When Widmer sent me the two bottles of their new Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout, there was an additional detail that was a nice touch: a “note tag” that you could write your tasting notes on when you drink the first bottle, and then tie that tag to the second bottle so when you drink that one—a year or so later, per their suggestion—you’d be able to compare notes on the fresh vs. the aged beer. I thought this was a cool idea, and really clever. Of course I filled it out and tied it to the second bottle.
Anyway, the beer. I’m pretty convinced that this is their KGB Russian Imperial Stout (which they released last year) with raspberries added, even if it’s not been overtly stated. The alcohol is the same, the IBUs are the same, and the malts are mostly the same. Maybe that’s the intent of this Alchemy Project series, to take a previous big beer and amp it up even more? (Like they did with the first beer in this series, the Barrel-aged Brrrbon.)
That’s okay, because the KGB was a really good beer and this one is too. It’s 9.3% abv and they say:
An extremely rich and complex beer, the addition of raspberries during the fermentation process results in an almost purplish opaque color with a beautiful brown head. Warm chocolate and roasty notes compliment the hop bitterness.
Appearance: I don’t know about a purplish color; I see opaque black with a light tan head that leaves really nice lacing on the sides of the glass.
Smell: Tart berry nose (almost more “sour” to me than fruity) with bittersweet chocolate and fresh ground coffee following it up. As it warms, that tart berry character becomes more prominent.
Taste: A dry, roasty stout—very dry—with charred notes all over the roasted barley, but still allowing hints of raspberry to come through, light and tart. As it warms it softens up, and the berry flavor starts revealing itself more prominently. Maybe a touch boozy, but it hides the alcohol strength well. And still very dry throughout.
Mouthfeel: Lighter than you’d expect out of an Imperial Stout, with a dry, dry finish.
Overall: Take a dry stout and boost the strength to imperial levels yet keep it very dry and lighter in the body; that’s what you get with Widmer’s (KGB) Imperial Stout interpretation. The berries are subtle and tart, but present. Restrained, and really quite good—if you don’t mind this dry style (as opposed to what a lot of people want in a RIS, sticky, chewy, sweet body).