Tuesday 12 February 2013

Tasting : Back in the U.S.S.R. (Kate the Great clone)

I've been pretty consistent on this blog about posting tasting notes... later than they should be posted. Even in terms of beers that are better consumed fresh (e.g. IPAs), writing about my impressions usually takes me longer than it should. This isn't because I find it a chore; it's more because I want to be sure that I've formed a solid opinion about what I'm tasting, smelling, and seeing. For example, it turns out I rushed my notes about the Smuttynose Finestkind clone... only 10 days or so after posting them, I realized the beer was much hoppier (and tastier) than I had originally thought.

Since my Portsmouth Kate the Great clone, which I brewed in November of 2011, is a Russian Imperial Stout, I DID purposely hold off even sampling the beer for months after it was bottled, as I knew that it would likely seem too harsh if consumed early (my OG and FG both came out surprisingly close to target, giving the beer a hefty 9.7% ABV). I've had this beer about seven times over the last 6 months or so; now that it's over a year old, I figure it's finally time to really assess it.

As mentioned in the original post, the recipe is based on notes from Tod Mott, the head brewer (at the time... he's moved on since) at Portsmouth Brewing, sent to Michael Tonsmeire. Mike brewed his own clone, which he has the tasting notes for here. Despite several differences between how I brewed the beer and how Mike did (the most significant being that Mike used Port-soaked oak cubes in secondary, as Mott recommended), it looks like our beers had some major similarities. The most striking aspect of this beer is how muted the roast/coffee/chocolate presence is for a RIS, especially in the aroma. Looking back at the grain bill, I guess this makes sense... despite the large amount of specialty grains, there really isn't a huge proportion of Roasted Barley, Black Patent, or Chocolate malt. I get the impression that the real KtG is much more roasty, but of course I can't base that on my personal experience with it, since I've never been lucky enough to try it.

In general, I'd say that the beer came out nice... it's surprisingly smooth for such a high-alcohol beer; the time being cellared has almost certainly helped. The next time I brew a RIS, I'll likely go for a more-roasty, simplistic recipe, such as the Stone Imperial Russian Stout recipe that's available.

Appearance: Poured with a large, light-brown, creamy head with excellent retention. Sat at 2 inches for most of the time while drinking. Body is black and opaque.

Aroma: Rich, sweet, caramelly aroma. Lots of chocolate. A bit of roast in the background.

Taste: More roast character in the taste than the aroma; while the sweetness is the first thing noticeable, there’s a medium-strength coffee/dark chocolate flavor that follows, leading to a medium-high bitterness in the finish. As the beer warms, a dark fruit character begins to come through.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, with medium carbonation. A touch of astrigency and alcohol warmth.

Overall: Surprisingly drinkable for such a big beer... likely the 13 months of aging has helped smooth the beer out. Tasty, but it could definitely stand to have more in the roast department.

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