Blue Collar Brew Review – Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy
Russian Imperial Stout

The first leg of Friday’s beer run took me to the beloved Morris Beer Store. It was early afternoon and a few customers were lined up at the counter exchanging chit-chat and money with Ashley the Cute and her perpetual smile. I dropped off printouts and went my way over to the craft shelf not really expecting anything new. But I was pleasantly surprised.

There were a few beers from breweries that I wasn’t familiar with, with beers for the winter season. I made a mental note to refresh my memory on what sort of taste to expect from the winter warmers that were now blooming on the shelves. My initial thoughts were that the winter beers tended towards the darker, maltier and more robust styles. Yeah, right up my alley. Winter may not be so bad after all, if my hunch turns out to be correct. I spotted at least three new winter beers on the shelf.

Once at the end of the shelf, I reversed direction and rescanned, his time examining labels and checking on ABVs and bottled-on dates. I was about about to choose a winter beer when I spotted something different in the Leinenkugel section.

It was a brown four-pack. At first, I thought this was a beer that was out of place on the shelf until I bent down and pulled out the carton. Holy Crap! It was Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout. What? Leinenkugel? Russian Imperial Stout? Hmm.

When I hear about Leinenkugel in conversation, I usually think about their $6.99 typical price tags and then I think about their Summer Shandy and their Honey Weiss beers. Lawnmower beers to be exact. Leinie has probably been a craft beer brewery before it became popular. Now I had this Imperial stout staring me in the face. Three things made me buy this beer:

1. It was from Leinenkugel’s. How good could it possibly be?
2. It was a Russian Imperial stout. How good could it possibly be?
3. It was 9.5% ABV and with a cost of $10.49. How could I possibly pass this by?

I grabbed the quad-pack and strode up to the checkout. I gladly forked over the dough while gazing into Ashley’s eyes and her pleasant smile. With a sigh, I made my way towards the door when Gail, the Beer Maven, interrupted my path with some news of upcoming beers and talk of raspberry lambics. One of these days I’ll try another fruit beer and renew my uncaring opinion of them.

I stashed my loot in the garage aux fridge due to the keg of homebrew taking up all the space in my own beer fridge. Saturday night may be full of surprises.

When beer time finally rolled around, I was ready. I started a fire in the ol’ Sotz, had a freshly rinsed Duvel snifter ready and fired up the Mac. I took some time to examine the front label more closely:

Dark and complex with 11 malts and grains balanced by three different and distinct hops.


9.5% Alc/Vol.

Who is/was Big Eddy? The neck label revealed that:

Our Brewery was born on the Big Eddy Spring in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

I wondered how I could possibly be disappointed. I popped open the first cap and noticed that it was a twist-off. Perhaps when Leinie finally runs out of their last batch of screw-off bottles, they’ll “graduate” to bottle-opener bottles like other craft brewers.

The beer poured very dark and thick into the glass. I took the liberty of not tilting the glass on the pour and was rewarded by a nice, half-inch head all brown and chocolatey looking. The density of the liquid didn’t allow any light to pass through as if it was black hole. The aroma was slight and had a bit of sweet fruitiness to it.

The first sip took me a little by surprise in the fact that I was expecting a giant wallop to the tongue, when actually, all that came through were the flavors of a delicious stout. However, let me say vehemently that this is not your everyday Guinness.

As I took sip after sip I was waiting for something to happen. Perhaps my taste buds would awake soon enough to grab a hold of a minuscule flavor or else an oak log would fall out of the bottle. But there was nothing but the flavor of this stout.

The malts were nice and roasty-toasty and there was a bit of sweetness that came at the beginning as well as that typical dry finish. No chocolate, caramel or coffee tastes to speak of. This was a nice, robust pleasant tasting stout. I’d say that if one was to look up the definition of a stout in a beer dictionary, a picture of this beer would be there. This beer is the definition of how an Imperial stout should taste. Pure and simple.

Although there’s nothing to brag about in this brew, there’s also nothing to complain about. It’s one outstanding feature is it’s ABV of 9.5%. But then again, that would be a defining characteristic of a Russian Imperial stout.

There’s nothing here that will blow you away when you drink this beer, but drinking this beer comes easy. It’s enjoyable sippage right to the bottom of the glass. However, hidden in its deep dark roasted malt is the fact that this beer just may sneak up you from behind and clobber you upside the back of your head. This beer is like a bone stock Corvette. Boring by its very nature, but still enjoyable to drive and still a Corvette.

I’ll say that this beer is the best example of a Russian Imperial stout without going overboard on the ingredients. This beer is delicious in a girl-next-door kind of way. And like that girl, this beer will mature over time into something that’s even better. Three words: You Must Try This Beer. Ok. Five words.

The SixPackTech ratings for Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout are:

Taste: A- > Drink with a Russian accent. ZA VAS!
Smoothness: A+ > Like sable going down.
Drinkability: A > So good. So potentially deadly.
Bang for the buck: B+ > Ten and a half for nine and a half times four.
ABV: 9.5%
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: It looks like burnt coffee. I’ve seen mud lighter than this. (sip) Ookgh! Oh, this is the worst one yet. It’s so thick. Gah! (You looked just like Catherine the Great just then.)

#3 son (Jim) renders his opinion: Smells sweet. (sip) Full bodied and not too bitter. (sip) I would say overall it’s a good beer to start with at a party and it’s a good beer to share, but with its ABV I wouldn’t want to stick with it all night. I’d get to a pleasant state and move on to something else to maintain. Probably one of the better stouts that I’ve tasted. (There’s hope that this kid will turn out OK. That was him hugging the carboy in last week’s review of Sweet Georgia Brown homebrew.)

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Edie Falco

Russian Tsar




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