Lake Stevens Brewing Co., Lake Stevens
Style: Sour Russian imperial stout
Stats: 9 percent ABV, 65 IBU
Available: On tap at the brewery
My thoughts: For every brewer, there’s always at least one batch of beer that ends up tasting quite a bit different than planned.
For Lake Stevens Brewing’s Brock Duerr and Jason Parzyk, this beer is the result of a happy accident involving their Russian Imperial Stout, a bourbon barrel from Woodinville Whiskey and a little good fortune.
In June 2016, a few months before they officially opened the brewery, Parzyk and Duerr decided to age some of their Russian Imperial Stout in bourbon barrels. It’s a common practice for brewers, who look for the boozy bourbon flavor combinations to infuse themselves in the stout, generally giving the beer a more rounded and deeper flavor profile.
But when Duerr and Parzyk tried the beer a few months later, they discovered that something was off. The beer had taken on sour characteristics. It didn’t taste bad, Duerr said, just sour. They didn’t know what to do with it. Fortunately, they mentioned the soured stout to another brewer. He advised them to let it rest for a year and mellow out. So they buried the barrel in the back of the brewery and all but forgot about it.
It was great advice. Having tasted it recently, the beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout. It’s almost a cross between a barleywine and a Belgian dark strong ale, the subtle tartness mingling with the chocolatey sweetness.
“Not everything will turn out the way you want it to,” Duerr said. “This ended up turning out different than we first thought, but it turned out well.”
Duerr and Parzyk are hardly alone. Scuttlebutt Brewing head brewer Matt Stromberg had a similar issue a few years ago when a batch of the brewery’s Scotch ale placed in second-run bourbon barrels presented some tartness that didn’t occur in the other barrels they filled. Stromberg said they noticed that over a period of time the beer lost most of its tartness and gained significant depth.
“I don’t have a good explanation for it,” Stromberg said. “Maybe we just call it barrel shock. Whatever bug might be hiding in there could be a beer spoiler or it could be a product of the wood that just took some time to emulsify into the beer.
“All I know is the beer turned out exceptional.”
Stromberg compared brewing to creating art. “Taking risks and making mistakes is the foundation of great art,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to create perfection from imperfection.”
Lake Stevens Brewing will be pouring this beer, along with three versions of its Russian Imperial Stout conditioned for a year in kegs, and a double IPA called Battleship IPA to celebrate its one-year anniversary this weekend. The brewery will be pouring each version — chocolate, vanilla and bourbon oak — of its Russian Imperial Stout in succession, starting with the chocolate. The Battleship IPA was made using Cascade, Ekuanot and Motueka hops.
Duerr said the brewery’s first full year has been a success. He’s close to going full-time at the brewery and said he and Parzyk are happy being in downtown Lake Stevens. The brewery is growing, but doesn’t have any room to add equipment beyond its 2-barrel brewing system currently occupying its modest space. They are adding four taps before this weekend’s celebration.
The brewery will be open extended hours this weekend, from 2 p.m. to midnight Friday and noon to midnight Saturday. There will be raffle drawings every hour, with customers earning a ticket for every pint ordered, plus hot dogs and burgers on the grill.
From the brewery: Sour Russian Imperial Stout aged more than a year in Woodinville Whiskey bourbon barrels.
More new releases
The Clean Getaway, At Large Brewing: A New England-style IPA brewed with Mosaic and Amarillo hops that has a beautiful orange glow and smooth mouthfeel. Available on tap at the brewery.
Wonderland, Whitewall Brewing: A winter warmer with notes of raisins and chocolate with a slightly bitter finish. Available on tap at the brewery and select accounts.
Can It! and Got That?, Skookum Brewery: Can It! Is an aromatic and crushable pale ale, while Got That? is a new IPA brewed with spelt and oats and hopped with Citra, Simcoe and Cascade hops. It’s bright, citrus-y and full of juicy hops. Both are available on tap at the brewery.