I can't believe this big funky stout is already three-and-a-half years old. I've been drinking just one bottle every winter when I visit my parents for Christmas, a nice treat after the long drive up from DC to Massachusetts. Luckily I've got enough left for another few years.
Courage Russian Imperial Stout Clone
Appearance -Pitch black, and opaque unless held right up to a light. The tan head is pretty thin, with tight bubbles and decent retention. A longer lasting head would certainly be nice, but the beer still looks like a winter night.
Aroma - Over-roasted coffee, cocoa nibs, and starting to develop some tobacco. Behind the dark malt there is some damp basement/oak. A toasty character from the amber malt adds complexity to the dominant dark malts.
Flavor - Smooth dark malt roast, with some vanilla (I assume from the oak). There is some alcohol in the finish but not too much for a Christmas beer. The combination of oak/vanilla/ethanol gives the impression of smooth bourbon. The hop bitterness has fallen off over the years, but the combination of roast/oak/alcohol are still enough to balance the residual sugars (the better than average attenuation from the Brett A helps the balance as well).
Mouthfeel - Moderate body for such a big beer with a bit more carbonation than I like in a substantial beer like this, I get a bit of drying tannins from the oak.
Drinkability/Notes -Getting to a very enjoyable point, but it still tastes like it can take some more age. As it warms I get more complexity and the the body smooths out, I like this beer more every year.