Friday, October 17, 2008

Revisiting Samuel Smith's Ales

I can remember having my first Imperial Stout. I'm pretty sure it was my last year in college or perhaps right after college. (Okay, so my memory is a lot foggy.) What do remember about my first Imperial Stout is that it was Samuel Smith's. I was fairly deep into the process of getting to know all the Samuel Smith's line of ales. They seemed like the ultimate Yorkshire (Tadcaster) ales at the time and to this day when I think Yorkshire and beer, I think Samuel Smith's and Tadcaster. One of the aspects of the Sam Smith's beers that really got me interested was how the brewery ferments in large, shallow slate squares. Anyhow, that first Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout was a 12-ounce clear bottle which showed just how black the stout was and I remember it having some very interesting burnt caramel and fig aromas and flavors. I remember it was a touch sweet and seemed pretty strong.

Fast forward a dozen or so years. I see a Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout 18-ounce bottle on the shelf. I'm in the mood for stout and haven't Sam Smith's in awhile, so I go for it. This beer is now in a snifter on my desk and it smells great. The aroma is a bit rum-like with a raisiny component. The carbonation is ample, forming a light khaki head that falls to a thick quarter-inch of collar of foam. The liquid underneath the foam is opaque except for some deep dark brown at the stem of the glass.

The first sip is as smooth as I remember, with dark fruit flavors of figs and currants, followed by a sweet and then burnt caramel flavor which coats the tongue with bitterness. This bittter finish, no doubt contributed by roasted grains and hops, is long with faint licorice fade that develops sip after sip. It's as good as I remember, if not better. Definitely a beer to sip and savor at near room temperature.

Next up: Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout.

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