Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes – My Imperial Stout Diversion with the Bourbon Community Roundtable

I’m way behind the curve on barrel-aged Imperial Stout.  I never really gave bourbon-barrel aged anything a chance because more than a decade ago, when bourbon barrel aging started creeping into beer and wine, I liked to keep my beer and my bourbon separate.

Fast forward to spring 2019 at The Bar at Willett when I tried an Imperial Stout from Other Half Brewing Company in Brooklyn aged for 12 months in a Willett bourbon barrel.  I was shocked at what I had been missing and it sent me on a quest.

Around the same time, the Bourbon Community Roundtable was getting close to receiving our own Imperial Stout brewed by 3rd Turn Brewing in Louisville aged in a Buffalo Trace barrel that we had selected, so my excitement for that went through the roof.  3rd Turn used a recipe with Carafa light-roasted spring barley along with chocolate wheat malt to add an espresso-like bouquet and chocolate flavors, and I was hoping that our barrel produced the same magic as the Willett barrel.

As I waited impatiently for our Imperial Stout, I made several trips to Liquor Barn, each time trying a new array of Stouts, Imperial Stouts, and barrel-aged Imperial Stouts.  It’s safe to say that I’m hooked now.

I’ve arranged these Stouts by price per ounce except for our Bourbon Community Roundtable collaboration Imperial Stout, which I saved for last.  Try these or others and comment below so that I can continue my Stout journey.

Nitro Milk Stout
Brewery:        Left Hand Brewing Co., Colorado
Barrel Aged:  No
ABV:              6%
IBUs:              25
Cost:               $12.99 6 pk. 12 oz. bottles (18 cents per ounce)

IMG_9335

Appearance:
Very thin and light head.  The bottle suggests pouring it hard, but even then, there’s not much head.

Nose:
All lactose and cocoa.

Taste:
Not heavy.  Its lightness was refreshing, but that also means that it wasn’t particularly complex or contemplative.  Soft roasted malt and lots of cocoa with extremely low carbonation—too low in my book.

Finish:
Nothing really, just a fresh, milky aftertaste.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Brewery:        North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, California
Barrel Aged:  No
ABV:              9%
IBUs:              75
Cost:               $10.99 4 pk. 12 oz. bottles (23 cents per ounce)

IMG_9338

Appearance:
Black with a huge creamy light tan head.

Nose:
Malty, faint dark chocolate, nutty, raisins, and maybe caramel.

Taste:
Higher carbonation than most of these Stouts.  Flavor of Italian espresso.  I tasted it right after the Left Hand Milk Stout and it was so different—no lactose of course, not very creamy, and not nearly as much chocolate.  The chocolate was different; instead of chocolate milk it was more of a slightly boozy dark chocolate dessert.

Finish:
A little bitter coffee / espresso and richly warming.

35k Milk Stout
Brewery:        Against the Grain Brewery, Louisville, Kentucky
Barrel Aged:  No
ABV:              7%
IBUs:              26
Cost:               $14.99 4 pk. 16 oz. cans (23 cents per ounce)

IMG_0141

Appearance:
Dark black with a light brown head.

Nose:
Roasted malt, whoppers, and chocolate milk.

Taste:
Milky, creamy, whoppers, and chocolate.  A light fizz and the sweetness made it mouthwatering, but the thick sweetness wasn’t overpowering.  This was really good.

Finish:
Nothing really other than sustained mouthwatering sweetness and roasted malt.

Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout
Brewery:        New Holland Brewing, Holland, Michigan
Barrel Aged:  Yes—time undisclosed
ABV:              11%
IBUs:              30
Cost:               $16.99 4 pk. 12 oz. bottles (35 cents per ounce)

IMG_9336

Appearance:
Nice tan head that dissipates quickly.

Nose:
Pure chocolate malt.

Taste:
Definite barrel influence and lightly carbonated, with roasty malt, cocoa, and vanilla.

Finish:
Fading chocolate malt.

70k Imperial Milk Stout
Brewery:        Against the Grain Brewery, Louisville, Kentucky
Barrel Aged:  Yes—“for a really, really long time”
ABV:              13%
IBUs:              48
Cost:               $19.99 750 mL bottle (~25 oz) (80 cents per ounce)

IMG_9272

Appearance:
Dense black with a creamy tan head.

Nose:
Coffee and cream, light oak, vanilla, chocolate shop, and coconut.

Taste:
So creamy; mocha, sweetened cream, sticky caramel, and more coconut. No hint of the high ABV.  I’m still looking for the bourbon and oak.  But there was something acidic that maybe was the bourbon coming through, and it was distracting.

Finish:
Not overly sweet, lots of malted barley.

Ink Imperial Stout
Brewery:        Rhinegeist Brewery, Cincinnati, Ohio
Barrel Aged:  No
ABV:              10%
IBUs:              57
Cost:               $18.99 22 oz. bottle (86 cents per ounce)IMG_E9241

Appearance:
Let’s just say “Ink” is an appropriate name.  Pitch black with a thick tan head.

Nose:
Vanilla, roasted malt, light cocoa, sugary cereal, and sweet cappuccino.

Taste:
This is really superb—coffee, roasted malt, mocha, and toffee.  I can’t wait to hunt for the barrel-aged version of Ink.  I was surprised to like it so much.  The balance, the creaminess, just the right amount of carbonation—all left me wanting to stock up.

Finish:
Coating, thick, dark chocolate, but somewhat drying.

And now, for the barrel-aged Imperial Stout that all of this has been leading up to:

Pursuit Series / Bourbon Community Roundtable barrel-aged Imperial Stout
Brewery:        3rd Turn Brewery, Louisville, Kentucky
Barrel Aged:  Yes—15 months in a Buffalo Trace barrel that we selected
ABV:              12.2%
IBUs:              Not disclosed
Cost:               $25.00 32 oz. crowlers (78 cents per ounce)IMG_0142

Appearance:
Black with a creamy tan head.

Nose:
Roasted malt, cocoa, and sweet cream.

Taste:
It’s boozy for sure—boozier than any of the others—but not distractingly so.  Instead it’s more of an afterthought to the creaminess and the pure Whoppers with coconut balanced by robust oak character.

Finish:
Warming milk chocolate fondue with remaining tannins to balance the sweetness.

Bottom Line

While I’m going to stick to bourbon as a whole, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my Stout diversion.  I learned that—like bourbon—Stout is best when shared with friends and best when you can open a few different varieties.  After trying each of these individually on my own, I had many of them again with friends, along with a few others; it’s great to compare and contrast them and, most of all, to enjoy them with company.

Like bourbon, my test for these Stouts is essentially which ones would I buy again, which ones would I just a soon pass on, and which ones will I affirmatively seek out?  I didn’t dislike any that I tried, so I’m not avoiding any and depending on which are available, I’d buy them all again.  But I certainly have priorities.  After my BCR Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout is gone, I have a feeling that I’m going to be all about Rhinegeist.  I’d happily pay the price for another bottle of Ink and I will definitely be on the lookout for barrel-aged Ink.

I’ll also be repeat purchaser of 70k and 35k if I can’t find Rhinegeist.  After those, the prices were more reasonable, and my order of preference was Dragon’s Milk, Old Rasputin, and Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout.  And, of course, there are a multitude of other Stouts and Imperial Stouts that I’ll need to try and maybe one day I’ll even luck into a Goose Island Bourbon County barrel-aged Stout.  So, with apologies to the beer enthusiasts out there, you have one more fan who is looking for Stouts.  At least the other enthusiasts have our BCR Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout to add to their hunt.

2 Comments on “Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes – My Imperial Stout Diversion with the Bourbon Community Roundtable

  1. Some more very Solid buys

    Ballast Point High West Victory at Sea

    Lagunitas Willetized Coffee Stout

    James E Pepper 1776 Stout

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: