Blue Collar Brew Review – 51st Ward The Krispier Karl Russian Imperial Stout

51st WardThe first time I tried Krispy Karl was at the Plainfield Brewers Fest in 2013. My kids pointed out to me that one guy who was deeply engaged in conversation with many who were standing around him. That was Karl. I tried 2 ounces of his beer that day and it just blended in with the other samples of beer I tried at the event.

Today I found Krispier Karl at the bottle shop in Joliet. Someone had mentioned this Krispier version at one of the homebrew club meetings about some changes in the beer since the brew fest 2 years ago.

KK fourOriginally, Krispy Karl was brewed by Urban Legends Brewing in Westmont, Illinois. A search of Krispy Karl showed that the Urban Legend brewing of the beer had stopped and was no longer being made. Here I have Krispier Karl in my mitts and the label states that the beer was brewed and packaged at the Church Street Brewing Co. out of Itasca, Illinois for 51st Ward Brewing. A contract.

Perhaps Karl had a falling out with the Urban Legends guys and hit it off with Church Street. He apparently wanted to poke a finger in the eye of Urban Legends and amped up the recipe for his Russian Imperial Stout by calling it “Krispier.”

What made this beer krispier? It weighed in at 12.2% alcohol whereas the original Krispy was a mere 10%. I hesitated when I saw the price. Quite steep for 4 beers. 5 bucks a bottle.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I paid for the beer with my last twenty and change. I hoped it would be worth it.

51st Ward Beer Co. doesn’t have a website. It’s merely a following on Facebook. It’s perhaps the only thing a struggling new brewer could do to get his name out there. I wish the guy the best of luck.

The decisive moment had arrived. I grabbed the nonic glass and popped open the first bottle.

KK foamThe beer poured dense black and at first gave off a scent that reminded me of shoe polish. The brown head rose up a mere quarter-inch. Closer in, the aroma was of those dark roasted malts that stouts usually have.

The mouthfeel was big and thick and the flavor was a bit odd in the fact that I wasn’t expecting it. The roastiness wasn’t as blaring as other beers of this style but there was so much of it. There was a nice crispness at the swallow.

Soon the heat built up in the gut. This was a big beer. Sure it was a stout in and of itself but I couldn’t compare it to anything I’ve had before, quite possibly with the exception of DFH’s World Wide Stout. Dark Lord, Surly Darkness and Bourbon County are in a whole different league.

This is definitely a sipping beer. There’s nothing odd about it and there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it except for the massive amounts of dark roasted malt used in the brewing process. It’s a meal in a glass.

It could only be improved by adding some chocolate or coffee flavors to the recipe but I don’t see how they could fit it in. The malt to chocolate ratio would be overwhelming. I can only imagine what kind of yeast was used to ferment this beast. A Scottish ale yeast on steroids. The original gravity must have been through the roof.

KK glass

This Karl is a beer that should be sampled with friends. 4 guys, 6 ounces each. Two bottles’ worth.That’s it. It would be difficult to sit down and expect to drink three bottles of this beer, let alone the entire four-pack. Like many other big stouts, Krispier Karl would probably age well and mellow out. But for now, try it just so you can say you’ve had it.

KK labelThe SixPackTech summary for 51st Ward The Krispier Karl Russian Imperial Stout:

Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Taste: Deep, dark and malty. You may need a spoon.
Smoothness: Surprisingly smooth.
Drinkability: There will be long pauses between sips after the first 4 ounces.
Bang for the buck: What price experience?
Amount paid: $19.99 for four 12-ounce bottles.
Get it again? Nope.
ABV: 12.2%
Brewer’s website – just a Facebook presence.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) Coffee? (sip) Oh it’s really bitter after a second. (sip) It started out sweet and got like old strong coffee after a while. (Her palate doesn’t get out much.)

Crispy Bacon

Crispy Bacon

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

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2 Responses to Blue Collar Brew Review – 51st Ward The Krispier Karl Russian Imperial Stout

  1. fleetflatfoot says:

    Must be a special version of the original. I have a bottle of regular Krispy Karl, also by 51st Ward, cellaring at the moment.

  2. fcgrabo says:

    That should be the 10% version.

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