Beer review: Hunahpu's Imperial Stout by Cigar City Brewing

Much has been written about Cigar City and this beer, in all its iterations. Hunahpu's Imperial Stout was rated one of the best beers in not only the country, but the entire world by reviewers, and maintains a rating of 100 on and an A+ rating on The release party in March was one of the most highly anticipated beer events in recent history, and over half of the 3,200 bottles produced sold on the day of the party. As a natural cynic and skeptic (especially when it comes to hype and fanfare) I had to ask, "Is it really that good?" Well, I have two words for you: Hell. Yes.

Before we go into the details of the stand-alone, bottled version, it is important to note that Hunahpu’s has three personas: Bourbon Barrel Aged, Apple Brandy Barrel Aged, and the original version. This is an Imperial Stout with something extra: It begins as Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout, then is aged on “Peruvian cacao nibs, ancho and pasilla chiles, cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla beans.” The effect is truly amazing.

Starting with the pour, it is like motor oil: thick and viscous and just daring you to tell it to hurry up. When the head begins to form it is the color of milk chocolate and looks like mousse. It's very opaque —there is no light to be seen through the glass. When you lean in to inhale the aroma, the richness envelopes your senses with lush chocolate, coffee, vanilla, spices, and roasted malt. Some serious booziness too, which is to be expected at 11.5% ABV. You could probably serve it as a dessert all by itself.

When you finally are ready to taste this dark, sumptuous looking offering, it coats the mouth with a thick, heavy roasted flavor, and an array of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla essences.  Spices play about on your tongue to tantalize and keep you guessing. The alcohol is present, but not overpowering; it's just enough to warm and complements the complexity of the flavors. The delicious sweetness and dark bitterness vying for attention. You are left with a creamy coating in your mouth which just begs for more. I recommend giving in, totally and completely.

I am not one given to absolutes, but this may be the best Imperial Stout I have ever had.

As a side note, I have also had the pleasure of sampling the Bourbon and Brandy Barrel-aged versions of Hunahpu’s, and while good, I do not think they are as tasty as the original. The booziness overpowers the subtleties of the chiles in my opinion, and some of the complexity that makes the original so fantastic is lost. They are still amazing beers, but I prefer the original.

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