This is the first imperial stout I ever had, back in the Winter after my 21st birthday when I was spending an evening or two every week at Free State. It helped firm up my early love of stouts and remains a sentimental favorite to this day. So when Tony and I hurried into Free State yesterday (after dashing as quickly as possible down four blocks of Mass Street in 15 degree wind chills while not nearly bundled up enough to withstand the cold comfortably), I was thrilled to pieces to see the Ironman on the tap list. Yay for high alcohol warming winter beers!
Name: Ironman Imperial Stout
Origin: Free State Brewing Company, Lawrence, KS
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: being Free State, who knows, but fairly up there
I drank this: on tap at the brewery
This here is a winter beer. Like I said in my rambly intro, it was awesome to enjoy a pint while waiting for my ears to regain their ability to feel like anything other than ZOMGCOLDCOLDCOLD.
I think this beer probably has a smell, but I for serious have no idea what that smell is. People, it was COLD. Not the beer, but my nose. It was sniffly-cold, frozen-tip cold, completely malfunctioning-cold. So we’ll skip that part. The beer is pitch ebony black with about a pinkie-finger’s worth of creamy-colored head. The head didn’t last all that long.
Flavor-wise, this is all “thank Ceiling Cat I’m not outside anymore” warm roasty malts with coffee tones and a really nice chocolate hit in the middle. It’s not overly sweet. There’s a hint of bitterness to it, nothing I could fully place as being any particular hop (although the writeup on the site says there’s some Cascades), but the focus here is really all dark malty goodness. There’s a rich and creamy mouthfeel as well, one of my favorite things about this particular style of beer. It’s thick, like it wants to help you warm up.
This is a good beer, and one of my yearly favorites at Free State. It’s not a world-class standout, but it’s solid and warming and everything it should be. Go and enjoy one now while they’ve got it up.
* Here’s the thing with IBUs (if I haven’t given this speech already): the number is incredibly relative. Like, if the malts were lighter and the overall beer lighter, 70 would be a HUGE number, up there with higher ranks of IPAs. In an imperial stout, it’s not that high, because the dark malts and the high alcohol content mask the bitterness. So 70 is a high number, but this beer isn’t bitter at all. I don’t really notice hops in the Ironman at all, and we all know I’m looking for them.