Brewery: Sonoran Brewing Co.
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.1 percent
Arizona having the climate it does, most local breweries seem to focus heavily on light, drinkable beers that fight the oppressive heat while shying away from the richer, darker stuff. There are few year-round Russian imperial stouts made in the state, either as a result of our weather being too warm for thick, sweet stouts -- or because Sonoran Inebriator ate them.
Inebriator is like a beer Highlander that's hunted down lesser imperial stouts and absorbed their color and flavor. The result: a brew as dark as space with intense flavors and booze to match.
Grab a snifter to contain this one -- it'll showcase the liquid, black and shiny as obsidian, topped with a fizzy head the color of latte foam. Swirl the thick, syrupy brew and see if you can catch the legs sticking to the glass; this is heavy stuff.
Rich, toasty sweetness permeates from aroma to flavor. In the nose, sweet cocoa, medium-roast coffee and toasted peanuts swirl. On the tongue, each sip brings a wave of sweetness that's slowly but mightily overtaken by roasty bitterness. Milk chocolate, hot cocoa, peanut, molasses, burnt black malt and a subtle tang all make appearances. A thick, chewy body matches the heavy flavor, but what's not noticeable as the syrupy brew coats the tongue is ethanol heat. The booze is well-hidden behind all the flavor, but that doesn't mean it's not there. At 9.1 percent ABV, Inebriator's name is a refreshing bit of truth in advertising.
In honor of International Stout Day, a celebration of roasty brews held November 3, Sonoran tapped a special cask of Inebriator aged with oak and vanilla beans. With fresh, sweet vanilla flavors to round out Inebriator's rougher edges, the limited edition brew improved upon the already-solid base beer.
Sonoran recently announced an upcoming release of Inebriator in 22-ounce bottles adorned with the "limited edition" label you see above. Until then, you can find it on tap at select spots across the city.
Stay inebriated, my friends.
Food pairing suggestions:
Russian imperial stouts are some of the most intense brews you'll find, and with its big molasses and burnt malt flavors, Inebriator will easily overpower most dishes. Find something of equal intensity to stand up to it -- foie gras works well, but if you're looking for something more readily available, cook up some smoky bacon, which will complement the sweet, savory notes in the brew while cutting any noticeable booze with its fat.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, a guide to good beer akin to a sommelier.