Stone Imperial Russian Stout has been one of my favorites since I first tried it sometime in 2009. I was amazed by it, not only on its own merits, which we'll get to in a second, but because a brewery whose passion is in heavily hopping beers should not be so well-abled at crafting such a rich, opulent stout as this. Stone, of course, is no ordinary brewery, as they are one of the few that excels at the dark colored and light colored ends of the beermaking spectrum.
Armanetti's Beverages here in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago came across a few bottles of this year's batch of Imperial Russian, and I scored the last three. I also picked up a Firestone-Walker Parabola imperial stout which I'm told to age. I feel the same way about the Stone. I've very familiar with the Imperial Russian, having had it in bottles and on tap here in Chicago, as well as in bottles in San Diego's Gaslamp District, 30 miles as the crow flies from Stone's brewing temple.
I poured some from the standard and beautifully dark bomber-size bottle with stark gray lettering for me and a buddy the other day into snifter glasses. I found it to be tighter than normal. Yes, it had that bitter chocolate nose along with coffee and even some smoke. The mouthfeel was the way it should be, thick, a bit grainy like a French press pour of a Columbian coffee. I found the flavors to be trapped in its youth, as it was released on May 31, 2011. Piney hops dominated the mix, providing a strong earthiness. Stone lists it as having 52 IBU's, a huge hopping for a stout. I also got a lot of coffee out of it. The bitter chocolate, toffee, and berry flavors were a bit suppressed. Like a young Cabernet, this needs time in the bottle to tame the hops and let loose the secondary flavors, which should be more primary in a bottle like this. At 10.5% alcohol, it will withstand waiting 6 months to a year for consumption and will be drinking even more beautifully then.
It's still a delicious beverage now; just expect a current opening to present a much drier, more rugged beverage than the one to emerge a few seasons from now. I recommend buying multiple bottles and saving at least one for comparison.