Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Tiny Beer

Back in the late eighteenth century, Thrale's Anchor Brewery was hard at work brewing beer.  They had to meet royal demand.  But the Anchor brewers were not brewing for King Phillip II, the sovereign of their native England.  Instead, they were brewing beer for a Queen or, more appropriately, a Czar ... Catherine the Great. 

The Anchor Brewery was not the first to produce beer for the Russian Imperial Court.  The Barclay brewery had produced beer for Peter the Great.  The beer was a porter, which was beloved by the Czar.  However, their beer spoiled during the long journey from London to St. Petersburg.  The embarrassment was too much.  The brewers at Barclay amped the alcohol in their beer, as well as the hops, so that the beer could survive the long and tumultuous journey across the Baltic Sea.

The brewers at the Anchor Brewery followed the path blazed by Barclays, brewing a beer that they boldly proclaimed would keep for seven years.  Anchor Brewery was able to supply the Russian Czars with this bold, imperial stout ... until the French blockades during the Napoleonic wars.  The markets figuratively -- and perhaps literally -- dried up.  Brewers eventually produced less of these imperial stouts and they receded to the distant memories of history.

Within the past twenty years, however, craft brewers like Weyerbacher Brewing Company have resuscitated the Imperial Stout style.  Unlike the brewers of the past, who directed their goods to European royalty, the modern craft brewers produce these hefty beers for consumption by the masses.  Recently, I purchased one of these modern versions of the Imperial Stout ... a bottle of Weyerbacher's Tiny.

The name Tiny seems rather ironic for an Imperial Stout that packs an 11.8% ABV.  This is not a tiny beer; instead, it is a bold beer in every respect -- appearance, aroma and taste.  The beer pours pitch black, with the color of tar or old, used oil.  A thin level of foam appears when poured, but it quickly recedes, leaving just the beer.  The aroma of the Tiny has its boozy notes, which compete with the Belgian yeast, roasted malts, with their chocolate and cocoa notes, and the hints of oak from the barrel aging.   As for the taste, the Tiny tastes like dark chocolate infused with alcohol, with a somewhat dry finish that seems to alternate between cocoa and coffee. All of those flavors -- dark chocolate, cocoa, and coffee -- come from the roasted malts.  There are hints of other flavors, such as a little earthiness and perhaps a little fruit, like plums or figs, but they are relegated to the edges of the palate.  

When it comes to pairing this beer, I suppose you could enjoy it with a dessert.  The question is why would you do that?  This beer is best enjoyed as a digestive, something that you can sip and enjoy after a delicious dinner.  

I found Weyerbacher's Tiny at a local grocery store.  It sold for $8.99 a bottle, which is actually a good price for such a high-powered beer. 


For more about the history of imperial stouts, and the Anchor Brewery, check out the Alexander Place Time Machine and Anchor Brewery

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