Beer Review 0421: Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels

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Yesterday, we took a look at Thirsty Dog’s (Akron, Ohio) Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout, and awarded it 93 points — a great Imperial Stout with all the attributes of a high quality beverage: simple flavors, deep chocolate and coffee; a creamy texture, and high alcohol content that never takes center stage.

Today, we’re looking at a bourbon barrel version of that beer, this one much more rare and hard to find. How much rarer? Well, I couldn’t exactly tell you, but I had never seen this until a couple months ago, and the price tag ($27.99 for a four pack) puts it in the category of making you wonder if it’s worthy of all those dollars.

Aged in bourbon barrels for 11 months, the process bumps the alcohol content from 9.7% to 10.9%. IBUs (International Bitterness Units) remain unchanged at 58.

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The pour created a small, tan head that was creamy and fizzled away fairly quickly. A typical Imperial Stout, the barrel aged Siberian Night was pitch black, and featured a clear body, with no particles or sediment. Lacing was fair, leaving behind patches of suds here and there, but got much better when the remainder of the bottle was poured into the glass.

On the nose, there’s loads of warm bourbon and vanilla. Especially the vanilla; we’re talking tons of vanilla here, which is very nice. The barrel aromas continue with some mild coconut and charred oak; the malts are super chocolatey and mix nicely with all the barrel scents, especially the vanilla. Again, I’m talking of layered dark chocolate, which combines with the vanilla bean to produce cake frosting. This beer is sweet, with some caramel undertones, sugary coffee, and a dash of alcohol as it warms closer to room temperature. Heaven is a barrel aged Imperial Stout. At least to my nose…

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The palate opens with a somewhat shaky combination of dark fruits (raisins, specifically), chocolate, and vanilla bean, but this becomes much more solid once you get a couple of sips into the brew. The bourbon is at play all throughout the sip, but it’s never overwhelming and doesn’t distract from the wonderful interplay that takes place between the milk/dark chocolate, and vanilla. The chocolate flavor is syrup-like, and this beer does have a thick mouthfeel. The finish takes the chocolate to another level, tasting like a big layered cake that has melted chocolate chips inside, with scoops of vanilla ice cream serving as frosting and a bourbon syrup. WOW! Yep, it’s good. Full-bodied, for sure.

Thirsty Dog have brewed up a tasty treat here, on par with such greats as Founders KBS (100 points) and Goose Island Bourbon County (98 points). The chocolate flavors are to die for, and how they mix with the barrel aging is perfect — I adore how the barrels here don’t overtake the brew and make it an alcohol mess. My girlfriend, who doesn’t like bourbon barrel aged beers at all, even found a soft spot for this one. Delicious if pricey, and missing that classic creamy mouthfeel.

Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels, 97 points. Price: $27.99 US for a four pack.

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