Heady Stout A Perfect Fireside Drink
Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout is a 9 percent alcohol ale from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, Calif.
English brewers as early as the 1700s were exporting a dark, roasty brew to the Russian Imperial court as well as other Baltic states. These ales were brewed with higher alcohol to survive the trip. This American version pours black with cherry highlights on a lit edge. It has a cream-colored head that falls quickly and leaves no lacing. Aroma is of black coffee and chocolate.
Taste is overwhelmingly roasted malts with burnt cocoa, coffee and chocolate flavors all competing for attention. It finishes with an almost smoky sensation that invites the next sip. Snuggle up with a loved one on a cold winter night and enjoy this wonderfully complex, full-bodied ale while gazing at a dancing fire.
Pair with chocolate covered cherries or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to your pint for an amazing float.
Rating: 5 caps
I’ve only taken one real vacation in my life — a trip where I actually wanted to go and wasn’t beholden to someone else’s agenda.
In the mid-2000s I was lucky enough to make the trip to a resort in Jamaica. It was one of the all-inclusive places with food and drink available almost 24 hours a day and enough entertainment you never had to step foot off the grounds if you didn’t want to.
Well, I didn’t want to and spent the early part of the first day hooked up to a tap of Red Stripe, Jamaica’s signature lager. It was a great way to unwind after a long flight — and a seemingly longer drive — during the sunny hours, but by night, I was ready to seek out a barleypop of a darker color.
Unfortunately, the only place stocking stouts was the resort’s piano bar, which didn’t open until 9 p.m. I was waiting on them when they opened the door.
The piano bar stocked Guinness — always a favorite. The bartender popped the top, and I grabbed it and took a sip.
This was not Guinness.
Well, it was, but not the Guinness I was used to. Turns out, Guinness has a Jamaican brewery that bottles it’s own version right there on the island. For whatever reason, the Jamaican version results in a different taste.
It was still mostly Guinness, as stout and dark as the original, but with some extra flavors thrown in. Most prominent was a slightly sweet taste, like a touch of dark molasses or sorghum. And it was a delight.
Old Rasputin reminds me of the Jamaican Guinness. All the richness and body of a stout, but just a hint of something sweet lurking under the surface.
With Old Rasputin though, that isn’t the only thing lurking. This Russian imperial stout has a bite to it:
9 percent alcohol by volume. Luckily it comes in 12-ounce bottles instead of one of those oversized pint-plus bottles.
Still one bottle gets you a fair ways down the road to buzzed town.
It may be a brute — much like its namesake — but Old Rasputin is definitely worth a try if you enjoy stouts.
Rating: 5 caps
One Cap: Put it back in the horse!
Two Caps: Consume only if the other choice is Tijuana tap water or Coors Light.
Three Caps: Acceptable without standing out. The Tito Jackson of beer, if you will.
Four Caps: Nice beer that rises above most but may not deliver enough to be considered great.
Five Caps: Truly great beer that delivers on all counts. A credit to its style. Could only be better if served by scantily clad concubines.
Six Caps: Any five cap beer served by scantily clad concubines.