Why not start at the top? Black Albert was last year's #1 Beer On Planet Earth as rated by Beer Advocate members. It's a strange beer - a Russian Imperial Stout brewed by Belgians for a small pub in Lovell, Maine? And it's really hard to find...but a few weeks ago, we paid a visit to our local beer haven, Coasters of Melbourne - and behind the glass case, lo and behold: BLACK ALBERT. I almost peed my pants. I took a bottle to go (at $25 for 11.2oz, this may be the most expensive beer I've purchased), and have been waiting for the dust to settle on our move to crack it open.
The brewers call it a "Belgian Royal Stout" - 13% abv (whoa).
It pours a deep brown/black with a cappuccino head. I wasn't quite sure if there'd be a bunch of yeast in the bottom (there was), since I couldn't quite see through the bottle - so I flubbed the pour a bit, and chucked a bunch of floating yeast globules into the mix. No matter - it's good for you, right?
The taste is out of this world. Velvety, chocolate milkshake, with a bit of alcohol warming at the swallow, followed by a big hit of roastiness...maybe some licorice, slight coffee. It's amazing, but pretty light mouthfeel, which lends itself to the drinkability. This beer is incredibly drinkable. There's almost no hint of its strength. It's chocolatey and delicious. It's a shame this beer is so expensive, and difficult to find (only 500 cases imported to the US, allegedly).
It would be interesting to put this beer up against a few other Russian Imperials in a blind taste test (I admit I'm obsessed with blind taste tests, even though I've only participated in one)...is it the hype or the beer? It's not as complex as some other strong stouts, but it is flat-out tasty, and my curiousity is satisfied, so I consider this one money well spent.