Here in Florida, it is hard to argue that our winter has all but ended. Although it’s not technically spring, we haven’t got much time left to go. It may be in the 80s during the day and the snowbirds may have started heading back north, but if you like the cold, then rest assured winter can still be found in Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout by Cigar City Brewing.
Last week’s article was all about springtime in a bottle. If Honig’s deliciously green sauvignon blanc was poured into a bed of flowers (gasp!) the roses would grow sweeter, the ants would dance, and the soil would rejoice and give thanks for the gift of such heavenly nectar. If Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout was poured on the ground, a hole would melt into the earth deep enough to reveal the center of its molten core. To put it simply, it’s heavy stuff. Heavier than Twiggy’s coat on a Siberian vacation. Thicker than the blubber found on the seals of the North Pole. More intense than Charlie Sheen on a three day bender. You get the point.
The misconceptions about stouts like Guinness cannot be applied to imperial stouts like this one—or imperial stouts at all really. The fact is stouts like Guinness aren’t actually heavy. In fact, Guinness has a lighter density than other beers, which is why it will float on basically anything. What is deceiving about Guinness are the following: It has a rich, dark brown color that appears almost black; it is poured on draft with a mixture of nitrogen (not just CO2) which gives it a rich, creamy texture rather than a lively, fizzy one; it finishes slightly bitter, with burnt, toasty malt notes. If one can’t get down with a Guinness, then one should not order an imperial stout anytime soon. This is not a beer for the meek at heart or taste-bud, but its following is growing and it, like all beverages, has a time and a place.
So it may seem strange that this particular brew is produced out of Florida’s own Cigar City Brewing, located in Tampa. After all, the term Russian imperial stout originally stems from the style of beer derived from porters and brewed in 18th century England, for export to Russia’s court of Catherine II. The beer was brewed with a higher alcohol content of 9 or 10 percent in order to protect it from freezing in the bottle during transport. While a wide variety of stouts are brewed today, because of its high ABV, the Russian imperial style is usually the most intense.
The Marshal Zhukov imperial stout is named for the decorated Marshal of the Red Coat Army who freed the Soviet Union and other nations from the occupation of the Axis Powers during World War II. Like the Marshal himself, this brew displays power, vigor and tenacity. It pours black and thick as motor oil, has virtually no head, and very little carbonation. While the bottle descriptor boasts “herbal dryness from English hop varietals,” the sweet molasses and bitter dark chocolate notes overcome any promised dryness. There are burnt sugar or toffee nuances and a definite espresso finish (also promised by the label,) and a staggering 11 percent ABV assures this beer will melt the snow off your boots.
Go boldly forth to Eola Wine Company and sample this beastly beer for $22 a bottle (750 ml.) Share with a comrade or take it to go and pair with dog sledding, ice fishing or books on the Cold War.