This week, I'm digging through the cellar to look at a beer from M.I.A. Beer Co. down in Doral called Barrel Aged CzarFace Russian Imperial Stout.
CzarFace is a Russian imperial stout (as the name suggests), a style of beer that's been around since 18th Century English brewers decided to supply the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great with a dark and strong beer. Thrale's brewery in London was the first to create such a brew, a beer "that would keep seven years."
It's become vogue again in the 21st Century to create big imperial stouts with alcohol contents over 10 percent ABV; the Czar from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder and the Old Rasputin from North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg are both longstanding examples of the style. What M.I.A. Beer did a little differently here with their imperial stout, however, was age it in rum barrels.
CzarFace is a big beer that's been aged in Sistema Solera rum barrels. The solera system is an interesting one, as it's a process that's traditionally used to age Spanish sherry. Spirits move through a series of barrels as they age, with only a portion of each barrel being removed during each transfer. This leaves older liquor in the barrel and allows for a quicker and rounder maturation process over single-barrel aging. Blogger Bahama Bob explains the process very well.
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After using a knife to cut through the wax dipping that covers this 750 ml bottle, I'm able to get a bottle opener in and crack it open. A light hiss as the cap is opened shows that there’s only a mild amount of carbonation.
It pours a deep dark brown with practically no visibility through the glass. Some dark khaki foam is produced that dissipates fairly quickly. Aromas are similar to a robust porter: some acridity, lightly smoked wood, and charcoal, with hints of sweetness lurking beneath the surface. The mouthfeel is full and thick but not syrupy. The beer has a big, dark-chocolate-forward flavor that moves into sweet raisins, dates, and more dark chocolate. It has a lingering sherry-like touch of heat right in the middle of the tongue that beckons one more sip.
I picked up this bottle about six months ago and have been storing it cool ever since. I've seen more bottles of CzarFace at various big-box liquor retailers, so it should be fairly easy to locate some of this beer. It's a premium item with a premium price; expect to pay over $20 for a bottle.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger dedicated to educating the public about all things beer, with a focus on Florida brews. He is the Brand Marketing Manager for Due South Brewing Company and has been a homebrewer since 2009. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.