First Beer Of Christmas: St Ambroise Russian Impériale Stout 2013 with Dan, Laura & Ryan

Untitled1We’re a week away from Christmas and we’ve got a backlog of dark beer reviews for you, so we’ll call this happy coincidence our Seven Beers of Christmas and give you a bunch of them in a row! Good stick-to-your-ribs winter beverages coming up.

Today we’ve got the St Ambroise Russian Impériale Stout for 2013. We paid the “derp we put it in a box” tax because we wanted to try it and the LCBO won’t give you a discount if you don’t want to take the excessive packaging home.

Because, let’s be frank here. The *only* difference the tube/box/whatever makes is in your impression of the product, which will likely be favourable. It provides a platform for more marketing, branding, etc, to draw you to the product. And realistically, you’re not going to pay six bucks for one 341ml brown bottle if it didn’t come in a tube, are you? But there’s two different reasons to shun products with extra packaging.

The first is obvious: environmental impact. They can be 100% post-consumer recycled material with organic toxin free inks, but it still represents stuff, more junk that has to be processed by waste companies. It increases the resources necessary to make, ship and do away with, and it represents material that wasn’t used for other purposes, and was used to solely and only to market to you.

The second is math. The price of a beer is determined by the cost of the beer, the container, cost of packaging, the label design, shipping, retail costs, and a retail markup. Say we have two beers available at the same price; Beer A comes in a tube and Beer B doesn’t. The cost of the extra packaging comes out of the value of the goods versus un-packaged products at the same price, meaning the beer in Beer B is of a higher value. Or, simply, if the tube costs two bucks, then this is a four dollar beer for which you’re paying six.

Anyway, rant over. You’ll notice several of these upcoming beers come in extra packaging. And it’s nice to have a counterpoint object for the photos, but i’m half tempted to start pushing back on this trend by ditching the containers on the counter at the LCBO. Not so fair to the local cashier but maybe if they have to deal with it the pressure will go back up the chain.

ANYWAY SOME MORE. St Ambroise is a Montreal brewery that is known in these parts for their Apricot Wheat Ale. They’re part of McAuslan Brewing with other brands like Griffons, making good beer. This is their Russian Imperial Stout, a recipe originally made by London brewers for export to Catherine II’s Russian court. There don’t seem to be any specific requirements for this type of beer other than an ABV over 9%. This particular one spent some time in a bourbon barrel too. Here’s what we thought:

Dan – old lady perfume
Simon – chocolate, licorice, salted meat
Laura – malty
Ryan – cocoa powder, prunes

Dan – dark chocolate, sour, not as thick as expected, bitter, smokey, coffee
Simon – bitter, maple syrup
Laura – strong, licorice, thick large taste
Ryan – licorice, viscous, not as flat as you’d expect at 9.2%

St Ambroise Russian Impériale Stout 2013 – 9.2% 341ml – $5.95 – Quebec

Try it? Definitely. Buy it? Maybe for special occasions.

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