Drink This

PintFight: Russian Imperial Stout

Jeremy Short · Feb. 24


It's an extreme PintFight matchup! Battle Russian Imperial Stout! Watch out, these are the big boys and they come out swinging in this heavyweight title match. For this fight we have 3 great beers throwing fierce roasted malts and jabbing with high ABVs for the championship. Can you really do more then 3 Imperial Stouts anyway? Let's take a look at our fighting pints. Wearing the jet black shorts and the mocha stripes, oh wait, all these guys are wearing the same thing, we'll just skip the colors. Okay, so coming in from Bend, Oregon and weighing in at 11% we have the Abyss from Deschutes Brewery. Next, the underdog, from Boulder, Colorado with 9.5% the Nihilist from Mountain Sun Brewery. And last, but not least, we have Santa's Little Helper at 10.50% from Port Brewing in San Marcos, California. It just occurred to me that the Nihilist and Santa's Little Helper are awful fighting names. But the Abyss, now that's a badass sounding name.

Round 1!

This first pint up is the Abyss. This is a true champion. A Russian Imperial that likes to fight, but can relax in knowing that he's already earned an established record against his Russian Imperial brethren. This is the first time your fight judge has experienced the powerful force known as the Abyss, and he is anxious to get his first look. This beer is a beast. A smack you in the face blast of chocolate and roasted malts. But, wait! What's this in the aroma? Brownies? Wait my hefty fighter smells like brownies? I check again. Yes, yes that smells like brownies. Don't get me wrong, there's some mean roasty malts in the aroma, but the choclate is so pronounced. I like it! Who doesn't like brownies? Nazis, that's who.

Now for a taste. Nice. Choclate, choclate, choclate. Odd, the fighter profile from the brewer that described this beer didn't mention choclate, but for me it stuck out. And it's a bitter choclate, not a sweet choclate. That's not a bad thing it's acutally quite good. Very good. There's also a chalkyness at the end that is oddly refreshing. This pint has a lot of weapons and you can sift through each of them with each sip. I should note that this pint was from Deschute's 2009 fighting class. As this beer warmed up, I started finding more of the molasses and roast flavors. There is also a dark coffee roast that compliments the bitter chocolate. I was sadden to reach the end of the round.   

Round 2!

Number two, the Nihilist, is a local boy from Mountain Sun Brewery. This fight throw down is actually taking place at his sister's home the Vine Street Pub in Denver, Colorado. Mountain Sun celebrates stout month every February which makes epic PintFights like this one possible. Anyway, back to the beer. The Nihilist is going up against two strong fighters from two great brewers (putting the local boy at a slight disadvantage). Hoping to give him a little more punch, the Bourbon barrel version was selected to enter the PintFight. Will the local boy come through? Here we go. 

Aroma isn't particularly remarkable. Lot's of malts. Lot's of malts! Your judge takes a sip. Just as the aroma suggests, this is a kitchen sink of roasted/chocolate malts. I am not sure what was tossed into this beer, but it taste like a pinch of the full spectrum from light chocolate to the blackest roasted malt. There are so many flavors bashing up against each other nothing quite settles the brawl. I take another sip. I am waiting for the oak or Bourbon to shine through and add depth. The slightest flavors of the barrel linger at the back of my palate. I am afraid this slugger was pulled early. I think he needed more time in the barrel warming up his skills. He needed a bit more time letting the malts settle down. So it goes, the local boy takes a one, two, and BOOM knocked out by the Abyss. I am sorry, buddy. I was really pushing for you. 

Round 3!

Alright, how's this Cali' beer going to fare? This guy comes in big and strong, but doesn't have the wood aged training of the Abyss. Is that going to be a problem? Is that going to cost Santa's Little Helper the fight. The bell rings and your judge takes hold of the pint. Solid malt aroma and this beer from Port Brewing leans more towards the rich roasted coffee flavors. Smooth. Very smooth. In fact, all three of these beers do a great job of keeping their weight discreet. But, I am really liking this Santa's Little Helper. Very drinkable. Almost too drinkable. And the flavors are complex, but it's not as rich as the Abyss. If anything, the Abyss is prehaps a little overbearing when compared to the drinkability of Santa's Little Helper. There is also a surprising and pleasant floral aroma and a hint of raisins. You can almost convince yourself that this is just a robust stout, nothing more. I can have one more. And another, please. Oh wait, where am I? Was I writing something about beer. Yes, yes, I remember. I think I am going to order some hot wings. 

And the winner is!

After taking some time and counting the touches, I am going to award, wait for it, Santa's Little Helper the title of champion of the PintFight! Hold it, I am recalculating my figures here. Crap. Wait. No. Yes, I am going with the Abyss. Or, wait. Okay here's the deal, it's Santa's Little Helper by the slightest of notches. Why? I prefer the subtlety of Santa's Little Helper. He jumps around the ring, takes his punches and has great balance. While the Abyss is simply the big puncher. He's good, but old Santa is just a bit closer to my style.