So there it was almost a week ago today, GONE, the much-anticipated IMPOFF event showcasing the best Imperial Stouts drinkers across the nation could muster. We expected it to get messy and it did just that, in more ways than one.
I’d assembled what I thought was a pretty impressive line up of beers for the night, most are pictured above with the odd exception, but this was soon to grow into a seemingly unmanageable amount of top-notch high strength impys with the arrival of the intrepid beer traveller @SixTownsMart who had swelled the ranks considerably with several raids to his beer store. Mart was to be one of my fellow samplers on the night along with the relatively new to tastings boys @StokieMarc and @MJTHollywood. We knocked up a makeshift scoring system, agreed a sort of pecking order and with a stout heart and willing taste buds we set to it.
Starting with these three fine specimens, here follows a brief run down with notes gleaned from tasting note sheets.
Great Divide Yeti– Notes: “Heavy drinking”, “chocolate”, “strong overpowering alcohol”, “roasted aromas”, “hard to drink a lot of”. Personally I liked this beer but I do have a taste for GD’s offerings anyway. First drink of the night could account for the lower markings and “hard to drink” comments. Nøgne ø Imperial Stout – Notes: “Not particularly aromatic”, “smooth, rounded”, “very drinkable”, “subtle sherry notes, like an aged Belgian Christmas beer”. A big scorer on the night but seemed to lack something for me, very little on the nose so maybe that swayed it, whatever it was it certainly is drinkable. Bristol Beer Factory Imperial Stout – Notes: “Watery thin mouthfeel”, “easy drinking stout, “light”, little aroma”. The biggest disappointment of the night for me, I’ve had some fantastic beers from BBF but this wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t bad, it just couldn’t live with the company in which it found itself sadly.
Next up was another beer from overseas the Emelisse Imperial Stout – Notes: “Caramel and liquorice aromas”, “fruity”, “rounded”, ‘disguised alcohol”, “warming”. One of the nights stars in my opinion, rich and fruity with bags of taste and aroma, top stuff.
Of course you can’t have an #IMPOFF session without its catalyst beer from Durham Brewery, Temptation Imperial Stout – Notes: “Sweet”, “liquid Christmas cake”, ‘pronounced alcohol”, “vanilla”, “very fruity”. Another high scorer on the night and a firm front-runner, everyone enjoyed this and it’s easy to see why Elly and Co are understandably keen to tell the world and his wife all about it.
At this point we broke for a chocolate cheesecake break, where despite being made with a crushed bourbon biscuit base and the main potion with top quality Pure Origin chocolate, the main talking (argument) point was the mystery fruit on the top… (Would you know?)
Next we tried our hand at DIY interior design, ably aided by a bottle of De Dolle Extra Export Stout. I was warned that they could be a little “lively” so opened this carefully over the sink. This failed miserably so in an attempt to salvage the bottle I put my thumb over the top, BIG MISTAKE, the contents erupted from the opening covering walls, windows, tiles and blinds, in fact everything in its path… Be warned. – Notes: “smells horrible but very tasty”, “TAKE COVER”.. Despite the mess I enjoyed this one and am no stranger to it in truth. Try it but chill down well until it’s open to keep the beer in your glass and not on the walls.
Sticking with exploding beers was the classic Podge (Alvinne) Belgian Imperial Stout, no idea of its age but looked like it had been around a while. Thankfully this one was a little less lively and we managed a decent sized sample each. Notes: “Strange”, “strong strawberry flavours”, “fruity with a hit of almonds”, “not a fan’, “really liked this”.. As you can see a mixed bag of comments here, I liked it but maybe it was a twist on style with the addition of age that didn’t meet approval of others.
Having redecorated the kitchen we retired to the garden and the decking area to open the next beer, De Molen do have a tenancy to be “gushers” and the rather grand looking 1914 Triple Stout SSS was to be no exception. I am reliably informed by Mart that it was brewed to an original recipe with advice from beer historian Ron Pattinson, I also suspect the recipe included nitro glycerine as one bottle exploded in Marts car, the other did a grand job of re-varnishing my deck… Notes: “smell is not what I expected”, “thin mouthfeel”, “very chocolatey”, “heavy alcohols”. Another one that split opinion, I really liked it but must have a thing about aged foreign beer I think. OH and yes, that was all I managed to get per serving out of that large bottle…
De Molen sunk it was time to unleash the Magic Rock Bearded Lady, lady indeed, I’m having none of it, hairy beast maybe? I’d not had this since launch day and never from a bottle so was looking forward to getting stuck in. Notes: “Chocolate”, “liquorice”, “strong flavours”, “bitter hoppy finish”, “great beer”. I’m loving the Magic Rock journey, so many great beers and this is another. (In fact I loved it so much I forgot to take a picture..)
This was to be the last of the scheduled beers. Earlier we had made a conscious decision not to venture into the last four as we thought all would stand out because they’d been brewed or infused with something. The theory being that we should taste them all another day on their own. Fortunately sanity prevailed and as we were all still standing we said bugger the theory, within seconds the Brewdog was open, not just any Brewdog this one was Brewdog and Danish Beerhouse’s Coffee Imperial Stout. To be honest I don’t think many of us realised how old and rare this beer was, on checking the label it was bottled in November 2008 so it been around a while. Strangely though in contrast to the earlier aged beers this one was a pretty unanimous hit. Notes: “Liquorice”, “very fruity”, “easy to drink”, “aromatic”, “sherry like flavours”, “hints to IPA”, “restrained coffee hit”. I too was taken by this beer, it had a lovely mellow flavour and was really drinkable, up there with the best certainly.
Taking things up a notch we moved on to “Doc Hardknott’s elixir of life” (ref tonicgate), Hardknott Brewery‘s Vitesse Noire. Notes: “Strong smelling”, “tasty”, “thick and creamy”, “like a fine port”,”liquorice and chocolate bomb”, “drinkable despite it’s strength”. A true fireside classic this one, I always imagine I’ll drink it from a brandy bowl one day in front of a roaring log fire, please don’t allow this as I have no hearth and will undoubtedly burn my house to the ground..Thank you in advance..
Last but not least we made way for the Kat, not of the feline variety of course it was Summer Wine Brewery’s Kopikat made with copious amounts of Kopi Luak coffee, these coffee beans pass through the digestive tract of the Indonesian ‘Civet cat’, NICE. 😉 Notes: “So drinkable it’s untrue”, “intense coffee aromas and flavours”, “I love this beer”, “missing the hit of vanilla”, “subtle vanilla sweetness in the body”. One of my firm favourites as a massive SWB fan, it is very drinkable despite its strong flavours although it still can’t knock Cohort from its perch as my fave SWB beer to date.
Did I say last, well it was supposed to be but it seemed such a shame to leave it all alone, so we opened the other Podge, although not entirely sure it was an Impy at all we were past caring at this point.. Podge (Alvinne) Oak Aged Stout. Notes: “Fruity”, “strong alcohol aromas”, “almost vodka like smell”, “hints of orange”. Another classic beer that we were privileged enough to get to taste on the night, very different to the others but very pleasant.
Who's stupid idea was it to only invite TALL people..?
So that really was that, a great night was had by all yet again, we survived a pretty epic night of beer tasting and toddled off to the pub for a few more afterwards, classic! A big thanks to Mart, Matt and Marc my fellow tasters, to Elly from Durham Brewery and to Si from CAMRGB for helping to organise.
To see how many folks we reached in just a few hours take a look at these amazing stats compiled by Andy Parker of Musings of a Beer Geek, fascinating stuff.
No apologies for the comments or at times very dodgy photographs, this was a night to enjoy and not for faffing 😉
In case you were wondering, these were the top five beers on the night in no particular order, everyone’s a winner!!
See you on the next one… Cheers