11 Years of Stone Imperial Russian Stout & Vegan Feast

Stone IRS is like no other beer. In the opinion of VeganBrew, hands down, the best beer on the planet. I do not say this without due consideration of the “best beers of the world” from sites like BeerAdvocate.com and Ratebeer.com. A king’s ransom has been spent drinking through those lists and, more often than not, Stone IRS would have been preferred. It’s  uniquely flavorful and complex, yet balanced and incredibly drinkable…and the best part, it’s created by a vegan brewer: former Stone brewmaster Lee Chase.

Over the past few years, I’ve made it my mission to collect a bottle from each year’s release of Stone IRS. After a friend secured the last bottle I needed to complete the vertical (2001)  on ebay a few months back, I decided it was time to open a decade worth of this amazing beer. On October 2nd Kevin came up to Albany and the 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 bottles of Stone IRS were opened and enjoyed with friends.

The bottles were all opened at the same time and about 2 ounces of each year was poured into 11 cups labeled with the appropriate year. Unfortunately, we did not have enough glassware to use real glasses, so we had to use plastic cups. However, since all of the beers are pitch black, this didn’t change the experience much.

It was very interesting to see how the years (and storage) changed this beer. Without a doubt, the 2001 was the year favored by everyone. The chocolate and roastyness shined through and the bitterness was mellowed and complimented by the sherry notes and the sweetness of the beer.  I assume this bottle was also the beer that was handled the best. I’m fairly certain it was purchased at the Stone Winter Storm the year before, which means it was stored in absolute perfect aging conditions at the brewery most of its life. Anyway, it was fantastic, while the 2002 was terrible – seemed to be infected. The 2006 had some serious oxidation problems, which made it taste like a moldy basement. The others had a lot of the awesome flavors found in the 2001, just a bit more muted. Nonetheless, an epic tasting, which ended with a few other guest bottles (a growler of Ithaca Outdoor Harvest Ale, a bottle of Old Rasputin XII Kevin brought up, a bottle of Hair of the Dog Cherry Adam from the Wood and a bottle of Captain Lawrence Barrel Select). Also, we mixed in two bottles of the Stone IRS clone Kev and I brewed last year, which seemed to be enjoyed just as much as the original.

So, on to the food (after all, this is the Vegan Month of Food!!)…October 2nd also happens to be Mohandas Gandhi’s birthday, World Farm Animal Day and the start of Vegetarian Awareness Month. To commemorate the day and to make the omnivores who joined us more aware of the deliciousness of vegan food, Kev and I cooked up some good eats to pair with the decade (+1) o’ Imperial Stout. First, we made up some Gardein Beefless Tips in the porter-bourbon sauce from this recipe.

Next, made up the Apple and Squash Risotto recipe from Mac & Cheese, subbing the wine with Unibroue Ephemere (used for the last broth addition). All served up with a side of freshly harvested kale, sauteed in garlic and olive oil.

The food came out excellent, with many compliments from the non-vegans at the table. The meal provided a nice heartiness that helped us make it through the tasting fairly sober. The porter-bourbon sauce added a rich punch to the beefless tips and the Ephemere risotto was a very pleasant compliment of sweetness and stick-to-your-ribs starch.

Amazing beer, great food, good times. Maybe we’ll have to do something similar for a 12.12.12 Vertical Epic tasting?

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