A lonely bottle of Great Lakes Brewery Russian Imperial Stout sits on a kitchen table waiting to be loved.

Great Lakes Brewery 25th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout (Available from the brewery itself and, rumour has it, selected LCBOs)

Some while ago, thanks to the wonderful people at OCTA, I had the pleasure of visiting Great Lakes Brewery and discovering all of the wonderful beers they brew down at their headquarters beside the QEW. I was seriously impressed not only by their regular lines such as the Crazy Canuck, but also by the many special small batch beers that they produce throughout the year.

Russian Imperial Stouts were originally brewed in the United Kingdom for the Imperial Court of Czarina Catherine The Great in the 18th Century, and this  bottling is a nod to those beers of yore, but with a twist. Great Lakes age the beer for three months in freshly emptied Kentucky Bourbon barrels, imparting myriad complexities to a beer that is already substantially more intricate than your average brew.

I was recently gifted a bottle of their 25th Anniversary wax-dipped 750ml Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout, and as the snow was falling as it often does during a Canadian Winter, I snuggled up with my kittycat on the couch and poured myself a healthy glass of this very special beer, the last release in the brewery’s 25th Anniversary range.

Whilst certainly not being a “session” beer (three of these and many a (wo)man would be under the table), the Russian Imperial Stout weighs in at an impressive 11% alcohol by volume. Saying that, this beer carries the higher alcohol with considerable elan, masking it in swathes of molasses, roasted cocoa beans, vanilla pod, aged El Dorado rum, and musky spice. For a beer, the finish is phenomenal; truly satisfying and persistant. Serve at room temperature.

piR4gelfEC8NeXpcxN_COcC_U9NYYRYCg-62pJuGnH8Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution
… And that truly was a meditative beer.