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Heads Up! The KGB Is On Its Way

Be warned. Edmonton is about to be over-run by the KGB. (Some Tory MLAs may think it already has under the guise of the NDP, but I digress.)

By KGB I refer, of course, not to the notorious Soviet police force, but to the first release from Edmonton (sorta) gypsy brewery Elbeck Brews (read my profile of the fledgling operation here), which is officially launched Friday at Sherbrooke Liquor.

KGB Imperial Stout may already be known by some longer-in-the-tooth beer fans and older homebrewers in particular. You see, KGB has actually been around for a long time. I remember it first surfacing at some point in the 2000s (I don’t remember the exact year) as a homebrew collaboration between three Edmonton homebrewers – Kevin Zaychuk, Glen Hannah and Bruce Sample (the K., G. and B. in the name – get it?). It won wide accolades among the Edmonton Homebrewers’ Guild (EHG) members and its share of medals in competitions.

Then in 2009, KGB made its commercial debut as a special one-off beer brewed by Alley Kat for Sherbrooke Liquor. At the time Sherbooke offered up a prize where the brewer of the year at the EHG’s Aurora Brewing Challenge competition could have one of their recipes brewed up and sold at Sherbrooke. Bruce Sample won the that year and selected KGB as his beer.

Sample subsequently moved on to brewing professionally at some of Edmonton’s breweries and is the driving force behind Elbeck Brews. The KGB being released today is the same recipe as the famed homebrewed version.

I received an advance copy – as they say in the publishing industry – and tried it last weekend (so for once my review is timely rather than too late).

It is the deepest, midnight black with an abyss-like quality. It builds a formative tan head offering interspersing loose and tight bubbles, leaving a noted lacing on the glass. The aroma gives off big chocolate with a backbone of molasses and an accent of dark coffee roast. I also pick up some chewy dark fruit underneath and a soft, cool vanilla and almond note.

The sip also starts with chocolate, along with dark treacle. Some blackstrap molasses rises in the middle, as does a light coffee roast. At this point the flavours meld to create a mocha effect. It has rich, but balanced body and is sweet without being cloying. The finish is moderately sweet with chocolate, almond and dark fruit. The linger is coffee. I take note that the alcohol (9%) is remarkably well hidden, especially for such a young beer.

My mouth remembers this beer from its previous incarnations. It is balanced, rich and full without being over the top. I think I am most amazed at how well the flavours meld already. I can only imagine what this beer will taste like in two years when you add some sherry notes and smooth out the alcohol even more.

As inaugural beer go, this one makes a pretty big statement. Soviet-era fur caps not included, however, comrade.

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