Summertime isn’t a time that I naturally gravitate toward drinking stouts, but it’s a style that I’ve always enjoyed, regardless of the time of year. Like you, I typically think of enjoying stouts in cooler weather and, in particular, right around St. Patrick’s Day. But over my many years of drinking craft beer, I have found that great beer is great beer, any time of the year.
So when I saw North Coast Brewing had released its annual Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, I had to buy it! As you may know from this Craft Beer on The Bay feature, I have consistently referenced Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout as one of the best stouts in the world. And while there are many styles of stouts, when I look at all of them as one beer category, Old Rasputin stands out from almost every other one. Part of the appeal of this beer is the Russian Imperial Stout style. But many breweries make, or have made, Russian Imperial Stouts. North Coast Brewing Company created a masterpiece with Old Rasputin and offer this incredible beer, year-round.
But their Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout is a once-a-year release. And this year, North Coast Brewing released a version aged in Rye barrels and one aged in Bourbon barrels. I chose the Bourbon barrel version and it is unbelievably good and, also unbelievably and wonderfully decadent! The side of the four-pack carrier says it so well: “The depth, intensity, and complexity of the flavor profile of these special releases make them a worthy tribute to Old Rasputin.”
While I didn’t do a side-by-side comparison, here are a couple basic differences between the amazing year-round Old Rasputin and the once-a-year Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin: the year-round is black in color and is at 9% ABV; the barrel-aged is chocolate brown and is an 11.3% ABV Russian Imperial Stout.
With that understanding, let’s explore the 2021 Bourbon Barrel aged release. It pours a rich, chocolate brown with a dark, dense tan head. Bourbon is dominant in the nose and chocolate and caramel are also nicely present. The flavor has every bit of Old Rasputin’s characteristic richness and sweetness and explodes with bourbon and chocolate with hints of coffee. It’s smooth and soft, with no bitterness and is incredibly delicious.
North Coast Brewing’s Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin is a beer to sipped and savored, not so much because of the 11.3% ABV but because it is really, really special. Because this is a limited release beer, be sure to buy it when you see it. And then enjoy magic in a glass.
The Craft Beer Guy