Sunday, April 19, 2009

Left Hand 2009 Oak Aged Imperial Stout review

Left Hand 2009 Oak Aged Imperial StoutWinter seems to be having a hard time leaving Colorado alone these days. So while the cold is still lingering around I found it the right time to pull out a big bottle of a dark brew that I spied at the store the other day. I'm no stranger to the beers from Left Hand Brewing of Longmont, Colorado. They've brewed up some strong kick ass brews in the past. So when I saw a new bottle of Left Hand 2009 Oak Aged Imperial Stout I couldn't say no. I've previously reviewed their regular Imperial Stout about a year ago but wanted to see how well the Left Hand brew would do aged from an oak brandy barrel.

According to the bottle, the oak aged imperial stout was blended using 75% of their regular Imperial Stout and 25% Imperial Stout aged in the oak brandy barrel. The brew is supposed to impart flavors with "hints of raisin, black licorice, coffee and dark chocolate". How could I say no to that? I let the chilled bottle sit out for about 30 minutes before opening the cap. There was a big "hiss" when I popped the top so I knew it had been bottle conditioned a bit.

Appearance: This stout surprised me a bit as it poured a bit less thick than most imperial stouts I've seen. It's quite dark but you can almost see through this brew. There was an abundance of ruby edging along the sides of the glass and it wasn't until I filled the glass over half way that I couldn't see through it any longer. Dark as it was, the brew only produced a very small tan head.

Aroma: The head didn't seem to matter to me as much as it's aroma. Just as soon as I opened the bottle, I could detect the oak brandy barrel scent immediately. It gave the brew a sense of funky sweetness to it. You got the feeling this brew was a strong one and judging from the 10.2% ABV I knew it was going to pack a punch. I didn't want to drink this brew too cold, so I left the brew sitting in the glass for several minutes more before tasting. A good imperial stout is most flavorful as it warms.

I swirled the stout in my glass and took in a big whiff of this brew. Aside from the oak barrel overtones, the warmed brew gave off a big chocolaty nose and was very inviting.

Mouthfeel: Left Hand's oak aged imperial stout was less viscous than most other beers of the style have been. While it seemed lighter in mouthfeel it was mighty potent in the alcohol bite and flavor. It coated the tongue well and left a nice drying effect in my mouth.

Taste: As for the taste, I noticed a wonderful chocolaty roastiness along with some brandy overtones from the wood. This flavor appealed to me right away. Some Russian Imperial Stouts are a bit too dry and coffee-like. Not this brew. This was a well balanced stout with a hint of funky sweetness and just enough bitter to balance it out. It had less emphasis on the coffee and more so on the chocolate and malts. I think the brandy barrels really added a wonderful effect to this beer.

I could feel the effect of the higher alcohol content nearly right away. This is not a beer to be taken lightly. Don't plan on driving after a full 22oz bottle of this. It was the equivalent of 4 regular beers in strength in the bomber. I was feeling quite warm and cozy after this brew.

Overall: I admit this quickly became one of my favorite imperial stouts. It was certainly more enjoyable than the aged North Coast Old Rasputin. The Left Hand brew had much more flavor to it. I simply didn't want to put this beer down. I tasted this brew right before heading to bed last night and I slept like a log. Glad I chose to drink this one at home.

I'm giving this beer a HUGE Thumbs up and a definite repeat buy recommendation. I think this brew would stand up to cellaring quite well. Left Hand only makes this brew every 2 years or so and it was well worth the wait for this one.

Price range: From $8.49 to $9.99 for a 22oz bomber bottle.
Availability: Every 2 years in late-winter / early Spring.

Related articles:
- Breweries of Longmont Part II - Left Hand Brewing
- Left Hand Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout review
- Left Hand Milk Stout review
- Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2008 review.
- Mikkeller Beek Geek Breakfast review.

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