This is deceptively carbonated because it is so thick and viscous. At first a standard pour made this beer seem flat so I poured it from a greater, more vigorous height. I ended up with four fingers of thick, dark brown colored head as dark as any I have seen on a beer (darker even than the crema on an espresso). It has quite the staying power as well as it only very slowly subsides with a thick layer of lacing left on the sides of my glass. The beer is about as pitch black as a beer can be.
The aroma smells of bitter blackened malt (though now burnt sourness is noticeable yet), dark chocolate, espresso candy, a huge toasted maltiness that is full of whole grain goodness, notes of tobacco and yes even some cedar come into play here. The aroma really has a chewy, wholesome character to it; I really like how much toasted, whole grain character comes through and that it is not dominated by overly roasted and burnt malt aromatics. Underneath all the excessively decadent malt there seems to be some citrusy hop notes with a light herbal component, but the nose on this is clearly malt dominated. A touch of broiled, burnt fruit comes through after digging around a bit with aromas of charred cherries, prunes and perhaps a touch of figs. Ultimately though the aroma is very complex, especially for an Imperial Stout; the cedar and hop character, while clearly a supporting component, really help to boost the complexity and even accentuate the focus on the brown, toasted malt notes (especially the cedar, I really think it is what allows the toasted notes to play such a big role here); the roast malt character is big here too, but it never excessively dominates and instead the notes of espresso, charred fruit and burning aromatic tobacco come off as quite inviting rather than harsh and overwhelming.
Thick and viscous feeling as it hits my tongue, the beer is not excessively heavy though (I have had heavier, more decadent beers, but they are also a lot harder to drink than this). This is still most definitely a sipping brew, and it does actually have a pretty heavy level of carbonation that makes the beer seem just a touch too fizzy; some vigorous swirling takes care of the lingering, excess carbonation though, which allows the rich, viscous body to luxuriously languish on my tongue as I take sips of this beer. The flavor is more roast dominated than the nose; there is both a solid, bitter roasted malt note as well as a bit of burnt acidity to the finish. Up front though is a rich, smooth espresso flavor, dark burnt chocolate notes, and a thick sweet malted note that mixes with an almost nutty, richly toasted, whole grain character. A biting, almost citric, hop bitterness comes through in the finish, but it at times struggles to be noticed underneath the weight of all this malt; the longer the beer has left my mouth the more I notice the hop bitterness though. At times you can tell how heavily hopped this beer is, as there can be a green, substantially herbal, fresh hop character here, but it is so often buried under many of the other competing notes that it is only sometimes noticed during a sip. The cedar, adds a sort of resinous quality to the flavor up front, but it integrates itself quite well with the other flavors here. The rich malt character suggests a depth of flavor that takes on the character of smoke and even a touch of sea-salt, along with a lightly astringent woody note
This is definitely a lot better than the Big Sound that I had, for that I am relieved as this beer is certainly living up to the hype. The cedar character really works quite well here. It is much more complimentary than any oak aged, or spirit aged Imperial stout I have ever had; in fact, based on this beer, cedar aging should be the default wood for aging Imperial Stouts in (I would guess it would do quite well in a Barleywine as well). The body of this beer is quite nice, it is thick and lush, but is not so viscous as to be cloying; this really does strike a nice balance between being rich enough to carry the complexity and roast malt notes and yet still being drinkable (actually quite drinkable, I am even surprised that I am getting through this 750ml bottle without any struggle). This is one of the best Imperial Stouts I have had and it has definitely far exceeded my expectations; it reminds me that I really should go back and rerate a lot of those early Imperial Stout Ratings (though there are certainly a few gems there); the problem it is not one of my favorite styles, so I am not very motivated to do that).
Huge thanks to Joey for sharing this great beer at La Bella Pizza last night (6-16-09). I've wanted to try a beer from Cigar City for a couple of months now and this beer was a great introduction to the brewery.
The beer pours very dark and thick! The last time I was this impressed with the color and viscosity of a beer was with Ten Fidy. A nice inch of creamy foam rests on top of the beer for a good amount of time.
From the first whiff I could tell this beer was very complex. Lots of roasted and chocolate malts on the nose, what I loved about this beer were the intensity of the roasted and chocolate malts without coming off as burnt. More toasted malts come through, along with some vanilla in the background and some hints of light smoke. Really good stuff, lots of chocolaty goodness.
The taste consisted of smoke and chocolate on the front with some toast crumbs, earthy hop bitterness, and dry cocoa in the end. Notes of tobacco and just a bit of ashy in the finish (which reminded me of fresh Abyss). Some dark fruits started to show up after a couple of sips, mostly dates and raisins late in the finish.
Medium level of carbonation, creamy, thick, and smooth. Quite easy to drink, didn't even know the beer was over 11% until I was ready to post this review. Would love to have this again.
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