Too Fancy to Drink: Gadd’s Russian Imperial Stout

Gadd's 2012 Imperial Stouts.

These two bottles have been sitting on the shelf since March 2015, throbbing with sinister energy like the crate containing the Ark in the first Indiana Jones film. Last night, we decided to vanquish them.

They are non-iden­ti­cal twins – the same base beer (a 12% ABV his­toric homage) with two treat­ments, one aged in bour­bon bar­rels, the oth­er giv­en a dose of Bret­tanomyces lam­bi­cus.

We did­n’t buy these but we weren’t sent them by the brew­ery, either: when he worked at Beer Mer­chants, Phil Lowry snuck them into one of our orders as a bonus. His advice at the time was (a) to be care­ful with the Bret­tanomyces-spiked ver­sion and (b) to try blend­ing them.

Even with­out any chill­ing Brett, as we’ll call him, was no trou­ble at all. He hissed but did­n’t gush, and gave us a thick, steady caramel-coloured foam. It smelled exact­ly like Har­vey’s Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Stout, which is per­haps not that sur­pris­ing, and in our book a high com­pli­ment.

We should put the oth­er one in a dif­fer­ent glass so we don’t get them mixed up. Use the St Bernar­dus one. Because Bernard. Bernard Matthews. Turkey. Wild Turkey.’

So the oth­er one is Bernard and, unlike his broth­er, had almost no head – a few loose bub­bles on a sur­face that looked like warmed black trea­cle.

The taste of Brett is very like Har­vey’s. In fact, we prob­a­bly would­n’t be able to tell the dif­fer­ence sam­pling blind although we think this one is a bit lighter in body. It is nonethe­less a heavy, heavy mon­ster beer, tast­ing not like some­thing brewed this decade but as if it had been dis­cov­ered by work­men in a deep cel­lar under­neath the old brew­ery at Chiswell Street. As we get more used to Bret­tanomyces we find it eas­i­er to taste oth­er things through it and here, we got a mix of sour­ness, Mar­mite, liquorice and dark choco­late, with the funk sug­gest­ing that it was some­how extra-fer­ment­ed. Alive. Pick­led.

Bernard was entire­ly dif­fer­ent, prov­ing that those post-brew­ing tweaks have a big influ­ence on the fin­ished prod­uct. It made us want sticky, smoky bar­be­cued meat, per­haps because it was sticky and smoky. Bernard likes Amer­i­can things, HONK HONK! It coat­ed the tongue like espres­so and had a pleas­ant lit­tle burn – alco­holic, we think, but brains aren’t good at under­stand­ing heat and ours kept insist­ing there was some chilli present. Of the two, this was the best – a real eye-open­er.

We blend­ed a lit­tle of each, as per Phil’s instruc­tions, and it made some­thing more like drink­ing choco­late but odd­ly less com­plex than either of its com­po­nents. Phase can­cel­la­tion.

These were two fan­tas­tic beers that we’re glad we final­ly got round to drink­ing, but wish we had­n’t drunk. It looks as if Brett is still avail­able here at £6.67 per 330ml bot­tle if you want to try it your­self, along with some oth­er inter­est­ing exper­i­ments.

5 thoughts on “Too Fancy to Drink: Gadd’s Russian Imperial Stout”

  1. I’ve still got a bot­tle at home of Gadd’s Impe­r­i­al Russ­ian Stout, which I bought two years ago. I’ve missed sam­pling it these past two Christ­mases. Per­haps I will man­age it this year!

    1. OK, gen­uine­ly try­ing to get this right, but find­ing it com­pli­cat­ed. In this case, we just looked at how oth­er peo­ple did it and copied them – not the most reli­able approach.

      So, it’s cap­i­tal B for Bret­tanomyces, because that’s the top lev­el clas­si­fi­ca­tion? And low­er case for the sub-name?

      And always ital­i­cise the whole lot?

      1. Yep – first is cap­i­talised, sec­ond low­er case, ital­i­cise if you can – like Homo sapi­ens.

        Hop­ing to get to Rams­gate on the green hop bus tour in a cou­ple of weeks, might have to give these a go.

        Talk­ing of which, just to flag up to peo­ple – the Can­ter­bury Food & Drink fes­ti­val is next week­end, which is the main chance to try just about all the Kent green hop beers in one place.

        1. …and once you’ve writ­ten the full name out once can then abre­vi­ate the genus to an ini­tal, so it can then become B. lam­bi­cus

Comments are closed.