Imperial Stout Trooper Cask with Cherry Puree and Vanilla Beans

Grade: A-
New England Brewing Co.

Finding Imperial Stout Trooper is a bit like trying to find a four leaf clover. It is an extremely limited release, and possibly one of the most sought after beers on the east coast, and for good reason. It’s a very solid Russian Imperial Stout, up there with the likes of Old Rasputin in my opinion. But it’s the rarity of the beer that makes it fun. Finding one is like finding the gold at the end of the rainbow. Finding it on tap is like finding the leprechaun that owns the gold and giving him a big hug. Finding a one-off-never-see-it-again-one-and-done cask of Stout Trooper is right up there with being abducted by aliens made of Jell-o.

Poured into a snifter from a hand-drawn cask at Prime 16 in New Haven. Obsidian black, with a dark mocha head that foams up and leaves some nice lacing on the sides. The aroma is full of chocolate, coffee, caramel, some roast, dark ripe stone fruit, and a little of that vanilla. The vanilla lends a nose of milk chocolate to the beer, softening it considerably. Served at the appropriate 55 degrees, the beer opens up more as it warms. The cherries aren’t in the aroma much at all, they stay well hidden with the other fruit esters that already exist in the beer.

The flavor is very much Imperial Stout Trooper, in that the additions to the cask don’t detract from the essence of the beer. Mouthfeel is full and creamy from the cask treatment with little carbonation to speak of. The flavors of chocolate and coffee are foremost, with the vanilla coming up to round out the roast a little. The flavors are rich here, echoing the aromas of milk chocolate without being sweet at all. The cherry is there in the middle palate, subtle and playing very well with the other elements of the beer.

Imperial Stout Trooper is a solid beer to be sure. Adding things like cherries and vanilla beans might ruin an otherwise balanced and well crafted beer. New England used a reserved hand in this special release, allowing the beer to simply be itself with one or two different aspects. However, a large part of Imperial Stout Trooper isn’t necessarily the beer itself, but the event. The rarity of it makes each glass special, and something to talk about with your friends. Finding this beer (particularly in cask form) is like finding your way into a secret club, where word of mouth is the only way to get in. If this beer was in larger production, it might not have such a cult following. I at least can say “I was there” when the one and only cask of Cherry Vanilla Imperial Stout Trooper kicked.