Brouwerij ‘t IJ – Ciel Blue Imperial Stout, 10.2%

So, it’s been ages since I did a review of a single beer, and beer posts in general have become scarce on this malt focused blog. I decided at some point to shy away from craft/specialty beer for money reasons.

That resulted, admitted shamefully, only in less blog posts and not as much in less spending on beer. Although I don’t buy anything over 5 euros anymore, unless it’s a big bottle. At some point I was fully emerged in 10-15 euro American ales and that’s just ridiculous. Even more expensive than my whisky budget since I barely ever drink any whisky that expensive, in one go (a 300 euro bottle divided over 2cl tasting glasses is only some 8 or 9 euros, and I don’t buy whisky that expensive).

Anyway, this one is a beer that just came out this week. Untappd has, at the time of writing, only 11 check ins (mine being the 11th) to it. It’s a brew from Brouwerij ‘t IJ in Amsterdam, in collaboration with the folks from Two-Michelin-Star restaurant Ciel Bleu, also in Amsterdam.

I’ve never been, but it’s part of the Okura Hotel, which also houses Yamazato, which has one star and is a Japanese Kaiseki restaurant. We went there for our n-th anniversary and it was stunning.

Back to the beer though.

It’s an Imperial Stout made with cocoa nibs, hops, and galanga. Galanga is a ginger-like root, which I also had to look up.

Smooth ginger, roasted malt and a tiny hint of cocoa. A slight bitterness that is most likely from the hops but could also be the roasted malt. A thick sweetness of cocoa and big alcohol in a stout. The hops are very timid.

Almost no carbonation, but the tiny layer of foam is sensible. The flavors are thick and big. The roasted malts and hops make themselves known a little more than they do on the nose. The cocoa nibs are a tad more timid, but the galanga is present throughout.

What’s so impressive about this beer is the balance. We’ve all had big Imperial Stouts, with chocolate, and hops, and some spices, herbs or roots. That’s nothing new.

However, when things are this well balanced, it’s quite remarkable. The galanga can easily overpower the beer, but it doesn’t. So can the cocoa nibs (Samuel Smith’s Chocolate Stout, anyone?), but they don’t. The hops are kept in check, contrary to a lot of popular beers.

It’s truly a thing of beauty. Luckily, it’s available right now and I might just get a couple more of this before they’re all gone.

A slight bit of warning: It’s clocking in at 10.2% abv. You don’t taste that alcohol. It does kick in, though.

Highly recommended, if you can get it…

(€ 2.90 in Krommenie)


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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