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Weekly Beer Review: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
North Coast Brewing Company
Grade: A-

Your humble Beer Geek is on hiatus and is digging deep into the archives for some reviews to give a second showing. Some beers get better with age, but does my writing? Old Rasputin was one of my earlier exposures to the world of hardcore DARK imperial stouts. I’ve found others since that balance the intensity a bit better, but when you just want to rage at the winter like a Russian mystic, Rasputin’s there.

On my liquor-store excursion to find some new microbrews, I walked right past the rack containing Old Rasputin, and thank heaven one of my friends started laughing at the label or I may have missed out on it entirely. This dark beer takes its name from a fittingly-dark character. Grigory Rasputin, aka the “mad monk” of the Romanovs, played himself off as a monk, healer, prophet, and psychic. In reality he had ungodly amounts of sex with the ladies of the Romanov court and helped spur the murder of the Tsar and his family. Pretty badass … I was eager to see if the beer measured up.

The Brewer’s Pitch:
North Coast is surprisingly close-mouthed about one of their major beers. They class it as a “super-premium,” along with two others. They do mention that it is “rich” and “intense,” which are par for the course with any dark stout. They focus more heavily on the awards Old Rasputin has won, including eight World Beer Championships Gold awards. The liquor store I found it at tags high-quality beers with their scores, and Old Rasputin had an astounding 100 (a perfect score). This beer was set to blow me out of my shoes.

The Beer:
OK, first of all, this beer is BLACK. Totally, opaquely black, even in a Pilsner glass held in front of a bright light. This boded well. This beer bears nearly no resemblance to more conventional stouts such as Guinness. Old Rasputin is extremely strong without being overpoweringly bitter. There is very little hoppiness here, and what you get is mostly a highly-toasted, almost burned flavor of malt. LOTS of malt. Plus, it’s 9% alcoholthis beer has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It’s quite good, but almost too much, and by the end of the bottle, the beer was starting to get overpowering. For the impact of the beer, though, it is extremely affordable.

The Breakdown:
Drink this beer cool, but not cold. It really does make you feel warmed through its heavy malty taste and would make a good drink after coming in from the cold during the winter. I wouldn’t recommend drinking Old Rasputin along with a meal, thoughthe flavor is too strong and complex. It would go well with a strongly-flavored snack such as pepper jack cheese or venison sausage, or something manly like that. If you’re not big into heavy or strong beers it’s still worth a look, but I’d find another adventurous taster to split a bottle with.

The Bottom Line:
Rasputin was disemboweled, poisoned with cyanide, shot, and frozen. He responded by trying to STRANGLE one of the men who shot him. They calmly responded by shooting him three more times, tying him up, wrapping him in carpet, and throwing him in a river. When his body finally washed up he had escaped both the rope and the carpet, but drowned under the ice on the river. If he’d had a drink of Old Rasputin to warm him up before getting thrown in, he probably would have walked away from that, too.

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