Saturday, March 22, 2008

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout review

North Coast Old RasputinI'm starting to appreciate the beer rating sites and their impressions of a beer ahead of time. I bought today's beer simply on reputation alone and decided to judge it for myself. North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg, California makes an imperial stout that goes by the name of North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. This beer has won over 12 Gold Medals in the Imperial Stout category over the last 12 years. So does this beer live up to it's medals? Let me tell you. This beer is NOT for beginners. Holy cow does this beer have a kick. Here's how this beer poured.

I chose an English pint glass for this beer. The beer had been sitting in my basement for about 2 hours after purchasing it cold from the store beer cooler. I tried to carefully pour this beer into the glass but was surprised to see a huge head building from the get go. The head got so big that I had to stop pouring about 2/3rds of the way. The picture shows just how high the head got. I had to let this beer settle a bit before I could empty the short squatty 12 oz bottle. The brown head alone told me this beer was going to be impressive. The beer alone was as dark as a stout can be. No light gets through this beer. Immediately, I encountered a rich chocolate and coffee aroma but with a noticeable hop kick. This beer was measured at an IBU of 75 and an ABV of 9% so it's not going to be a beer taken lightly. It's good to let this beer sit for a while before imbibing as you want to let a good stout breathe.

The first taste was intense. Malts, hops and a definite kick. This is not a beer for beginners folks. I mean you get hit up front with taste and a lot of it. It is a bit more bitter than more stouts and finishes dry. If you're drinking it cold then you're not getting the full experience. Let this beer warm up a bit. This imperial stout has an initial bitter flavor but as it warms and you drink more of it you notice the rich dark malts coming through. You can feel the alcohol kicking in soon after starting this beer. Perhaps this is why it comes in a 4-pack. You're not going to be drinking a lot of these in one sitting. The more I drink of this, the more I like it. I'm calling this stuff High Octane Molasses. It's not thick but it does come with a lot of flavor.

Beer Advocate gives this beer a solid "A". give this a 100% ranking and a 4.11 out of 5 ranking. Solid praise to be sure. If you're not used to an imperial stout then I'd suggest starting with a Guinness and working your way up.

I love the label on this beer. An old fashioned picture of the Russian Rasputin with a raised hand that looks like he is giving you his blessing (or his curse). I suggest you drink this beer paired with a meal because of it's high alcohol rating. It's a powerful beer and it won't disappoint. It's a well made stout. Go easy on this one else it may kick your ass. I'm going to give this a 3.7 out of 5 ranking. It's not the top imperial stout on my list due to it's higher bitterness, but it does rank up there as a quality beer.

I also suggest aging this beer as it is known to improve and mellow the alcohol kick and bitterness.

Update: I cellared this beer for another year and reviewed it. See how a year changes this brew.

Related articles:
- North Coast Old Stock 2008 review.
- North Coast Red Seal Ale review.
- Beer cellar aging - a short experiment.
- Samuel Adams Imperial Stout review.
- Avery The Czar Imperial Stout review.
- Deschutes The Abyss review.

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