Saturday, April 14, 2012

022.Storm King Imperial Stout Delivers the Thunder

Dark as a Guinness on a moonless night. That's the second thought that went through my head when I poured this heady concoction from Pennsylvania. The first thought was, "Wow, what an aroma."

Storm King Imperial Stout is a remarkably dark, hoppy ale that actually finds a way to balance the malt in a way that doesn't leave me hopping mad. As I've said before, I don't like being slapped in the face with bitter hops that hold my tongue hostage and leave nothing but bitterness behind. I like good hops and appreciate the bite they can bring to a beer, but I want them to work with the malt to bring a little breadiness to my palate.

Here's the word from the Victory Brewing Company Website:

With a huge, Pacific Northwest hop aroma & character upfront, Storm King Stout® subsides into massive, roast malt complexity. Rich and substantial, it will warm your heart.
Malts: Imported 2 row
Hops: American whole flowers
ABV: 9.1%

Yeah, this is another strong alcohol beer coming in at over 9%. Most of the beers I like are in the 5.5% - 7% range, so this is not outrageously higher than my typical fare. But, it is high enough so that I felt the thunder roll in as I got near the bottom of the glass.

Since this was a dark beer (and man, is it dark -- like liquid Godiva Chocolates with a creamy nougat on top) I let it warm up over 45 degrees before I tasted it. It was a little smoother, but tamer at the lower temps. The hops were hiding like a frightened turtle. I found 55-58 degrees to be about right because that's where the florals really came alive and the hops went from dominating to just boisterous. I let the bottom of the glass get to 63 degrees while I was typing this. I gave the glass a light shake about halfway through the beer to see if the head and carbonation would reawaken -- they didn't -- and to keep it mixed up so there wouldn't be any sediment at the bottom of the glass (not that there was any to be found, it turns out, but it was worth a try).

The head, as I said, was impressive, but it faded fairly quickly leaving behind a strong and distinct lace. My first sip was a real pleasure, delivering a wonderful blast of malt with strong hops undertones and a nice taste of alcohol to compliment the hops. If my whole beer drinking experience had been like the first sip, I would have found a new favorite. But the more I sipped, the stronger the hops grew, until, near the end, they were almost overpowering. However, the last sips (at around 63 degrees) were smoother. I'm not sure if this is temperature related, or due to the fact that I let the beer (and my mouth) rest while I typed this review.

From the label (and I agree with Andy Murphy of Beer A Day that it's quite poetic):
"Emerging from the deepest shades of darkness, a rolling crescendo of flavors burst forth from this robust stout. The thundering, hoppy appeal of Storm King subsides into the mellow subtleties of roasted malt, exhibiting an espresso-like depth of character in its finish. An exquisite blend of imported malts and whole flower American hops merge harmoniously in this complex ale. Discover the dark intrigue of Storm King, as it reveals the rich, substantial flavors that it holds within. Cheers!"
Photo "borrowed" from Beer Geek Nation
I think this is a much better Winter beer for me. It's very hearty and filling with a nice "don't-take-the-car-you'll-kill-yourself" kind of kick to it. I'm definitely going to revisit this beer when it gets colder and see what two or three bottles do to help me chill out some evening when Old Man Winter is back in town.

By the way, I'd like to mention that I think the label design is very cool. Maybe I'm just a Harry Potter geek, but their logo looks like an owl wearing a crown. I definitely like it.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Color:  The darkest dang beer I've seen all year. Chocolate or mahogany brown
Aroma: Powerful fragrance of hops, with a hint of florals and malt
Hops: Stronger than I usually like, and the bitterness builds with each sip.
Head: Wow! Quite thick and creamy, but fizzled away faster than I expected. Almost looked nitrogen-infused
Lace: Very strong and lingering
Carbonation:  Low
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (but I'm willing to revisit this rating in the future)

Other reviews worth a sip:
Beer Geek Nation:
The Aleuminati:
Andy Murphy Beer a Day:

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