Brewer’s Notes: Crooked & Steep Batch #04 Imperial Stout

The Crooked and Steep Series is an homage to the notoriously curvy and hilly roads that lead to Eureka Springs from any direction you care to approach it from. Just like the roads, the beers are either crazy or fun, depending on your perspective and the company you keep. Drink with care.

Batch Four in the Crooked and Steep series is a Rye Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, weighing in at 13.4% ABV. This one should age particularly well, as even after 9 months in the barrels, it still has a strong, youngish feel to it. If you are going to put up some bottles, we recommend storing in a cool dark place, and serving at approximately 45-50 F.

The base beer was an Imperial Stout we brewed last winter with an eye to a pre-Christmas release this year. 11.8% when it went into the barrels, we found it at 13.4% abv when it came back out. We were going for a highly roasty, almost aggressively dark stout with this iteration, kind of a black hole in terms of color. Barrel aging had a pretty impressive impact, with the beer becoming more rich, malty and fruity, but also spicy and warmingly alcoholic.

The beer pours thickly, an opaque blackness with a tannish-brown foam. A complex nose: rich chocolate with undertones of dried fruit – cherries, plums. Hints of smoke, coffee, earthiness. We used Willett Rye Barrels to age this one, and they definitely had an impact, but more in the flavor than aroma. There are hints of the alcoholic strength and an earthy spiciness in the nose, but the rye character really comes through in the flavor and mouthfeel. There’s a bit of a bite to it, which we find to be a pleasant counterpoint to the sweet, malty and chocolatey character of the beer.

This one drinks nicely – the sweet notes of dark chocolate, dried fruit and roasted grains up front, and a nice alcoholic warming and spiciness in the finish. Our tasting session for this description started with a cold bottle, but we find the beer flavor really opens up as the beer warms. This beer will pair well with charcuterie, nuts, chocolately desserts, and colder weather.

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