Review: McAuslan Brewing Inc. - St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe

I'll be honest, I wasn't going to review this beer when I picked it up.  When I bought this, it was a case of 12 from Bières du Monde as a pre-order deal, and my understanding was that this was the only way you could buy it, ie if you didn't pre-order it, you weren't getting any.  So why review something that people can't buy and try out themselves?  Well, that's changed.  I came across singles of this at the LCBO this past week (just in time for Stout Day on November 8th!)  This means you fine folks can get your hands it, so it's time to crack into one and see how it fares.

Let me start this off by saying I have high expectations for this brew.  Two reasons: imperial stouts are my favorite style of beer and McAuslan is an amazing brewery.  If one of my favorite breweries is going to put out my favorite style of beer, all I can do is expect the best.  Let's hope this holds up to that expectation.

This 9.2% alc./vol. Russian Imperial Stout pours a very dark brown (almost black) with a half inch of thick head with a dark beige colour.  Retention is strong with good lacing.  The aroma has your typical booziness up front with some nice dark chocolate sweetness, smokiness, coffee and deep roasted/burnt malts.  The more I smell it, the more the booziness develops into bourbon (which makes sense since this was aged in bourbon barrels.)  I also get subtle hints of molasses and vanilla.  Damn, that aroma is complex.  Does the flavour deliver on what the aroma promises?  Absolutely.  Strong, bourbon alcohol up front with the dark chocolate sweetness mellowing it out in the middle and the coffee and roasted malts giving a nice bitterness in the finish.  The alcohol burn and coffee notes leave a dry feeling in the aftertaste.  The more I drink, the more the other subtle notes from the nose come out, creating a very deep stout with incredible complexity. 

So did this hold up to my extremely high expectations?  Yes, a hundred times yes.  This definitely hits the top of my list of "fave stouts."  Like dark beers?  Find out if your local LCBO has it in stock and give it a try.    Yes, it will cost you more than your average 341mL bottle of beer ($5.95/bottle at the LCBO,) but I have a hard time believing you'll be disappointed in this brew.

-James