Oak Aged Imperial Stout (Brandy Barrel) | Left Hand Brewing Company

very good
33 Reviews
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Oak Aged Imperial Stout (Brandy Barrel)Oak Aged Imperial Stout (Brandy Barrel)

Brewed by:
Left Hand Brewing Company
Colorado, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by cjgator3 on 04-12-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 33 | Ratings: 48
Photo of metter98
3.93/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is jet black in color and poured with a thin off white head.
S: Light aromas of brandy from the barrel aging process are present in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of dark malts and brandy with some notes of roasted malts. There are hints of cherries in the finish.
M: It feels medium-bodied and very smooth on the palate with a light amount of carbonation.
D: The beer goes down very easily because for the most part the alcohol is well masked from the taste.

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Photo of jlindros
3.92/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bomber into large snifter.

A: Very dark brown color with very slight brown light sneaking through at the bottom, almost no head to speak of

N: Nose is complex with lots of chocolate, coffee, oats, a slightly sour yeastiness, a little roasted malt, slight hop, and touch of alcohol

T: Taste starts with roasted malts, chocolate, and coffee, creamy, a little sourness, some oatmeal, some toasted oats, lots of alcohol, some nice oak, but a slight taste of some off flavors maybe some diacetyl, or oxidation, not quite sure.

M: Mouth feel is very thick and sticks to the tongue, its also spicey and has some burn from the alcohol

F: Finish is a little spicey and alcohol burn with lots of finishing bitter hops and stout, it is partly sweet but evaporates off the tongue easily

Final thoughts: Its a very complex beer with lots of dark stout flavors and alcohol, oak, and very tasty, but there seems to be an off flavors that I can't exactly pinpoint. That's something I need to work on to get better at picking out the off flavors. I've tasted this quite a few times in my homebrew too, but aging it seemed to mellow it out or even get rid of it completely.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.21/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A really nice looking pour. Dark, slight ruby hints, and a good billowing head. A bit soapy, but nice retention and lace for the strength.
Wet prunes, vanilla, slight oak, alcohol and coffee make the aroma a bit divided. Nothing strong here. Perhaps vanilla sticks out more.
Chocolate and coffee taste at first. Mild oak and raisins in the middle. The alcohol is not covered very well, but the burn is stopped by a mild, wet, vanilla. Rounded out with a bit of dull chardonnay.
1/2 pint was it for me. good to try, but won't have it again.

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Photo of biegaman
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This stout has a kind of brownish tint to its otherwise black appearance, meaning that it is opaque but not so stygian so as to look overly daunting. Quite on the contrary. Given that its head is so plump and pillow-y, I'd say it's rather inviting. It's like something out of a mattress commercial and, indeed, I bet I could get a great night's sleep on that thing!

The smell of brandy rises above all other scents - mind you, that couldn't have been hard to do considering how emasculated the base beer seems to be. There's no cocoa or coffee for it to compete with. Only the (pleasant) nuance of tart cherries and a trace of sweetness. The aroma is coy and not the least bit forward, surprising given the beer's specs.

The fact that it tastes like it's only 5% is both good and bad. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy my throat isn't scalded. Who wants that? But when I sign up for an imperial stout that's been aged in barrels that formally held an 80 proof spirit, let's be real, I expect at least some alcohol by way of character or flavour. This is certainly underwhelming.

Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, licorice, cigar - in other words, most all the usual flavours found in a barrel-aged RIS - should have their pictures put on the milk carton. They're nowhere to be found. How a beer so strong, brewed to a style so distinctively lavish, aged in the dwellings of such an intense spirit, can turn out to have so little flavour is a mystery.

One missing piece to the puzzle was heat; some beers benefit from a little warmth - this required it. Raisins, wood, tartness and even the brandy came to the surface but all were still ineffective at adding much complexity. (And this coming from someone who doesn't have a stomach for spirits, so imagine how underwhelmed a true brandy lover must feel!)

Left Hand's 2009 vintage of the brandy-barrel Imperial Stout didn't really live up to its billing. I don't regret buying the one bottle but I'm happy not to have grabbed a second, and am very glad that I didn't leave it in the cellar any longer than I did. As for the purchase of any future vintages, I think I'd be happier just to try something else.

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Photo of cjgator3
3.7/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Underground Bluz in Orlando, FL. Pours a dark black color with a light tan head. The aroma is dark roasted malts with hints of coffee and a touch of oak and a good amount of alcohol. The taste like the aroma is dark and roasty with a warming finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. This is a definitely a sipper. Worth a try.

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Photo of jmdrpi
4.05/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

served on tap in a snifter.

appears black as coal, with thin tan head. very pleasant aroma of big roasty flavors, coffee, bitter cocoa, and hints of the oak aging. The taste is very similar, with a bit of boozy alcohol in there as well.

Unfortunately the body is a little thin for the style, a heavier body would match the bold flavors better I feel. Moderate carbonation level.

Overall - a very solid beer, if they thicken it up it would be among the best Oak Aged stouts.

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Photo of Bung
4.07/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. Dark brown pour with a dark tan head. A little lacing. Aroma has nice roast malt, chocolate, molasses and a little booze. Body is a bit thin, as was hinted at by the less than motor oil pour. Flavors are nice however, with molasses, roast malt, chocolate, vanilla and some boozy oak. Finish with just a hint of coffee. The thinness really detracted from making this a great stout, but still worth trying. Drinkability is very good for such a large abv.

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Photo of Gmann
3.9/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours the deepest of brown colors with an average tan head that settles into a sparse cap but thick ring. The aroma is of roasted malt, chocolate, and mocha. All of which are fairly mellow. There is kind of a boozy sweet aroma as well. Traditional RIS flavors with a nice robust roasted malt, bitter chocolate with some coffee notes. The RIS flavors are mellowed by the brandy influence which adds a honey like sweetness followed by a grapey tartness. Some harsh alcohol flavor from the brandy barrel. Could use some aging to mellow this out. Nice fully body with a chewy feel, tingley carbonation cuts the malt body making it more drinkable. It is sweet, yet bitter finishes sticky. A nice barrel aged stout. A little harsh in the booze factor. Good to age for a minimum of a year.

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Photo of argock
4.47/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 22oz brown bomber into a clear oversized wine glass. 2009 vintage. Purchased at Wine Warehouse (Charlottesville, VA) for $9.49.

A: Brown-black, opaque, with solid, tightly-bubbled and creamy 1-finger head with good retention for the ABV and lacing all around the glass.

S: Wonderfully complex aroma with oak, vanilla, liquor, roasted dark malt, chocolate, and coffee all there and pretty aggressively hopped in the nose with a nice mix of leafy and floral varieties

T: A superb oak-aged stout. The brandy barrel blending really works in this beer to deliver another flavor punch without overwhelming the palate with liquor and/or alcohol. The roasted malts stop short of char and deliver semisweet chocolate and dark roasted coffee flavors that play very well off of the vanilla and oak followed by the fruity, alcohol of the brandy barrel aging. Alcohol warmth is pleasant and background. The hops are really artfully done with leafy, herbal, and floral touches with a bit of weak orange in there too.

M: Outstanding body, slightly lighter than most high ABV RIS brews, which works well with the low, creamy carbonation. Aftertaste is old ale-like with a bit of the cherry-berry brandy liquor in the finish along with roast.

D: I really like this beer a lot, mainly for the carfeul craftsmanship that shows in the subtle touches. The blending concept works well in their current proportion of 75/25. I am going to buy more of this and put it away for a few years to see what transpires, but this is a very good oak aged imperial stout.

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

consumed the eve of day two of the great flood of '09

a: brooklyn snifter serving, the pour generates a healthy mocha colored head, good retention and light lace, the beer itself is a very dark brown in color - chestnut with hues of red

s: charred roasts smoothed and sweetened with dark caramel and black malt, bitter chocolate chunks, it shows that this is a blend of both oaked and unoaked - as the aromatic wood is in great balance, much more would overwhelm the relatively light ris base, great brandy - far from too boozy, fruits include prune and raisin with spiced fruitcake at times, piney hops

m: light carbonation in a beer that straddles the boundaries of medium and full, smooth

t: a heavily caramelized structure holds up dark roasted barley and bitter chocolate, more caramel here than in the chocolate/coffee-heavy monsters that are all the rage these days, nice smooth oak balance with distant glimpses of vanilla - the brandy itself not very powerful but noticeable, pine hops move in as the dry roast develops coffee flavors, moderately bitter finish

d: a more conservative ris, but really well complimented by the brandy barrel aging, nice bomber to sit with over a few hours

bomber from Grape & Gourmet, Virginia Beach, VA

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Photo of yemenmocha
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours nearly opaque with tan head that dissipates to a thin rim layer.

Nose has a dark fruity-caramel boozy quality, with a background nougat candy component. Some raisins too. Maybe some faint chocolate in the background.

Alcohol is apparent on the palate as well, with a spirity fruit element up front, light roasted malt quality midway, and herbal but boozy on the finish.

This is one of the most spirit-like beers I've had in a long time. Don't let it warm too much.

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Photo of jsanford
4.09/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was one of the big Imperial Stouts that sparked my love of craft beers. Haven't had it in a bit, here's hoping it's as good as I remember. Poured into a tulip glass. 2009 vintage.

A - Very dark brown with slight red highlights. Limp-looking 1-finger khaki-colored head fades quickly, leaving a slight haze and a thin ring.
S - Dark roasted malt, raisins and prunes, brown sugar, vanilla, coffee and chocolate. There's a lot going on here, the brandy barrel aging brings much to the table.
T - Again, there's a ton of flavors in here. Dark roasted malt, coffee, bitter chocolate provide support while the raisins, figs, prunes and brown sugar provide the kick. You know what this tastes like? A Raisinet, the chocolate-coated raisin candy. Yum.
M - Slick, with a medium body and low carbonation. Thinner body then I'd like. Very dry finish, like eating a piece of chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa in it.
D - Despite the ABV, I'm having no issue sipping on this. I could see this pairing extremely well with various dessert offerings.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
2.89/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A - It pours a deep brown, capped with a light wispy tan froth.

S - Lots of toffee and raisin, not so much roast, and there is a strange vitamin smell that reminds me of the health food store.

T - The dark fruit is pronounced, the Brandy is apparent on the finish, and the hallmarks of the style are lacking or absent (i.e. chocolate, coffee, roast, etc.) There are some impressions of black cherry, almond and licorice that complement the raisin-toffee maltiness. Its okay.

M - A bit thin. And it dries your mouth out on the finish.

D - Mehhh. It is not a terrible beer, but it is not a good BA-RIS either.

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Photo of rye726
4.3/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Good beer, lacks some of the comlexities found in the earlier vintages. Pours a rusty black with a nice tan head. Nose has big malts, pitted fruits, piney hops and a nice brandy presence. Brandy character is well noticed in teh taste as well. Good balance with the bitter hops and sweet roasty malts. Medium body could use a bit more depth. Nice offering from left hand.

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Photo of CampusCrew
4.4/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

appearance: deep dark black, nearly ebony, loaded head and creamy dark froth.

smell: definitly smell the brandy and brown sugar aroma. some coffee, and chocolate aromas

taste: sublte brandy. perfect not overpwering. rich and slight chocolate roasted flavors but had a smooth rich taste

mouthfeel: thick, creamy, good carbonation and very tasty

drinkability: amazing, first brandy barrell beer and I wasnt let down. world class RIS

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Photo of Jayli
3.88/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Consumed 10/30

A: This beer pours a deep dark chocolate brown with slightly lighter brown edges when held to the light. Two finger of khaki head that recedes to a 1/4 inch film that retains the length of the beer, some spotty wispy lacing is left on the glass.

S: Nose is of brandy, booze, and a touch of chocolate. The brandy really overpowers the nose even once thoroughly warmed.

T: Taste is brandy and caramel malts up front, which paves way to a gentler chocolate and toffee flavoring, hints of roasted malts, finish is of molasses and another strong boozy kick.

M: Medium body with moderate carbonation, a somewhat sticky feel to the beer with an uber dry finish.

D: This is definitely a sipper that is nicely done.

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

JustinA1 whipped this one out last night. Thanks dude!

2009 bottle poured into a Cigar City snifter.

Appearance: Black body shows a fair amount of light around the edges. A thick layer of creamy, khaki-tan froth sits on top and retains well, eventually descending to moderate-sized crown. Solid lacing all the way down. I'm a little disappointed with the coloration of this beer, but otherwise it looks great.

Smell: Red currants and brandy sharpness jump out to me immediately. The second whiff brings dark chocolate and a honey-like note (from the brandy?). The brandy oak barrel plays a large role in this beer's aroma, although the alcohol is still kept in check. Intriguing. I don't think I've had a brandy barrel-aged beer before.

Taste: Dark chocolate, char, caramel, and brandy are all readily apparent. Wholegrain wheat bread and oats find their place as consistent background flavors. Roasted barley and brandy combine in the finish, but as with the smell, the alcohol is essentially kept in check.

Mouthfeel: Pretty thin for the style, but it offers a very creamy, and even fluffy, feel that's quite enjoyable. Finishes warm and dry, but not to a point of being harsh. Feels a lot like a regular American stout with extra warmth.

Drinkability: Solid throughout and certainly interesting. This wouldn't be a regular purchase for me, but it'd be fun to share again.

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Photo of elgiacomo
3.27/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle, 2009 vintage (Brandy barrel). Served cool room temp in a Duvel tulip.

Pours brown with a good beige head that doesn't maintain much of a cap and leaves only a few spots of lacing. Thinner and lighter colored than many for this style.

First aroma is pretty strong on the vanilla and oak, but it fades over time, also features caramel malts, brown sugar, bread/toast, a little chocolate and coffee.

Flavor is caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, a little chocolate and coffee, rather sweet overall, a bit of alcohol burn at the end. More toasted than roasted and more caramel than chocolate.

Mouthfeel is medium/thin with low carbonation, oily.

Hmmmm, kinda a strange beer for an imperial stout, it reminds me more of the Backwoods Bastard I've been drinking the crap out of than other imperial stouts. Enjoyable overall, but taking style into consideration hurts this one somewhat.

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Photo of Patrick999
4.08/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Was fairly surprised to see this down here - I picked it right up.

Pour looks sufficiently evil as the bottle label suggests - a nice ruddy brown, some decent foam.

Doesn't smell too boozy. Some roastiness evident, even a little grape. Chocolate-covered cherry, I thought.

My first few sips were way too cold; I didn't taste a whole hell of a lot. When it warms, though, you really get grape spirits coming through. Let it warm all the way up to room temperature. Roast coffee and some vinous overtones. Big beer for sure, but that's why you bought this. The spirit and barrel quality leaves this beer finishing pretty dry, so have a glass of water nearby.

Feel is thick and substantive as you would expect.

Not a quick drinker by any means, but I could sip on the contents of this bomber for a couple hours.

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Photo of auxiliary
4.01/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2009 version, opened for news year 2013(notes)

Poured a nice brown head, still some carbonation here.
Smells of malt, dark chocolate, coffee.
Taste starts bitter, malt, and then chocolate, hints if brandy here too.
Thick mouthfeel, syrupy like.
Great beer, love stouts and strong beers, wish I had another one of these.

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Photo of waltonc
1.87/5  rDev -51.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Cracked open a bottle of this with bardwashrind. 2009 vintage. Unfortunately it hasn't held up well. It has gone downhill quite a bit in just one year. Pours dark brown with white head. Smell and taste are dominated by oxidation. There's a brandy quality here, but it seems to have made the beer worse, if anything. Some notes of vanilla. There's also an overwhelming quality to the taste that I can't describe better than to say it's almost like plastic. And that's what ultimately led me to pour this down the drain. Body is very thin for such a high abv stout.

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Photo of ThatWineGuy
3.48/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Head was on the foamy side, tan, two fingers. Black with auburn highlights, gentle carbonation and sheet lace. Good retention. Smells of cherry brandy but not very pronounced. The taste also underlines the brandy presence with a hard candy sweetness. Alcohol initially was not overbearing and, I thought, well handled but with warming there was more alcohol without an equivalent revelation of flavour, which I found to be sorely lacking. A bit of raiisin but not a lot happening in terms of taste. Body was thinner than I expected too . Overall, I was disappointed with this offering from a darn good brewery, I'd like to try it again sometime to see if this was just a one-off downer bottle.

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Photo of biglite351
3.08/5  rDev -20%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - a good bit of orange red around the edges. Creamy off-white head leaving some lacing.

S - fruits up front, mild brandy and malt. Maybe just a touch of the oak.

T - bitter stout with a taste of brandy. Mild malts and caramel.

M - good coating with a slight tingle on tip and on back of tongue.

D - not bad but I would not want mote than one bottle.

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Photo of SykDoc
3.82/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a snifter. It pours a solid brown and forms a 1/4 inch very light tan head leaving a mild lacing.

The aroma is solid with a nice blend of oak and a touch caramel sweetness with the brandy presence lurking and the smacking you in the face. Not overly complex, but good.

The taste is more stout than the nose, with a evenly mixed oak, brandy, caramel malt, and dark chocolate flavors. The is a cherry sweetness toward the end. A nice vanilla backdrop.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a low level of carbonation. It goes down smooth and leaves a lingering velvety texture at the back of the palate.

Overall, this is a solid beer. Some of the components could be stronger and others could be a little less stiff, but overall has that stout goodness combined with some of the finer components of brandy.

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Photo of wnh
3.2/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2009 vintage.
22 oz. bottle poured into a snifter.

Pours an opaque black topped by a large foamy khaki-colored head.

I'm not very familiar with brandy, but I can only assume that brandy is what I'm smelling on the nose, as the aroma(s) I'm getting I've never noticed in a stout before. Funky bloomy rind cheese (think Brie) on the forefront (off flavor? hard to say), turning toward sweet overripe apples, raisins, subtle oaky notes of vanilla and toasted coconut, and a faint whiff of dark chocolate and roast. Not a stout-forward imperial stout, and not an oak-forward oak-aged stout. Interesting, and quite complex, but I can't say that I particularly like it.

With all that is in the nose, this beer is disappointingly flat on the palate. A bit of sweet caramel on the entry, turning toward mushy, partially oxidized apples alongside dark chocolate, finishing earthy and dry and a bit flinty. Mild roasted barley undertones throughout. Full bodied and firmly dry, with little lingering flavor after the swallow, though a faintly sour cherry note is evident--more a feel than a flavor. Toffee flavor emerges as the beer warms.

An interesting (read: not particularly good) take on the style. Complex, to be sure, but seems to miss the mark on the whole. I'm not sure what to do with the Brie-like cheese note (which is in the nose only, not on the palate; and which, it should be said, fades about halfway through the 22 oz.), but it seems to meld with the apple and raisin brandy notes so perhaps they both come from the brandy barrels. Whatever the case, I think a smaller portion aged in the brandy barrels would have been better, as even 25% has taken over this beer, leaving little imperial stout character behind. As an imperial stout fan, this is disappointing, but as a beer fan I can give this some respect. Seems like it would fit better under the broad "American Strong Ale" category.

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Oak Aged Imperial Stout (Brandy Barrel) from Left Hand Brewing Company
3.85 out of 5 based on 48 ratings.
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