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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  1. Not even a mention of Kate the Great, the queen of all RIS'?

  2. I know!!! I've heard about how fantastic that beer is, but I haven't tasted it! Its difficult to get Portsmouth out here, but I'm going to try!

  3. Thanks for the call out on Three Floyds RIS - however note, they only sell the stuff 1 day a year - Dark Lord Day - but it's worth the wait!

  4. christopher roberts6/10/2009 11:09:00 AM

    For all those with access to Colorado brews, The Czar I.S from Avery Brewing is excellent, as the Ten Fidy carries a stronger alcohol flavor, although quite complex. For those who enjoy this style, please try The Bourbon Stout (imperial style) by O'Dell Brewing in Ft. Collins. Don't know if they bottle it but it is amazing and packs a kick. Ever in Colorado - a great stop!
    Cheers - Railsoz

  5. My favorite Russian beer is Baltika No. 9 I never thought about Russia even having beer (how ignorant I know) until I went to this event at a Ukranian cultural center and they all kinds of beer from Ukraine, Poland and Russia. It is delish! Of course I can't find this beer in stores - but I keep on looking.

  6. Now that is what I call an interesting trivia about beer! Thanks for sharing it.

  7. I was gonna mention Kate the Great (Portsmouth Brewing) as well, although I've never been able to try it. The Ten Fidy...Oooooh boy that is 1 tasty beer.

    Just stumbled upon your blog and enjoying it. I like the educational aspect of this entry too!!

  8. Do you like Indian Wells Brewing Companies, Lobotomy Bock?