The Real King Of Beers
This truly is the most wonderful time of the year, stout season is here again! With the weather turning colder nothing warms you from the inside-out quite like a Russian Imperial Stout (RIS). Often assumed to originate Russian this is actually and English style stout brewed back in the 1800’s to win over the Russian Czar. The undisputed king of stouts, the RIS has plenty of big roasted to burnt malt character, lots of rich dark chocolate, high alcohol by volumes and low to moderate levels of carbonation. Hop flavor and bitterness is usually low but does vary for each brewer. You can also expect some mild dark fruit flavors and lots of alcohol heat (or taste) from these huge beers.
You can spend a lot of time and money searching out a rare or limited release RIS. It is worth the hunt, but it might be a while before you get your hands on Three Floyds Dark Lord , Surly Darkness, Big Sky Ivan the Terrible etc. Luckily there are a lot of brewers producing amazing Russian Imperial Stouts that are available seasonally and year round. Below is a quick reference guide of the best and relatively easiest to find Russian Imperial Stouts on the market.
North Coast Old Rasputin: Smooth and easy to drink, this year round RIS is available in 4 packs and has been a staple in my fridge for years. Perfectly roasted malts, with some sharp bitterness from the large dose of hops. Love the hop balance in this beer. Getting some chocolate and espresso notes as well. The alcohol is nearly completely hidden.
Great Divide Yeti: Available year round in both 4 packs and 22 0z bottles. Starts creamy & smooth with roasted malts with sweet chocolate and coffee notes. Balancing hops bring up the rear. More soft roasted malts and some charcoal are in the dry finish. The alcohol is noticeable, but works well and is not overpowering. This beer also has several amazing variants that are available in more limited quantities throughout the year.
Victory Storm King: A great value stout, this RIS is available year round in a 6 pack. Very rich, creamy and complex: roasted malts, molasses, coffee, dark chocolate and nice earthy hop flavors. You could certainly age this, but is a pleasure to drink fresh!
Oskar Blues TEN FIDY: This is a Fall seasonal, but it seems to be produced in enough quantities to be around on our shelves for quite a while. Available in 4 pack cans. This RIS is on the sweet side; molasses, prunes, and dark chocolate syrup. Although a bit hidden by the sweetness there are notes of roast, smoke, and coffee in the background. The 10.5% ABV is VERY well hidden. A little too sweet for my tastes this is a favorite of many in the craft beer world.
Founders Imperial Stout: These 4 packs come a little later in the season, usually in January, and are a bit harder to come by than the others on this list. Thick and creamy, like a stout milkshake got warm and melted. The deep roasted malts assault the taste buds first followed by sweet dark chocolate, some coffee and a good dose of alcohol. A strong showing of hops create a dry and bitter finish. This is pretty intense fresh, I’d suggest putting this beast away for 6 to 12 months for a mellower experience.
Hoppin’ Frog- B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout: This is available year round in 22 oz bottles. Strong (but not sharp) roasted malts along with some coffee and chocolate (blending perfectly into a tasty mocha). The ABV warms but is not obvious in the taste. This is also on the sweeter side but not too much for me.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout: This is winter seasonal is produced between October and March and is available in 4 packs. Robust roasted malt s and chocolate flavors dominate along with a big alcohol heat. From my experience somewhere between 6 to 12 months is the sweet spot on drinking these.
Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout: Probably a closer representation of a traditional English RIS. Roasted malts, bitter chocolate, hints of coffee, smoke/peat, and that perfect sourness that is prevalent is most Sammy Smith beers. The lower 7% ABV makes this a more subtle, yet still complex, Russian Imperial Stout.
I could go on for days but this is a nice sampling of great beers that shouldn’t be too hard for you to find if they are available in your market. We are no strangers to great Russian Imperial Stouts here at Brew / Drink / Run, so don’t forget to check out more RIS reviews we’ve already posted. ‘Tis the season to enjoy the real “king of beers”!