The name of Avery’s rich, strong Imperial stout is a big nod to the style’s history. Russian Imperial stouts came into being at the end of the seventeenth century, when Peter the Great opened Russia to the Western world. On a trip to England the czar fell in love with the then-in-vogue porter and demanded that the dark brew be sent to his court in Russia. The first attempt was an abject failure; the cold weather and the long trip east caused the porter to go bad by the time it arrived. The solution was a more alcoholic, more hopped brew that could survive the journey. At the time, stout was a term for stronger porters, and so the strong porters headed for imperial Russia were termed Russian Imperial stouts. Although Avery’s label portrays a later czar (Nicholas II), it’s a worthy successor to those earlier brews.
The Czar is brewed with German hops, English yeast, and American water, a fitting fusion of the style’s Old World roots and New World popularity. In the glass, the inky brew lets just the slightest hint of light through, giving the black stout a ruby edge. Spicy, floral Hallertau hops are strong in the nose, backed with molasses and more than a little alcohol. The taste is heavy on roasted malt and mocha, pleasantly balanced by the bitter bite of hops. Avery suggests cellaring this 10.5% ABV RIS, and a bit of age mellows the alcohol while amping up the dark fruit and chocolate flavors.
The Czar is the first in a series of decadent Imperial beers from Avery in the appropriately named Dictator Series. The others, The Kaiser and The Maharaja, are amped-up takes on an Oktoberfest and an IPA, respectively.
JC Review originally printed in The Handbook of Porters and Stouts.
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