Stone Brewing is known for making some intense beers with regards to flavor and hop bitterness. This week I came across Stone’s Belgo-Anise Imperial Russian Stout (IRS). As a big Stone fan, I was excited to see how this would turn out.
Stone’s Belgo Anise IRS pours a dark thick, cola-tinted black with a puffy, caramel head. There is some lacing, but the viscosity is seen in the thick legs that stick to the side of the glass. The nose is smoky oak and extra strong with licorice. The anise dominates the flavor profile but there are hints of chocolate and coffee present backed by hoppy grass. The mouthfeel is thick, and kind of oily—a kind of stout you’d bite into. At 10.5% ABV, it really is more chewy than drinkable, although I’ve come across beers that have been more thirst-quenching at this percentage. The carbonation is light, especially in conjunction with the malt and alcohol weighing this beer down. The smokiness in this beer pops out at me especially when considering pairing options. I would go for ham or some sort of pork spiced with coriander or cloves, or even apple-smoked bacon. For dessert, try it with a light chocolate cake, although I would probably skip it altogether because this beer is already pretty heavy.
Although the anise mutes the flavor profile, this is a strong, solid IRS from Stone. If you like licorice, it’s great, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t. I enjoyed it, but I definitely had to set it aside for a while—which fortunately made more flavors come out as it warmed up—and would probably reach for their regular IRS next time.
Photo credit: grogr.com