Friday, May 22, 2009


Did I tell you that I'm dating a hot Russian guy now? Oh yes, I am. And for some reason, I seem to be drinking a lot more Russian Imperial Stout (RIS). (I know there's a real dirty joke in there somewhere, but let's not go there.) Of course, hearing the name of this beer, one assumes that it comes from Russia. But you know what happens when you assume?

NOT from Russia, this amazing style of beer is actually a British invention. The Anchor brewery (no not the one in San Francisco) were the originators of this strong dark and rich beer that is generally much maltier, smokier and stronger than other English or Irish style stouts. Why Russia then?

Well, supposedly, in days of yore, the Empress of Russia Catherine the Great loved the style and demanded large quantities of the ebony elixer shipped to the Baltic and beyond. Some say that the beer was fortified with a high percentage of alcohol in order for it to make this long journey over land. Fortunately the beer lasted the distance and Catherine's love of this stout made it immensely popular not only in her native Russia, but in England as well. In fact, it is said that her support of the beer way back in the 1780's is what has contributed to this beer style's popularity even today.

I love this style, but previously, I really only drank it in the winter, when the alcohol would warm my bones when the temperature would dip below 60 degrees (c'mon, I'm in L.A.) But now that I've been concentrating on things Russian, I realize that it's a wonderful year-round beer! Here are some of the Russian Imperial Stouts I've been imbibing as of late:
Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
North Coast Brewing Company - Ft. Bragg, CA

Tsarina Alexandra, the last Tsaritsa of Russia is known for her destructive and notorious friendship with the mystic Grigori Rasputin. And while this Old Rasputin from North Coast might be dark, there's no hidden agenda here! This beer is like espresso, with secondary notes of bittersweet chocolate and licorice. Its deliciously deceptive at 9% abv. This is my go to RIS.

Ten Fidy Imperial Stout
Oskar Blues Brewery - Lyons, CO

Thick, black and super creamy, this RIS is huge. Huge coffee and huge chocolate this beer has a hot malty dark molassas sweetness. Lots of smokey goodness in this beer. Oh, did I tell you that its in a can? Gotta love that! 9.5% abv.

Dark Lord Imperial Stout
Three Floyds Brewing Co. - Munster, IN

Super rich with big chocolate and vanilla, this beer comes in at a huge 13% abv. Super sweet and smooth, this beer has roasty and smokey notes almost like charcoal, with - dare I say - notes of soy sauce (but in a good way.) Virtually no head, this beer is like engine oil (also in a good way.) Darkness is spreading ladies and gentlemen.

The Czar Imperial Stout
Avery Brewing Company - Boulder, CO
Once again, this RIS shines with flavors of cocoa, bittersweet chocolate, caramel, toffee. Big espresso flavors with tons of sweet dark fruit. This one actually has a nice hop presence providing a bit of a balance. But its still a sweet, creamy, fruity, smokey dream. 11% abv.
I know I said it before, but it's important to remind y'all that Russian Imperial Stouts generally have a very high alcohol content. We're talking 10% and upwards. You know I'm okay with that, but be careful when you're drinking these, as you can easily end the night ass up. As a matter of fact, these beers used to be marketed using the tagline "Strong as a double scotch, less than half the price." YEAH! In this economy, we need some more bang for our buck. Speaking of the Russian hottie...

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Thursday, May 21, 2009


So, I'm finally back for real! The book is done. The rewrites are done! And now I can get back to what I love doing best. Drinking great beer and writing about it. I won't ever leave you like this again! It's time for a little celebration. In fact, I celebrated a little too hard the other night and one of my friends said that our debauchery was "decadent," like it was a bad thing. That got me thinking about the last time I had some decadence in my life.

I mean, I know that the economy is in the tank, but does that mean that we all have to give up decadence? I think not. Now is just the time to take the escapist route and enjoy beer, especially because its cheaper than wine and champagne and spirits. Hell, let's have a little decadence...and by that I mean Decadence Anniversary Ale the seasonal treat from Alesmith Brewing Company in San Diego, CA. (Insert cheering crowd here.)

Decadence was released in 2005 to celebrate Alesmith's 10 year anniversary. Each year its different, and each year the beer embodies the definition of, what else? Decadence! For instance, 2005 was a smooth and rich English-style Old Ale, 2006 (which was awesomely nicknamed "Dead by Dawn") was a caramelly and resinous American Strong Ale, 2007 was a smokey and piney Imperial Porter, and 2008 was a traditional fire spit inducing and toffee tinged English-style Barleywine.

Thanks to Ryan Sweeney, who is owner of the fabulous beer bar Verdugo in L.A., I was lucky enough to try a special barrel aged version of the '07 Imperial Porter, and it was SICK in its goodness. This beer started out with notes of chocolate, toffee and caramel and won the gold medal at the 2008 San Diego County Fair's Craft Brewer's Competition. Imagine it now aged in bourbon barrels, and all that vanilla, Maker's Marky, woody, oakey goodness. This beer poured a brown engine oil with a creamy white head with secondary notes of dark fruit and coffee. I almost died it was so good! I keep imagining what this beer will taste like when it has even more age on it. Oh and it's 10% abv. And you know how much I like that.

Oscar Wilde said "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but if Barbarism or Civilization are beers a fraction as good as Decadence, I'm willing to try them!

If you see this beer anywhere, do what you can to get it. Trade, steal, sell your guitar, whatever. It'll be worth it.