Archive for the category “Russian Imperial Stout”

The Czar – Avery Brewing Company

avery_bttl10.3% ABV
Purchased at City Beer Store in San Francisco (22 oz. bottle) and poured into mini globe glasses.

This beloved Russian Imperial Stout from Colorado stalwarts Avery pours an espresso black with a tight, dust-colored head.  Czar has a nose that promises dessert-like decadence – chocolate pudding, chocolate cupcakes, and bananas, with a little bit of black coffee on the periphery.  The first swallow follows up on that promise, with a big taste of moist chocolate banana nut cake welcoming the tongue, very rich and delicious.  There is a little coffee bitterness deep into the finish, and dark fruits, toffee, and wintry spices emerge as the glass warms, but that’s only if you’re able to resist subsequent sips long enough to allow those flavors to take shape.

toasts-4.5   4.5 Toasts


toasts-4.5   4.5 Toasts

Old Rasputin XV Bourbon Barrel-Aged – North Coast Brewing


11.9% ABV

Purchased at Pangaea Two Brews ($10/6 oz. pour) and served in mini-snifter glasses.

This barrel-aged version of North Coast’s venerable Russian Imperial Stout pours black piano key ebony with a thick and billowy almond-colored head.  It offers a strong but welcoming nose of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and a very prominent booze-drenched oak aroma.  Old Rasputin XV is velvety on the tongue, putting forth some amazing bourbon, chocolate, and vanilla flavors, with the expected barrel wood entering the profile on the long, warm finish.  This is a beer that takes it’s time on your palette, offering some fascinating touches of coffee, banana, nuts, alcohol burn, and even some scorched caramel.  And yet for all of its bigness, Old Rasputin XV is actually an incredibly subtle brew.

 toasts-5-small   5 Toasts


 toasts-4.5   4.5 Toasts


Russian Imperial Stout Faceoff – Narwhal vs. Old Rasputin

Narwhal – Sierra Nevada

10.2% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market and poured into taster glasses.

Narwhal pours an opaque mahogany with a slight, soda-style head, and offers a complex and inviting nose rich with roasted coffee beans, alongside some dark chocolate and sarsaparilla root notes.  This beer is aggressive out of the box, with all of the wonderful dark and roast-y flavors of a classic Russian Imperial Stout.  Sierra Nevada’s twist is to add a much more pronounced hop presence to the coffee, muted dark chocolate, and blackstrap molasses tastes.  The result is a long-lingering and absolutely delicious slow sipper, and a definite triumph for Sierra Nevada.  (4 ½ toasts)

    4.5 Toasts

    4.5 Toasts


Old Rasputin – North Coast

9% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market and poured into taster glasses.


North Coast’s Old Rasputin is the beer that re-ignited the Russian Imperial Stout craze for the modern era, and it pours an espresso black with a decently sized, light brown head.  It has a subtle aroma of doctored espresso and some black licorice, along with a slightly sweeter, almost cola-like smell.  Old Rasputin is much more subtle and insinuating on the tongue than Narwhal, combining coffee, very bitter chocolate, and licorice.  The big difference between these two Russian Imperial Stouts is that North Coast’s take leans on British-style malts and watery texture, as opposed to Sierra Nevada’s West Coast super-hopping.

    4 Toasts

    3.5 Toasts

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