There are tales of Peter the Great, the Russian Tsar who traveled to England in 1689 and said to have fallen in love with strong British porter, which is weird since the style didn’t truly exist for another 30-plus years. Whatever. Peter the Great likely did have some influence on the origination of Russian imperial stouts as his modernization of the Russian economy allowed for the importation of British goods, which included beer. In 1729, Ralph Thrale purchased Anchor Brewery of Southwark, London, and brewed the first Russian imperial stout, exporting the beer to Russia. The stout became significantly more famous, however, after Barclay Perkins & Co. purchased the Anchor Brewery from Thrale’s widow in 1781. The taste of the Russian court and ruler Catherine the Great for the stout was a thing. Barclay Perkins Co. continued manufacturing the beer until 1955, when they merged with the nearby Courage Brewery. After that, production of the “original” stout continued as the classic Courage Imperial Russian Stout until 1993, when it was retired. Today, the Russian imperial stout is known for its rich maltiness and strength. In fact, these stouts can be quite intense, with varying amounts of roast and a range of sweet to bitter flavors. They’re most often characterized by a lingering malty finish that is warm, with port-like qualities. As part of Peaks & Pints February Stout Month curated by Stoutula, we present an in-house flight of Russian imperial stouts — a flight we’re calling Peaks and Pints Beer Flight: Russian Imperial Stout.
Peaks and Pints Beer Flight: Russian Imperial Stout
Pike XXXXX Stout
XXXXX marks the spot. While stouts share many key attributes, there is still plenty to differentiate them. For example, all stouts are very dark beers and they all have roasted grain notes. They all have alcohol, fruity esters, hop bitterness, hop character and residual sweetness too, but it is the prominence or subtlety of these attributes that differentiate one style from another. Pike Brewing’s XXXXX Extra Stout arrives one X short of the boozy Russian Imperial Stout, but its flavor is still five-times supersized over dry stouts such as Guinness. Wafts of dark chocolate and coffee tantalize the nose; though, in the flavor, rich dark burnt malt flavor dominates the palate, molasses sweetness in the middle, with dark coffee and espresso that lend bitterness throughout the taste. Extra delicious, you might say.
Black Raven Grandfather Raven
In the creator role, and in the Raven’s role as the totem and ancestor, the Raven is often addressed as Grandfather Raven. With this stately sense of pomp and tradition we bring you our imperial stout. Black Raven Brewing’s Russian imperial stout is full of rich dark caramel notes, unsweetened chocolate, and hints of coffee aromas and flavors. Stately indeed, but at 9.5% ABV, perhaps it is just a vain attempt to encourage the trickster spirit to act respectably. NOTE: This is different from the bourbon barrel aged version, Great Grandfather Raven.
Deschutes The Abyss 2024
The most formally recognized and award-winning barrel-aged brand for Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, The Abyss is an exclusive barrel-aged Russian imperial stout that is released every November. Brewed with licorice, cherry bark, and molasses, the dark malt character is amplified, creating layers and layers of flavors that can be unraveled as the beer warms in the glass. Deschutes utilizes a Trappist yeast capable of handling the high alcohol and ages in a blend of new American oak, bourbon, and wine barrels.
8 Wired Gorky Park
In New Zealand, the no. 8 wire is a gauge of wire that is used for electric fencing, which the Kiwis have always used to create and fix anything. The wire inspired Soren Eriksen to launch 8 Wired Brewery in Marlborough, New Zealand, and has thrived through simply renting supplies from the Renaissance Brewing Company. Their Gorky Park is a big, heavy Russian imperial stout aged for 2 years in American bourbon barrels with strong bourbon notes.
Oskar Blues Barrel Aged Ten Fidy
12.9%, 98 IBU
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Russian imperial stout is made with enormous amounts of 2-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops with the malt blanket hiding the high bitterness but not flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee. When the brewers age it in bourbon barrels for a year, the nose on Ten Fidy now touches on oak and spirits with an underlying richness. The sip is clean and crisp with a rich and slightly sweet mid palate braced by a cleansing tannin. It’s rich and sweet, but not too rich and sweet.