Posts Tagged With: Russian Imperial Stout

TYIB Beer Tasting Extravaganza #1

To commemorate our one year of beer anniversary, TYIB held its very first–and very not last–beer tasting at Bar Great Harry. In order to delve into a discussion on the the stylistic nuances of beer, we reviewed two beers of three different styles. In a fight to the death type of situation, the reviewers pitted beer against beer, searching for the ultimate champion of the style.

that's right.

that’s right.

For this tasting, we explored the Black IPA, the Russian Imperial Stout, and the IPA. And the hangover (for some). The contenders were…

Yakima Glory, Victory Brewing Co.
There Will Be Black, Brooklyn Brewery
Titan IPA, Great Divide Brewing Co.
Hoppagedon, Napa Smith Brewery
Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Co.
Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Brewing Co.

cheers, all!

cheers, all!

The following reviews reflect the group’s opinions of each beer.

The Black IPAs

For our exploration of the Black IPA–a maltier sibling of the IPA–we reviewed Victory’s Yakima Glory and Brooklyn Brewery’s There Will Be Black, part of their Brewmaster’s series. Yakima Glory is named as such for the hops grown in the Yakima Valley in Pennsylvania.


Yakima Glory, Victory Brewing Co., 8.7% ABV


Sight: Dark brown, burnt amber body.

Smell: Sweet chocolate and caramel aromas are quickly balanced by a hoppy citrusy smell.

Taste: Like its smell, there is an initial sweet, malty flavor that is almost immediately overpowered by a hop attack. The last note is a piney, earthy flavor.

Overall: For the most part, the reviewers took a liking to Yakima Glory. One reviewer said it was “good for a cold winter night,” while another called it “fierce.” Fellow beer enthusiast Amanda noted that it while it fell short of what she would expect of a Black IPA, it was redeemably well-balanced.

 beeruse-copy (average score= 3.375)

There Will Be Black, Brooklyn Brewery, 7.5%


Sight: Deep purple-y black body. Much darker than the Yakima.

Smell: The dominant aromas are chocolate, coffee, cherry, and dirt.

Taste: Some reviewers commented that There Will Be Black has a considerably weaker flavor than the Yakima Glory. One reviewer said it tasted like cold carbonated coffee. Other flavors include cherry, bark, and maple. We all agreed that it tasted like a Decello milk chocolate covered cherry…you know, the cheap kind.

Overall: While Yakima Glory’s take on a Black IPA was that of balance, Brooklyn Brewery focused on infusing as much rich, malty flavors into their Black IPA as possible. While not a fan favorite, reviewers were intrigued by the fruity, smokey flavors of There Will Be Black.

 (average score= 3)


After much discussion, the group named Victory’s Yakima Glory the clear winner of this round. However, we did agree that Brooklyn’s There Will Be Black is a better example of the Black IPA. For an everyday drinking beer, we recommend picking up a six-pack of the deliciously balanced (and alcoholic) Yakima. If you’re looking to further your understanding of the Black IPA, give Brooklyn’s a try.



For our exploration of the IPA, we selected the only two IPAs on tap: Napa Smith’s Hopageddon (a double IPA) and Great Divide’s Titan Indian Pale Ale.


Titan IPA, Great Divide, 7.1% ABV


Sight: Clear chestnut/amber/golden body.

Smell: Some of the more creative descriptions of the evening were written about the smell of this beer. These include “grandma’s hard candy that falls out of your mouth” and “pizza dough cough drops.”

Taste: Again, there were some interesting adjectives associated with the flavor of this beer. Most agreed that it tastes like flavors found in a bar and a barn: there is a bit of a liquor, apple schnapps flavor with a grassy, hay taste.  One reviewer described the flavor like that of a starchy potato chip.

Overall: Titan is a complex, multi-faceted beer that reviewer Amanda called the “sexually ambiguous store clerk”  as well as a “golden mystery.” This IPA has an unusual fruity starch flavor that is certainly worth trying once. And probably only once.

beeruse-copy (average score= 3.66)

Hopageddon, Napa Smith, 9.2%


Sight: Cloudy dark golden body that looks like apple cider.

Smell: It smells like a breakfast of apple juice, cinnamon toast, and a fruity cereal.

Taste: Like it smells, this beer tastes like eating an overripe apple. There’s an lingering sweetness that balances the intense flowery hop flavor. Someone said it tasted like a cider with some hops.

Overall: For a double IPA dubbed Hopageddon, the group agreed that it was a dud. None of us were blown away by any sort of hops explosion that could usher in a new world. Napa Smith has here an odd double IPA that’s quite creamy for its style. Most reviewers appreciated the uniqueness of the beer, while others were simply confused and didn’t enjoy it (well, maybe just its high ABV).

beeruse-copy (average score= 3.5)


Both of the IPAs we reviewed were IPAs found off of the beaten path. Great Divide’s Titan is unique for an IPA and Napa Smith’s is the least hoppy and most fruity Double IPA of all time. While reviewers thought both were interesting enough, Titan IPA ends up living up to its name and comes out with the highest score in battle.


The Russian Imperial Stouts

For our exploration of the Russian Imperial Stout–a historic style emerging in the 18th century–we reviewed two of the best: North Coast’s iconic Old Rasputin and Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout.


Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing, 9.0% ABV


Sight: Dark brown body with a small, creamy head that leaves a thick lacing as it travels down the glass.

Smell: Strong aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, and malts.

Taste: Reviewer Erica said it tastes like an espresso milkshake. Others described it as a german chocolate cake and a creamy chocolately dessert.

Overall: Surprisingly fluffy and airy, Old Rasputin was described as, pardon our French, “creamy as fuck.” Reviewer Amanda called it a “smooth journey through seduction” and that it was a “lovable” beer. Yeah, Rasputin, you creamy mystic you.

 (average score= 4)

Russian Imperial Stout, Stone Brewing, 10.5% ABV


Sight: It looks like oil, with a pitch black body and no head.

Smell: Reviewer Suzy said that it smelled like “a shot I would be uncomfortable taking.” That shot must be Jameson, because others described the smell as such. There is also a woody and chocolately aroma.

Taste: We agreed that Stone’s Stout tastes a helluva lot better than it smells. The dominant flavors are fresh coffee, mocha, and dark chocolate, with a faint cherry note.

Overall: By this point in the night, there was more yelling of adjectives and less taking of notes However, we did manage to get our hands on one reviewer’s notes that summed up this beer by saying that it was “powerful, complex, and commands respect.” Thanks, Amanda, for your expert documentation skills!

 (average score= 4.08)


This final face off was the most hotly debated of the night (hello, the scores were 4 and 4.08). For readers at home, Amanda came up with this analogy on the fly: Old Rasputin is the lovely wife, with its creaminess, soothing quality, and warmth, and Stone’s Imperial is the gorgeous mistress, with it’s silky, dark, and intoxicating nature  (literally…at 10%, this was the most alcoholic of the evening). So, what do you want? The lovely wife or the gorgeous mistress? Either way, you win. These two are are both spectacular Russian Imperials–debatably the best of the style. The end of the night was a bit hazy after drinking all of these high ABV ales, but if I correctly recall, Old Rasputin, our lovely wife, was the overall winner for its exceptional creaminess.

beer makes us smile. the end.

beer makes us smile. the end.

Concluding Remarks: So, beer is awesome. After a night of smelling, moderate-to-heavy drinking, and discussing these beers, I think all participants walked away with a renewed love of all things malts and hops. We would like to thank everyone who came out and made this event possible, as well as Bar Great Harry for pouring us a gazillion beers. Stay tuned for more tastings and events in the future!

Categories: India Pale Ale, Stout | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lagunitas Imperial Stout

Beer:  Imperial Stout
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.9%


Serving Style: Draft
Glassware: Mug
Drinking Establishment: The Blind Tiger, NYC
Primary Consumer(s): Ally & Kerensa



Sight: Black with a golden brown tinge. The creamy tan head dissipates quickly.

Scent: Roasted, with a hint of bread and a note of astringent alcohol.

Flavor: Initial note of roasted alcohol, as if the alcohol has been blended with molasses; but then a strong flavor of floral, earthy fruit comes through, like that of papaya or passionfruit. (Weird.)

Feel:  Thin, with virtually no carbonation (as is the case with cask beer).

When we hear “Imperial Stout,” we think bold and roasted–exactly what this beer is not.  Call us crazy, but we taste the fruits of the Amazon here.  Granted, this Lagunitas offering was in cask form, which tends to bring out the fruit and earth notes of a beer (there was a bit of peat moss mixed in with the passionfruit and papaya), but the cask did nothing to enhance our beer-drinking experience.

Concluding remarks: While we will not be picking up the Lagunitas Imperial Stout in the near future, we are considering developing a recipe for a passionfruit beer…

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Spider Bite Boris the Spider

Beer:  Boris the Spider
Brewery: Spider Bite Beer Company
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.0%


Serving Style: Draft
Glassware: Snifter
Drinking Establishment: The Blind Tiger, NYC
Primary Consumer(s): Ally & Kerensa



Sight: Opaque black, with a thin mocha head that recedes to an even thinner layer of tiny carbonation bubbles.

Scent: Sweet, like a Boston cream pie–mostly cream, with a hint of chocolate.  In a blind taste–er, smell test, we’d call this a Milk Stout.

Flavor: Overly sweet, with some roasted malts.  Like its aroma alluded to, it tastes like a Milk Stout, with a hint of licorice, and even ethyl alcohol.

Feel:  Creamy, with a low carbonation that gets overpowered by its creaminess.  As it rests, it loses some of its viscosity.

Boris the Spider is not representative of his Russian Imperial heritage; he’s not robust, or malty, or bitter, but simply offers a generic sweetness more indicative of–can we reiterate it enough?–a Milk Stout.  Where are the eight different malts used to brew this guy?  Where are the complex aroma and flavor he boasts?  Maybe he left them on his Aeroflot flight over from Sheremetyevo International.

Concluding remarks: This is all spider and no bite. While Spider Bite Beer Company is a local brewery located in Holbrook, Long Island, we would rather take a quick jaunt over to St. Petersburg than drink Boris again.

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St. Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe

Beer:  St. Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe
Brewery: McAuslan Brewing
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.2%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Ally’s Apartment
Primary Consumer: Ally



Sight: Looks like a well-made shot of espresso.  Pitch black and completely opaque.  A thick, deep chestnut-brown head, about 2 fingers worth, that settles to a thin layer of bubbles, big and small.  Nice lacing.

Scent: Roasted malts, coffee, vanilla, and chocolate, all in perfect unison.  A slight note of alcohol.

Flavor:  Bitter hops are the predominant flavor, but the coffee and bittersweet chocolate notes help balance it.

Feel:  Smooth, full-bodied, with moderate carbonation.  A bit of a lingering tingle from the hops, but this fades as the beer rests.

St. Ambroise, from Canadian microbrewery McAuslan, is like Québec’s version of Brooklyn Brewery; and just like Brooklyn, they have some stand-out beers–the Stout Impériale Russe among them.  This Special Reserve brew is nice and bold, like a Russian Imperial Stout should be, and the flavors are well-balanced–not too bitter, not too sweet.  I wish I had the patience to age it, because I’m sure it would bump it up to 5 Pint Glass status; and I wish I lived in Canada so I could drink it more regularly.

Concluding remarks: No need to fly to Russia to find a great Imperial Stout; just drive on up to Montréal.  Za vashe zdorovye!  Santé!  Cheers!

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Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout

Beer:  Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout
Brewery: Nøgne Ø
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Pours a thin, oily, opaque dark brown body. The tiniest modicum of a dark mocha head emerges after it sits for a few seconds, but then quickly recedes. 

Scent: Initial smell is a straightforward sweet roasted malt scent. There is also an overpowering note of thick molasses. The undertones are candied fig and dark chocolate.  

Flavor: This, like some of the other beers I had earlier in the month, changes drastically from first sip to end note. The first flavor is not altogether pleasant; it’s sharp, bitter, and has a bite. However, the taste moves to a sweet, although bitter, fresh coffee flavor and ultimately tastes like pouring sugar into an espresso. At the end, the predominant flavor is dark chocolate with a bit of roasted malt bitterness and smoke.

Feel: Exceptionally thin, silky body with some carbonation.

Nøgne Ø hails from Grimstad, Norway. If you’re wondering what the Norwegian-t0-English translation of “Nøgne Ø” is, you’re in luck. The bottle tells us that Nøgne Ø  (“naked island”) was a term Henrik Ibsen used to describe the islands among the rough waters off Norway’s coast, which is where the brewery is located. While I am not sure I would survive on this naked island with only this Imperial Stout and an anthology of Ibsen, I could certainly pass a few days knocking back a few of these to pass time. However, after day 6,  I think I would  start collecting ingredients to brew my own beer. Oh, and maybe start thinking about trying to find food.

Concluding remarks: Overall, this is a solid beer and a fine example of a Russian Imperial Stout. However, do yourself a favor and go get the Founder’s Imperial Stout instead!

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Founders Imperial Stout

Beer:  Imperial Stout
Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 1o.5%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Opaque dark-dark-dark brown body with a deep orange-red edge. No head to mention.

Scent: This smells absolutely incredible, with waves of deep dark chocolate and espresso. This might be the best smelling Stout of the month!

Flavor: I know we have used the term bitter Baker’s chocolate time and time again, but this actually tastes  like someone melted down twenty bars into liquid form. There is also a unique combination of deep, almost ashen malt and a slight twang of bitter hop in here. If you take away anything about Stouts this month, let it be that allowing a Stout to sit for even just five to ten minutes will provide you with a whole new set of delicious flavors to experience. After five minutes, this Imperial Stout has transformed from bitter chocolate to a smoother, impossibly rich, dark chocolate. 

Feel: Medium, viscous body with appropriate carbonation (i.e. just feels right).

Concluding remarks: This is one helluva solid beer. This might be the best straight-up Imperial Stout I have had this month (not counting derivations such as coffee stouts–ahem, AleSmith). I can totally imagine Catherine the Great going to town–er, St. Petersburg–to acquire Founders Imperial Stout by the keg. Oh, but your Highness, tis only 10am! Are you sure you desire another Founders? To which she would reply, заткнитесь вы ничтожные наложницу и принеси мне моем десятом основателей имперского толстый! сейчас!

All in all, this is a quintessential Russian Imperial Stout, from its rich mouthfeel to its dark, roasted, dare-I-say decadent complexity. This is beer opulence at its best!

Categories: Stout | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout

Beer: Oak Aged Yeti
Brewery: Great Divide
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.5%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pilsner glass
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Black as the night in which you wouldn’t want to encounter a Yeti. Triumphant billowy dark bronze head, filled with huge carbonation bubbles. Lacing on glass looks like, well, lace. The head fades down into the brim of a Turkish coffee.

Scent: It smells like drunk. Tons of booze upon first waft. Then it gets fun: a strong hop quickly vanishes and is replaced with intense vanilla and marshmallows. As it is oak aged, the vanilla is the strongest note, and finishes with a date aroma.

Flavor: Vanilla, to coffee, to some bitter unknown, to bitter chocolate, to wood, to general dessert flavor. It kind of tastes like licking a tree, too.

Feel: Very smooth, medium mouthfeel. Low carbonation.

Concluding remarks: Don’t drink this alongside food; it will ruin your palate. This Yeti is a flavor destroyer, crushing all other inferior flavors in its path. It is an incredibly bold and powerful beer that needs to be sipped. Ultimately, it really doesn’t get much better than Great Divide’s Oak Aged Yeti. They do have a number of other Yetis, so look out: Belgian Style Yeti, Bretty Yeti (brewed with lager yeasts), Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, and regular Yeti. From what I hear, the Oak Aged (THIS ONE), Belgian Style, and Bretty reign supreme. Why not go ahead and do a little at-home taste test of your own?

Get on the Yeti bandwagon, uh, truck.

Categories: Stout | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout

Beer: Imperial Extra Double Stout
Brewery: Albert Le Coq
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Pitch black body with a garnet hue. Dark brown head, frothy with carbonation bubbles.

Scent: Smells like sweet red wine. And leather…polish. (WHAT?)

Flavor: Damp ground and overripe (almost rotten) fruit. There’s a taste of top soil, vinegar, and soy sauce. The funkiness and tanginess is overpowering…

Feel: Thin but sticky body with light carbonation.

Concluding remarks: Is Sour Rank Stout a style? Before I go into why Albert Le Coq’s Imperial Extra Double Stout is the first pour-out of the year, the following is a little bit about why I picked it up at all.

The label states that Albert Le Coq, a Belgian businessman who founded a brewery in Tartu, Estonia, ordered the exportation of the Imperial Stout from England to Russia and the Baltic in the early 1800s. The Imperial Stout was so popular in Russia, that A. Le Coq was invited to brew in the Russian Empire in the 1900s; the first Imperial Extra Double Stout left the brewery in Tartu in 1912. However, with the Russian Revolution and World War I, A. Le Coq’s brewery was nationalized by the Bolshevik government and production ceased. This beer, the label says, pays homage to A. Le Coq, “without whom this classic style would never have reached its legendary place in the world of beers.” This Imperial revival was brewed by Harvey & Sons of Sussex, England, but under the supervision of the board of trustees of A. Le Coq and Tartu Brewery in Estonia.

SO! How could I not pick up a beer that claims to be the first Imperial Russian Stout in the world? And it was brewed in 1999, thus aging for 13 years. I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer this old before, if only because it just seems a little too old.  However, I put my trust in A. Le Coq and Estonia.

This was a foolish mistake. This beer earns a half point only because it looks like a Stout and it gives me a strange sense of nostalgia of subpar European macrolagers and Flemish sours. However, I think this beer has just sat a few years too long, and thus, it’s sort of unfair for me to review it in its current state. But, I did a little research, and it seems like the recently bottled Le Coqs are palatable. So, if you can find a 2008-2012, maybe give it a try, at least to say you’ve had an Estonian-style Stout. But absolutely do not buy something before 2004. Really, don’t do it, unless you’ve always wondered what carbonated shoe/soy sauce would taste like.

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