We just learned yesterday that Vail Mountain is going to be open for another week. I have heard plenty of locals come in to the store with some sort of sentiment such as “Right when I’m getting used to spring, and now it’s winter again ugg…”. Well, I can certainly understand that, but I don’t think it’s time to give up on winter yet folks, and it is not time to stop drinking big dark beers like stouts. Looking out the window at WVLM right now the snow is coming down hard and spring isn’t quite ready to be sprung. All that aside, I don’t really think there is ever a bad time for a good Imperial Stout.
Recently our staff tasted a few of our choice Imperial Stouts (8% alcohol by volume minimum) and was very impressed by a few stand outs. What I look for in a good Imperial Stout is a very full body with nice roasty notes and a full flavor. Sometimes, it is nice to have an extra ingredient such as coffee or chocolate or some sort of barrel ageing to enhance an already great stout. All of the Imperial Stouts we tasted were not barrel aged, but all did have a little something extra in the beer.
A crowd favorite across the board was Speedway Stout by Alesmith Brewing out of California. This classic is, I think, is often overlooked and is an amazing stout for $14.99/750ml bottle. It has great coffee flavor which is the highlighted ingredient in this beer. It comes in at whopping 12% ABV, but you wouldn’t know it as you sip this beast of a beer. It goes down super smooth and is a decadent treat.
Also showing great was Stone’s Encore Series Bitter Chocolate Stout which is brewed with tons of chocolate which creates a dark chocolate bitterness which I thought was a really cool touch. This one is a great bomber buy at $9.49/22oz bottle and will only be around for a little longer.
Chocolate and coffee are probably the two quintessential additives to Imperial Stout, but for those searching for something truly different and inventive, try the Dogfish Head Miles Davis Bitches Brew. It is an Imperial Stout brewed with Honey and Gesho Root (a quick google search will provide much insight into what a Gesho Root is). Nevertheless, this beer was fantastic and became some of our favorites quickly with a silky smooth finish and complexity through the roof.
Like I said, I don’t think there is ever a bad time for these wonderful beers. But while winter is still rearing its head, enjoy one of them after a long day on the mountain for a real satisfying treat.
Dean Lorusso, Beer Buyer, West Vail Liquor Mart