Category Archives: Stout

Connecticut Valley Bravo Tango

Connecticut Valley’s first bourbon-barrel-aged offering — an 11% imperial stout released in limited quantity for its first anniversary — wowed our panel with a fantastic, syrupy mouthfeel and huge notes of chocolate, coffee, bourbon and some smoke. They knocked it out of the park on their first barrel-aged offering. The aftertaste was a bit mouth-drying, but the lingering bourbon and chocolate more than made up for it! Grab some while you can.

89 points

Jackie O’s Oro Negro

Our panel marveled at this full-flavored imperial stout. A World-Class stout with a label on the bottle as beautiful as what’s inside.
93 points

Connecticut Valley Brewing 1901 First In Flight Coffee Porter

Our panel was “wowed” by this creamy coffee porter, from Connecticut Valley Brewing of South Windsor, Connecticut. Smooth mouthfeel, huge coffee notes with a trace of smoke.
92 points

Harpoon Czernoboak


rating_worldclass95 points

The story goes…brewmasters at Harpoon’s Windsor, Vermont, brewery were experimenting in early 2015 with barrel-aging imperial stout as part of Harpoon’s “pilot series.”

From their Czernobog imperial stout, they created a smooth, mellow, labor-intensive small batch pilot they simply called “Maple Bourbon Barrel-Aged Czernobog.”

harboon_czernoboakWe were lucky enough to stop by during its short window of availability, and while we didn’t officially rate it, it was fantastic enough for us to pen an open letter to Harpoon, begging them to produce it again.

That’s where we thought the story ended.

Fast-forward to November 2016 — a year-and-a-half later. The Basement Beer Tastings once again visited Harpoon, and noticed a strange spelling on one of the tap handles. It didn’t read “Czernobog,” as you’d expect. It instead read “Czernoboak.”

We asked our host, Harpoon staffer Cheyanne, about the curious spelling. And when we heard “barrel-aged,” all the pieces of the story started to come together.

See, little did we know at the time, but the brewmasters refilled those pilot oak bourbon barrels with more Czernobog, and placed them back in cold storage. There they sat, and were quickly forgotten.

They were rediscovered this month, Cheyanne told us, and what the long soak produced was truly World Class. We enjoyed Czernoboak almost as much as sharing stories with Cheyanne, and took home Harpoon’s barrel-aged Czernoboak to rate.

Czernoboak pours like its younger self, Czernobog — opaque dark brown, near black. But the carbonation of the oak-aged version produces a head that is even more of a mocha tan color. Our panelists awarded it a perfect score, as the head lasted and produced a fair amount of lacing on the glass. Carbonation was lively, but light.

Smell also received perfect scores. Czernoboak impressed with huge aromas of cocoa, vanilla and tons of oak, with notable alcohol. One panelist remarked, “The smell screams, ‘I bring the party!'”

Mouthfeel received near-perfect scores, with a rich buttery texture. While buttery, though, for an aged stout, we wished it had a little more of a mouth-coating feel.

Our panel loved the taste — a sweet, malt-forward stout with strong flavors of cocoa, vanilla and toasted coconut, with lesser notes of bourbon. The alcohol of this 9.5% ABV imperial tingles on the tongue.

The sweetness dissipates quickly as the aftertaste develops — dominated by cocoa, with a wonderful blend of light coffee bitterness. While near-perfect, the aftertaste lost a couple of points from the panel, which noted a bit of a chalkiness. Still, that’s little to detract from the complex flavor profile that lingers through the beer.

And as a nice side effect, that light chalkiness begs you to take another sip, and the entire voyage from sweet malt to cocoa bitterness begins anew. As a result of this effect and the overall quality of the brew, our panelists gave Czernoboak huge numbers for drinkability.

As of this posting, Czernoboak is our top-rated beer, with a overall World Class score of 94.67. Congratulations, Harpoon.

Did Harpoon read our 2015 open request for more barrel-aging, and take it to heart? Probably not…but at least we can say we knew continuing to produce a barrel-aged version of Czernobog was a good idea.

So, thank you, Harpoon, for the beer, the fantastic hospitality, and most of all…for continuing to pursue your barrel-aged imperial stout. Czernoboak is the reward we all share.

(Appearance 10, Smell 10, Mouthfeel 4.67, Taste 23.67, Aftertaste 18.67, Drinkability 27.67)

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Stone Imperial Russian Stout

78 points

rating_verygoodWhen I think of Stone Brewing, my thoughts immediately turn to their wide array of IPAs.  Interestingly enough, The Basement Beer Tastings has yet to rate any of Stone’s IPA offerings.

Viewed by beer enthusiasts as a travesty, I’m sure, this is something we’ll have to make up for in spades before we close out 2016 — or at the rate we’re going, the beginning of 2017.  Alas, here we are now, left to review Stone’s take on an Imperial Russian Stout.

stonerussianimperialstoutIf you’re keeping track — and I’m certain you are — we’ve rated Stone’s seasonal Coffee Milk Stout and year-round Smoked Porter.   The panel greatly enjoyed the stout, but the porter left many feeling as if they just drank a beer out of a chimney…and not one that had been recently swept, I might add.

As our spoiler-inducing heading indicates, Imperial Russian Stout falls closer to Milk Stout than Smoked Porter.  So let’s dive in and find out exactly what the panel enjoyed about this brew.

Appearance was — you guessed it — black.  The panel noted that Stone didn’t appear to pour as thick as other imperial stouts, but produced a nice carbonated head.

Smell elicited a wider variety of descriptions.  Smoke dominated the panelists’ thoughts, but also sensed were bacon, vanilla, malt, molasses, caramel and a hint of butteriness.  No matter what scent was found, though, every panelist scored smell as a solid 9 out of 10.

The mouthfeel was thick and creamy at first, but then fizzy — good, but not great.  The taste scores echoed this sentiment, as well.  The panelists couldn’t shake the strong flavor of alcohol that seemed to dominate all other flavors in the beer.  The alcohol also affected each panelist’s enjoyment of the aftertaste.  Those that downgraded aftertaste felt the flavor was too strong and lingered too long.  For the panelists that enjoyed Stone, they felt the alcoholic aftertaste proved the consistency of the beer.

Once again, the high ABVs of our Imperial Stout night seemed to have an affect on panelists’ ratings, as there was only one comment about the beer’s drinkability.  Because of the predominance of alcohol in the flavor, one panelist felt this stout was a “one-and-done.”  That would be me. I said that.

On the other hand, one panelist felt Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout was very easy to drink because of the strong alcohol flavor. (It was Jon).

Unfortunately for him, everyone else seemed to agree with me — and I’m basing this on their scores since, apparently, they were too lazy or buzzed to write any type of comment about drinkability.

With all that said, indeed Stone Imperial Russian Stout is a very good beer.  You’ll like it even more if you’re a fan of a strong alcohol flavor.

As for the rest of us? This stout will be more enjoyable than Stone’s Porter, since it won’t leave you feeling like you just sucked on a smoke stack.  Unless of course you’re into that sort of thing…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

(Appearance 8.4, Smell 9, Mouthfeel 3.6, Taste 20, Aftertaste 16, Drinkability 21.4)

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Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin

rating_excellent82 points

Molasses. If we could sum up our review of Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin in one word, that’s it. Molasses.

Of course, we have a hard time writing these reviews in short form, so we’ll continue. But if you hate molasses, you can stop reading now.

harpoonimperialpumpkinGood. They’re gone. It’s just us now. What’s wrong with them? Am I right?

The imperial in Imperial Pumpkin, in Harpoon’s case, is imperial stout. Thick, syrupy, black-as-night stout. Intrigued? Yeah, we were, too.

This witches’ brew pours with the opaqueness of black coffee with a brownish head that dissipated quickly. Our panel found it very attractive, but we would have liked a little more carbonation.

Smell was rated high, with huge aromas of molasses and smoke, immediately invoking visions of drinking it around an autumn campfire.

Taste and drinkability are where Imperial Pumpkin grabbed big points. The mouthfeel is thick and syrupy, almost that of a sipping liqueur — which our panel agreed is exactly the way to enjoy this beer.

The taste is pure molasses, through and through. There is a smokiness and slight roasted bitterness, like many stouts. But the molasses notes and high alcohol content (10.5% ABV) augment the taste wonderfully.

What’s missing is a notable pumpkin flavor. We assume that it’s in there, and most of our panelists docked the beer points on its absence. But the ghost of pumpkins past did little to dissuade our panel from raving about the taste.

Aftertaste was judged fairly high, dominated by a sweet smokiness accompanied by a warming sensation of the high alcohol content.

So, we suggest that you grab a bottle of this, light up a campfire, and enjoy this autumn masterpiece as slow as…yup, you guessed it. Molasses.

(Appearance 7.17, Smell 8, Taste 25, Aftertaste 16.33, Drinkability 25.33)

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Southern Tier Warlock

rating_excellent81 points

Warlock is at the dark end of the pumpkin spectrum, but packs a lot of flavor and complexity. It’s supposed to be a pumpkin imperial stout, but with a lot of competing flavors in it, it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis.

southerntierwarlockBut luckily, all those competing flavors are delicious, making it an unmatched experience when it comes to the pumpkin theme.

Warlock pours like a big dark beer — near-black with a lasting brown head that laces the glass. Our panelists loved the appearance, but loved the smell even more.

This beer is loaded with aroma…vanilla bean, hints of licorice, sarsaparilla and marshmallow. It’s a crazy combo for sure, but our panel marveled at the complexity and the uniqueness.

Taste was rated well, though not as strongly as the smell.  Flavors of marshmallow, vanilla and molasses are strong, though a couple of panelists noted the vanilla was somewhat artificial, and lent to a slightly medicinal note. Others felt the huge malt character gave it a sugary cereal backing flavor that they enjoyed.

Aftertaste is vanilla Coke, some smoke and overtones of licorice, with a warming alcohol sensation. This is a big beer — 10% ABV –that needs to breathe, and our panel found Warlock really opened up as it came up to room temperature.

Drinkability was rated solidly at 23, with two factors detracting from a higher score. First, with such intense flavor and a high ABV, the panel felt this was more of a sipper — a “one-and-done,” if you will. Second, you’ll notice that we made no mention of pumpkin.

Southern Tier markets Warlock as having a “pumpkin pie” scent and flavor, though none of our panelists detected a trace of it. So we felt that we had to dock points for that, especially if someone ventures into a store looking specifically for a pumpkin beer.

Be that as it may, our panel felt Southern Tier Warlock was in keeping with the season, with warm, fall flavors. It’s a unique take on a pumpkin imperial stout that won’t disappoint…you know, unless you’re looking for pumpkin.

(Appearance 9, Smell 9.83, Taste 23.83, Aftertaste 15.17, Drinkability 23)

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Harpoon Czernobog

85 points

rating_excellentLast summer, I had a palate-altering experience when I tasted Harpoon’s Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Czernobog.  I was so impressed by this beer that I penned an open letter to Harpoon imploring them to make this gem a wide-scale release and not just a one-time brewery exclusive.

harpoonczernobogAlas, that request has not been fulfilled by Harpoon.  An utter shame, in my opinion, as the world needs to experience Barrel Aged Czernobog.  I’m not going to suggest this delicious beer could bring about world peace, but maybe….

To somewhat tide us over until the brain trust at Harpoon comes to their senses, the panel decided to taste the non-barrel-aged version of Czernobog — a Russian Imperial Stout that did achieve greatness, but won’t bring about world peace like a maple bourbon barrel aged varietal might.

Appearance was nearly a unanimous 10.  One panelist downgraded the beer a point for…well, God only knows what reason.  Considering his comments, “Nice solid black color, good head stays for awhile, nice lacing,” this panelist praised appearance more than any of the others that rated it a 10.  Sometimes I don’t even think Rick knows what’s going on in his own mind.

Smell was also highly rated with only one member of the panel differing greatly from the rest.  I’m pretty sure you can figure out who that was.  Chocolate was most commonly noted, as well as smoke and cherry.  The Negative Nigel thought the smell wasn’t strong enough to receive high marks.

The mouthfeel of Czernobog was both creamy and syrupy.  The syrupy characteristic left many panelists noted a coating in their mouths after drinking.  That could be why mouthfeel averaged out to be great, but not phenomenal.

Taste also received some very high scores.  Cherry was most predominant, but the panel also noticed scotch and smoke.  The scotch flavor is what led two panelists to lower their taste ratings because they felt the beer was a bit medicinal.  In hindsight, though, that could have been the cherry since the scotch was greatly enjoyed on the aftertaste.  One panelist felt that the aftertaste didn’t linger long enough.

Overall, each panelist could easily see themselves enjoying a glass of Czernobog — whether it be in front of a roaring fire or lounging in a comfy chair.  The only problem was for those on the panel who had enjoyed the barrel-aged version. Czernobog was excellent, but it was no substitute for it’s world class sister incarnation.

The dream still lives on that the  decision makers at Harpoon will realize the error in their ways and release Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Czernobog for the masses.  Until that day comes, though, we’ll just have to make do with an “Excellent” rated  imperial stout…and live like a bunch of savages.

(Appearance 9.8, Smell 9.2, Mouthfeel 4, Taste 21, Aftertaste 16.2, Drinkability 24.8)
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Foolproof Revery

rating_excellent86 points

Just north of Providence, on the banks of the Blackstone River, sits Pawtucket, Rhode Island. And unless you follow the Boston Red Sox’ farm system — or fancy textile manufacturing history in the Industrial Revolution — you may have never heard of this small city in the smallest state in the U.S.

foolproofreveryBut Foolproof Brewing Company may put Pawtucket back on the map as part of the craft brewing revolution, because our panelists discovered a stunning Russian imperial stout with their name on it: Foolproof Revery.

What first struck our panelists was the design of their 12-ounce can, a black-and-white design in translucent shrink-wrapped plastic over gleaming silver aluminum. This makes for a subtle black-and-silver backdrop of library books around the entire can.

The appearance continued to “wow” our panel on pour — deep black with the slightest reddish tint and a thin, tight head. This beer rated near-perfect for appearance.

Smell also garnered nearly flawless scores. Revery smells sweet and malty, with huge scents of dark chocolate and light notes of coffee and a hint of smoke.

Mouthfeel is slightly syrupy with a bit of fizziness, but very smooth. Revery impressed our panelists with its caramelized malty character highlighted by flavors of molasses, and light notes of chocolate with a slightly smoky finish. There’s also a light, pleasing estery character to the beer.

Smoke lingers into the aftertaste, with a slight bitterness and a light sourness. While our panel agreed the sourness was the beer’s least-impressive characteristic, it didn’t sway the panelists from rating this an overall outstanding beer.

Revery received high marks from our panelists on drinkability, as the beer was a long sipper, perfect for sitting around a campfire or to warm the soul on a cold winter’s night. But it’s also full-bodied, filling, and packed with an impressive 9% ABV. So after one or two, you may feel like it’s time for bed.

So while Foolproof puts Pawtucket back on the map, navigate to a store that sells Revery, because as far as Russian imperial stouts go, this Rhode Island native is nearly….foolproof.

(Appearance 9.6, Smell 9.8, Mouthfeel 3.8, Taste 21.6, Aftertaste 16.2, Drinkability 24.8)

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Opa Opa Coconut & Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged)


rating_basement45 points


That was the typical reaction after the panel tasted Opa Opa’s ridiculously long titled “Coconut and Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged).”

Okay, I may be exaggerating our reaction slightly to draw the readers in…much in the same way Opa Opa seemingly exaggerated with its promise of coconut, hazelnut, bourbon…and, well, stout.

In all opaopacoconuthazelnuthonesty, we should have clued in to the palate disaster waiting for us from the extremely small font used on the label to note the bourbon barrel aging of the beer.

If I were a brewer, anything I barrel-aged would most certainly be proclaimed loudly and proudly on the packaging.  Designating such small font doesn’t give justice to the time intensive process of barrel aging.

However,  after tasting this beer, we understood why such a nondescript font size was utilized.  Not one panelist noted the word bourbon on their tasting sheet.  So absent was bourbon from this brew that the word wasn’t even used to note the nonexistence of its flavor.

If we had to guess, the barrel aging process probably involved placing the pre-bottled beer next to a bourbon barrel and hoping the essence would soak in due to proximity…similar to the way The Basement Beer Tastings hopes to soak in readers due to our search engine proximity to more highly touted beer review websites.  Alas in both cases, it’s not happening.

Since I’ve already let the cat out of the bag about the beer’s taste, I might as well continue with the savory descriptors the panelists used in describing CHIS’s flavor.  (Yup, I’m referring to this as CHIS because having to write “Coconut and Hazelnut Imperial Stout” multiple times is just going to infuriate me.)

Sour, bitter and chemical burn were the highlights of the panelists’ views on taste.  Even the mouthfeel was rather lackluster, with most finding CHIS to be fizzy, light, and watery.

As bad as that seems, it doesn’t compare to the fact that the most common word used to describe the smell was “paint.”  More specifically, latex paint.  On the other hand, at least no one described the smell as lead paint.

Aftertaste was the one area where a scant trace of CHIS’s namesake appeared.  Some panelists were able to detect very light coconut, though it wasn’t enough to redeem the brew or change the harsh opinions that were being formed.  As such, drinkability did not turn out favorably.

Now, observant reader, you may have noticed that appearance has yet to be discussed.  That’s because I’ve decided to save the best for last.  Literally.

The best part of this beer was the appearance, with the panel noting its dark color, reddish hues and carbonation.  And while it didn’t stack up to the appearance of most of the other evening’s selections, we can’t say that CHIS is all bad.

Actually, as our current lowest rated imperial stout, I’m going to say exactly that.  Opa Opa Coconut and Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) is all bad.

Perhaps in addition to the small font size, Opa Opa might consider adding an asterisk to their labeling.  At least that way consumers will be properly warned about the contents within.

(Appearance 8.2, Smell 4.2, Mouthfeel 2, Taste 11.4, Aftertaste 9, Drinkability 10.6)

Continue reading Opa Opa Coconut & Hazelnut Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged)