The Great Lost Beer II #BrewedAwakening

By / Wine + Drinks / December 1st, 2017 / 7

I returned to my cellar this week to pull a beer that was getting a little bit dusty. This time it was a brew that the producer intended to be ageworthy: Pioneering Montreal brewery McAuslan‘s St. Ambroise Special Reserve Bourbon Wood Aged Russian Imperial Stout, from 2014.

Aging beer is a bit foreign to average beer drinkers, who generally think of beer aging as the time it takes to get the beer from the store to your house. Some don’t even wait that long…

Beer can age though, in the same manner as wine. They can develop a smoothness of texture and a high level of aromatic and flavourful complexity. Full body, sweetness, high bitterness, bottle conditioning (live yeast), cleanliness (no bacteria or wild yeast still chomping at the bit) and alcohol are all things that help beer age without oxidizing and going sour. It seems to me that this Imperial Stout has 5 of these 6. I’m not sure about bottle conditioning, as there was not a lot of sediment as I poured this thick, full textured, 9.2% alcohol, ~84 IBU ale into a Belgian style chalice. But it was not on the label, so I’ll assume it was at least lightly filtered.

This Russian Imperial Stout, brewed as an homage to the strong black beers brewed for the Russian Imperial House in the 18th century, had a medium brown head at first, but it dissipated quickly. The carbonation was quite low, common for aged beers (unless they’ve gone wild and turned into a gusher).

The aromas were beautiful: tar, smoke, fruit, chocolate and black, roasty malt. The body was extra full, and the palate was smooth, finishing long, with a pleasant but not overpowering bitterness that sat nicely alongside tar and black licorice flavours. There was some sweetness but it was not cloying.

Based on this sample, it could have aged for some time longer. This is beer fit for a Czar…


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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