Summer is over and even with the unseasonably warm weather we're having, things tend to cool down by early evening. This is the perfect weather for those big, bold, brooding imperial stouts, with their malt flavors and high alcohol content, which can top 8 percent. Here are three versions of the imperial style, originated in 18th century Britain but brewed for the Russian court:
Big Sky Brewing Ivan the Terrible Imperial Stout, $2.99-$3.69
This brew pours the darkest of brown and is topped by a two-finger mocha froth that quickly collapses. The nose opens with boozy bittersweet chocolate, candied date, fig and spice. Dark chocolate dominates the palate, with a hit of bitter hops on the finish. Some heat comes through as well—not surprising given its 9.5 percent alcohol content. Delicious.
Goose Island The Muddy Imperial Stout, $3.19-$3.89
Ebony in the glass, this beer has a thin head and leaves little lacing. There's a sour, vegetal quality to the nose along with dried fruit, roasted grain and anise. Fruit cake flavors dominate the palate, backed by chocolate-y latte and black licorice. This brew weighs in at 9 percent ABV, but it's well hidden. A different take on the style.
North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, $2.29-$2.99
This jet black brew throws a rich tan, three-finger head that persists nicely and leaves a lovely lacing. The nose is a combo of toasted malt, dark chocolate and espresso. It's beautifully balanced with sweet malt flavors playing against heady hops, all colored by roasted chocolate and herbs. An American classic.