10. Straight to Ale Laika Russian Imperial Stout
City: Huntsville, AL
Key ingredient: Perfectly controlled fermentation
Perfect for: After-dinner holiday dessert
The verdict: A delicious and unique offering, this Alabama brewery’s imperial stout packs intense fruity overtones of raspberry and cherry which immediately make it stand out. The fruit plays very nicely with heavy, charred roastiness, giving a great contrast. If you love dark chocolate-dipped raspberry/cherry, this is the one for you. Booziness only adds to and amplifies those flavors—this one runs a little hot, despite being lower in ABV than some of the others on the table. Regardless, these memorable flavors helped it rise above the pack and make us very excited to try some of the barrel-aged variants in our next tasting.
9. Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon
City: Ipswich, MA
Key ingredient: Malt out the wazoo
Perfect for: Enjoying once you have conquered your enemies and secured your legacy.
The verdict: Clown Shoes is simply a brewery that gets big stouts, whether they’re American, Russian, smoked, barrel-aged, chile-infused or any combination of the above. This one is just a classic Russian imperial stout, on steroids, super roasty but with a milk sugar-like sweetness backing it up, chased by dark chocolate and a fleeting hit of hops. This is another beer you could serve someone as a template to what a “Russian imperial stout” actually entails. In a crowded style, this is still an exemplary beer.
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