“Imperial Russian Stouts historically tend to be declared in the range of 9 to 10% alcohol by volume, at 10% Ridgeway’s is at the top of that range. What differentiates the style from simply a strong stout or porter is that extended ageing and perhaps a little judicious infection before bottling which makes them considerably more vinous and sharp than an export stout so there is MUCH more of a wine character than you normally get in a strong ale. Not soured but just that little nod towards a lambic beer. Very roasty and very bitter. That bitterness mellows over time in the bottle but if you are lucky enough to get an Imperial Russian on draught it will be full on. The style is not intended to be overtly hoppy once settled but obviously with so many hops used the draught experience will have something on the hop front that won’t be there in a bottled version.”
Appearance: No where near dark enough for us. It displays a Porter-esque complexion – black centre with a mahogany gradient towards the edges. Short tan head which quickly fades and some spotty lacing as we go.
Aroma: We’re always happy to concede that traditional English RIS are not like the modern American versions but this really does seem to lack the usual largesse we come to expect from the style. Thankfully as it settles the bottom end develops some robust notes of licorice, carob, cocoa powder, coffee, spice and a hearty roast so all is not lost!
Flavour: Similar to the aroma in terms of its apparent lack of intensity and bottom end. We will give it one tick of approval for avoiding those acetaldehyde-like flavours that seem to creep into a lot of English RIS. We’re picking up mainly licorice, cooking chocolate, cocoa powder, mild coffee and roast which rounds out on a nice bitter finish.
Mouthfeel: Too light and slippery for our liking. The medium body does help though. Low-ish Co2. The 10% ABV is well concealed.
Overall: This is the 2020 vintage so we thought a bit of age may add to its character. Maybe it did maybe it didn’t but alls we know is this release only, and it didn’t really inspire.