Review: Grand River Brewing - Russian Gun Imperial Stout

Brewery: Grand River Brewing

Location: Cambridge, Ontario

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

ABV: 8.5%

Available at: LCBO

   Several fantastic brews come to mind when we think of imperial stouts made here in Ontario.  We've got Beau's and their Matt's Sleepy Time, Bolshevik Bastard from Nickel Brook, and of course Wellington's Russian Imperial Stout.  All great stouts, all readily available at any LCBO with a decent craft beer selection (readily available during stout season, of course.)

   Now, let's get sidetracked for a moment here...  Way back when the Ottawa Beer Club had its first meeting, our host - one Nick Kutlik - decided to go big or go home and kicked off our monthly meetings by introducing us to the Russian Imperial Stout style (paired with some awesome sausages and cheeses.)  His choices?  The previously mentioned Wellington's Russian Imperial Stout, and today's feature: Grand River Brewing's Russian Gun Imperial Stout.  In celebration of nearly five years of us doing this Ottawa Beer Club thing, I decided that it was only fitting that we do a throwback to one of our first beers as a club (I know, throwbacks are for Thursdays... but can we just pretend that they're a Tuesday thing, just this once?)

   This just looks like a great stout.  Dark, dark brown (nearly black with only hints of brown on the edges,) with a thick beige head.  The retention is just where it needs to be with this style: long lasting with lingering lacing.

   The smell is bliss for any stout lover: strong roasted barley and coffee, caramel, dark fruit, and hints of sugar and milk chocolate sweetness.  There are also very minor notes of smoke and a certain wood characteristic that becomes a little more apparent the more the beer warms up.  Very complex smell, boding very well for the flavour profile!

   And boy does that flavour ever deliver on what the aroma promises!  So much roasty deliciousness which is balanced out by light sweetness from the aforementioned dark fruits and milk chocolate notes.  The smoke and wood notes from the nose disappear in the taste, though, and are instead replaced by hints of vanilla and molasses.  

   This is all delivered by a thick and creamy mouthfeel.  The alcohol sharpness one would expect from an 8.5% just isn't there.  However, there is a certain warmth that lingers.  And despite the creaminess, there is a drying sensation on the backend.  Not that it's off-putting, it just becomes very apparent after a few sips. 

   Final thoughts... what's not to like?  This complex Russian Imperial Stout is a great representation of the style.  Very complex and extremely well-balanced.  And it's a great buy at only $4.50 per 500mL bottle!  

-James