Add a little Russian to your life

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It had been a Thanksgiving to remember. For the first time in my eight years as a Las Vegan, instead of visiting relatives in a different state or slaving over a hot stove all day with an endless supply of dishes to clean, my wife, Annette, and I decided to stay in Vegas for the holidays and enjoy a Thanskgiving buffet with friends.

It turned out to be a splendid choice. For starters, my buddy, Adam, had racked up so many points on his Stations card that the Feast buffet at Green Valley Ranch was not only free, we got to stand in the "exclusive" line and bypass all the other customers waiting in line. Guilty? Not on your life. I've stood in enough of those lines to feel like, at 46, I finally deserved to shoot to the front.

Great meal from start to finish. In fact, I didn't even get turkey, opting instead for ham and salmon. I decided to forego the traditional mimosa, primarily because I knew beers would be coming later in the day, but mostly because I've never had much of a palate for champagne.

The post-meal beer was Guinness Draught, which I always enjoy after having a rich meal. By the end of the Cowboys-Dolphins game, I was content to just sit on the couch and recuperate. I had a bottle of Joseph James' Russian Imperial Stout in the fridge, and wanted to make sure to enjoy it on its own terms.

Around 6 p.m., I sliced off a piece of leftover pumpkin pie and put it aside, wanting to taste the stout before eating anything else. Joseph James, a Henderson-based brewery, opened its doors in 2006, but I had yet to taste any of their products. Call it an oversight on my part -- up to now, I have absolutely loved all Las Vegaas-based beers, so I had little reason to avoid Joseph James.

I'm now kicking myself for waiting so long. This is one of the finest Russian stouts I've ever had, and I've sampled plenty. For starters, it packs an unbelievable kick at 9-plus percent ABV. This is nothing to underestimate, beer fans. I love beers that can balance high alcohol content with taste, and this stout achieves that with style. I could barely sense any alcohol on the first taste, just an intense chocolate/coffee taste. The warmness of the alcohol kicked in a few seconds later, and I found myself smiling from ear to ear without even realizing it.

Oh, and that piece of pumpkin pie? It went uneaten. I wanted nothing interfering with this flavor. It was, quite simply, the perfect end to a perfect Thanksgiving. I was full, I was satisfied, and I'd made a new friend. Joe, as I'll now call him.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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