Courage Imperial Russian Stout | Wells & Young's Ltd

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BA SCORE
94
outstanding
289 Reviews
Courage Imperial Russian StoutCourage Imperial Russian Stout
BEER INFO

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

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
289
Ratings:
885
Avg:
4.22
pDev:
10.43%
 
 
Wants:
168
Gots:
188
For Trade:
13
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Reviews: 289 | Ratings: 885
Photo of brentk56
4.44/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in May 2011

Appearance: Pours out with a thick (but not massive) tan head; what it lacks in vertical dimension it more than makes up for with lacing action; the beer itself is not as dark as some of the American versions, appearing more as a fudge brown

Smell: Rich chocolate, with coffee, tobacco and dark fruity undertones

Taste: In the flavor profile, this beer shows its old world muster, bringing a subtle blend of chocolate, coffee, pipe tobacco and dark fruit; compared to a lot of the domestic RIS brews, this is like an old world Cabernet vs a California, with incredible subtlety and refinement; after the swallow, instead of walloping the tastebuds, it finishes rather dry - surprising but well-appreciated

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with moderate carbonation; hides the ABV incredibly well

Overall: So glad I had the opportunity to try this beer as it shows off quite a different dimension for the RIS style than I have had before; I still like the powerful, big American versions very much, but this is a different pathway

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Photo of SpruceMoose
4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

As always, it's stout time. After hearing about this little ditty on the grapevine (and I do emphasise the 'little'; the bottle's only 275ml!), I decided to pick up three bottles of Courage's allegedly stellar effort in stout brewing; one to savour and review, and two to cellar for approximately 10 to 13 years (which the bottle boastfully states it's capable of). I went into this review with pleasant memories of the Director's Ale, and fortunately my expectations were matched. "As originally brewed in 1795 for Catherine the Great of Russia", the bottle states with pride. If we are to accept this statement, it would become obvious that Cathy had some bloody brilliant taste in beer.

Serving type: 275ml bottle poured gently into a 330ml Zwyiec glass.

Appearance: The body itself is incredibly opaque - holding it up to the light yields absolutely no brightness whatsoever, and this density is further highlighted by the tan head which does not hang around for very long. Oh well, suppose it is an imperial stout after all.

Smell: Hints of plum, caramel, chocolate, chicory, coffee and those ever-so-characteristic roasted malts waft up towards the senses. The smell is strong yet not overwhelming. Magical.

Taste: The taste compliments the smell almost flawlessly, with less coffee and more of a plum, caramel and even nut flavour sitting on the tongue. Despite CRIS' 10% ABV strength (once again, it is an imperial stout after all), the alcohol does not leave a burn or even taste in the mouth; the delicate balance of flavours masks it flawlessly.

Mouthfeel: Thick, creamy and hearty. Classic stout body. Carbonation is very light (must I say it again? It's a bloody imperial stout after all!).

Overall: Courage's fine effort at a warm, hearty stout certainly lived up to the hype I had witnessed. This beer, whilst packaged in a peculiarly small bottle, contains all the character one would expect from a large 750ml bottle. This is imperial stout at its most unique, balanced and flavorsome. It could potentially even reach the dizzy heights of five-dom after a few years of maturation.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

I enjoyed this in a snifter chilled purchased from Half Time.

The color is dark mocha with thin sandstone cap with ultra fine bead with webbing of lace sticking to the glass and retention is very good. The smell is dark chocolate, molasses, plum, currant, prune and light biscuit odors with a mild toffee and vinous element. The feel is great with slight fruit tinge and dark toasted texture with moderate bitterness and carbonation with sublte sweet edge and semi-dry finish with alcohol well hidden.

This taste is familiar yet fresh with dark currant flavors and subtle dark sugar and molasses taste with some vinous and sweet toffee flavors side by side with slight toasted malt, cocoa and a pine-like hop echo with mild dark cocoa essence and very light alcohol. The great thing about this russian imperial stout is how drinkable it is. I have tried the original courage and this bottle which is over 2 years old still has a vibrant fresh taste even though it has some age. I love how the yeast fruitiness mixes with the rich malt and the alcohol does not even really makes an appearance til it nears cellar temp. I love this and would recommend it to anyone interested in a traditional Imperial Stout

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Photo of MrKennedy
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle from Cellarbrations Carlisle, into a Lost Abbey Teku.

Matt black appearance with a lovely tan had that looks more rich the more you swirl it. Great foam retention and a lovely distinction between the black base and the tan foam.

Smells of milk chocolate backed with some licorice and a touch of roasted malt. Basic, but well integrated and really well done.

Licorice and chocolate, pretty much how i remember it from a year ago, just with the chocolate a touch more noted, balancing it out a bit more. I recall this being a licorice bomb 12 months ago.

Bitterness from the licorice upfront and turns smooth mid-palate. Finishes full but with some bitterness to keep you coming back.

Enjoyed this more after a year or so of holding onto it. Less licorice dominated and more integrated with the chocolate. A lovely beer that is fun to drink and something i need to remind myself never to pass up when i see it in the shops. Exudes quality. Good value, even taking into account the smaller bottle size.

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Photo of Sarlacc83
4.04/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

275mL bottle from By the Bottle. May 2011 bottle date.

A: Pure ink black with a dense creme head. Pour is quicker than I might expect. Legs are noticeable.

N: Intense, smoke, leather, and tobacco. Prunes and raisins and rye bread. Very peppery. Dense and rich with a notable essence of dark fruits. Hops show up with the earth and peppercorn.

T: Bitter hops and baker's chocolate dryness. Very very spicy in a black pepper way. Very much in the vein of the hopped-up stout.

M: Oily and medium heavy body. Very prickly. Could use some more heft, but the alcohol is well-hidden.

O: really good stuff. It's well balanced and deft of hand. I want to buy more and age it for the long haul.

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Photo of SLeffler27
4.54/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A dense, creamy chestnut head is long lasting as it leaves a thick coat of lace over a silky black (SRM 40+) Stout.

Roasted malt dominates from within a Dogfish Head snifter while coffee and chocolate submit. Light caramel and prunes can be found over alcohol fumes.

The roasted, almost burnt, malt is quite bitter from beginning and long into a lingering finish. Molasses and licorice develop as greater depth comes out with warming.

The texture is similar to a thick mousse, while light carbonation lifts the dense chewy body. Alcohol is present but well controlled for 10% abv. Residual sugars stick to the lips.

This is a luscious and mesmerizing Stout to be enjoyed for its opulence and richness while sitting and relaxing.

Bottle No. 042140

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Photo of Gmann
4.16/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a murkey black/deep deep brown color with small yeasties floating about. The creamy light brown head was short and settled into a light ring.

The aroma is of a smooth roasted malt, a touch woody. A hint of chocolate and toasted pumpernickle. Some anise. Overall aroma not all that strong.

Big roasted malt flavor. Lots of burnt toast and a good amount of dark fruit. The roast is heavy with lots of char. There is a caramel sweetness that transitions into a slightly sour dark berry flavor. Dark chocolate and anise round everything out. Pretty much the definition of a RIS here; big, bitter, and malty.

Thick feel with semi-soft carbonation that leads to a mostly smooth flow. Sweet and bitter on the palate; good initial balance but the finish is a bit bitter. Sticky finish as you would expect.

A good traditional RIS. I imagine more of the dark fruit flavors would come out as it ages.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.16/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Dark black with a big finger of frothy chocolate-khaki head. Fades fairly slowly.

S - Roasted chocolate and a bit of caramel malts, some dark fruits, molasses, black licorice, vanilla, earthy hops, and a touch of booze.

T - Dark chocolate and caramel malts, some plum and other dark fruits, molasses, black licorice, roasted coffee, cocoa, earthy hops, some bitterness, and some booze.

M - Full bodied with moderate carbonation. Smooth and almost creamy with a sweet, roasty, and warming finish.

D - Great RIS. Great balance and complexity.

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Photo of 05Harley
4.04/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

2012 vintage
Estimated calories - 300/12oz

Purchased through Let's pour

Price - $9.75/9.3oz bottle

One inch lite tan head covers this near pitch black jem. Foam bergs float effortlessly along a thin veil of silk. Sticky with great legs and plenty of lacing. With each sip a rejuvenation of bubbles adds to the head, nice...

Aroma is roasted malt, raisins, licorice, sweet molasses, chewing tobaco and leather. I'm actually frightened that I picked up the last two ingredients. The nose is perfect in strength to read.

The tastebuds have nothing to complain about with the usual expectations for the style. Un-sweetened chocolate, coffee, dark fruit and a hint of smoke. A big blast of black licorice though in the finish was a surprise. I'm a fan of licorice but this is much more prominent than I've experienced.

Mouthfeel is extremely well balanced between sweet and bitterness which makes this on the smooth side. Carbonation is all but non-existent. The hops are kept in check as expected with a UK brewed Impy Stout which is why I wanted to review this as fresh as possible. There is enough hops to offer that pleasently dry finish I look for.

Overall a quality representation of the style from an American point of view. The 10% alcohol strength is well hidden and makes this somewhat smooth if you can overcome the extreme licorice flavor and metalic aftertaste. Over priced IMO.

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Photo of Scotchboy
4.16/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle into a Hair of the Dog tulip -

A: Relatively dark and opaque body - creamy brown head, some lacing.

S: Heavy malt base, less hopping that usual for a RIS (I would expect this out of a Brit). Dark roast, hints of sweeter malt, dark caramel, hints of coffee and licorice.

T: There is a hint of leafy hop here; dominated by roast, coffee, caramel, moderate dark chocolate, and a hint of licorice again.

Not quite as robust as Americanized offerings but a solid, pleasant drinker.

MF: Creamy body is more medium than full - hides the alcohol very well on the plus side. Dry finish.

O: Decent, more than decent really. Its a good RIS, with no trace of the 10% anywhere, and solid roasty, malty characters.

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Photo of wisrarebeer
4.16/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled May 2011

A: black, opaque, poured a beautiful thick creamy head with a tan color
S: mild but very pleasing, some burnt licorice and malt, treacle undertones
T: creamy, full-bodied, some heat in finish, deep roasted/burnt malt, this is the type of IRS I like where the hops are not over the top and dominating but the malt takes center stage, a little bit of astringency in the finish
M: very satisfying, well-made

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Photo of IronDjinn
4.33/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

From a 275 ml brown bottle. Pours out a dense opaque black hue, thin tan head that dissipates to an even thinner sparse cap.

Rich espresso and molasses on the nose, some woody licorice, dried figs, and faint dry cocoa as well.

Burnt dark malt up front in the flavour, some cocoa and coffee follows, finishing up with dry cocoa and spicy, herbal hops melded with some alcohol heat.

Full-bodied mouthfeel on the lighter end, texture is slick yet residual sugars get sticky on the palate, with low carbonation.

Pretty solid offering for the style, pretty much hits all the right notes. While the hop content is certainly present it still doesn't prevent this RIS from being a bit cloying at first, however it still manages to take the palate on a bit of a ride through some different terrain when all is said and done. Based on that I have to keep reminding myself this is an English rendition, which makes pretty much par for the course in that light.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.95/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Courage Russian Imperial Stout (9.3 oz. bottle) has a thick, creamy, tan head and a very dark brown appearance. When one swishes the bottom contents and pours it in, then a heavy, grayish cloud descends into the glass. Good lacing is left around the glass as well. The aroma is rich, with raisin, dark-roasted barley malt, black cherries, chocolate powder, and black bread crust. Taste is of rich, sweet malt, dark fruits, chocolate, dark-roast coffee, brown sugar, lots of bitterness, and fudge. The mouthfeel is velvety, thick, and heavy, and Courage Russian Imperial Stout finishes semi-dry, rich, and dense. Overall, this is a world-class beer, and I give it an extremely strong recommendation. Please try it!

RJT

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

Poured a thick and creamy dark brown with a long lasting dark brown head, nice lacing and good retention.

The smell is dominated by sweet caramel malts with hints of roasted barley and smoke.

The flavor is very full, big roasty malts, smoke, dark chocolate with a big blast of hop bitterness breaking through the malty sweetness bringing into a nice balanced state for a beer of this enormity.

The mouthfeel is very creamy and rich.

A great imperial stout, pretty much spot on benchmark quality.

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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 Muhly
4.27/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 275 bottle into snifter. Slightly higher than cellar temp.

A-Black and almost completely opaque save for some brown highlights. Some foamy brown head forms on pour with low retention. Some spotty lacing.

S-a metric ton of toasty malt comes rushing right at you. Almost like smelling a mash tun on brew day. Slight hints of alcohol.

T-sweet dark malts followed by bitter dark chocolate and molasses. Minimal hop presence.

M-moderately full mouthfeel. Finishes with some molasses sweetness on the tongue.

O-this is an intensely malty beer. In a world where hop driven beers are the norm, this reminds you that flavour and conplexity can be entirely malt driven. This would be a great beer to sip with a nice chocolate gelato or a tiramisu.

Wish that there had been a bit more hea initially, although low head retention is considered within the style for RIS.

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Photo of Knapp85
4.16/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This beer poured out as a deep black color with a brown foamy head on top. There is a moderate lacing and pretty good retention as well. The smell of the beer is rich and roasted with a sweet berry aroma coming off of it also. The taste is chocolatey with a roasted malt and coffee, there is also a strange fruity flavor in the finish. The mouthfeel is smooth and very rich. Moderate carbonation and smooth. Overall this is a very good Russian Imperial Stout. Very rich and very enjoyable. Worth checking out!

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Photo of BradenMK
4.07/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was a near-perfect beer that I had warm just because I wanted to try it, and I had no expectations. I would like to try it cold, on tap, and any way I could get it, because as a stout-lover this is one of the best.

Also, I want to let the Bros know, Todd who reviewed this last in 2011 (I think?), this apparently is still being brewed, or has been started up again (or something), because I found it today in a 9.3oz bottle in Columbus, OH at The Anderson's general store and there were a few others there. I want to go back and get more. So, since you guys seemed to like it so much, if you don't know already, you can still find it in some places. It's amazing.

Sorry I'm not doing a full review with the right paces and all of the bits in the right order, but I wanted to make sure it was known that this is still out there!

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Photo of barnzy78
4.46/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

275mL bottle, dated 16/08/2025, presumably bottled in 2012, #049313 of 210000

Pours black with tons of yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle (I left almost all of it in the bottle), tan colored head fades quickly to nothing leaving some lacing on the glass on its way down. Much more appealing aroma with rich, sweet, decadent dark chocolate and malt, faint anise, smoky roast, and booze. Very sweet and rich, with both dark chocolate & baker's chocolate, caramel, dark fruit, smoke, roast, booze, there actually is pear on the finish as the bottle states. Smooth, chewy, and full bodied mouth-feel. Overall, I poured it and thought it was going to be a disappointment, but I standcorrected - it was a world-class quality Russian Imperial Stout!

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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 constantine_272
4.34/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Served out of a bottle into a tulip. "No. 063233 of 210000."

A: Jet black with caramel foam. I swirled the last third of the bottle to stir up some head but it fades fast.

S: Strong and sweet caramel and chocolate. Hint of alcohol.

T: A huge load of roast coffee and chocolate that quickly turns to a bitter finish. The bitterness of some hops and roasted grain blend well together creating a unique bittering sensation. After a few more sips, I'm noticing some spice notes, maybe nutmeg, it's hard to put my finger on this one.

M: A bit full to sit down and drink more than one of these. The coffee flavor lingers on the back of the tongue long after swallowing.

O: Great stout, it's a concentrated punch of flavor. Even with all that flavor it's not too robust to enjoy. The whopping 10% alcohol is covered nicely here. One of the better stouts out there. 10% is just a tad high for my taste, but I wouldn't have known otherwise. This beer gets good overall marks for its uniqueness and bold, full flavor.

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Photo of DaveAnderson
4.64/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

How does a beer brewed without chocolate taste so much like chocolate?

I wasn't expecting a ton from this beer, and nonchalantly poured it into an Ikea 365 glass. But, BLAM! I was immediately served notice. This beer is all about the roast and chocolate.

It smells like a high-percentage-cocoa chocolate bar. It is off-the-charts chocolate aroma. I have to work hard to identify anything else. Maybe, there's some tropical fruits in there? Hard to say, because the chocolate dominates. There's something unusual right below the surface, too -- like wheat nuts. It is too fleeting to focus on.

The flavor is rich and full of chocolate, but also has some great bitterness. It's softly carbonated, and finished very cleanly. For such a small bottle, it just keeps delivering more with each sip!

I know this is one of those beers that has a claim to be the first of its style. Whether or not that's true, this should be measured against the best of them. It's simply a delight to drink.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.66/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

(2012 Vintage - poured in a 10 oz snifter)

A: grey-ish, ashy-brown head, welled up good and tall on the pour, creamy, but lots of big bubbles mostly visible on the sides....is this bottle-conditioned? - the last few small pours were a good bit cloudy....very much black...the head has an open structure, breaks apart and leaves chips of lace

S: dark, sweet chocolate - fairly bold....dense cake batter, with a little caramel....decent bit of roasted barley character, some patent as well?...not much alcohol but certainly some dark fruit (prune or fig) or small, bitter shrub berries

T: roasted and alcohol (grain flavor and warmth) notes way more up front....certainly some espresso, but as much if not more of a potent, vinous fruitiness - helps establish some beautiful complexity...bit of an ashy, (vinous-) alcoholic finish, aftertaste....the roast comes back in the aftertaste, long-lasting with an almost juniper-berry-like alcohol flavor

M: kind of a phantom silkiness that vanishes, shifting to a dry warmth...alcohol heat, mellowed by the residual caramel-y, lip-smack-y, gently-syrupy malt body coating the mouth....suggests it's going one way or the other, wonderfully confusing to the palate

O: very damn tasty, rich, and quaffable! and I'm a bit surprised. has a "benchmark" quality to it....seems well worth the money/novelty

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Photo of acevenom
4.76/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a tulip glass. Pours black with a thick, tan head that dissipates slowly. There are some visible bubbles collecting on the underside of the head. Some lacing is left on the side of the glass as the head recedes. There are aromas of dark roasted malts, dark fruits, coffee, alcohol, and chocolate. The roasted malts are very forward in the flavor, bringing some roastiness and smokiness to the palate. I also get the coffee and chocolate notes. The dark fruit flavors are also there, but the other flavors are the star of this show and the fruit plays on the back end. The alcohol can also be tasted as well and there's plenty of roast in the aftertaste. The body is full with moderate carbonation. This is an excellent beer.

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Photo of mitch3114
4.48/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

2012 vintage 9.3 oz. bottle, #43,151

Poured into a Belgian globe

A- This is a very dark brown brew with a surprisingly bubbly head that rose at about 2 inches after a vigorous pour and lasted a bit longer than most beers of this strength. The head was really bubbly almost like a Belgian. Nice lacing. Sticky.

S- The aroma of this beer takes you on a full journey. First it smelled like a rich chocolate shake and then morphed into a fermented fruity bouquet of goodness with hints of toffee, candied dates, raisins and figs. A slight hint of roasted coffee beans, molasses, a subtle gingerbread scent and finally finishes with some alcohol esters to clue you in that this brew means business!

T- Nice thick chocolatey taste with a hint of coffee. Also, some of those fruits cut through the dark and at last, that alcohol shows itself, but not in a bad way. Nothing bad here. Even though the alcohol is present this is a nice malty, well balanced beer.

M- The mouthfeel really shines on this one. It is thick, but not too thick... it's just right and it compliments the taste quite nicely.

O- "O" is what I felt when I drank this beer! This is a very well balanced, great tasting, very fragrant beer. Hurry up and try it this year before all 210,000 of them are gone! And if you can, pick some up to hold on to as I could see this beer aging really well.

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Courage Imperial Russian Stout from Wells & Young's Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 289 ratings.
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