Sunday, October 21, 2007

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

After a hell of a week, I decided to imbibe one hell of a beer. That's when I reached for the strong stuff: North Coast Brewing Co.'s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, weighing in at a whopping 9% ABV. While it's not the strongest beer I've had, it's stronger than most beers you'll see in the supermarket.

Russian imperial stout is actually an English style of beer that was specifically shipped to the Baltic, specifically the Empress of Russia (as a porter, a slightly weaker version of a stout). It was brewed with a higher alcohol and hop content to keep during the voyage by sea, similar to IPAs. Word has it that Grigori Rasputin, the famed Russian mystic, also developed a strong affinity for the beer style. So, when North Coast Brewing Co. of Fort Bragg, California, needed a name for their Russian imperial stout, they chose to name it for the Mad Monk himself.

His portrait appears on the bottle of his namesake, above the Russian phrase "Сердечный друт не родится вдрут", an old Russian proverb which translates to "A good friend is not easily made." It was first brewed in 1994 but wasn't bottled and sold until 1996; it was done so in 4-packs, a practice that is now done with all high-ABV beers, including Old Rasputin. In 2007, they've brewed a special 10th anniversary version of the beer, Old Rasputin X, that's been aged 9 months in 12-year-old bourbon barrels. I hope I can find it in the store, but I think it's only sold at the brewery itself...sadly. I'm always a sucker for a limited edition. (Imperial Russian Stout info, Beers of the World, Old Rasputin webpage, brewery phone call, North Coast Brewing Co. News)

Here are the stats:

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
BREWERY: North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, CA, USA
FIRST BREWED: 1995 (on tap), 1996 (bottled)
CALORIES/SERVING: 303 per 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 9%
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: 20.95° Plato (1088.00)
MALTS: (proprietary, they said "many domestic and imported malts")
HOPS: (proprietary)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Rich chocolate cake
AWARDS: 2006 Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Fest Gold Medal Award Winner, 1996-1999 & 2004-2006 World Beer Championships Gold Medal Award Winner, 2004 Spring Beer & Wine Fest Gold Medal Award Winner, 1999 & 2002 GABF Gold Medal Award Winner (imperial stout category), 1996 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Award Winner (imperial Stout category)

The ABV, IBUs, and the awards came from North Coast's Old Rasputin webpage, and the serving temperature and food pairing came from Beers of the World. I called the brewery at 4:10 PM PDT on October 22nd, 2007, then again at 4:35 PM PDT on October 25th, 2007, to get some more info, which Mark from North Coast graciously provided. Thanks so much Mark!

This beer had a very strong aroma from the moment I opened the bottle. It was strong and smelled of fermented fruit...very pleasing to my nostrils. Its color was almost black with no light escaping the glass, and had a very foamy tan-colored head that did not dissipate at all, as this picture demonstrates:

It seemed to fade from tan at the top to a darker brown about halfway down the glass (which the flash ruined in the photo). Like its aroma, its taste was also very strong, tasting of more alcoholic fermented fruit mixed with dark chocolate (how I love those chocolatey beers...mmm...). The aftertaste was a bit too harsh and hoppy at the beginning, but it faded nicely into a chocolate-coffee mixture. I could feel its flavor burn into the back of my nostrils, a very nice effect. It's also not a chewy beer, a trait I've noticed with other beers of this ABV, like Hair of the Dog's Adam and Fred beers. This one is nice and fluid without having a molasses-like consistency.

If you've had more than your share of 4-6% lagers and ales, this beer may get you buzzed in one fell swoop, hence it's price being a little steeper than other beers. But give it a go. Who knows, you may go Mad with delight for this beer.


UPDATE: I called the brewery today and spoke with Mark, who was able to fill in some of my blanks.


holyhandgrenade said...

I have this cooling in my fridge at the moment. I am so excited, especially now that i just read this.

Lowery Thompson said...

A fine beer and worth the extra cost and calories-one of these about the same as two of the Guiness Stout

The Scary Kid said...

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, stout I have ever had. Been drinking it for over two years and is the first thing I look for in any liquor store. I'm about to have mine right now. Never say die.

Milano Running Mom said...

My son suggested I give this a try. After checking with Barnivore, to make sure it was Vegan, and reading this blog, I have placed it on my grocery list.