Bellwoods Brewery “Bring Out Your Dead” Imperial Stout (Aged In Cognac Barrels), Toronto, Ontario
Available from Bellwoods Brewery Retail Store $12.95 (500ml)
I have to say, since moving into my new abode at Dundas/Dovercourt my beer bills have gone through the bloody roof. It’s a little difficult to get truly excited about my much-beloved blue can when one lives within a few stone’s throws of Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington, and that’s probably a good thing… But having an excellent craft brewery with a retail store so close by pays a terrible toll upon my pocket book. All I require is the excuse of taking our Pomeranian Rocky for a spin and next thing you know I have dropped $60 plus on large bottles and growlers. Thankfully the girls at the store are quite fond of our little ball of fluffy energy and so he really looks forward to our regular beershopping strolls.
Last week I picked up a bottle of their first Anniversary beer, the Bring Out Your Dead Imperial Stout which they state spends three weeks ageing in Cognac barrels. Having had a less than pleasant experience with the last local stronger style beer I sampled, it was with some trepidation I opened up a bottle of the stuff.
Weighing in at a fairly balanced 10% alcohol (these babies tend to stay within the 9 – 11% range), this Imperial Stout shows all the classic characteristics of this very particular brewing style. There’s an equilibrium in the glass here that keeps all the disparate elements together, making it a beer greater than the sum of its already worthy parts.
In the glass it’s exhibiting what I like to call an impenetrable inky blackness, topped off with a fine, firm tan brown head that lasts for quite some time. Aromatically it is truly beguiling: first the deep roasted malt core, then there’s a defined hoppiness, coupled with an elusive, almost vinous theme that was driving me crazy as I struggled to identify just what I was nosing. Add to that fascinating bouquet some concentrated soy sauce, espresso bean, fennel, sultana, and fine dark cocoa powder. There’s a lot going on in here, and thankfully none of it masked by the Cognac barrel ageing, which adds a subtle charred oak nuance to the brew.
The palate is viscous, oily even, for me it’s just hitting the sweetspot with the level of carbonation, there’s a delicious sweet/briney attack followed by a massive mid-palate of dark malt and a truly satisfying and memorable extended finish. As I said, the perfect way to round off a session… and I’d be tempted to try it with some really astringent, salty stilton. Next time…
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s not sure that he would have more than one of these in a night, but he likes it.