When two great breweries collaborate, one can usually count on something ambitious to be the result. When Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Buxton Brewery got together, they created darkness in the form of Subluminal Imperial Stout.
When I say “darkness,” I mean it’s possibly the blackest beer I’ve ever seen. You often hear comparisons to motor oil when talking about imperial stouts and porters, and this one fits that bill. And then some.
But I digress; we’re not here to stare at Subluminal, we’re here to drink it. The huge aroma is as dense as the beer’s body – big, chocolaty, and inviting from the moment it starts pouring. Roasted malt notes evoke coffee, and one can even sense the alcohol in the nose of this robust 10 percent ABV beer.
I saw the beer described as “chewy;” it darn near does feel like it needs to be chewed, with a big, thick body, and flavor that takes over the palate instantly. The chocolate notes in the aroma turn into dark chocolate bitterness as you make your way through this beer.
Meanwhile, the dryness of the roast takes the creamy mouthfeel into an unexpected dry finish that builds with coffee-esque bitterness. As you get about halfway through, you’ll have a noticeable coating inside your mouth, adding to an overall sensation that is fairly unique.
If you’re not a fan of “booziness” in your beer, this one might not be your style. In fact, as I got down to the last three or four sips, my palate was getting fatigued simply due to the big personality this beer has, and the way the alcoholic astringency laid on my palate. At the same time, it’s an experience I would go for again.
I even found myself wondering for a moment what a year in a bourbon barrel might do for this beer, but that’s probably because I’m from Kentucky. Which is to say, Subluminal Imperial Stout doesn’t need any help.
Finding this beer might be a challenge, as collaborations usually are made in small batches, and Buxton of course is located in the U.K. Check with your local bottle store (which is how I procured mine), or you can possibly purchase it online, depending on where you live.
If you do manage to get your hands on it (it’s sold in 12-ounce/330ml bottles), sit and sip it slowly, linger over the flavors and the mouthfeel. This is a fine “treat yourself” beer.
Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Ky.-based free-lance writer who writes about everything from food to music to beer to bourbon to professional football. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). He is author of "Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft" (2014, History Press). He published his first novel, "The Liberation of Crystal Hill" (Bearhead Publishing), in 2011; he also published "Crohn's Disease: A Memoir from the Toilet" in January 2015 and his currently working on two more book projects. He co-hosts a weekly local radio show, and also plays in a couple of bands, the Uncommon Houseflies and the Nick Peay Band. Not surprisingly, he doesn't sleep much. But when he isn't running around town chasing stories or poised at his trusty laptop writing, you can often find him at one of the local breweries and being thankful for the life he lives. That, or he'll be sitting on his couch with his trusty sidekick Darby. Check out his beer blog, 502Brews.com, or his website, KevinGibsonWriter.com, to find out more about his books and why he does what he does. Or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.