Craft beer distribution networks can be funny. It’s up to the brewery which markets they want to enter, a carefully staged series of gambits based not only on sales potential but gaining a “national eye” or developing hype for the product. With smaller craft breweries, selling all the beer they can produce is often not the problem—they’re fortunate to have demand going through the roof right now. The challenge is making a name for yourself in a market that is expanding so rapidly with so many talented brewers, it’s hard to garner any attention.
Portland’s Gigantic Brewing Company decided to seek its own national presence by spreading out their distribution network quite a bit. Here’s where you can find them, according to their website: “Oregon, Washington, California, British Columbia, Alaska, Vermont, Chicago, Hato’s Bar in Tokyo and Brew Dog Bars in Europe.” The first few make sense but then Alaska? A single bar in Tokyo? Vermont?
Regardless, I’m glad Chicago is one of those destinations, because Gigantic is quickly becoming one of the more unheralded (and reasonably priced) brewers whose product can be found among all the other 22 oz bottles on the rack. The flagship Gigantic IPA is solid, if perhaps not the “best damn IPA in Portland” it’s marketed as. The dry-hopped High Fidelity APA was definitely impressive. And their latest, the Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout, is certainly some thought-provoking beer.
On the nose, this imperial stout presents strong aromas of ripe, raspberry fruitiness and a definite whiff of its 10% alcohol. There’s quite a lot of roast in the aroma as well, with smoky, woodiness that reminds me of a campfire. All of these notes are quite strong and unrestrained—very little that’s subtle about this one.
The flavors are similarly big. Chocolate is there, very dark and bitter, along with the raspberry from the nose. These two combine into something reminiscent of one of those gourmet dark chocolate bars with dehydrated raspberries stuck in it. The roast comes on strong with more smoke flavors, a charred quality that keeps it from being all that sweet, although there is some noticeable alcohol heat. It manages to be very intense in its flavors without being a “sugar bomb.”
This beer tastes even bigger than the 10% would lead you to believe, as rich as some similar imperial stouts I’ve had in the 15% range. It coats the mouth with a syrupy thickness that is also unusual for a brew that is on the drier side of this style. It’s an odd but appreciable subversion of expectations, a pretty brash beer that might be even better with some age on it to mellow out the alcohol and open up more subtle flavors. If you’ve buy extra bottles, sock one away for a rainy day.
Brewery: Gigantic Brewing Co.
City: Portland, OR
Style: Russian imperial stout
Availability: Limited, selected markets