This is a big one.
A well known brewery, very close to home. I pour the bottle out and immediately feel worried by my observations.
The recipe comes from a Courage formulation from the 1850's. The brewery you must have heard of. It's our own Thornbridge, and it's the turn of their Thornbridge Hall Courage Russian Imperial Stout.
Looking at the bottle stats I have a beer brewed in April 2011 and bottled in December 2011. Malts are Maris Otter, Amber and Black Patent. Hops are Apollo, Hallertau Hersbrucker, and the beer is 9.4%. It comes in a 33cl bottle and was £13.19 of my hard earned cash.
Why was I worried? Well as I poured the precious liquid out, it looked thin. I was expecting a completely opaque devil of a beer, but what I saw was a very dark brown with ruby hints liquid. Was I to be disappointed? I really hoped not, I really wanted this beer to be good.
Any thoughts of body or conditioning were thrown straight out of the window in the first mouthful. It's perfect. And that flavour! It goes on for an age. It changes, it evolves, it becomes something that's so much more than just the sum of it's parts. Maybe I'm waxing lyrical here, but I can only speak the truth. It's thick, it's rich, it's outstanding. The different layers of flavour complexities range from the vinous, dried fruit bouquets on the nose, to the first sip where it's sweet malts, honey and hazelnut. This moves to a big full on body. Black malt burnt notes providing dry dark chocolate bitter tones, mixed with a big fruity rum essence. Then you're left with the huge long finish. It lasts for an age with it's immense bitter but warming effect, as if you've just had a sip of your most expensive Single Malt as you sit back and say wow.
But we have to talk about that price. £13.19 for this bottle of beer? It seems almost daft... Thornbridge must have had their reasons though, I'm just finding it really hard to place them right now. It wasn't finished in any expensive barrel or had any crazy ingredients into it. It wasn't aged for 5 years before release, and it really hasn't travelled that far to get to my door. I could hazard a guess that they may have had to pay a lot to get the rights to reproduce this recipe?? Maybe they just thought that's what it was worth? It is their beer after all... maybe they might tell me...
Would I buy this again though?
In a heartbeat.