Harvey's Imperial Extra Double Stout (9%)

Well, after many years of wanting to try this, I ordered a box from Harvey's brewery. Surely this is as close as we can get to a mid-nineteenth century stout. Brewed once a year (27 barrels, I think), using the correct malt (Marris Otter Pale, amber, brown, black, plus invert sugar), hops (6 pounds in each barrel), and, actually I can't remember the (two?) original yeast strains, but the third, the wild yeast, Debaromyces Hanseni, perhaps adds the final touch of authenticity, for stouts of this era would have a certain sourness (I think it was an accidental discovery by the brewer). Even without the yeast this would be a great beer, but opening the (275ml) bottle you can smell a vinegary scent, or perhaps it smells more like a good sour kriek beer. The carbonation is wonderfully soft, just right. Certain flavours of strong stouts are there, but the fruity/sour/savoury strangeness lifts it, improves it tremendously. Frankly, I think this is the best stout I've ever tried, and possibly the best beer I've had (well, we'll see after I've finished the twelve bottles). The brewer has done a great job here. And I have to say the box couldn't have arrived quicker. The service was unfussy and efficient.
An amazing beer, and I say that at least 15 years since my first and last bottle from 2001. I'll have to try harder to obtain a replacement. I remember a slight rubber taste to the one I had, not in a bad way but that stays in my memory.


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It looks like you had the corked version. It now has a crown. And they may not have sorted out the yeast at that time (I think it was only 1999 when they started brewing it), so newer ones might actually be better. Oh, actually it was the batch released in 2000 that had the surprising wild yeast in, which no one realised or expected. After that year, they left the yeast in because it benefitted the beer (and made it more authentic).
I had the corked version quite some years ago. I can't remember exactly when. I had two bottles. They both had a distinct thread of vinegar running through them, although this may have been due to infection or oxidisation. The corks were dry and a bit crumbly so they may well have shrunk and allowed some air into the bottles. The rich flavour of the stout was still evident even with the vinegar notes
I could be wrong, but the vinegar taste may have been from the wild yeast (which, I suppose, was originally an infection of sorts). My first smell of the beer suggested vinegar...But who knows?
I'm going to have to order another box of this, and compare (I presume it will have been brewed again since last year). I wonder if it's changed. It really is magnificent (I'm having my first for a few months). A bit more sour, now? Who knows. Perhaps the yeast has been at work since last year. It certainly seems even stranger than my last bottle (oxidisation (is this possible)?). And again, I have to say that this is perhaps the best beer I have ever had.​
It appears to be that time of year for Harvey's, despite circumstances - I've just ordered a case of the Imperial and one of the Sweet Sussex stout. They also have Elizabethan Ale available if you're a fan, but only cans of Best.