Alongside Stone Berlin's now more ubiquitous presence in Ireland, a couple of special Californian mothership stragglers were presented last year by Four Corners.
First among them was their Imperial Russian Stout, 2016 edition. It proclaims decadence and luxury and makes a good fist of that with its weight and heft, but the general flavour leaves a bit to be desired; liquorice is the main effect, underlined by a less pleasant overwrought and overcooked coffee. Bitter dark chocolate and folds of sweet malt do their best to round it out but it never strays too far from harshness. Despite this, it does remain drinkable and was very much drank.
I had better results from Old Guardian 2016, their semi-classic barleywine brewed with Pekko hops, a new one on me. They worked too, if the Bigfoot-esque nose is anything to go by; burnt caramel and brown sugar form the core of a beer otherwise healthily spritzed with the orange zest and spicy resin of an American west coast hop profile. On further tasting that demerara sugar does thicken up to something a bit more complex and malty adding satisfactory weight and balance without seeming too sweet. A rock solid American barleywine is the result, resplendent with crystal clear red complexion and a thick slice of cream, looking every bit as delicious as it tastes.
The barleywine is one to pick up if there are any more extant in the wild, while the stout may actually have benefited from some time to smooth out its harsher edges.