first tried North Coast Brewing’s flagship beer “Old Rasputin” back in
2011 and I enjoyed it immensely (so much so that I included it in my
book – The Handbook of Porters & Stouts). I had not had it much in
the years since; maybe just a short pour if I found it on draught. I was
actually vying for a job with this brewery and they liked me so much
they flew me out to Northern California for an in-person interview and
gave me a complimentary 4-pack right off the bottling line. I was told
this beer is only intended to be served on nitrogen when on tap. I drank
it as such at their adjacent taproom and it’s nearly a different beer
as it’s rich, sweet and chocolaty. I think the draught version deserves
its own review, but for now I’m content to give the standard bottle a
re-review since it’s so fresh. It really is a different beer as it’s
quite hoppy and bitter – maybe a little too much so, actually.
Regardless, this is still an excellent imperial stout and it deserves
its place in the annals of beer culture and history.
I poured a 12oz bottle into a snifter. It was bottled on 5/7/15.
Appearance: Inky opaque black body; nothing visible within. Pours to a
large, brown, frothy head which retains and laces tremendously.
Smell: Quite hoppy for a stout (general floral/citrus aroma). Strong chocolate presence as well. Alcohol is noticeable.
Taste: Believe it or not, the first thing I taste here is hops. I
suppose that’s understandable considering the bottle was so fresh and
the beer is quite hoppy and bitter at 75 IBUs. Slightly citrusy/flowery
hops help to balance out the strong malt base of the brew. When fresh,
this beer is not extraordinarily sweet, though it’s noticeably sweet.
Dark malts impart slight chocolate notes through the middle (bittersweet
dark chocolate to be specific, though the nitro draught version is
almost like pure milk chocolate). The deeply roasted malts are prominent
throughout the backend – accentuating the bitterness of the palate, but
changing it from hops to that of burnt toast. Some alcohol lingers in
the background; not doing much for flavor other than imparting some
dryness. I could see a barrel-aged version accentuating the base palette
perfectly (there is such an edition, but I’ve yet to try it).
Drinkability: At 9% ABV, Old Rasputin is definitely a big beer by
anyone’s standards. That being said, it’s not a beast of one. The
mouthfeel is thick and full-bodied for sure, but not chewy, sticky or
cloying. The strong hoppy presence cleanses the palate and leaves a
slightly dry aftertaste. I detect minor warmth from the alcohol, but
it’s in no way distracting or intimidating. Few beers this big sit this
well on the system. A great brew to enjoy on its own.