Glassware: Stouts, especially those of the imperial variety, offer rich and fairly complex notes that truly show themselves as the beer slowly warms. Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout is no exception and glassware that allows the beer to warm slowly while also trapping the aroma is a must. Spiegelau has a wonderful stout glass with thin tapered sides that is great, but delicate, and not an option at many locations. A snifter glass showcases the wonders of this beer too.
Description: Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout pours pitch black with frothy light brown head that disappears rather quickly but leaves a heavy lacing on the glass. The aroma bursts with roasted malt character that gives way to subtle hints of dark baker’s chocolate and roasted coffee with background notes of hops and dark fruits. The taste mirrors that aroma but is a bit more bitter than one would expect. The bitterness comes from the chocolate flavors rather than the hops, the bitterness hits first but does not last long before the silky smooth roasted malt character washes over the palate and gives way to hints of dark cherries and coffee all blending perfectly with the chocolate. The 7 percent ABV is well hidden and the medium body and mild carbonation of this imperial stout create a very smooth and easy drinking beer. The English characteristics of this imperial stout are what truly make this beer stand out among the rest on the market.
Food Pairing: As with most imperial stouts, Samuel Smith pairs best with a wide variety of desserts, but this a stout that can hold its own with a much larger audience. Try pairing this beer with a delicious oyster dish, the play on salty and sweet combine for an experience you may never want to end. Despite the heavier appearance of chocolate in this stout, the English characteristics still make it a great pairing with traditional dishes such as Sheppard’s pie and fish and chips. The smooth body and moderate heft will carry away any fishy taste while being the perfect counterpoint to salty flavors. This beer is dead set on being paired with desserts. For a wonderful experience pair this imperial stout with creamier desserts such as cheesecake, truffles, or everyone’s favorite crème brûlée. This may not be the beer of choice for those making New Year’s resolutions, but if there are any cheat days during the new diet this is a great beer to have on hand.
The Final Word: Samuel Smith is one of the best English breweries in existence today. It continually crafts world class beers and this Imperial Stout is no exception. Some imperial stouts can be overwhelming to those uninitiated to the style, however Samuel Smith’s take is extremely approachable even if your only exposure to stouts has been Guinness. The subtle characteristics and complexity within the beer does not overwhelm the palate, but instead is very inviting and will awaken the taste buds of the casual stout drinker and alert them to the whole world of incredible stouts available on the market to enjoy. If you are a fan of stouts than you owe it to yourself to try this incredible stout.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.
Brewer: Samuel Smith Old Brewery
Beer: Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 7 %