By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Inspired by 19th century Russian brewers who were trying to win over the Czar, Russian Imperial Stout is the king of full-bodied beers. It’s dark in color and high in alcohol — a recipe that’s made by breweries worldwide to a loyal stout crowd.

Bill Nosan is the beer buyer at France 44 Wines and Spirits in Edina. Nosan describes the 2016 release of Surly Brewing’s “Darkness” Russian Imperial Stout as, “big, heavy, silk – just this fat glass of beer in your mouth.”

Surly’s Darkness has been made each year since 2007. It begins with a large release festival at the company headquarters in Brooklyn Center. In the days that follow, loyal fans scour area liquor stores, hoping to land a bottle or two.

“It’s a good day for us absolutely, a big score, absolutely,” one lucky buyer said.

France 44’s had but one bottle left, and it didn’t go to waste. We were lucky enough to convince Nosan for a taste.

The self-described chief beer minion, Nosan says to savor it like a fine bottle of wine. He describes the flavor of 2016 Darkness as, “roasted-coffee, bitter, chocolate, cherry and red fruit, hops on the finish, delicious!”

Nosan says beer drinkers should first absorb its aroma, then enjoy it slowly, with delicious deliberation.

Besides the beer’s rich taste, there are the beautiful labels that adorn each bottle, all from original artwork that becomes as collectible as the beer inside.

Surly loyalist Bryce Marback learned on Twitter that Zipp’s Liquor in Minneapolis had a few bottles left on Tuesday morning.

“It subtly changes year after year, so it’s worth checking out again and again,” he said.

For the lucky customers who land a bottle or two, it’s a bit like winning the lottery – with a liquid description to fit every taste.

“It’s a big, inky, dark, roasty-toasty, super tasty stuff,” Zipp’s customer Patrick Orlopp said. “It is a large beer.”

It’s taste that stout drinkers worldwide have come to love and pursue.

“If you like a high alcohol, silky goodness, it’s hard not to like this beer,” Nosan said.

Bill Hudson