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Thornbridge beer tapsPhoto: Real Ale Reviews

Profiled by Ken Carman for

Looking for the perfect beer, Christmas?

Being a beer geek always seeking more punishment for my palate, I was very surprised just how much I liked St. Petersburg Russian Imperial. I mean, it is English, and they do back off from the extremes newer American brewers go to. And this is now exception.

What a beautiful beer. I imagine this might be exactly what the Czars loved so much that they considered it their beer and started to brew it themselves. Sadly I have never had a Russian version that compared to most of the American and English versions.

St. Pete started with a huge, cascading head that was a dark tan pillow. I’d sleep on it any day. The nose, the only thing slightly off, was oddly chocolate. I expected more deep roast complexity and some fruit-like sense, though there was a not unexpected slight hint of coffee.

Mouthfeel: big malt, and low attentuation. A tad sweet in the background and the slightest hint of burnt.

There were hops, yes, but unlike American versions (some), way in the background and just a slight, perfectly balanced, bitter. Malt is the focus and it delivers big time with a multitude of roasty tastes from some dark chocolate-like flavor, to some coffee-like, and various malts. Little Black Patent, but it does seem to be there, way in the background. There’s also some smoke, or peated malt, sense that increases as it warms.

I imagine this to be exactly like many of the imports into Russia from oh so many years ago. If not: should have been. Wow!

I recommend this to anyone and especially to have on Christmas to warm one’s cheer. And at 7.7% you might even be able to have two, unlike the higher ABV American versions. I wouldn’t recommend driving though, not only for obvious reasons, but because you’ll want to savor this beauty.

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