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GREAT BEER: Imperial Stout Taste Off for the Winter Months

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GREAT BEER: Imperial Stout Taste Off for the Winter Months

Chicago Mike | Nov 25, 2004 09:32 PM

What better exercise on Thanksgiving than to do an Imperial Stout tasting...

Got 5 bottles of the best out of the "cellar". All 5 had been kept at least a year in the bottle under pretty good conditions.

The 5 sampled are: Avery Czar Imperial Stout, Bells' EXPEDITION STOUT (NOT Bells Regular Stout), Left Hand Imperial Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial, and last but not least the venerable fantastic Victory Storm King....

How's that for a lineup ??? High 5 to all you stout-freaks out there....

Tasting notes follow:

AVERY CZAR IMPERIAL STOUT: Pours with almost no foam. Very sweet distinctive nose. Pleasant fruity taste, very minimal tar/coffee etc. Medium to thin texture. On the 2nd flight the fruity, distinctive nose is even more prevalent.

BELLS EXPEDITION STOUT: Pours with a slight "espresso" like foam. Richly flavored. Chocolate and light-tar notes that linger to medium tar. Slight nose. Medium to thicker texture. Richness to the taste... Lip-smacking sweetness on the end. The Nose opens up a bit on 2nd flight as it warms up in the glass... very impressive taste, rich coffee/tar but not bitter or "vomity (like Guiness, for example)".

LEFT HAND IMPERIAL STOUT: Little nose. Very light foam to the pour. Slightly carbonated texture, not in an unpleasant way. Lingering coffee taste. Medium texture. Not quite as rich tasting as Bells... Nice medium-rich flavor on 2nd flight. Nothing not to like but nothing "super striking" either. Very solid. Towards the end I'm thinking that I probably slightly prefer Left Hand over Avery, and Bells over both.

NORTH COAST OLD RASPUTIN IMPERIAL STOUT: Pours foamy. Slight nose. Medium to thinner texture. Tarriest of the lot to this point. Rich, lingering lip-smacking tarriness but the flavor is not as interesting as the ever-richer Bells Expedition.

VICTORY STORM KING IMPERIAL STOUT: Slight foam. Very rich and creamy texture.... Dense flavor. Bells is at least as dense and more complex and interesting than Storm King at this oint. Storm King has a kind of "indistinct yet rich taste" on 2nd flight... Slightly softer than Old Rasputin. Think I would give a slight nod to Old Rasputin over Storm King at this point...

Now to begin the tasteoffs and elimination rankings...

Both Left Hand and Avery are quite tasty on their own & there's really nothing not to like about either, but they are both in a different flavor category than the other 3, as they favor the sweeter/fruitier style, so let's put them aside. Also, while on the topic, for anyone who really loves this "sweet style of stout", there's only one way to go: the incomparable Dogfish Head World Wide Stout... at 18% plus alcohol, it's a "port substitute" and in a class by itself, why it's not in these tasteoffs because it has no competition.

NOW, the 3 "rich finalists" are developing even richer and subtle noses as they warm in the glass...

BELLS... OOOOhhh!... Luscsiousness is evolving... some fruit and cherries entering the taste panorama

OLD RASPUTING... Solid tar and coffee prevails...

VICTORY STORM KING:... Hmmm, not quite sure about this... must say that this stout may not have "aged" as well in the bottle over the past year as the others. When it's on it's really on.

STOP RIGHT HERE... We have a winner... First Place clearly is going to Bells Expedition Stout... at $16 or so a sixpack it's a bargain... Just a question of who's number two...

Question no longer... the "silver medal" goes to none other than the always interesting North coast Old Rasputin... holds up so well in the cellar... if you love a solid stout, full of coffee and tar, look no further.

NOW... Who's in 3rd ??? Let's bring back Avery and Left Hand at this point... after a 4th (or is it 5th) round, the clear taste favorite of the remaining 3 is Left Hand Imperial Stout... Avery follows up in 4th and Victory Storm King brings up the rear in 5th with it's "indistinguished" taste.

ALL of these stouts were most pleasant. The only notable question was the Victory which may not be an age-worthy stout but is superb in every year of it's release and on tap whenever I've had it. A fantastic fresh stout.

ALL - IN - ALL The Bells Expedition Stout proves once again why it's in a class by itself!

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