As we approach St. Patrick’s Day many a pint of Irish dry stouts like Guinness and Murphy’s will be hoisted. I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for a good pint of Guinness served on nitro, particularly when looking for something sessionable. It may surprise you to learn that Guinness has the same alcohol content as a Coors Light (4.2% abv), but let’s be honest even the best pint of an Irish dry stout is like an appetizer compared to the banquet of flavors in an imperial stout. So I’ve decided to stick to imperial stouts for this week’s installment of Sunday Stout Soliloquies. Today we take a closer look at the barrel aged version of Thirsty Dog’s Siberian Night Imperial Stout.
The base beer, Siberian Night, is a triple medal winner at the GABF earning bronze medal honors twice (2003, 2006), and taking home the gold in 2005. In 2013 Thirsty Dog released first released barrel aged Siberian Night. I’ve had it’s companion, the barrel aged wee heavy Wulver, which is off the charts delicious (click here for my comparison with Founder’s Backwoods Bastard). The high price point has dissuaded me from trying BA Siberian Night until now, but for the sake of my readers I decided it was high time to pony up and see if this beer can live up to the hype that is inevitable when you barrel age a gold medal winning stout.
- Brewery: Thirsty Dog (Akron, OH)
- Style: Imperial Stout
- ABV: 10.9%
- IBUs: 58
- Price: $6.66 for a 12 oz bottle
At $6.66 per bottle (that’s $40 per 6-pack) BA Siberian Night is devilishly expensive, which explains why I’ve passed it by so many times while shopping. The fact that I can buy just a single makes it accessible though. I can’t find any bottled on or freshness dating, but I’m drinking it the same day I bought it from Weiland’s Market, so let’s assume it is fairly fresh. Here is how the brewers describe the beer on the label:
“We took our award winning Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout and aged it for 11 months in fresh bourbon barrels. The result blew us away. The dark chocolate malt yields a milk chocolate flavor that blends perfectly with the vanilla flavor from the barrel. The bourbon aroma adds the finishing touch.”
As black as a moonless night over Lake Baikal (this being the 14th imperial stout I’ve reviewed over the past two months I’m running out of ways to say very dark and opaque), with enough carbonation to yield a nice 2-3 fingers of beige colored head. Appearance-wise this is just what I’m looking for in an imperial stout. One sniff and any doubts about the barrel aging are instantly put to rest, the nose is bourbon forward and oozing with vanilla. No need to bury your nose in the glass to pick up the aroma either, my wife reacts to the smell as I enter the family room and join her on the couch (not favorably I might add, as she is no lover of bourbon). The label promises a perfect blend of malts and barrel aging, but even in the taste I feel the bourbon and vanilla flavors dominate. The malts do contribute some chocolate and molasses notes but they are cast in a supporting role here. The bourbon character peaks at the finish, but there is surprisingly little bourbon burn. You don’t expect a beer approaching 11% abv to go down this smooth. The mouthfeel is exquisite and in my opinion is the highlight of this beer, to say it is silky smooth doesn’t quite do it justice.
Thirsty Dog has captured much of what there is to love about bourbon in a vehicle that delivers it to your palate in an exceptionally smooth manner. There is a lot to like here, but personally I prefer beers where the barrel aging adds vanilla highlights and complexity but stops short of overwhelming the base beer. I would classify this as must try for bourbon lovers out there, but at a price point that is more than double the standard version of Siberian Night I think it will be a one-off for me. If I’m in the mood for a stout on St. Patrick’s Day I think I’ll seek out a Fat Julian or Old Rasputin on nitro.
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.
If you want to read other posts in the Sunday Stout Soliloquy series check out one or more of the links below: