This day, Thursday, was a great day to be alive. My place of employment granted us the day off and I had all this time on my hands. And… no work tomorrow of course. With a beer hankering in my gut, I decided to opt for a rare Thursday night review to share with you. I had plenty of beer to drink, but not in particular to review for the season. In no mood to travel out of town, I decided to visit the Four Seasons Beer Store to more closely check out their selections.
With iPod touch (armed with RateBeer’s beer app) in my pocket, I had plenty of time to do research while standing at the craft shelf. Stuck in my head were the subjects of winter seasonals, Christmas beers, the upcoming New Year’s Eve revelry and how much money I had with me.
One other thought. Just after midnight after work, out in the parking lot, the employees were exchanging cold gifts dug out of trunks and back seats to exchange with their coworkers. With the Mighty Tundra idling at a high rpm in the cold night, I waited for Jon, a friend and work combatant who said he had something for me. It was a heavy plastic bag filled with ten beers with nine different labels. He mentioned earlier of his great taste experience of Old Rasputin. I thanked him profusely and we exchanged Christmas wishes at each other.
It wasn’t until the next day that I opened the bag to see what this young lad had bestowed upon me. I decided to take a picture and post it on the site, as well as Reddit’s r/beer subreddit. I will be one happy homebound winter camper for quite some time.
Back the Four Seasons, it was now about 4 p.m. and the place was starting to get busy. I took my time actually scrutinizing the shelf and the cooler. I’d say I made four roundtrips, stopped at least 23.6 times and fired up the iPod app 5.6 times. I had a nice conversation with a young lady who was carrying a sixer of Lagunitas’ Brown Shuggah under her arm. She was looking for a beer called Ebenezer and described the label in minute detail. I in turn, suggested a number of good winter seasonal beers that she may like. That would make my day even if no beer was purchased.
Sigh, back to the task at hand. I was specifically looking for Delirium Noel and/or Celebration Ale (for the repeat) but they were nowhere to be found. Neither was Infinium. Hmm. But there, in the cooler was a four-pack of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing out of Fort Bragg, California. After numerous trips around the shelf and the the cooler, I decided to purchase the four-pack of Old Rasp based on what my buddy Jon had said and the fact that he included one in his gift bag.
For the first time in quite a while, I had to wait in line behind other patrons who were conversing with each other about the virtues of their chosen spirits for purchase. Some young dude in a Canadian cold weather flap-cap was carrying a twelve-pack of Molson Golden and expressing how much he wished the place would have had a 30-pack for his “enjoyment.” I quietly waited my turn in line and noted how much the kid in the cap somehow resembled the graphic image of Old Rasputin with the hand gesture. When my turn came, I paid my money and recieved change for my ten dollar bill.
Back home, the beer was stashed in the fridge. I included Jon’s gift sample of Old Rasp with the stash just in case. I hoped it was as good as he said it was.
When beer time finally rolled around, I was ready. I realized tonight, that after having sampled and reviewed quite a few stouts, that contrary to what BeerAdvocate says in their Beer Glassware section that an imperial stout’s recommended glass is an English pint, I find that the higher ABV beers of this style go better in a snifter. I rinsed out the old Duvel bulb-glass and sat down for a taste.
The beer poured a very dark black color right into the bottom of an untilted snifter. The head came up thick and nicely tanned but only about a half-inch’s worth. No matter how close to the bulb I got, light refused to pass through the liquid. The aroma was somewhat sweet, reminding me of a dark red juicy fruit.
The first sip was loaded. A nice and heavy feel of the liquid in the mouth and a plethora of flavors within, a little coffee, some chocolate, a bit of sweetness and crisp swallow. Very nice, indeed. At about the third sip, the very nature of this beer convinced me that this was a sippin’ beer and the complete polar opposite of a summer slammer.
It wasn’t long until that space heater switched itself on in my stomach. This is in direct contrast to the taste which is nicely empty of any alcohol flavoring. But the flavorings that were present in each sip were abundant. By the bottom of the first glass, the effects of the fermentation were pecking at the corners of my eyes.
As each sip went down, the taste got mellower. The malts in this beer were perfect for an imperial stout, not overly roasty-toasty, not a lot of coffee, not a lot of chocolate, but slight hints of each could be picked up from sip to sip. And again, each sip was wonderfully full, rich, robust and other superlative taste sensations. To say that the taste is complex would be a slight understatement. As the beer got warmer, the taste became more subdued.
I chose to gamble and decided to open another one fresh from the fridge. Into the glass, up to the lips, swallow. Man, oh man. That was light a searchlight went on and illuminated all the ingredients in this beer. All fresh and new again in my yap. This beer, warm or cold is sublime sippage.
According to North Coast’s website, Old Rasp is rated at 75 IBUs but I could detect no obvious hop zing at the swallow. I’m sure that the hops in this beer just punctuated the inherent bitterness that stouts generally have.
You can’t beat the price of this superb beer. Thinking about the $8.50 for the four pack put me in a wonderfully festive mood right after the first sip. This was a big beer. It comes off the line with a big bold taste, the thickness of the liquid could be felt with each sip. The beer is all imperial and all stout. No one ingredient stars in the show. It’s a wonderful blend of taste and richness. Kinda like a manly barbershop quartet. This is a beer to curl up and sip during blizzard conditions outside while the fire roars in the hearth and the new Playboy sits next to the La-Z-Boy. The Leningrad Cowboys lilting in the background would be all that’s needed.
Taste: A+ > A manly taste for manly men.
Smoothness: A+ > Sips are chained together with dark Russian kisses.
Drinkability: B > Two would put you right. Three is starting to ask for trouble.
Bang for the buck: A+ > The most taste you could wring out of a ten dollar bill.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Dark, bitter, (sniff) yeah I can smell. (sip) Oh… uh.. oh. no. It’s gonna be a lingering yuck. —From the bottom of the keg. (I knew it. Rapid toothbrushing sounds from the bathroom.)
Who the hell was Rasputin?