Beer Review 0484: Fulton War & Peace Russian Imperial Stout

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Fulton Beer began with four guys and a one-car garage in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ryan Petz, Brian Hoffman, Pete Grande, and Jim Diley huddled around a turkey fryer burner inside that garage in February 2006, on a -20 degree day, and brewed their first batch, all the while talking about how cool it would be to do it for a living.

A few weeks later, the four men tasted their first beer, and they decided that someday, they would build their own brewery. The next few months saw them rig together a system out of half-barrel kegs and an old bed frame, capable of producing all-grain batches, ten gallons at a time. When space in the one-car garage ran slim, they moved to a two-car unit. The beers got better and better.

Then, in 2009, the “what if” discussions turned into “we could.” At a turning point in his life, Ryan, who was looking for an internship in the beer industry, was unsuccessful. That sparked the setting up of a business, scraping together money, and before long, these guys had a distributor and a contract brewery (Sand Creek Brewing Company) ready to produce their homebrew recipes.

The beer was made and demand grew. The guys signed a lease on their Minneapolis brewery in September 2010; in March 2012, they opened the first taproom in the Twin Cities. They’re living the dream!

Fulton’s lineup is small at this point, with just three year-round offerings and three seasonals. Today’s beer isn’t a regular or seasonal beer; instead, it is from their “Garage Series,” which are extremely limited releases that typically only come out a certain time of year. War & Peace, a Russian Imperial Stout, is the only beer in this series to be bottled; it is conditioned for one week with whole bean Guatemalan Organic Dark Roast from Peace Coffee at a rate of one pound of beans per barrel. Peace Coffee is a roastery located near the brewery. War & Peace comes in at 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 81 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), and is released each February. Thanks to Dave (Untappd user OnWisconsin) for sending me this brew in a trade.

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Pouring kicked up a small, creamy khaki colored head that had a lasting quality. The beer is pitch black in color with just a hint of lighter cola brown edges when held to light. As I poured, the body appeared to be clear, free of particles and sediment; lacing was good, leaving behind thin, weepy, small sheets of foam.

The nose delivers a pure malt knuckle sandwich: huge notes of coffee, black and fresh roasted, along with some milder hints of both milk and dark chocolate. There’s plenty of roasted and toasted aromas to be had, and they’re both sweet and smokey. The other combination at work here: dry and sweet. As the brew warmed, I picked up on a touch of licorice. Very nice.

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The taste starts mild on the coffee flavor, at first, only delivering creamy milk chocolate with a hint of prune. (Yes, I just said “only…” to chocolate.) But in the middle of the taste, the coffee slams the palate, dark, roasted, and bold — it’s strong and halfway through the glass, I feel like I’ve got a caffeine buzz. The coffee combines with chocolate fudge on the finish, reminding me of a dark chocolate cake that has a hint of vanilla. It’s bittersweet and the flavors linger for what seems like hours, with the coffee eventually winning out. War & Peace is full-bodied, with a medium, creamy texture.

There are some excellent coffee and chocolate flavors to be found here, and it’s all done very boldly and full throttle. The finish is superb and I really enjoyed this beer as a dessert; however, it tends to suffer from the same problem most of these limited release Imperial Stouts have attached to them: an extremely high price. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great beer — but I can name you several others that are just as tasty and are a lot easier on the wallet.

Fulton War & Peace Russian Imperial Stout, 92 points. Price: $16.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.

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