Beer Review: North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin

Name: Old Rasputin
Brewing Company: North Coast Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%

From North Coast Brewing’s page for Old Rasputin:

Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

The Old Rasputin brand image is a drawing of Rasputin with a phrase in Russian encircling it — A sincere friend is not born instantly.

The Russian Imperial Stout is perhaps the biggest, boldest of all stouts. In most cases, it is the stout with the most pronounced hop presence. As the name implies, this style received the name because they were first brewed for Emperor Peter the Great of Russia. (or Catherine the Great?) Regardless, North Coast’s take on the style aptly named Old Rasputin is probably the most iconic and widely known American interpretation of the style.

I’ve had a few Russian Imperial Stouts (I even reviewed one from Carton) but generally, the barrel-aged versions are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. For the longest time, the hop assertiveness wasn’t for me. Since I started enjoying more hop-forward beers I wanted to give one a try, one that wasn’t barrel aged so why not go for the granddaddy or “ded” of the style?

The most noticeable element, initially, is how dark this beer is. I’ve had PLENTY of stouts, over 200, and Old Rasputin is one of the darkest stouts I’ve ever poured. This beer has presence, especially with that old Russian mystic staring at you from the bottle. The most pronounced element of the beer’s aroma was the roasted malts, I think. Atop the beer is a thick, fluffy head that looks like a frothy cappuccino head.

That aroma is a pretty good indicator of what to expect with the beer. There’s a lot of bittersweet in the beer, maybe some chocolate hints and maybe even some toffee. I’ve seen some comments / reviews of the beer that mention hints of cherry, but I didn’t get that at all. Most of these flavors come from the malts but the hops aren’t going to let you forget about them.

The hops have a big bite, but not unpleasant for me. The roasted malt brings most of the flavor in the beer and their potential sweetness is balanced out the hop presence. While this is a big, flavorful beer and the hops are assertive, I would have guessed the IBU lower than 75 IBU. In many ways, this almost a chewable beer for how thick and robust it is.

I had a bottle of Old Rasputin many years ago, long before being on untappd, so I can’t remember exactly how the beer worked for me. Now? Seems like it should be an annual acquisition as nights get cooler and the big bastard of a beer will help warm the soul.

Unsurprisingly, North Coast brews a barrel-aged version of the beer that I may have to try. As it stands, Old Rasputin is rightfully an iconic beer of the style. With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and tag this beer as an American Craft Beer Classic.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

For a great history of Old Rasputin, check out Jeff Alworth’s piece on All About Beer.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Imperial Czar (Level 5)

Originally created and brewed for Russian Emperor Peter the Great, the Russian Imperial Stout has a history as rich as it’s roasty, hoppy flavor. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Russian Imperial Stout!

2X (Level 31)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 155 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.

 

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