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Courage Imperial Russian Stout | Wells & Young's Ltd

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291 Reviews
Courage Imperial Russian StoutCourage Imperial Russian Stout

Brewed by:
Wells & Young's Ltd
United Kingdom (England)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by rastaman on 02-11-2002

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Reviews: 291 | Ratings: 893
Photo of bylerteck
3.65/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2012 vintage. Bottle # 022761 bought at Max's in Baltimore. From notes.

A - Black pour with one finger of beige head that faded fast. Good carbonation and spotty lace with some filmy retention.

S - Chocolate, a bit sour, roast, dark fruit.

T - Super chocolatey, a bit sour again, roasty, coffee, dark fruit.

M - Very smooth and silky feel, dry finish and good carbonation.

O/D - Decent stuff but by no means does this live up to the hype. The sour note is a bit off, but you can see the potential for a very good stout hidden in there somewhere. Dark fruit flavours played well with the rest, but this just didn't do what most say it does.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.68/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to NewBrewBB for the birthday surprise. 275ml bottle served in my Old Stock snifter. 19/09/24 indicated on the bottle. Brewed in May 2011 indicated on the label on the neck of the bottle. Pours slightly darker than cola with a loose, dense, half-inch, khaki-colored head that exhibits excellent retention. Thick arcs of lacing are exposed on the tilt side of the glass with each sip. Nose reveals cocoa, a trace of char, dark fruit, brewer's licorice and a suggestion of ethanol towards the back. Taste follows nose; however, there actually seems to be some slight oxidation present in the flavor profile as well as a hint of soy sauce behind the char. Mouthfeel is medium-light in body with an even carbonation that falls just short of lively. There's also some residual acidity at the finish. Overall, I have to say that I was a bit let down by this beer, especially given the $7.95 price tag. I don't even think this is a beer that will stand cellaring. Pretty much a swing and a miss for me.

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Photo of babaracas
3.69/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a hazy reddish brown... dark brown in the glass. One of those fancy DFH glasses that turns any beer into a billowing hefe... oh wait, this one manages not even a full fingers of light brown foam. Settles quickly leaving a thin ring and spotty lacing. Zhukov stains the glass brown. I believe that's progress. Smell: toasted buttered brown bread, and raisin-esque dark fruit. Mild earthiness. Taste: french roast coffee, buttered toasted raisin bread, note of dark chocolate. imo, American versions of this style really long surpassed Brit revivals. This is ok, but I'd have been just as ok never trying it.

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Photo of CrazyDavros
3.7/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours black with a large, lasting head.
Nose shows cocoa, dark chocolate, oatmeal and a fair bit of earthy hops. Pretty nice stuff, very interesting.
Flavours are incredibly rich. Chocolate truffles, espresso, sultanas, prunes and booze. A bit too full on.
Nice thick body, could use more carbonation though.
A nice array of flavours but too sweet and boozy for me.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
3.7/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

275ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer.

Pours a disappointingly light brown colour, only opaque due to the density of the beer in the glass. When tilted and held to the light, it's certainly a translucent weedy brown. Head is fine enough, leaving thick lacing and a solid persistent half-centimetre of off-white foam.

Nose is very odd indeed. Very crisp and bright—very oddly so. Along with some faint hints of dark grains, there are big fragrant hints of appleskin and cinnamon, and a sweetness reminiscent of fairy floss (possibly the Brett, which I believe is used in the process). There are some deep boozy hints, but they're not framed in a consistent way, leaving the sweet, anarchic brightness to take over. Hmm...

Taste is better, leaving a smooth, if lacklustre roasted sweetness along the front palate. Some mild chocolate, and a hint of coffee come through, but both rather weak, and only leaving a faint impression on the finish, which is dominated by ground earth and a lingering roasted character. The feel is smooth, but far lighter than I expected. In some ways, I'm impressed at how well the booze is hidden, but to be honest, in a beer like this, at this volume, it could stand to be far bigger.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this. No, it's not a bad beer (in fact I can see why others love it), but it's amazingly bland for a 10% ABV beer in this style. I understand the push behind it, but it's not a particularly interesting RIS for me.

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Photo of bark
3.71/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The colour is pitch black, the liquid might be clear. Or hazy. I don’t know as the liquid is totally bloody black. There is quit a lot of yeast in the bottle, though. The finger thick head is warm brown, it sinks slowly leaving no lacing.

The smell got notes of liquorice, dark chocolate, Irish whiskey and alcohol. It is smooth and a bit sharp at the same time.

The taste is very much the same: Raw and smooth at the same time. Lots of sharp alcohol, some solvents. But also smooth delicate notes of fine milk chocolate, plums in Madeira, coffee and sweet liquorice. Full body. The aftertaste got lots of warming alcohol, some cocoa and distinct notes of black coffee. The long finish got some notes of dried fruits and salt liquorice.

The carbonation is smooth, the bubbles few and small. The liquid is quite light and semi-smooth.

This one is way too young now. I have tasted an 18 year old bottle of Courage Russian Imperial Stout from 1993, and that was a much more interesting experience. I really hope this one will age as well as the previous vintages.

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Photo of rudzud
3.75/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

So, these were shared with JLindros and Threelions at my birthday celebration. a 2011 and 1972 vintage! Yes, 1972....bought it online a long long time ago from someone in the UK. Reviewed side by side:

A - Both have a very dark dark black body, with the 2011 having a thin mocha head that fades to leave a thin halo, whereas the 1972 has nice legs by clearly no carbonation. Combined, evens out to a 4.

S - Aromas are much better in the 2011 vintage with nice molasses, chocolate, sweeter malts, faint dark fruits. The 1972 is light touches of chocolate and dark fruits, along with a fair amount of oxidation. Combined, evens out to a 4.

T - Taste is, to be expected, far superior with the modern vintage. Very nice chocolate, coffee beans, roasty char. The 1972 version is incredibly oxidized. Light soy sauce and vinegar notes, but once you get past that there are some nice fainter chalky chocolate notes. Not the worst tasting oxidized beer I've ever had. Combined, evens out to a 3.5

M - Mouthfeel is better on the 2011 version, good light creamy carbonation whereas the 1972 is thin with no carbonation. Combined they even out to a 3.5.

O - Overall this was a fun experience and I've been waiting to drink the 1972 Courage stout for close to 4 years now. Incredibly oxidized, but, I expected that to a certain degree. Was a good time.

Serving Type: Bottle

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Photo of seedyone
3.75/5  rDev -11.1%

10/30/13 Just a taste on tap. Every Imperial Stout I've tasted has some degree of coffee & this one does just that. What sets it apart is the type of coffee. Espresso is way up front here with a smokiness not far behind. The blurb says a hint of pear but I can't imagine the perfumy blush if pear managing any ID in this stuff.

In the end I find it lacks the obligatory sweetness to offset the bitter of the espresso. Even a true espresso is served with a twist of lemon to divert the taste buds.

Maybe things will improve with a true pint.

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Photo of smithflipper
3.76/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

170ml bottle marked 1974.

opened with a hiss, thats promising, and there is still liquid in there. We are off to a good start.

smells slightly brandy like, some chocolate and salt, well to be expected considering it is older than i am.

First thing i taste is soy sauce, but it fades quickly for chocolate, lots of chocolate and maybe some spice (like spiced rum) with a brandy warmth. The choclate fades to leave an oaky almost red wine like lingering flavour. all i can say is wow.

Mouthfeel is fantastic, thick and smooth, soooo smooth.

A classic, a true classic. Yes it is past its best. But it's still great. Damn you wells and youngs for retiring this beer.

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Photo of imscotty
3.77/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottled May, 2011

A: Poured a nice foamy head that died off after a minute, little lacing. The color is dark dark brown, I see other reviews calling it black, I don't know why. Ten Fidy is black; this beer is brown.

S: Caramel, malt, dark fruit.

T: Caramel, strong roast, coffee, malt, dark fruit. This beer has a long bitter finish. I like the bitter finish but there is a bit of an off taste at the end that I cannot quite name. I do not taste the complexity that others say is there. The alcohol is fairly well hidden.

M: Fairly well carbonated, medium mouth feel. Not very viscous or heavy.

O: I love RIS; this is not my favorite.

Note: I have had this beer fresh, this bottle has been aged for almost two years. I do not think it is benefiting from aging, I thought it tasted better fresh when it was still had some sweetness. I plan on finishing these off (I bought a case) and probably will not buy again. I see that some people have loved this beer, not sure if they are drinking the pre Wells & Young version or if I am just missing something.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.78/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

9.3 ounce bottle - $6.29 at Hop City in Atlanta, Georgia. Brewed in May 2011. "Best before see neck of bottle." 19/09/24.

Appearance: Pours a black body with a quickly growing, durable, dark tan head. Meager lacing.

Smell: Tar-scented roasted malts, spritzed with booze, dusted liberally with powdered licorice and sprinkled with dark fruit skins soothed and smoothed with mellowing notes of chocolate and mocha.

Taste: Well-roasted malts lending bold coffee, dark chocolate, fire-pit smoked plums, with some alcoholic heat wrapped within the malty flavors. Slight creosote taste, some licorice whip. Slightly tart fruitiness, helping a bit to cut through the hard roast overtones. Herbal, spicy hops, moderately bitter. Picking up some mineral-laden aspects in-between the firmer tastes. More creosote and licorice on the rear, with the bitterness and peppered alcohol accents lasting into the dry, warming, roasty finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus body. Medium carbonation. Fairly smooth mouthfeel overall.

Overall: Courage, indeed.

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Photo of DoubleJ
3.81/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Just something to put me to bed. From a tiny 275 ml bottle from May 2011, on to the beer:

This imperial stout foamed up much more than anticipated. Black bodied as expected, with tanned colored foam that is thick and leaving lots of whispy lace going down. The aroma leans towards the charred side. There's a little fruit and licorice coming to its side.

The focus in the Courage Inmperial Stout's taste is less about the malt than I've encountered in most Imperial Stouts. Straight up cherry syrup and dribbling of bitter chocolate makes up the initial flavor. Some pine and vague star fruit pop out of their shells. That big malt body only really shows itself off in the body, which it is big and smooth, and the 10% ABV hidden well. Further time in the glass crates an overall profile that becomes more mellow and melds better, enchancing the taste score a notch.

While I was happy to try this classic, it fell just a little short of my high expectations. But it still ends up a good beer, and a good nightcap to my long day.

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Photo of basica
3.82/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Courage Imperial Russian Stout (VINTAGE 1993)

One of the much coveted and hard to get beers around. I was pretty pleased to be able to get my hands on 3 different vintages. Cracking open this one, I am getting strong vinous aged aromas fizzing out and also the familiar dark fruits namely dates, plums and raisins. But wait a minute.. this is a stout right? I do not get the roasted malts and stuff instead those aromas are typical of an aged strong ale. The taste starts off with a bitter note and ok now I think I can pick up slight hints of roasted malts but they are just too subtle. The dates, plums and raisins were showing up but without the familiar sweetness in most aged strong ale. There is a slightly sourish and vinous tartness throughout and the finishing was fairly dry and bitter. I am not really picking up familiar stout tastes in general and this taste is not bad but the tartness and sourness is a little on the strong side. Bitterness was significant but still within bounds. The after taste was rasiny and dates; not really lasting though I have some nice aromas on the nose as well. The mouthfeel was fairly thick with syrupy, watery smoothness and practically no carbonation. Drinkability slightly lowered due to the slightly high sour and tartness. Not really impressed but let's see what the other 2 vintages I have can offer.

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Photo of chinchill
3.85/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Small bottle served in a small nonic.

Appearance: Pours hazy and dark brown with dark tan head. Meager lacing.

Smell: Roasted malts, chocolate, dark fruits and booze, in that order.

Taste: Well-roasted malts impart hints of coffee, dark chocolate and licorice. Mildly bitter. Slightly tart; a bit more than I'd prefer up front but better balance by the finish. A hint of smoke in the roasty finish.

Mouthfeel: Full body. Medium carbonation. Fairly smooth. Some harshness from the 10% ABV.

O: more rustic than expected, and with the high ABV more apparent. Good but not world-class.

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Photo of jmdrpi
3.86/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 mL bottle, May 2011. served at cellar temp.

black, thin tan head of fine bubbles. nice lacing. aroma of coffee grounds, black cherry, slightly metallic. taste is a bit of bitter cocoa, booze, wood. acidic aftertaste. thick, viscous, mild carbonation.

overall - good, but not sure why it's considered a classic.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
3.87/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to Paccamacca for the extra!

vintage 2012.

poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: light black to dark brown bodied beer with 3 fingers worth of medium khaki colored head. Head has good staying power and is thick and frothy with lots of big bubbles. As the beers head drops it leaves a decent amount of lacing; its better than spotty, but not quite heavy lacing.

Smell: roasty malts and dark fruits with molasses and brown sugar. A ton of black licorice notes as well.

Taste: A short lived note of sweet milk chocolates and molasses that is quickly inturrupted by huge black licorice notes and super roasty malts that are best described as char and ashen flavors. The flavor is very robust and takes you by surprise because the nose does not lead you to think that the beer would have this intensity. Hint of soy sauce. Earthy hops, smoke, peat moss in the aftertaste with even more black licorice. Char and smokey flavors linger for a long time in between sips.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with moderate carbonation. Creamy and smooth body with a spicy slightly boozey kick.

Overall: Really surprised that this RIS is so robust. Took me back a little bit at first. I am not a huge fan of black licorice in my dark beers so I didnt love it, but it was still surprisingly an enjoyable beer for me despite the unpleasantries of the black licorice notes. I think that this beer has really nice cellar potential; if I were to run into a bottle of this again I would drink one with somewhere between 3-5 years on it.

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Photo of Mandrake
3.88/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage: 1976, making the 170ml nip bottle 31 years old at the time of this review. Served at room temperature in a Duvel tulip.

Sharp hiss as it opens, and a bit of extra work to get the cap off, this baby's on tight. Pours out very dark, with a brownish hint to the usual stout blackness. Not a glimmer of light through the body. Smallish head, very deep tan, about half a finger in height, and dissipates reasonably quickly. Very minimal lacing, but a patch of surfacing carbonation in the middle of the glass. Incredibly thick and viscous.

Smell is noticeably oxidized, but there's still a magnificent beer lurking here. Chocolate, for sure, bitter and dark. Red wine and molasses, and rather medicinal hops. Light breadiness and a hint of dark currants.

Taste is equally affected by the rather extreme age, but still bears up to a degree. Deep chocolate, a touch of licorice, and treacle mix up front. Some coffee and red wine, light hops, and a sour note, likely some wild yeasts that slipped in all those years ago.

Mouthfeeel is thick, almost syrupy, but still carbonated well. Remarkable, the aftertaste goes on for ages. Unfortunately it's dominated by the telltale salty oxidation, but I know this would have been a hell of a treat in years past. Drinkability is hampered by the off notes, but still better than most. Knowing that I'll likely never have another bottle of this it can't possibly last long enough.

I'd have loved to try this while it was still in production, and whoever made the decision at Scottish Courage to stop production should be shot. Magnificent, but I can't help but reflect with incredible sadness upon the dwindling supply of this stuff in the world today, and the gradually declining quality of most of the bottles left. Get it now, it won't be here much longer.

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Photo of CoreyC
3.88/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2013 vintage
A - nice dark black/brown with good tan head
S - very light, some dried fruit
T - bitter dark chocolate, somewhat smokey, too bitter of a finish for me
M - nice and thick
O - ok stout, but not great for me. Too bitter (even at 3 years old) and not a lot of depth of flavor

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Photo of mdagnew
3.89/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

175ml bottle given to me by a friend... 1993 vintage... Had this for my 30th birthday...

Poured a deep dark murky brown colour with loads of floaties... Dirty brown head poured loose and bubbly then faded almost instantly to the faintest ring around the edge... No carbonation or lacing at all..

Aroma - Rich dark alcohol soaked fruits (raisins, strong blackcurrents, prunes), strong toasted bread, deep chocolate maltiness, fruit cake / malt loaf notes, molasses / toffee sweetness, definite portiness, red wine, burnt wood, peppery / spicy hops, some faint honey traces... for a 13 year old beer this smells pretty damn good...

Taste – Sadly a bit of a let down considering the heavenly aromas !!! Quite strong spicy fruitiness (definite blackcurrents, red grapes, some prunes) - maybe a little on the watery side though... some vinegar (cider) notes, alcohol still pretty noticable and warming, definite wine / port notes, light chocolate maltiness, some spicy hop bitterness still comes through, no real sweetness, strong toasted bread notes...

Feel - Pretty smooth with some syrupiness.... medium / full bodied (definitely not as full bodied as i expected)....

Overall - Unfortunately this bottle was slightly past it's prime - maybe 2 or 3 years ago it would have been at its peak but this one just seemed a bit washed out... bland even. Glad i tried it though - especially to breath in the amazing aromas...

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Photo of jdhilt
3.91/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a four-fingered light tan head that fades slowly to a thin layer leaving a good lace. Black color, no highlights. Medium carbonation and medium-heavy bodied. Light chocolate nose and flavor is chocolate, sweetness then burnt chocolate finish. High ABV is hidden. $7.49 for a 275ml bottle from Julio's Liquors Westborough, Ma.

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Photo of ms11781
3.91/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

9.3oz bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Pours a solid, ink black. The beer actually looks pretty thin and deep brown going into the glass but once it settles in the body seems fuller and it's definitely solid. A massive tan head develops and it's very active. Only about 3 or so ounces make it into a 10oz tulip before the head reaches the top of the glass. A considerable amount of time passes before more beer can be poured into the glass. An impressive thick cap of creamy foam stick around for the duration. Nice soapy lacing is left on the glass.

The nose is a bit subdued. There are some nice aromas but nothing is too strong or stands out above the rest. Some nice roast and more subtle bitter chocolate are present along with a bit of some dark fruit.

The taste asserts itself considerably more than the nose. There is a very nice bitter coffee-like element that comes across first and is complimented by a touch of dark chocolate. The finish is pleasantly smoky and somewhat acrid. Really nice.

Despite looking thinner going into the glass this beer has a full mouthfeel. It definitely feels full but not too heavy. Low carbonation that is surprisingly lively, especially as the beer warms.

This is a really good RIS. The nose was lacking just a bit but the flavors were really bold. Definitely a beer that seems like it would benefit from some age.

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Photo of MusicaleMike
3.93/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Had the original a few years ago, the 1993 vintage, and thought I would give this re-make a chance. For the record the '93 original was delicious, if a bit oxidized, and still had some carbonation.

Pours a very dark brown, which appears black in the glass. Big, two finger thick tan head that dissipates rather quickly to thin lacing on top and that leaves streaky lacing on the glass.

Aroma is deep and complex with notes of espresso, pear, yogurt, alcohol, raisins, and nougat. Pretty bold aroma and definitely unique. Very successful and I could smell this beer all night.

The flavor is not quite as amazing but pretty decent. Roasted malts, smoky, dark alcohol soaked cherries.

Decent carbonation, pretty full body, and a somewhat boozy finish.

This may not be the same experience as the '93 that I had, but this is certainly a beer in better shape. Really liked the aroma, and I would possibly be interested in trying one of these beers many years from now.

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Photo of patre_tim
3.94/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black. When held to the light, 1 cm of amber yellow is near the edge of the glass. Topped with 3 fingers of ashy beige head with large and small bubbles, looking like chocolate milk. The lacing is a labyrinth of holes.

S: Chocolate, black licorice, tar, tobacco, a rusty quality, garlic, umami.

T: Starts with a porter like leathery quality, dark burnt toasted malts, a balancing sweetness. The alcohol is present on the back and sides of the tongue, and in the throat. Black coffee.

M: Thick but velvety body, slightly oily, little carbonation.

O: Pumped to have found this brew in Chiang Mai. A classic. Smooth, well done. History in a cup. Aside from that, the heavens did not open, but I will enjoy sipping the rest of this tonight, Dec 21st, 2014 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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Photo of Suds
3.94/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An utterly black beer, this brew is a moderately sweet, heavy, classic example of the style. Not overly hopped, yet still bitter, it has some fruit notes in the smell and foretaste. Lots of malt and huge roasted notes. Coffee, chocolate, and raisins. It has a thick, but not quite syrupy character. This is a fine beer.

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Photo of travolta
3.95/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black with ruby on the edges. Spotted lacing. Quickly dissipating head that was rocky and chunky.

Nose: vinegar, resin, pepper, pear, nougat, slight bread.

Taste: Perfect mouthfeel. smooth and syrupy, velvety and delicate. Hides it's ABV extremely well. Raisins with some alcohol hotness in the middle and at the end.

Notes: 2012 vintage. An excellent example of an imperial Russian stout.

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Courage Imperial Russian Stout from Wells & Young's Ltd
4.22 out of 5 based on 893 ratings.
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