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 StoutI 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...
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.
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