I think it's become pretty clear that I'm not exactly Mr. Dependable when it comes to timely reviews of special edition beers. I just don't have the time or inclination to run around town chasing a bottle, especially when I have absolutely no baseline from which to estimate its deliciousness. I'm much more likely to miss out entirely, or stumble on a bottle or two by accident. The latter is just what happened with Real Ale's 15th Anny Russian Imperial Stout.
Interestingly, I actually stumbled on this one right around its release back in the summer, and have been sitting on it ever since. It's just difficult to bring myself to drink something so dark and heavy when I'm sweating even in the AC. I drank one then, just to give it a try, but didn't bother to take the time with it necessary to do a full write-up. Since the weather has started turning, I've been opening more and more dark, heavy beers, and finally made it back around to this one.
This RIS is surprisingly light and fizzy-looking, tending toward a dried blood tint of dark brown. A darkish cap immediately recedes to a thin ring and puffy, scattered pocks dot the surface.
This beer smells of chocolate (dark cocoa) and raspberries. It's a bit raisiny, a bit resinous, and generally in line with what I expect from a Russian Imperial. Very darkly roasted coffee holds all of these other aromas down like a blanket.
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The beer leads with big, dark roast flavors, coffee and raw cacao, with an almost bitter, burnt edge. Fruitiness comes in after, first with raisins and dried fruit, transitioning through cherries to a slightly tart, raspberry-tinged mid finish, chased out by a closing dose of hops, just enough to cleanse the palate. After the finish, the roastiness lingers, tasting like the just-burnt edges of chocolate chip cookies that have seen the back side of crispness. This leaves you with an overall heavy impression of the beer, allowing the fruity middle to take on a bright, almost effervescent character with each subsequent sip.
This is a strong, aggressive beer with a surprisingly sunny interior. As it warms, a bit of its booziness shows through, like a saturated whiff of some Spanish or Portuguese fortified wine or other. As I drink, I can't help but think of this as the liquid version of some sort of dark, Eastern European loaf, like it's ready to fortify you against bread lines and the bitter cold. I don't see either opportunity presenting itself anytime soon, and I'm just as happy to enjoy this on the back porch, as night edges out the day, and the temperature reminds us, once again, that Houston is indeed livable.