Buxton Brewery’s Rain Shadow has to be the first Imperial Stout I ever had. Not only that, but it just so happened to be the beer, that got me into craft beer. Rain Shadow was my first love and at the end of last year, I thought how nice it would be to revisit this brew. Only now I had the perfect moment to try it.
I first checked Buxton’s online store and found some barrel-aged versions of this treat, which I had to order of course, but the original one was not stocked at the time. A little bit later, I was happy to find it in the selection of the Finnish alcohol-retail monopoly, Alko, even though I had to travel to Helsinki in order to get my hands on one. But it also being vintage (2019), made the journey worth it.
The setting and the moment where I first enjoyed this brew are still vivid in my mind.
It was the beginning of my first-ever backpacking trip in Eastern Europe. I had just traveled across the whole of Bulgaria, from the East-coast to the capital, Sofia, in the far West. More about that journey later. Anyhow, I had had a couple of Bulgarian craft beers on the way, but my ”Wow!”-moment was yet to be experienced.
In Sofia, I sought a craft beer bar/shop and ended up in this cute little shop, BEERA. The staff was super nice and I decided to have a drink or two on their little street-terrace. A little later, a couple, Lee and Ela, joined me. We chatted and they gave me some recommendations for which beer to have next. At some point in the evening, Lee suggested Rain Shadow to me. He told me to have it at room temperature and so I did.
Though the details have been lost from my mind during the last three years, I can still remember how shocked I was of just how good the beer and company were. I remember how the sun was setting and I was enjoying this awesome drink, while my new friends were enjoying theirs.
On that same night, they introduced me to Untappd and according to the app, I rated Rain Shadow 4,5/5 back then.
Let’s see how the same beer performs in my reviews now that I have ”some” (about 1,2k more tasted beers on Untappd) more experience.
Pours with a half-a-finger tan-colored head. The body is jet black, completely opaque.
Rocking the beer back and forth, fine carbonation chases the head of the beer a little behind. Little alcohol ”legs” are left on the sides of the glass and don’t seem to be pulled down by gravity.
Strong notes of dark-roast coffee, roastiness, and dark chocolate. Subtle metallic aroma on the first sniff, slight burnt notes. As my friend pointed out, there are some distinct vibes of soy sauce. The aroma is strong and ever so slightly alcoholic when sniffing long and close.
Overall this beer smells delicious, as you would expect from this brewery and this beer style.
Flavour & Mouthfeel
By its mouthfeel, this beer is soft, smooth, even ”fluffy”. Semi-thick body, not oily. There’s crisp carbonation smoothening the body, and though it might be a turn-off for those engine-oil-stout fans, it felt well-balanced to me.
There are strong notes of dark chocolate in the initial taste, but soon after some saltiness comes in to balance the sweetness. Bitter milk coffee, sweet fruitiness, perhaps apricot, continue the flavor and towards the end, there can be felt a slight fruity sourness.
Leaves a bitter aftertaste, with many layers of it from both, the roasty malts giving a coffee-type of bitterness, and some of it from the good amount of hops in this beer. The bitterness can be felt in the cheeks long after.
Review & Comments
Revisiting Rain Shadow after over three years really made me feel nostalgic and it’s hard to stay neutral, being biased by my love for this beer.
While it certainly is an amazing brew, it’s not just as good as I remembered. That might have to do with the dozens (or even hundreds) of crazy good Imperial Stouts I’ve had since then, some even better than this.
The slight metallic aroma was a turn-off, but luckily it was only present in the first sniffs. In the taste, the distinct soy-sauce notes tasted like an off-flavor too. But since that, too, was only a small part of the overall experience, it doesn’t affect my rating that much.
In the end, I enjoyed tasting Rain Shadow again and I hope it will still be in production after some years, so I can go back to the beginning of my craft beer journey once again.
Thanks Lee and Ela!
Unfortunately, I regret to have found out from his wife, Ela, that Lee is no longer with us.
Even if the time I spent with him was short, it was ever so memorable and the aftermath of that one evening we shared stretched much further than either of us could have imagined back then. He truly seemed like a kind and caring person and I doubt I am wrong in saying that.
I can not help but wonder the timing of my revisit to this beer that he originally introduced to me, just a few days apart from the day Lee left our presence. The impact he had on my life three years ago and the time of me tasting this beer again make me believe in destiny.
Thank you, Lee, for showing me the direction to the path that I have been walking ever since we met back in 2017.
I doubt my life would be the same without our encounter.
Rest in peace, Lee Waugh