There’s something haunting about Old Rasputin. I’ve walked by it a thousand times, inspecting it from the corner of my eye. I’ve always been intimidated simply by the thought of selecting it from the shelf. In fact, if craft beer had a place in genetics, I would swear my reverence for it was born with me.
This Russian imperial stout undoubtedly has extremely positive and time-tested ratings; could that be the source? Maybe it’s my brain reminding me of all of the watery mouthed end-of-the-night imperial stouts with way too much punch I’ve endured. It could also just be the creepy illustration of the Russian monk on the bottle.
With the aid of his apparent reputation as a healer, the real Rasputin established himself as a trusted advisor to Russia’s imperial family, much to the dismay of Russian aristocrats. He was viewed as a source of corruption during the period of unrest leading up to the Russian Revolution. As is true with many characters of history, some details of his existence have been exaggerated or misconstrued.
Some accounts detail Rasputin’s vanity and suggest that the relationship was simply to provide himself with wealth and fame. His opponents painted him as a legitimately evil character. Perhaps the most legendary story about Rasputin concerns his death. Unlikely as it may be, legend has it that his murderer had to feed Rasputin multiple doses of cyanide, shoot him numerous times, and drown him before he ultimately perished.
The one thing Rasputin and the beer named for him have in common are their respective prominent places in history.
North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg, California is the brewery responsible for the legendary Old Rasputin. They’ve been around for nearly thirty years and have the hardware to prove it. Rasputin has become an icon in craft beer and a major pillar for North Coast. It’s no surprise that Old Rasputin has brought home numerous awards, domestic and international, dating back to 1996.
Much like the legend of its namesake, Old Rasputin will be a tough one to eradicate – even in the ever-changing world of craft beer.”
At first impression, Rasputin is a pleasant surprise. Generally when I think Russian imperial stout, my tastebuds shudder a bit. When I pop the top though, I pick up an aroma much sweeter than I expected. More like a milk stout than an imperial stout. Sure, as I delve deeper into the aroma, I can smell that signature “You’re going to pay for this later,” smell but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
As one might imagine, Rasputin pours as black as night – as black as Rasputin’s alleged devil-worshiping soul. Its head is a frothy caramel color but it’s quick to dissipate. The flavor is one of delightfully bitter coffee with somewhat of an alcoholic molasses flavor to finish.
At nine percent alcohol by volume, it's just perfect. Most of us have lived to regret an entirely-too-boozy imperial stout but Rasputin is not the figure from that foggy nightmare. You know what it is at the outset; the aroma tells the story. Maybe you won’t drink two or three Rasputins, but you’re certainly going to enjoy your one.
Much like the legend of its namesake, Old Rasputin will be a tough one to eradicate – even in the ever-changing world of craft beer.