Imperial Kirsch is a decadent, luxurious imperial stout with flavours of dark chocolate and maraschino cherry. A beer this good should not be so astoundingly easy to get hold of. I cannot stress this enough: you should try this beer.
For some people, it’s “I love you”. For others, it might be “you’re my hero” or “take me home”. But me? The three words I want to hear more than anything in the world, the three words that make me instantly weak at the knees, are: “barrel aged stout”.
If those words didn’t make you weak at the knees, this chocolate and cherry stout from Hebden Bridge brewers Vocation might. At 11.0% ABV, cracking open a can of Imperial Kirsch is comparable to drinking half a bottle of wine. Aged in Cognac barrels, I’m expecting some seriously sweet, boozy flavours to complement the cherries and malty notes I’m sure are present in the base beer.
Even judging on looks alone, this is not your typical stout. Imperial Kirsch looks thick, oily and luxurious. There’s a hint of reddish brown as you hold it to the light, which compounds the bewitching aroma of maraschino cherry, dark chocolate, and cola.
This is a sweet beer. But the cherry, chocolate, cola flavour is balanced out both by boozy, alcoholic warmth and a subtle underlying bitterness. There’s perhaps the barest hint of astringency, some red grape, even a little umami soy flavour. Most impressive is the mouthfeel. This beer is unctuous, like drinking molten chocolate or heavy cream.
That thick mouthfeel means the fruity, sour cherry flavour lingers on the tongue for minutes after each sip – but it’s rare that I can wait that long to take another. Soon, too soon, I’m staring at an empty glass, wondering what lengths I have to go to if I’m to find another can.
Incredibly, it’s dead easy to get hold of. The brewery is merrily selling cans of this liquid joy directly. Failing that, you can even pick it up for the same price at Tesco.
I opened this beer fully expecting my elevated expectations to come crashing down, In fact, Vocation has lifted them even further. Under two weeks into the year, and we already have a contender for my favourite beer of the year.