New York- Russian Imperial Stout- 10.1% ABV. This highly sought after brew is a classic Russian Imperial Stout, modeled on the beers made by British brewers for the Czar's Court in the 19th Century.
There’s a stout style originally from England called “Russian Imperial”? Yes. As English brewers first did with Baltic Porter, they came to brew a stronger version of an existing beer, 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 that would become known as porter. His first order was shipped to St. Petersburg, but arrived spoiled from the long voyage. Not taking any chances with the second attempt, brewers increased the alcohol and hops to very high levels for a shipment that arrived in drinkable condition – and pleased the czar tremendously.
He 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 Catherine the Great, continued the practice with a keen taste for the brew. This was history’s first “imperial” strength version of a particular beer, and the term is now applied to other beer styles, like Imperial IPA. Imperial stout beers typically reach into double-digit ABV levels and are packed with flavor.
Like porter, Russian Imperial Stout fell out of favor during the last century and nearly became extinct. The Imperial Beer style has been resurrected in recent decades by American craft brewers seeking to “go big” with their beers, so most examples available today are American-brewed.
Dark red-copper to deep, dark brown in color, the best Russian Imperial Stout expresses complexities of aroma and flavor from its high alcohol and abundance of malt and hop character. Look for variations between brands, 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 are cellar-aged, and will evolve in character over time.