I’ll save you the trouble of reading a long post: don’t be in a rush to drink Imperial stout. Now you can get on with your day – cheers!
But, if like me, you’re just noodling around waiting for sparge water to finish heating or some such, here are more words:
Every year for the past few years, in the dead of winter, and ideally at night, often with my brother (a big RIS fan) and sometimes after getting all cheered up and light at heart from reading Dostoyevsky, I brew a batch of really strong stout … like a homebrewer do, right? It will usually be an all-grain, sometimes boosted with a jug of malt syrup or some sugar, perhaps enhanced with some flaked adjunct in the grain bill so that, like molasses, you have to warm it up just to be able to pour it. It will invariably be pitched on a cake from a previous fermentation, in which each yeast cell had to wear a heavy chain around its membrane the moment it budded off its mother in order to make it strong and mean.
And it will often get an overenthusiastic flameout addition of the new crop year of backyard Centennial, which will make it drink like some kind of hellbound double black IPA early on. Like a homebrewer do, right?
The first mistake is brewing enough to share – and maybe that is the real lesson here: greed, not patience. Hm.
In any case, I didn’t split last winter’s batch with my brother and kept it all to myself, for it had become precious to me. Precious to me, despite being raw and bitter and – as my colleague Chip can attest – a great way to get a hangover before the glass is empty.
That was when it was about 4 months old, and if I had shared the batch that would have been it. Time wounds all heels and it ain’t pretty, but it also turns a Cossack into a Baryshnikov … or something like that, because after 10 months Brainhurter RIS became something else entirely: a velvet tracksuit, a humid moonless night, a taste sensation, all the raw and sharp edges planed down into a multifaceted black diamond of cocoa, coffee, acrid smoke, fat malt, and dried fruit in caramel.
Bottom line: sit on it, as Vinnie Barbarino would tell you, and it turns out we should all listen to the Sweathogs. That’s pretty much what I said in the very first sentence of this post, but now we’ve each killed some time and you know the backstory, and the sparge water is calling. Recipe to follow – meantime, drink it like you brewed it.