It’s a sad fact of nature that as we approach Labor Day, summertime is waning and darkness is moving in. But there’s no need to fret. Instead, why not embrace the impending shift and wrap yourself in an impenetrable shroud of opaqueness? I’m talking, of course, about pouring yourself a deeply robust glass of Ivan the Terrible Imperial Stout and drinking it as soon as you can.
Big Sky Brewing Company out of Missoula, Montana, is responsible for this yearly beast–a strong (10% ABV), flavor-forward, oak ladened, bourbon barrel stout. Available in 750 ml bottles, Ivan pours an intense mocha chocolate color with a curiously cream brown head delicately balanced atop. You’ll detect the unmistakable heat of the bourbon upon the first sip. The peaty tones of oak and subdued vanilla eventually give way to a barrage of roasted malt, leaving a tinge of decadent dark cocoa dancing on your tongue.
Ivan the Terrible is released annually around this time, although in fairly limited release. Those of you in the Pacific Northwest should see it in shelves shortly. It’s said to be the perfect accompaniment to a rainy Seattle evening (of which there are a plenty). If you call the Emerald City home, it’s certainly worth getting your hands on one and letting it age for a few months into the depths of winter. Most Imperial Stouts gain complexity as they sit in the bottle and Ivan is no exception. Full of intense aroma and depth, this beer is not for the amateur drinker, nor the faint of heart.
You could easily run out of adjectives attempting to pin down the flavors present in this unapologetically Russo-centric rarity. But don’t let the name the fool you, one thing you could never call it is terrible.