Redux Review 0018: Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels

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Today, we’re taking a look back at a rare beer, an expensive beer, and one that’s certainly well-aged. In 2013, Thirsty Dog (Akron, Ohio) released a bourbon barrel aged version of their Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout. I reviewed the regular beer, awarding it 93 points; I rated the barrel-aged version even higher, giving it 97 points. What makes this beer even more special is that it was bottled already having been aged for 11 months, so today, the beer is around two years old.

In my initial review, I compared this beer with the likes of Founders KBS (100 points) and Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout (98 points):

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Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 34 of 35 points

Final Score: 97 points, or classic on my rating scale.

The only real pitfalls to the beer I could find were the price ($27.99 per four-pack!) and a somewhat tepid mouthfeel. Otherwise, I described Bourbon Barrel Siberian Night as “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.”

I’ve pulled another out from the basement so we can see where it stands today…

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Pouring created almost no head, just a very thin coating of oily, light tan foam that quickly fizzled away. The beer is pitch black, no light coming through; there are some lighter brown edges when swirled in the glass. While dark, the body appeared to be clear and free of particles and sediment, and there weren’t any yeast dregs in the bottom of the bottle. Surprisingly, lacing is fairly good despite the absence of head, leaving behind thin sheets of tan foam.

The nose, just like the first time, is incredible. The bourbon finds itself toned down some and the main player is plenty of creamy dark chocolate, along with caramel, and toffee. But the bourbon is still here, and it’s woodsy bourbon, with traces of oak barrel. The chocolate aroma plays very nicely with the presence of dark fruit; chocolate-covered cherries, prune, and raisin make this a complex nose. The bourbon is mature, not hot at all, and the subtle notes really started to come out as the brew approached room temperature. There’s hints of smoke, some sweetened coffee, vanilla, and just a glorious wall of bittersweet chocolate morsels. Amazing!

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And the taste… well, it follows this nose. Mind. Blown! Wow. Caramel and toasted marshmallow start off, opening to chocolate cake frosting and vanilla bean. A gentle bit of smoke brings on sweetened coffee, rum-soaked raisins, and woodsy bourbon. This beer is not hot; in fact, it’s quite refined and very smooth, and has gained some of the mouthfeel that I thought was missing when I sampled it last year. I’m not even to the finish yet, and I’m stunned. Siberian Night ends on smokey, bittersweet dark chocolate notes, with an ever-present tingle of bourbon, vanilla bean, and sugary cake frosting. This brew is full-bodied, with a thick, foamy mouthfeel.

Age has done this beer well. Ever since I first reviewed this, I thought it was an underrated beer — in fact, I might go so far as to say it’s a bit better than Founders KBS or Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, as it seems a bit more drinkable. There’s not much else I can say other than if you see this, grab it; a superb blend of flavors, just the right amount of alcohol, and a good journey of a beer.

In redux:

Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 35 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 34 of 35 points

Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels, 98 points. Price: $27.99 US for a four-pack.

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