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Friday, February 15, 2013

Two Brother's Brewery Nothwind Imperial Stout

  • Style: Russian Imperial Stout
  • ABV: 9.10%
  • Season: Winter
  • Ease to locate: Easy to find in Chicagoland liquor and grocery stores.  They are currently carried in IL, IN, OH, NY, & MN.  
  • Color: Solid black brown with no light shine through
  • Head: One & half fingers that dissipated quickly.  Light lacing 
  • Aroma: Dark chocolate, coffee & roasted malts.  A bit sweet.
  • Mouthfeel: Moderately lush & a bit chewy
  • Finish: Medium & bitter, but softened as the beer warmed
  • Food friendly:  Not so much.  Imperial Stouts are heavy & hearty.  Makes a fine desert all on it's own, but try it with a slice of pound cake or strawberry shortcake.
     When I think of Russians, I think of the TV shows and movies of my youth.  Back then, the go-to bad guy usually had a thick Serbian accent and a yen for crystal clear, but lethal vodka.  Except for Pavel Chekhov.  Even as a kid watching reruns, I could tell that Chekhov would have been flat under a table after one night of carousing with Kirk & crew.  Sort of like The Hangover in space.  Instead of the tiger and baby, you'd get a sehlat and a slew of Tribbles.  Honestly, I think I could successfully pitch that idea to Warner Bros right now.  Look for it next summer!      

                                                                  Now picture this with Kirk and McCoy holding pints of Stout and Spock missing a front tooth  Yep, Hollywood gold

 Today we have a new TV show staring Felicity herself (Keri Russell for the uninitiated of the Ben or Noel saga of the late 90's) as one half of a sleeper cell Russian spy couple.  Although the show is set in the 1980s, I could easily see Keri and hubby knocking a beer back after coming home from a long night of undermining the Regan administration and resisting the corrupt American lifestyle of Pac Man and Aqua Net (they might have been right about the Aqua Net.  Some days I can still taste it in my mouth when the breeze blows from the West.)     And do you think that they would be drinking bottles of Bud or Coors?  No way, comrade.  It would have been Russian Imperial Stouts or nothing for these protectors of the Motherland. 

Russian Imperial Stouts are actually British in origin, brewed in the 18th century by a brewery in England for export to Catherine The Great's court.  They are generally high in ABV with most hovering around 9% to 11% ABV (Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout is only 7% while Three Floyd's legendary Dark Lord clocks in at a whooping 15%.)   The hop profile differs from Stout to Stout, but most fall into the mild category.  Known for their huge chocolate and almost burnt malt flavor profiles, these are not beers for the meek and mild.  These are brews that are constructed to keep you warm on a frigid Moscow (or Chicago, for that matter) night.  

Like a nuclear summit, everything starts off very promising

My Two Brother's Brewery Northwind Imperial Stout poured a dark brownish black color.  This was a solid beer, with no traces of lightness to it when held to a light bulb.  A thick 1 & 1/2 finger head rose, tan and creamy.   The lacing started off strong with medium sized bits clinging to the glass.   I was disappointed when the head quickly settled to a bare film covering the drink and the lacing disappeared completely.  The beer smelled wonderful, however.  Strong dark chocolate, substantial roasted coffee and sweet caramel malt scents wafted from the foam.   The taste eventually followed suit.  I say eventually, because this was the type of beer that benefited from a bit of a warm up.  I initially drank the beer too cold and the taste suffered because of it (I found it hot from the alcohol and the burnt coffee & malt were unpleasantly bitter.)  I then let the stout warm for about 20 minutes and the taste improved dramatically (lesson learned.  Patience, Grasshopper.)  I could taste dark bitterly sweet chocolate and black coffee.  The caramel sweetness of the malts balanced the harshness that I found so off putting at first.  The hot booze note mellowed as well, but it softened too much in my opinion.  Imperial Stouts should have a sort of heat from the alcohol that warms you from the inside out.  There were also notes of dates and maybe a tinge of smoke.  There was no hop notes as far as I could tell.  The mouthfeel was moderate with a nice lush feeling coating your tongue.  There was a chewiness to it that I enjoyed.  It wasn't the thickest or most decadent Imperial Stout that I've tasted, but the mouthfeel and good carbonation certainly made it an easy to drink beer.  The finish was medium with a bit of the alcohol coming in on the very end.  

All that foam and yet, Nyet

Northwind Imperial Stout isn't the sort of beer that you'd want to serve with dinner.  Most Imperial Stouts are difficult to pair with food because their inherit sweet and boozy qualities.  However, pour a pint alongside a simple pound cake or homemade strawberry shortcake, piled high with fresh whipped cream (which is less sweet & dense than Cool Whip) and you've got yourself a satisfying desert. The Cold War is over and the era of making the good citizens of the former Soviet Union the all encompassing symbol of evil has past.  Because, Russian and American alike, we all now know exactly who the real enemy are.  Reality show contestants.