Great Lakes Brewery | 30th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout

From a 650ml bottle served slightly chilled at 11 degrees Celsius into a white wine glass. No date information on the bottle. My expectations are high given the brewery and the style.


The beer pours an opaque black (clear with small amounts in the glass) with 2cm of frothy, bubbly, deep tan head that dissipates into a partial film in 2+ minutes. Great lacing and fair retention considering the almost 12% ABV. Outstanding looking beer but a few points are lost due to the lacking head (height, retention, texture, and cap).


Medium-strong with sweet balance. Rich, complex, robust. Pronounced cocoa with restrained bourbon character (vanilla and oak) and mild roasted malts with licorice and molasses. Some coffee and dark fruit notes to add more complexity. In addition, there's a notable yet milder alcohol character than you'd expect from such high ABV brew. A refined, world-class nose with multiple layers. I can barely wait to get this all over my tongue. Another sniff, “oh my gosh”.


Bam! Follows the aroma with strong intensity and sweet-ish balance. Again, darn robust with plenty of complexity. Dark, slightly roasty malts with cocoa and coffee mixed in with bourbon (vanilla and oak), some dark fruit, sugary molasses, and herbal hops. Assertive bitterness with the finish being long, strong, and balanced. Phenomenal flavour with impressive balance.


Full body with medium-low carbonation. Heavy, velvety-smooth and slightly chewy with smooth and balanced alcohol warming. No astringency. World-class mouthfeel – perfect for the style as it beckons for continuous swirling in the mouth without any harshness.


Great Lakes Brewery's 30th anniversary bourbon barrel-aged russian imperial stout (phew!) is world-class. Truly a marriage of multiple different elements coming together in a harmonious fashion. A wonderful beer displaying excellent craftsmanship. A must try, really. I'd be interested to try this back to back with either Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout or Founders KBS to benchmark it against the giants. Maybe I can find another bottle before it's all gone...

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