It’s officially winter, which means cooler temps and embracing all the things that can keep a chill at bay—cozy sweaters, toasty fires and, of course, drinks to warm the body and soul.
Few beverages can do the latter like a dark, rich and roasty stout, filling your palate with robust, decadent flavors and sending that tingling warming sensation down to your core. With so many different stout styles available, there is almost certainly a bottling for any palate. Though they’re all flavorful, each varies in intensity, weight, alcohol and overall drinkability.
Classic imperial stouts offer high alcohol content (usually between 8–12% abv) and intense, roasted-malt profiles. Oatmeal stouts are generally full bodied with moderate alcohol levels (usually between 4–7% abv) and creaminess from the addition of oats to the mash.
And then there’s the lush, mouthfilling beauty that is a milk or sweet stout, rounded by the addition of unfermented sugars, typically lactose. Some stouts can be so creamy, rich and smooth, we’re essentially talking boozy chocolate milkshakes for grown-ups. But more on those in February, when we cover milk and sweet-style stouts, the perfect Valentine’s Day treat.
These lush and luxurious pours are hard to resist, and are best shared with friends or family.
Today, we’re focused on American double or imperial stouts, those that truly exhibit the best warming qualities to keep old man winter far at bay. Some of the stouts reviewed for this month’s Beer Buying Guide are barrel aged, including in Bourbon casks and rye whiskey barrels, while others simply showcase the brilliance of complementary toasty additions, like nuts or roasted cacao nibs.
These lush and luxurious pours are hard to resist, and are best shared with friends or family to keep their high alcohols from taking you out of tasting play too soon. Another option: Buy at least two of everything, as especially potent versions prove to be excellent cellar candidates, as their aggressive primary tones evolve into interestingly complex and layered selections of great nuance.
Recommended Stouts to Try
The Bruery Chocolate Reign (American Double/Imperial Stout; The Bruery, CA); $50/750ml, 96 points. Like many stouts from The Bruery, this is not for the faint of heart. A double barrel-aged version of the brewery’s Chocolate Rain, this imperial stout brewed with cacao nibs and vanilla beans is rich, creamy and decadent in every way possible. Aromas of bittersweet cocoa, coffee bean, char and a touch of warm, Bourbon-soaked berries immediately waft from the glass. Those notes all carry through to the intense, slick and mouthfilling palate, with light wood tannins to aid in framing all the decadence. The finish is eternally long, dry and evolving, with warm toasted-spice and roasted cocoa-nib tones that transition into comforting accents of earthy forest and tree bark. abv: 21%
Stone Farking Wheaton W00tStout 2019 Release (American Double/Imperial Stout; Stone Brewing, CA); $17/12 oz 6 pack, 93 points. This year’s stout is brewed with pecans, wheat and rye, with one quarter aged in Bourbon barrels, and features original label artwork from comic artist Alan Davis. It pours a rich black color with a solid light-brown head. Nutty, chocolaty and spicy notes immediate emanate from the glass, with a slightly boozy, Bourbon-like accent underscoring it all. The palate is strong, full and warm, but not overly so, with pleasant roasted grains, browned caramel sauce, bittersweet cocoa and toasted pecan flavors that are enlivened by just enough carbonation to keep it from feeling too thick or cloying. The finish is bitter and dry, with lingering dark chocolate and char tones. abv: 11.5%
Pure Hazelsaurus Rex Batch #1 (American Double/Imperial Stout; Pure Project, CA); $24/22 oz, 92 points. This imperial stout brewed with coffee, vanilla and hazelnuts delivers on its promise of a front-and-center hazelnut character as bold and assertive as a T-Rex. Dark and roasty, it pours with a soft tan head and immediately releases expected scents of roasted grains, chocolate malt, coffee bean and toasted nuts, with just a touch of warm licorice in the back. The palate is smooth, but not too sweet or flabby, with moderate carbonation and a lingering bitterness to balance the rich flavor profile. abv: 14%
Two Roads 2019 The Road Less Traveled Series Igor’s Dream (American Double/Imperial Stout; Two Roads Brewing Co., CT); $20/750 ml, 92 points. An ode to aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky, this take on a Russian imperial-stout style is aged in rye whiskey barrels. A deep brown color, it pours with a solid white head that takes time to settle. The bouquet brims with spicy aromas of roasted grain, bittersweet cocoa, vanilla bean and burnt caramel sauce, all hit by solid doses of rye and wood spice. Medium in weight, the texture is slightly slick and viscous in feel, while moderate carbonation and a warming sensation keep it from feeling too heavy or cloying. Enduring warmth, as well as flavors of roasted malt, dark rye bread and baking spice, abound on the long close. abv: 12%