Tasting: #36 Vanilla Infused Rusalka Imperial Stout

Eureka, it has been a while since I posted any tasting notes. I would like to reveal the tasting notes of batch #36 Vanilla Infused Rusalka Imperial Stout today. This is a batch brewed in 2011 and bottled in mid June in 2011. It finished with an ABV greater than 12%, fermented with Safbrew S33 and infused with two vanilla beans and some raisins. By the way, we previously used some of this batch for our beer-based candy syrup which turned out really well.

IMG_42452(Actually, the beer shown in the glass above is not this batch of Rusalka rather than the first batch of #35 Rusalka). However, all our Imperial Stouts look very similar (black).

The beer matured for 1 year and 8 months. I store all these high ABV beer in a cellar at around 12°C (54°F).

Aroma: The first thing we notice is: umami. This is hard to explain but this beer’s aroma is somewhat between salty and spicy. This umami taste is not off-putting in any means. I would not call it an off-flavor. Maybe the umami comes from yeast autolysis? Some pepper notes as well, chocolate, slight coffee character. Bit of vanilla. No fruitiness. No alcohol detectable as well.

Appearance: Black, decent tan head, nice bubbles rise to the top, nice lacing as well, clear with a nice yeast sediment in the bottle.

Flavor: Milk chocolate bomb, some roast and coffee character with a decent bitterness level. Some molasses as well. In one word: milk-chocolate-infused-cold-coffee.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, low carbonation level (bottled to a carbon dioxide level of 2 vol), long-lasting dark chocolate finish. With nice bitterness in the aftertaste. Warming sensation from the alcohol. However not burning.

Overall Impression: This is a really nice beer. The typical Imperial Stout character is definitely there. However, the vanilla and raisins are really in the background. We could not detect any raisin character. I would suspect those flavors to decline over time anyway and maybe we sampled the beer at a point where those flavors were below our tasting threshold. What I like most about this brew is that the alcohol is well hidden. There is no boozy aroma nor a burning aftertaste. The aroma is really nice as well. We tried this brew from time to time and it improved a lot during further maturation. All the aroma and flavor components really mellowed out, the bitterness level decreased significantly and the astringent character from the roasted malt disappeared as well.

What would I change recipe-wise for a future batch? The base of this beer is quite solid in my opinion. If one wants to get a stronger vanilla and raisin character, one should consider maturing this beer in a keg first and add vanilla and raisins just a few weeks before taking the first sip. Key components in making this beer are for sure a long maturation time to give the beer enough time to mellow out. Cheers!