On Monday, Saint Arnold released Divine Reserve 15, the latest in the single-batch series. It's a Russian Imperial Stout, brewed using a recipe originally released as DR5 back in August of 2007. The beer checks in at 10.1 percent ABV; I was able to obtain a bottle to sample this week.
Saint Arnold's website says the beer can be served "at 45°F or warmer"; for a dark, heavy beer such as this, something closer to room temperature than refrigerator temperature is better for tasting the full range of flavor. I took mine out of the refrigerator and left it at room temperature for a little over an hour before serving.
My first impressions:
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The nose is strongly boozy-- I was actually surprised this had not been aged in bourbon barrels -- with strong flavors of dark chocolate beneath that. Hints of spices underneath were detectable-- winter flavors like nutmeg and the like (to be clear, this doesn't taste like Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale or Winter Stout)-- but they were subtle and faint compared to the alcohol and dark chocolate flavors.
The body of the beer, on the other hand, had a strong maltiness, and the spice flavors were much more noticeable. The mouthfeel of a sip was not dominated by the booziness, but the maltiness. As the beer warmed up, the spices became more prevalent in the flavor profile, providing a better overall balance to the beer.
The booziness returns to prominence in the finish, but rather than a harsh, alcoholic aftertaste, the beer goes down surprisingly smoothly. The finish makes this beer relatively easy to drink despite its weight and strength.
All in all, I quite liked the DR15; this is no surprise, as Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve line regularly produces some of the best beers in town. I'd recommend serving the beer closer to room temperature to get the most flavor and enjoyment out of it. I'm quite curious to try the Bishops Barrel 8, the DR15 aged in bourbon barrels. I hope to find that and report back on it soon.