Posts Tagged With: Tampa Florida

Cigar City Brewing – Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

Tasting Notes

  • Appearance Thick and oily. Dense. Dark frothy head. Black as night.
  • Aroma/Flavor Fudge and char are supreme. Very sweet. Rich like a dark chocolate dessert.
  • Mouthfeel Thick and viscous. Moderate carbonation. Sticky, with well-hidden alcohol but still a sipper at 11%.
  • Overall Satisfying. Serve as a dessert beer with friends or late in the lineup at a tasting.

Rating: B+

Tonight I opened another bottle from Cigar City Brewing down in Tampa, FL. Presented in a 750ml size bottle with a brief description of the beer on the label.

This Russian Imperial Stout is dedicated to Georgy Zhukov, arguably one of the finest generals of World War II. Opaque black in color, with notes of espresso, chocolate, dark toffee and hints of backstrap molasses. The English hop varietals provide a subtle herbal dryness, and finishes with a hearty slap of roasty espresso. Pair Marshal Zhukov’s with Mushroom Solyanka, dark chocolate, cherries and ground wars in Russia.


Each year they release their acclaimed Russian Imperial Stout – Marshal Zhukov’s. The release at the brewery has grown in size and proportions, culminating in a very special party this summer in which 30 customers got to have a traditional Russian dinner in the brewery freezer. They walked away with some special beer and a sweet-ass hat.

Marshal Zhukov’s release party, Aug. 3, 2011.

So, the brewery seems to have a lot of fun with this one. Let’s see how much enjoyment I can find in this Iron Curtain in a bottle…

The Review

Poured into a Cigar City snifter, Marshal Zhukov’s is as thick as they come.  With the consistency of the unchanged sludgy oil of an obsolete model WWI-era tank, this Russian Imperial Stout promises to be a slow sipper already. The head cascades upwards with the pour to produce a wonderfully dark foam cap the color of fudge. This slowly fades back into the blackness of the brew beneath. The foamy head is thicker than the ranks of the Russian infantry. Lacing is intermittent but thick – a wall of opposition rushing to meet the opposing perfection of the glass. But glass grows brittle in cold; the Germans are being staved off with the aid of Marshal Zhukov.

The aroma on this behemoth brew is deep and robust. Roast is like careening grapeshot – explosive and devastating. Hidden within that grapeshot is the seed of fruit aroma – berry and raisin. There’s an interesting mustiness lingering in this beer, one that makes one think that there are some English counterparts to the Red Army pent up inside the bottle. There is also a ton of sweetness to consider here – coffee cake and fudge and all of the sweet sticky residuals of unfermented body-enhancing malt sugars.

If the aroma is the artillery clearing a path to victory, then the flavor is the general infantry’s sound to charge. Dark fudge and bitter char render your palate a wasteland – just as any long-used battlefield becomes through history. There’s some ashiness going on, but the density of the beer helps to mediate an attribute that can be a bit drying and gritty in other beers. The biggest thing of note though, is the sweetness. It’s a great treat to sip on, but it can be a bit much to take in at times as well. The mouthfeel is thick and silky with moderately low carbonation. The alcohol – clocking in at 11% – is never as oppressive as the Axis opposition, but it does creep up on you and also adds as another limiting factor on the beer’s drinkability.

Overall a really nice Russian Imperial Stout, this Marshal Zhukov’s… I highly recommend sharing with comrades; it’s big, bold, heavy, and sweet. I would really enjoy trying this barrel aged though!

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Cigar City Brewing – Guava Grove Saison

Cigar City Brewing Company out of Tampa, FL is one of the hot new rising stars in the craft beer world. They prolifically brew and bottle more new beers than virtually any other brewery of its size. Their beer is so popular it is tough to find within the reaches of Florida, let alone the market or two outside of the state that see Cigar City’s distribution.

Tonight I decided to finally crack open my bottle of Guava Grove Saison. A saison is a Belgian/French style beer that is typically light in body and color, higher in carbonation, and full of estery funk. Now, “funk” may sound like a bad word to some people, but in the beer world it can often be a good thing. In a proper saison, the funk would entail bready peppery notes, as well as some banana esters commonly associated with many Belgian styles (also very common in Hefeweizens). Funk in saisons may also include descriptors such as: dry, dusty, spicy, fruity, cheesy, grassy, etc.

There have been reports that this beer in its older forms had begun to go sour – usually a sign of infection – meaning that some element of yeast or bacteria got introduced into the beer causing unwanted effects. However, in this case, the infection wound up being a positive. Most reviews seem to agree that the older bottles (and aged bottles of the more recent batches) are better. I believe that this bottle was brewed sometime in the winter/spring of 2011, and has been in my cellar since I received it in a trade box this summer.

The Review

One of the more elegant-looking labels from Cigar City, Guava Grove is sold in 750ml bottles.

I popped the cap and was almost immediately greeted by a steadily rising rush of foam. I wiped it off, and it was replaced even faster than before. Uh, oh… looks like a gusher here. Once I managed to reign in the foam enough to pour some of the beer the pressure still managed to force some beer onto the floor. Not the best way to start things off… Later, upon closer inspection I could see corrosion on the inside of the cap. How old is this bad boy?

I poured Guava Grove appropriately into my Cigar City snifter. The beer is now very cloudy due to the roused yeast sediment from the gushing pressure. Nevertheless, the beer isn’t all that bad to look at. It’s a nice ruddy apricot color, and a hay-hued head is quick to rise and very slow to subside. Pillowy formations were easy enough to force above the edges of the glass without risking spillage. Both a good and bad sign in my book. The fear at this point, is severe over-carbonation. And at first, this was precisely the case. However, if you allow this one to sit and settle for a few minutes before you drink it, and if you take things slowly, the carbonation does eventually settle back into a more tolerable level. Finally, by the time I was midway through the second pour, I was starting to see some really nice smearings of lace on the front of the glass.

The aroma immediately starts to redeem any negative aspects of the beer’s appearance. While faint, the aroma of guava is never far off. It certainly made me think of rum punch and the Caribbean initially. As the beer warms however, a large dosage of bretty funk wades in. It’s a sort of mineral/dusty type of aroma. The saison aspects are there in spirit, but never shine through like they would have when the beer was fresh. Other than brett, the yeast is playing little role in the aroma of this beer. I don’t think this was brewed with all brett, so I must assume the saison yeast strain is dying off with age. What we are left with, interestingly enough, is something mildly tart with nice fruity undertones and a smooth sweetness.

As you sip Guava Grove the beer impresses even more. Where the aroma was just starting to show the beginnings of tartness, the flavor embodies actual sourness at times. It’s never biting or overwhelming, mind you, but the sourness is assertively present. Notions of tangerine and bitter pomelo mingle with the guava. However, all through the experience the heavy carbonation rears its ugly head. As I type this the bottle has been open nearly two hours and still I am experiencing discourteous carbonation issues with each sip. While not detracting enough to keep me from finishing the bottle, it is enough to reduce my appreciation for all of the nuance a beer like this might have had in its glory day.

Overall – a fun beer to drink, and without the brett infection/over-carbonation, the beer might have been a real gem. Worth trying, but maybe not quite enough so to seek out actively.

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