Almanac 2019 Imperial Stout

  • August 15th, 2019
  • By Stephen Rich

It was a hot, sunny day on August 4th 2018, as Cowbell celebrated our 1st Anniversary and released a Barleywine to represent all the success and excitement of that first year. On the same day and the following day, we brewed Almanac 2019, our second anniversary beer, an Imperial Stout.

Cowbell’s Anniversary Series beers are named Almanac, a reference to the annual Farmer’s Almanac that has been published since 1792 to help guide farmers through the expected climate ahead. Our Almanac is a reflection of the year prior, having been brewed precisely 12 months before its launch and maturing with us for that entire year. Each year, the beer style, flavour and resulting experience are new.

Imperial Stout is a formidable, strong, dark ale first originating around 1781, designed to withstand long voyages to faraway lands. These beers are 10% alcohol or greater, exceptionally dark in colour, and have full-bodied sensations of roast, coffee and chocolate. When the Empress Catherine the Great discovered it, the beer’s travel to the Russian Imperial Palace cemented the Imperial Stout style in history.

Our two brewdays in 2018 were deliberately long, designed to only collect the richest and most flavourful wort from the lauter tun. This meant each day we performed two partial brews to collect one regular brew worth of wort – and thus a typical 7-hour brewday became 12. But our efforts were rewarded. Eight specialty dark malts were loaded to the brim of our mash tun, and we collected 50HL of 20+ Plato wort each day. This dense, black wort would be boiled, hopped, cooled, oxygenated and pitched with a clean and strong Ale Yeast before it would ferment, then set to rest for 12 months.

In advance of the launch, we packaged Almanac 2019 in 750mL and 1.5L bottles, as well as a small number of kegs. The bottles and kegs are package conditioned, meaning the carbonation is developed naturally through re-fermentation. This creates a smooth, silky mouthfeel and elegant carbonation. The fresh live yeast in the bottle also provides additional longevity for the beer, helping it mature gracefully over time. Yes, you can rest these bottles upright to mature for up to 10 years. Much like a fine wine or vintage port, they will develop refined complexities over time.

Finally, this beer which lived with us in our black anniversary fermentation tank during our second year of brewing is available for you to enjoy and share. Almanac 2019 Imperial Stout is a full and rich 11.3% ABV. Aromas show off espresso, bakers chocolate, molasses and a hint of fudge. Poured into a chalice, the beer is menacingly dark with a dense mocha brown foam. The flavours are intense; they show bold, flavourful roasted malt sensation with chocolate and vanilla. The mouthfeel is full and round showing off caramel, and lasting fudge. A brandy-like and warming alcohol brings dark fruit complexity. Dark chocolate and sticky dessert sensations fill your palate – the beer is luscious and delicious.

A beer this full of flavour will be best enjoyed close to 10 degrees Celsius. If stored in your fridge, simply take it out and let it rest at room temperature upright for 30 minutes. Pour from the bottle into a chalice, snifter or red wine glass - and pour with force. Let the beer build a big dense foam. Since the character of Almanac 2019 is so rich, you’ll want to match intensity levels when thinking about food pairings. Equally rich foods like blue cheese, cheesecake, and oysters will be a terrific pairing. As would a quality Maduro cigar.