Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cellaring notes on Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

North Coast Old Rasputin RISAging beer in your basement is an activity only for the most patient. It's not often when I can manage to put away a good beer and let it sit for over a year before touching it again but I managed to do just that with this particular beer.

Back in March 2008, I bought a 4-pack of North Coast's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. I had reviewed this beer over a year ago but wondered how aging a big 9% ABV like this would stand up to time. I decided to put a single bottle away in a dark basement corner and promised myself I wouldn't open it for at least a year. Well here it is 13 months later and I felt that I could wait no longer. I pulled the bottle out of the corner, dusted it off and put it in the fridge to cool down a bit.

Appearance: Based off my notes from last year, this brew originally poured with a humongous foamy head. Not so this time. While admittedly, I poured this beer a bit colder and into a different shaped beer glass than last time. The head only modestly rose just over a finger width in height but still had enough carbonation to give a decent "hiss" when opened.

Aroma: Immediately, I could smell a wonderful rich malty aroma coming out of the glass. It was full of chocolate and coffee scents and was very inviting. The aroma had certainly not faded over time and was still very enticing.

Taste: As for the taste? I immediately sensed less of an alcohol bite than I remembered last time. The brew was still very roasty and bitter. More bitter than I remembered last time. The Old Rasputin is not a sweet imperial stout by any means. It had quite a dry finish to it and left a slight coating on my tongue.

All of the malts were still there. Very rich, viscous and full bodied. Whatever sweetness there was originally had faded into more of a dry roastiness. Aging had mellowed the hops noticeably but left the maltiness fully intact.

I remember saying that the Old Rasputin was a very remarkable and enjoyable R.I.S. but it had not been my favorite imperial stout. I can still say that today. It was simply dead on for style but was a bit too dry on the finish for my tastes.

Beer FloatPairing Suggestion: I decided this brew needed to be paired with something and I grabbed a big glass of chocolate ice cream and ended up pouring some of the Old Rasputin on top of the ice cream to make a chocolate beer float. Oh my! This was absolutely wonderful. The chocolate and dark malts blended in perfectly with the chocolate ice cream and created a perfect dessert.

After taking a few bites of the beer float and then returning to sip the Old Rasputin it made the brew even better. The ice cream had counteracted the dryness of the brew and made the experience even better.

Overall: While aging may have mellowed the alcohol bite and the hop bitterness a bit, it certainly didn't change the malt profile of this brew. Now in hind site, I realized that for this particular brand of brew, aging improved this beer only slightly. I wonder if further aging would do much more for this beer - probably not, but it could be aged for up to 4-5 years. I believe that I enjoyed the year old Oskar Blues Ten Fidy imperial stout better than this.

Aged beer preference is a personal taste and I invite you to try this yourself. Be sure to take good notes before and after you age a beer. Only then can you make a good judgment for yourself.

So how about you? Have any of you experienced a really good imperial stout that had been aged for at least a year? Let me know how your experiments turned out and post a comment on my Facebook page.

Related articles:
- Original Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout review.
- Cellaring notes on Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.
- Beer cellar aging - a short experiment.
- Cellaring notes on North Coast Old Stock Ale 2008.

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