I don't care what the calendar says: Autumn is so over. Unless you're one of those lucky people living somewhere that escapes a real winter, you're either feeling the cold start to creep into your bones, or you will soon. It's that time of the year, time to clear out your stash of fall favorites (you aren't still drinking Oktoberfest, are you?) and pick up some beers that will do a better job at warming you up.
A good imperial stout is hard to beat. I had to bring this one back from Massachusetts, but I'm drinking Founders Breakfast Stout. This 8.3% ABV oatmeal stout is one of the best comfort beers out there, with a luscious oatmeal texture rounding out its considerable bitterness. With only 25 IBUs, it needs more than just hops to balance out the big malt load. The heavy doses of two kinds of coffee and two kinds of chocolate complete the package, especially in the aroma. This is a bold beer. That said, it isn't scary. Every element of this beer is in balance, including the alcohol, which is present but not overwhelming. The scariest part about it might be its appearance. This beer is jet black and completely opaque, even when I briefly held my glass right up to a light bulb. The head is brown. The beer looks intimidating. But again, this is not an imperial stout designed to shock you. It is designed to comfort you.
Most imperial stouts don't have oatmeal, but even without the silky texture that oatmeal provides, good imperial stouts shouldn't be overpowering with alcohol. They should be balanced, warming you gently from the inside after you swallow. No beer should ever taste "hot" in the mouth. This one, like the best imperial stouts, tastes hugely roasty and bittersweet, with many layers of flavor to tease out. Enjoy it.
The imperial stout is one of my favorite styles, especially this time of year. Like Founders Breakfast Stout, many are only brewed once a year, so grab them before someone else does. Try cellaring a few, if you're into that, and you'll find some of the bitterness drop, the alcohol flavor mellow, and some sherry-like flavors might even develop. It's my understanding that darker beers age better than lighter beers. If you don't want to bother cellaring, don't. Brewers work hard to make their products drinkable as soon as they leave the brewery. As for me, I'll be enjoying the rest of my Founders Breakfast Stout over the next few weeks. I'll also try making my own version, complete with coffee and chocolate, very soon.