Schlafly Imperial Stout Vertical Tasting
Earlier this week I attended an interesting event in Waldo... Waldo Pizza hosted a tapping partying for the 2009 Schlafly Imperial Stout. In addition to your pint of bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout fresh from the keg, Gary from Schlafly was handing out tasters of 08, 07 and 06 vintages of the same beer. It was a very casual event in a dinning room/bar where the beer nerds mingled amongst the regular crowd of diners.
I started the night off by getting acquainted with the fresh Imperial Stout in my goblet, it was cool and crisp while remaining thoroughly Stouty. There is plenty of bourbon in the 2009 vintage of this beer. My first impressions was that it tasted like a chocolate covered caramel that had been dipped in bourbon. In a word, delicious. After I thought I'd gotten a good idea of what this year's Imperial Stout was all about I started to sip my way back in time to 2006.
The 2008 Imperial Stout retained much of what I found in the 09. The main differences I found were the levels of bourbon flavor and the spiciness that comes from the oaking process. The 08 was a little spicier, but not overly so, and it had a stronger alcohol flavor. Aside from that, the 09 just tasted "fresher" but I attribute that to the fact it was from a keg versus a bottle that was capped at least 13 months earlier.
Moving on to the 2007 Imperial Stout I found a big difference in flavors and texture. The 07 tasted like it had considerably more caramel syrup in it, so much so that it was starting to taste a little like cola. This was compounded by texture of 07 feeling more carbonated. Now, this vintage didn't taste like Pepsi or Coke, but there were some definite contrasts against the 08 and 09 vintages.
The show stopper had to have been the 2006 Imperial Stout I saved for last. By this point I was expecting the 06 to share more in common with the 07 sample rather than the current release, but it tasted much more like the 09. Schlafly's 2006 Imperial Stout tasted like the 08 and 09 batches but with an air of refinement. Where the 2009 tasted like an Imperial Stout that was intended for sale to Russia's mobsters and nouveau riche, the 06 seemed like it would be more suited to the be savored from a Czar's glass moments before the proletariat stormed the palace. This is a beer that became must more balanced as the warm bourbon mellowed and the sweet caramel came to front.
I later found out that Schlafly has only been producing the Imperial Stout since 2006, meaning that I've now had a glass of every vintage they've ever produced. It was a lot of fun to experience some rare bottles of beer in a casual settings with some great people. If you catch wind of a similar tasting I'd wholeheartedly suggest jumping at the opportunity to attend.