Saturday, 4 August 2012

Buxton Brewery Tsar

Good evening all. Tonight's beer is Tsar, a Russian Imperial Stout from Buxton Brewery (Buxton, UK). Buxton Brewery offerings always seem to be on my "must try" list but I've only ever had the opportunity to sample one before tonight and that was during my Beer Advent Calendar series, so another bottle from these guys is long overdue. I've heard a lot of good things about this particular one, so I'm really looking forward to trying it after such a long wait. Review after the pic....

Tsar (9.5% ABV) pours a jet black colour with a bubbly brown head that retains itself well on the surface of the beer, along with some specks of lacing in the early stages of drinking. The aroma is definitely on the hoppy side, with grapefruit, resinous pine, coffee, chocolate, pipe tobacco smoke, caramel and a subtle sense of the alcohol in the background. Despite the high ABV percentage the overall aroma isn't too powerful, with the smoke initially hitting the olfactories only to give way to the more traditional roasted malt aromas (coffee, chocolate) and the sweetness backing up the light ethanol presence. If I'd been given this beer without any prior knowledge of its origin, I probably would've mistaken it for a black IPA, but it's not uncommon for Imperial Stouts to have a noticeable hop edge (Great Divide's Yeti is a prime example) so it's certainly not a bad thing! The taste continues this theme, with resinous hops, yeast extract, chocolate, dark fruits, coffee and some caramel sweetness. The hops hit the palette first with pine and a pronounced bitterness which lingers long after drinking, with the coffee and chocolate becoming more apparent as the pine slowly diminishes. The hop bitterness lashes the sides of the mouth and the back of the throat, which can cloy so frequent sips certainly aren't advised (not that you would do that with this sort of beer in the first place!). The dark fruits and caramel flavours, evident after the hoppy resin has died down, combine as they normally do with Imperial Stouts to create an Asian sauce taste (reminiscent of hoisin), and the finish is dry, bitter and packed with lingering grape flavours from the hops. The mouthfeel is thick and the beer is surprisingly carbonated for the ABV percentage, which compliments the higher hop profile nicely. Overall, this is a very good take on the Imperial Stout style, with plenty of characteristic dark flavours and enough hops to add an interesting twist without transforming it into a different beer style. Highly recommended!

Until next time....

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