North Coast Brewing Company out of California, USA, has made one of the most popular and highly rated Russian imperial stouts on the market. To put it simply: it is a must have. Intense, chewy, smooth, and dark, it stands among the best of them. As solid as it is, it isn’t as complex as I would expect for one of the top tier Russian imperials. And it’s extremely hoppy for a stout. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing depends on your personal preference. I don’t love it as much as the community on average, but if a beautiful broad were to bring me a bottle (poured into a snifter or goblet), I definitely would permit her to pleasure me orally while I watch an important football game. I think she would have earned such an honor for that.
Old Rasputin looks like what you’d expect from a strong stout. It is coffee black, with a peanut colored head. The head is foamy, bubbly, and doesn’t last as long as it should, but it’s adequate. The aroma is very good as it presents mocha, chocolate, and sweet blackberry. The flavor of Old Rasputin while simple is quite unique; it surrenders the heavy malt and isn’t quite as fruity as the aroma suggests. The upfront flavor starts bitter with cocoa and coffee. Those two flavors remain throughout. It moves ahead quickly to add a milky, buttery, hop-heavy flavor to its body. There is barely a hint of booze at all, and it does not provide any warmth to your innards. The aftertaste is strong and leaves you with bitter hops and dark roasted coffee. Like a badass stout should be, the texture is fairly thick, chewy, and slightly creamy. The lacing hangs around for quite a while with some webs, dots and dashes.
Old Rasputin is flat out excellent, but it isn’t mind blowing. The best Russian Imperial Stout I have had to date remains Ten Fidy by Oskar Blues. For me the lower strength on the malt flavor profile combined with the ultra high IBU are strikes against it as a stout, but not as a beer overall.
EDUCATION TIME! What makes a stout (or any beer for that matter) “imperial”? The answer is simple but not scientific: aggressive in flavor, strength, and ABV (in general). It’s a “luxury” version of a simple style. From where did that name come? It actually originated when England started exporting a high quality, strong stout to Catherine the Great’s court in Russia during the 1700s. It spawned what is known today as the “Russian imperial stout”. And all other “imperials” are labeled asC such as a result of this segment of Russian and beer history. Nowadays the Russian imperial stout is distinguished by fruit profiles, and a hoppy flavor that can range from weak to strong. The typical American imperial stout tends to stay away from hop and fruit flavors, and sticks with the coffee, malt, and chocolate. But both styles are extremely similar.
Now that you have that slice of beer brain candy to help you impress that sexy broad or hot stud sipping a dark brew from a goblet over there, it should be easy for you to extrapolate why North Coast’s Russian imperial stout is named “Old Rasputin”. Please do not tell me you don’t know who the fuck Grigori Rasputin was. Oh, for Christ’s sake, I’m sure some of you don’t know who he was so here we go again with another history lesson: he was some extremely creepy, sinister looking, mystic faith healer prophesier dude who became friends with the Tsar of Russia in the early 1900’s, and was targeted for assassination as a result of this relationship. There was more than one attempt on his life. Between the failed attempts and ultimately the successful one that killed him, he had been stabbed, poisoned (it is also alleged he refused to eat his poisoned food) and eventually they just kicked his ass and riddled him with bullets before wrapping him up in a rug and tossing him in a frozen river… and the autopsy analysis concluded he drowned! That’s one tough motherfucker.
North Coast “Old Rasputin”
Russian Imperial Stout