The lacing is pretty good as the foam sits on the sit of the glass nightly. It has a spice of alcohol that stings slightly. Good fruit notes, grapes likely from the cognac. Some yeast and earthy aromas arise as well. It tastes slightly and alcoholic. It is fruity, mostly grapes, with some dryness, a bit of woodiness, and bitterness. This beer could benefit from a little bit of age, but I actually enjoy the alcohol heat in this beer. The mouthfeel stings a bit from the cognac and there is a little acidity. Definately a sipper

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Photo of bluemoonswoon
3.56/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Editors note: I am going to be elaborating on this beer from notes, but here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Bottle says it is Catherine the Great imperial stout aged in cognac barrels but looks nothing like an imperial stout and pours out nothing like an imperial stout colorwise or headwise, massive head very lacy, does the barrel really impart these kinds of changes, I don't think so and it's listed as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale on the site. What gives?

2. For being aged in cognac barrels I don't really pick up on it at all, really more of a slightly sour, woody almost oxidized smell versus the sweetness I am used to from barrel aging.

3. Tastes is difficult to explain, lots of wood character, lots of oak mixed with a bit of funky sourness, grassiness and sweet grainy malts, finish is quite fruit and lingers for a long while after the beer is past. Feel and tastes nowhere near 10%.

4. A beer clouded in mystery, not quite sure what to make of it besides the fact that it is really like nothing I've encountered, certainly not what I was expecting but also not a appointment either.

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Photo of nUgZ
3.56/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

11.2 ounce bottle poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a dark amber color with a half finger head and minimal lacing.

S: Sour fruits and cognac. Sour.

T: Lots of cognac, oak, vanilla, and some fruity flavors. Again, sour. Alcohol is evident.

M: Medium bodied with light carbonation.

O: This is not my style, but it's not all that bad. More barrel evidence than there is of the base beer though.

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Photo of chicagobeerriot
3.56/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The label says imperial stout aged in cognac barrels. The taste says Belgian Quad. What is a reviewer to do?

Well, let's stick to the facts. Right out of the bottle, it's clear that this is not an imperial stout. It pours a cloudy bronze with yellow highlights at the edges. A thin off-white head develops, but beats a hasty retreat.

The smell is dark fruit, fig, caramel, biscuity malt and just a bit of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is medium-full with more carbonation than you would expect from a stout (but again, more in line with a Belgian quad).

The taste has many of the flavors that are present on the nose: caramel, toffee, cherry and biscuit. But there's also some wood/vanilla action going on here and some sweet alcohol warmth on the finish.

A very nice beer for warming up in front of the fire, and should pair quite nicely with pork belly or duck. Just be sure to ignore the "Imperial Stout" label.

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Photo of portia99
3.48/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

11.2oz bottle poured into a Brooklyn snifter. Classified here as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but the label proclaims it is an Imperial Stout aged in cognac barrels...we will see which it is.

A - Pours a very dirty dark brown with huge and obvious wisps of yeast swirling through the glass. Three fingers of dense tan head with oustanding staying power - pretty impressive for a 10% beer - a small amount of lacing left behind on the glass. The overall muddiness of the appearance detracts a bit here.

S - A bit fruity up front almost Grand Marnier like, a bit of lemon, some woody bite around the edges. Raisins, licorice, prunes, some alcohol round things out. Very unusual...some smells in there that definitely are unique in the beer realm.

T - Boozy, alcoholic in flavor up front. Strong woodiness throughout. A sharp bitterness in the middle with some unusual sourness on the edges. Still get some orangey citrus in this sourness. After the swallow some sweet caramel flavors creep in. Not at all what I was expecting out of this.

M - Medium/full bodied with medium carbonation too. Alcohol warmth and unusual combination of fruity flavors fills the mouth completely. Sweet caramel on the finish lingers into the aftertaste.

D - A very unique offering. Not entirely sure how I feel about this one...but leaning towards not liking. Not a drainpour (at least if you go in open-minded), but definitely not an easy drinker either. Don't think I'll be trying this one again. Glad to give it a shot, but this one is a bit out there for me.

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Photo of Radome
3.46/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Very cloudy, opaque medium brown. Maybe a hint of red in color. The head is off white and creamy, but not huge. This does not look at all like an imperial stout, more like a cloudy abbey ale.

S - Aroma like nothing I've smelled before and tough to describe. A mix of wood, smoke and something organic. The organic note is not sour like a wood-aged gueuze, but more like a "stinky cheese" in the background. None of the roastiness or alcohol I was expecting from an imperial stout.

T - Again, not like a imperial stout. Strong bitternness and alcohol burn are up front, then lots of wood and smoke. No roast coffee notes. Fairly one-dimensional, centered on the smoky wood flavor.

M - Mouthfeel a bit thin.

D - Unique, but too one-dimensional and over the top with smoke and wood for me (and usually I'm a big fan of both in a strong beer).

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Photo of Allpe45
3.4/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

11.2oz bottle

Appears cloudy, dark brown with reddish tints and a thick and monstrous tan head that delays the pour. Good retention and lacing. Smells like mold and aged cheese, some compost and bready malts. Tastes like dark fruit and sweet malts at first. It's very sweet throughout. The fruitiness fades away to reveal caramel, toffee, wood, and a touch of chocolate. A little bit of cognac in the end but the initial sweetness never goes away, causing a lingering dry finish. Medium-light bodied with low carbonation. I found it tasted much better than it smelled.
Interesting but not something I would seek out.

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Photo of popery
3.2/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

New batch, picked it up in August or so, I think. This beer pours a brownish amber. Though fairly hazy, it's still pretty easy to see through and looks lighter than expected. Very little head, just a ring of khaki bubbles after a few seconds. The aroma is heavy on the cognac in a rather indelicate manner. There's some nice sweetness and complexity in there, but it's behind a wave of vinous booze. Cocoa and Belgian earthiness are further in the background. Some caramel sweetness. The taste has similar faults. It's just a bit harsh. Fairly sweet, lots of wood, lots of cognac. Mouthfeel is heavy and a tad harsh, though fine, really. To be honest, it's started to grow on me, but I'm still not a big fan. I think they needed a lighter touch with the barrel-aging, but it might also just be a harsh base beer, to boot.

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Photo of corby112
3.15/5  rDev -11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a dark chestnut brown color that's completely opaque with amber edges and a one finger off-white head that settles into a lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lace left behind.

Boozy whiskey barrel aroma that slightly overpowers the characteristics of the base beer. Some dry oak, vanilla and toasted coconut along with a very prominent cognac/whiskey presence. Smells more like liquor than beer until it warms up considerably and the malt notes come forward.

Medium bodied with an explosion of hot, boozy whiskey that dominates the flavor, covering up almost everything from the base beer. All barrel character with dry oak, vanilla and a very strong cognac flavor. I like whiskey and the flavor is pretty good but it demolishes all of the other notes. It takes a while for the palate adjust and the other elements to come forward. Subtle hints of spicy rye, caramel and toffee. If you are a cognac/whiskey lover than you might enjoy it but it's very one dimensional and kind of boring.

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Photo of organicbrewer
3.12/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

a-ruby brown. Brilliantly clear with a huge khaki head.

s-slight peaty smoke. Not as impressive as the taste. rum soaked cherries. No hops.

t-Firmly bitter. light smokey phenols. A bit of alcohol. Almost like scotch.

m-Prickly carbonation. Slight alcohol burn, but ok for style. Some toasty malt.

d-I couldn't do more than one of these in a night. Good beer, but a lot going on. Between the phenols and alcohol, i can't have another.

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Photo of StJamesGate
3.05/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pours a not-viscous rosy brown with a fast-fading thing taupe head that leaves some trailers. Nose is leathery perfumed cognac notes with more than a bit of barrel funk. Earth, walnuts and unsweetened cocoa and maybe some prune, lots of harsh phenols, followed by some iodine woodiness then tobacco (as another review said) and mild winter spice plus straight bitterness to finish. Thin to medium, way hot, tinny. Calms down as it airs.

OK, right away I'm wondering what Catherine the Great is like to begin with, and I see it's not much of an RIS, so it's not a surprise that this is lightweight even for a BSDA.

Trouble here is that it doesn't seem they started with a beer that could stand up to barreling with something distinctive like cognac. So this too thin, too hot dark ale then gets clobbered by heavy booze notes, to ugly effect.

Far out of balance, and at 10%, a chore to drink.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
3.03/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Firstly, this is not an Imperial Stout in any respect. The brew pours a hazy mahogany-brown hue and is topped with a short-lived cap of tan froth that recedes to an encircling wisp. The nose is strange; somewhat off-putting, and definitely strange. It reminds me of a fig and cheese plate, with contrasting sweet dark fruity and pungent lactic notes. The taste is incongruous to the aroma; there is a good deal of barrel and booze atop a lighter barleywine-ish brew. The Cognac impartation is just that - an adjunction of nice Cognac. The feel is rather thin and barely petillant, but it works well enough for the brew. Overall - quite a strange brew; not sure I'd be eager to revisit it.

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Photo of Offa
2.96/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

My bottle said Smisje Great Reserva Catherine the Great and indicated that it was an imperial stout aged in Cognac barrels, 10% abv.

It was an ok beer, but simple and a bit one-dimensional, harsh & boozy.

Hazy dark brown, thin ring of bubbles - off-white.

Aroma was fermented caramelised dried figs and sherry, not really what I'd call an imperial stout aroma.

Taste was woody wine, vague hints of sherry and dried fig, quite boozy, a bit sweet and zesty, hint of caramelised grain in finish. It is a decent sipping beer, but not one I'd ever choose again, being one-dimensional and boozy.

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't Smisje Great Reserva from Brouwerij Smisje
3.54 out of 5 based on 38 ratings.
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