Russian Imperial Stout
A Stout style originally from England called “Russian Imperial”? Yes. Similar to the origins of Baltic Porter, the English came to brew an even stronger version of an existing beer, this time in response to both a direct request and to necessity. The request came from Russian Emperor Peter the Great after a trip to England around 1700, during which he took a great liking to the dark beer, which would become known as Porter. The first supply was shipped to St. Petersburg and arrived spoiled from the long voyage and freezing temperatures. Not taking any chances with its second attempt, the English increased the alcohol and hops to very high levels in the next batch for a shipment that arrived in drinkable condition and pleased the czar tremendously.
Peter continued to order this English beer for himself and his imperial court, where it became a staple, and through the years his heirs and successors—including Empress Catherine the Great—continued the practice with a keen taste for the brew. This being history’s first “imperial” strength version of a given beer style, the term now applies to other beer styles, and it, of course, reaches into double-digit ABV levels and is packed with flavor. Similar to Porter, the Russian Imperial Stout fell out of favor in Russia and England during the 20th century and became nearly extinct, only to be resurrected during the late 1900s by American craft brewers seeking to “go big” with their beers. Thus, most examples available today are American-brewed.
Dark red-copper to deep dark brown in color, it can express complexities of aroma and flavor due to the high alcohol and abundance of malt and hop character. Look for variances across examples, with typical characteristics including a smooth, full mouth-feel delivering rich malts that can evoke chocolaty, coffee, caramel, toasty, roasty and/or burnt aromas and flavors. Esters of dark fruits, such as plum and fig, are often present, providing balance to the malts, along with sufficient hop bitterness to tame the sweetness. Some citrusy and floral American hop aromas may be present. Many modern examples can be cellar-aged and will evolve in character over time.
|Taste/Smell||Balanced, Rich, Malty, Dark Fruit, Full-bodied|
|Alcohol-by-Volume (ABV) Range||7 – 12+%|
|Popular Examples||Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon, Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer, Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Oskar Blues Ten FIDY, Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, Victory Storm King Stout, Heavy Seas Peg Leg, Bell’s Expedition Stout, Avery The Czar Imperial Stout, Samuel Adams Imperial Stout, Thirsty Dog Siberian Night|
|Serving Temperature||Cellar, 55-57°|
|Glassware||Pint or nonic, tumbler, beer snifter|
|Cheese Pairing Ideas||Cheddar (aged), Gouda (aged), Roquefort|
|Food Pairing Ideas||Smoked foul and cheesecake|