By now you’re either already back or have just come back from spending time with your relatives for Easter and the only way you’ve made it through is by thinking of when you would get back and have one. None of my in-laws drink during holidays so by the time I come back I’m ready to crack open a bottle of something. St. Arnold in Houston recently released their strongest beer to date which I found easily enough around Baton Rouge. It’s the latest in their Divine Reserve, a small batch un-themed, unique series, with their latest being called aptly enough St. Arnold’s Divine Reserve No. 18 — an imperial stout tipping the scales at 13.4%.
From the St. Arnold Website:
“Diving into darkness, you can gain insight into your potential. Allow the absence of light, and truly find what it means to have it. This approach was taken when designing Divine Reserve No. 18.
How can we push the limits of our brewhouse? Our house Saint Arnold yeast? Ourselves? After many, many test brews of Imperial Stouts, we found the processes needed to create a beer with massive amounts of flavor and aromatic qualities.
For DR18, we used a grain bill that required four times the amount of grain as Fancy Lawnmower, dosed in two additions of Belgian candi syrup during fermentation to provide an adrenaline shot to the yeast, and let the beer rest for three months before adding a small amount of Madagascar vanilla beans as an added layer of complexity.
The beer pours a rich darkness - no light passes through - topped with a mocha colored head. The aroma is filled with molasses, vanilla, baker’s chocolate, and rich dark fruit from our house yeast. The flavor profile starts with rich chocolate and raspberries that are dipped in honey, then builds on dried dark cherry notes, and finishes with wine like silkiness.
Please enjoy Divine Reserve No. 18 at 60° and in the safety of your own home.”
This is a big, badass beer. Let me just say that right out the gate. The baker’s chocolate is easily detected and the dark fruits are also at the forefront. The vanilla is somewhat muted but becomes more noticeable as it warms but it’s never cloying even as it reaches room temperature. It is perfectly carbonated and never feels like it’s too rich or heavy of a beer to be a continual sipper, but there is some heat on the back-end as you’d expect with the alcohol by volume. A year or two in a cellar would have this beer kicking on all cylinders, but as it is it doesn’t take very many sips before you’re beginning to reach cruising altitude.
I’ve had a lot of beers from St. Arnold — from their staples to their Bishop’s Barrel series and everything in between — and this is one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Big, boozy stouts are right in my wheelhouse and I can only imagine how good this beer would be if barrel aged. As it is stands, though, I plan on going back and picking up a couple more bottle since it was less than $10 for a 13.4-percent abv bomber.
4.75/5 – truly a tremendous beer