I wasn’t certain I’d ever drink another Icelandic beer. As far as I knew, those samples of Einstok I had a few months back were the extent of my beery forays to the land of Bjork, Mum and Sigur Ros. Speaking of which, if I’m going to drink to Iceland, I’d better put some music on. In goes the debut Sigur Ros CD – music to have a good cry to, or to contemplate a big beer like this…I’m not sure which.
Cool label. The volcano kinda makes it look a bit like the cover of “Dianetics,” but then underneath the banner, there’s a depiction of an Icelandic farmhouse, and then “Smoked Imperial Stout” in English, and in runes. Runes! I haven’t seen runes like that since I read the Fellowship of the Ring. Here lies Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria. Oh, and if any of you Scientologists Google “Dianetics” and come across my blog….I advise you to run far, far away from your kooky cult, relax, and have a beer. Come on. You know you want to.
But I digress. This is a beer blog, not a Tolkien fan site or a lampoonery of a cult that believes in evil overlords named Xenu. Hey, when I think of Xenu, I think of the beer from Cigar City. And now, I’m going to drink this fine beverage.
At over 9%, it’s a beer of some size, and it pours like it. It’s viscous, with a lazy head that can nevertheless be roused briefly with a couple vigorous swirls of the snifter. Aroma is a bit like burned chocolate, with an odd lavender note and hint of anise. There is some “campfire,” but it’s not overwhelming in the way a rauchbier would be. I’m kinda digging the floral note; it isn’t too often I smell that in a big imperial stout. Overlaid upon the base of smoky chocolate, caramel and anise, it smells like an expensive chocolate bar.
Now this is how I like my imperial stouts. Sometimes they take on over-roasted ashy flavors, or a little medicinal bitter cherry – neither of which I’m that big a fan. I’m not getting either of those here. It’s bitter chocolate up front with a quick kiss of caramel sweetness and a good cold-brewed coffee. Smoke is there, but only as an accent, not the overarching phenolic Band-Aid-y taste of some other smoked beers. It has a thick, viscous, cordial-esque mouthfeel – perfect for a beer like this, as it can really coat the palate rather than having all the dense flavor washed away by excessive carbonation.
I don’t remember where I got this – it was probably Stop & Shop by UM. That said, I do remember that it was not exactly cheap for a pint bottle…but then again, nothing from or in Iceland is inexpensive. Great for a one-off, though, and an accomplished example of a smoked imperial stout. This would pair extremely well with any number of chocolate or vanilla desserts – it has lots of flavor without being terribly overbearing in any one component. It’s going to complement dessert, not be dessert. Serve a small portion of it to your dinner party guests, and listen to all the raves.