An article by Noah Forrest
The mighty IPA in all its forms has certainly dominated the craft beer scene for decades, and is arguably responsible for the worldwide success of modern beer as we know it. The style has managed to change drastically, yet has remained popular and is arguably more sought after as a style now more than ever. That said, I don’t want to talk about IPAs today. I want to talk about stouts – and in particular, Imperial stouts – and even more particular, adjunct infused imperial stouts.
I’ve heard many brewers talk about how stouts don’t sell. I don’t have experience managing a brewery to confirm that this is the case, however I do know that imperial stouts have, over that last couple of decades, become some of the most sought after beers in the beer-geek community. Therefore, I’m not sure if that statement in simply longer valid, or if what’s popular in the beer-geek scene doesn’t actually translate into real numbers from a business perspective.
Just like the particularly bitter American IPA in its hey day, there was always something somewhat “extreme” and rebellious about the imperial stout. It was rich and somewhat sweet, but also bitter and aggressive. Drinking one can be incredibly satisfying, and ultimately can put you on your ass if not careful. Some versions drink like a port that you’d want to sip slowly and others you can attack in a pint glass. More recently we have seen the rise of adjunct laden imperial milk stouts, which have been aptly named “Pastry Stouts” for their richness and general resemblance to liquid cake. When done well, they can be exceptional delicious, but when mediocre, they come off too sweet and unbalanced. We are going to see many more of these luscious dessert-style stouts coming out this year, so keep a look out.
MonsRegius bières artisanales, a St-Bruno-de-Montarville based brewery just south of Montreal has been in the scene for several years now. They have attacked many different styles, starting off with more traditional Belgian fare, but then moving on to produce pretty much every style out there. What caught me eye more recently is their Nocturna line, a series of adjunct infused Imperial Stouts that I had been hearing good things about. I got my hands on them, so here are my thoughts on several of the bottles.
Nocturna – Rio Brilhante “Guará”
This is one of two coffee infused versions of Nocturna. This one is “…Rio Brilhante “Guará”, a single origin coffee from the Rio Brilhante farm, Coromandel, Cerrado Mineiro (Brasil) with flavours of strawberries, blackberries and mango.”
The nose is rich with coffee, delivering earthy and smokey layers alongside milk chocolate, toffee and general “cakey” vibes. There is a big chocolate cake thing happening.
The palate displays a dryer profile, carrying lots of earthy coffee layers mixed with a pretty aggressive bitter finish. The body is pretty rich and robust, lending a certain silky mouthfeel to the whole thing. The coffee provides some fruitiness alongside that quintessential dark roasted chocolate thing, but there are also some minor vegetal notes that sometimes come along, too.
Nocturna – Vanille et Bourbon
Second on the list is Nocturna Vanille et Bourbon.”This vanilla and bourbon edition of our imperial stout puts forth a harmony of seductive complementary flavours.”
The nose has a sherry quality, carrying rich vanilla and coconut layers, with a “Whoppers” candy thing happening as well. It’s pretty much chocolate milk and cake in a blender.
The palate matches, delivering heavy chocolate flavours alongside a touch of maderised wine, and some vanilla bourbon sweetness. It’s roasty, but not overly so, carrying a balanced and accessible sweetness. Chocolate and vanilla cake batter flavours give the beer a serious dessert vibe, but it isn’t overly viscous or sweet.
Nocturna – Shiraz
Next up is Nocturna Shiraz. “This edition of our imperial stout received a healthy dose of Californian Shiraz grape must and was aged on torrified French oak.”
The nose is exceptionally fruity, carrying lots of deep Shiraz richness, but with lots of other small fruits, like cherry and raspberry. There is a roasted profile here too, delivering coffee and rich dark chocolate.
The palate is quite different. The berry notes are more subtle, and the grapes provide more dry tannic intensity. The oak is huge, delivering some big spicy layers and even further tannins. The base stout still shines through though, balancing the rich vinous profile nicely. This is really like drinking a Shiraz/stout hybrid of sorts, in a really good way. The 10% is virtually undetectable, and the finish is dry and tasty. Really impressive stuff here.
Last up is Nocturna Affogato. “This Affogato edition of our imperial stout puts forth a harmony of seductive flavours of vanilla, cocoa, lactose and coffee.”
The nose is amazing, delivering lots of sweet vanilla, coffee beans, and toasted nuts. There is a big malted milk with chocolate thing happening here.
The body begins rich and luscious, carrying layers of sweet chocolate, vanilla, and bitter coffee. The flavours dance well together, providing layers of dessert-fun without coming across too sweet or cloying. The coffee really rounds out the whole thing, while the vanilla adds sweetness alongside the lactose. This is really solid, I highly recommend.
Overall I really enjoyed diving into this big and sexy stouts from MonsRegius bières artisanales. I thought that although solid, the first ones had a few kinks. That said, Affogato and Shiraz were truly fantastic, and beers that I would love to revisit. I hope they continue this line of stouts and that new iterations drop for me to try. Some of these beers are still available in stores, so seek them out, I’d love to know what you think.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest