After sampling a few slightly less strong summer type beers, I thought I would get back to reviewing another beer from one of my local breweries. This is another classy beer from the newcomer to the brewing world and is called St. Petersburg Russian Imperial Stout.
St. Petersburg is brewed by Thornbridge Hall Country Hall Brewery; a relatively new business based in the grounds of a small stately home, in Ashford in the Water (near Bakewell, Derbyshire). Since October 2004 Thornbridge have been producing an interesting range of beers in their small brewery; known as the Baby Brewery. They try to use interesting ingredients to brew their beers and have already become successful winners at beer festivals nationwide.
Look out for their beers at pubs in and around Derbyshire (Sheffield also seems to be a good place to find them) and at beer festivals around the country (hopefully they will be making an appearance at the Great British Beer Festival in August). Their range includes several core beers (they started at four but this is changing all the time and currently rests at six) and a range of special and seasonal creations. The regulars include Wild Swan (a light lemony beer at 3.5% ABV), Brock (a lower gravity dark stout at 4.1% ABV) and Jaipur (a strong IPA at 5.9% ABV).
*A Bit of Background*
It seems a little odd for a beer brewed in deepest Derbyshire to be named after a place in Russia. Granted it IS a beer brewed in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout (more about that later), but WHY St. Petersburg in particular? The answer for that comes from the history of Thornbridge Hall itself. A man called John Morewood purchased Thornbridge Hall in 1790. He paid 10,000 for it ~ a large amount in the 18th century! The funds to pay for it came from his trade. John Morewood sold linen from the mills in Manchester, which he exported overseas to St. Petersburg. When you consider this story it isn’t surprising that the brewery decided to name their stout after this connection.
St. Petersburg weighs in at a mighty 7.7% ABV and (as I previously mentioned) is brewed in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. This type of stout was originally produced for export to Russia. These stouts tend to be high in alcohol, and brewed with lots of hops (making a dryer stout than some of the standard stouts), to help preserve it for the long journey from the UK to Russia and also to make a strong warming drink for the cold Russian climate. By Imperial Stout standards St. Petersburg is not unusual in its strength ~ in fact some of the traditional “King of Stouts” (as Imperial Stouts became known) can be as high as 10% ABV.
*Look, Aroma & Texture*
Looks wise, St. Petersburg is a very dark, almost black colour with a nice hint of red when held up to the light. It has a good, solid milky coffee coloured head that leaves a good amount of lacing on the side of the glass as you drink. Aroma is also that of coffee, with bitter chocolate, vine fruits, caramel and roasted malts thrown in. Texture is full bodied, smooth and slightly syrupy ~ it is obvious from the start that this is a robust and strong drink.
* Tange’s Taste Test*
St. Petersburg exhibits much of the tastes I expect from a Russian Imperial Stout. It has bags of roasted malt, mixed with dark fruits (blackberry and blackcurrants come through giving a slightly sour wine-like element), coffee, sweet caramel and bitter chocolate. This all builds and comes together to give an almost sweet and sour type flavour that works really well. The finish becomes increasingly bitter and dry (as the hops kick in) and this carries on into the long, dry bitter aftertaste. It wouldn’t be strange to compare it to a Belgian beer like Gulden Draak (a beer I have previously reviewed and have been know to rave about!).
~~~WHAT TANGE THINKS.
St. Petersburg stout is very much a sipping beer and should be enjoyed as such. It isn’t one of those drinks that you carelessly tip down your throat. This is a strong and serious beer that should be respected and savoured. I love the combination of the dry, bitter, sour and sweet tastes that work together to produce a complex layered beer that is really tasty. I also like the fact that is HAS lots of flavour and complexity ~ this is not an easy combination to get and often strong beers tend to be strong just for the sake of being strong! It is good to get a warming beer that still manages to make you go mmmmm.
I have tasted St. Petersburg stout on several occasions at different pubs and beers festivals. Unfortunately it often isn’t a cheap beer to drink! The cheapest I have paid is 2.40 at The Sheaf View (near Sheffield), but expect to pay anything up to 2.80 for the privilege. Mind you, that isn’t an unusual price to pay for a beer of this high alcohol content. It is also available bottled and can be purchased via their website and at selected venues in Derbyshire and south Yorkshire (fortunately I won my bottles on a Tombola so didn’t have to pay).
In my opinion this is a great beer that I will look out for again and again. It is dangerously drinkable and is a true BIG beer in every sense. Highly recommended and a perfect winter warmer!
Thornbridge Country House Brewery