November. It’s time you and I just face the facts…winter is pretty much upon us. Yeah, maybe we get lucky and only experience a few flurries here and there for a couple more weeks. But the cold, bitter breath of Mother Nature is quickly becoming more frequent. And unless packing up your belongings and retreating for warmer pastures is in your immediate plans, it’s time to simply grit your teeth, grin, and bear it.
I grew up in a small town in northern PA where the winters were long, cold, and unforgiving. It’s not uncommon that if we get 4″ of snow in Pittsburgh, my little hometown of Bradford gets a foot and then some. Two-hour school delays were not a thing where I grew up (I think I can count on one hand how many school cancellations we had throughout my high school tenure). We were equipped for the worst Mother Nature could toss at us…and she tested our wills every single season.
Fortunately, the boys who brewed up November’s Beer of the Month grew up in similar surroundings. Brian Eaton, Kyle Mientkiewicz, and Sean Biby, the three gentlemen behind all the great beers we enjoy from Grist House Brewing, all grew up in Erie…where winter is practically on performance enhancers. Our lives on that vicious little snow belt led to an improved ability to navigate through icy terrains, the skill set to shovel snow with the best in the world, and, in the case of the Grist House crew, the understanding that winter is much more bearable with the right beer in hand.
Known for being a hophead, IPAs and other variations of this beer style will always serve as my go-to. However, when the winter months hit, stouts take over what I seek out. To combat these cold, brutal Pittsburgh nights, one needs the proper brew to do so effectively. One that’s thick, robust, and warms the blood with every sip. And once Grist House’s Black In The USSR hit my lips, I knew I had found my liquid heater.
I used to live about five minutes from the Grist House brewery and taproom in Millvale, so visits were frequent. I knew I could always count on great beer, great conversation, and great ambiance at every visit. Though I live on the other side of town now, Grist House has become no less of a destination for me as I try to pull up a stool as much as possible.
And now that Black In The USSR is back on tap (on Nitro, no less), there’s even more reason to visit.
I decided to dive a little deeper into this winter time favorite and quizzed Co-Founder and Brewer Brian Eaton on what makes Black In The USSR so ridiculously choice. Before you dig in, I will vouch for his answer to #5: I paired a Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwich (roasted peach ice cream and snickerdoodles) with Black In The USSR and the combo was epic!
Brian, the floor is yours.
Black In The USSR is a Russian Imperial Stout and served on Nitro. It clocks in at 9.3% ABV and 80 IBUs. This is a classic Russian Imperial Stout with a pitch black pour, creamy tan head, and beautiful lacing.
Where did the inspiration for Black In The USSR come from?
We brewed this beer to be a perfect complement to a cold Pittsburgh winter night. We wanted something that was big and robust, but still balanced and inviting. Serving it on Nitro lends a nice creaminess that makes it a smooth drinking beer.
What characteristics should we know about Black In The USSR?
It has roasted dark malt characteristics and a bittersweet chocolate flavor that creates bold, deep complexity.
What particular flavor notes should we expect to discover in Black In The USSR?
Dark chocolate and coffee dominate the flavor profile of Black In The USSR. Do not expect a strong hop presence even given the high IBUs. The roasted malts and full body of the beer balance out the hops. This is a big beer with lots of dark malt complexity, but everything balances out to make it very approachable.
What foods pair well with Black In The USSR?
Black In The USSR pairs very well with desserts, such as chocolate cake, sea salt caramel truffles, Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches, and even pumpkin cheesecake.
Any fun, interesting, or crazy stories come from brewing Black In The USSR?
Black In The USSR is such a big beer, it requires over 1,500 pounds of grain. In order to get the proper conversion and good extraction, we have to perform a double mash. This means we split the grain bill and do two mashes in order to get the proper starting gravity. It makes for a much longer brew day, but we think the resultant beer is worth it.
Can we find Black In The USSR at any craft beer destinations in Pittsburgh or just specifically in your taproom?
Black In The USSR is available in our taproom throughout the winter. You can also find it at several select craft beer bars in the city, including The Independent, Proper Brick Oven, Stokes Grill, and Carson Street Deli. Also, keep an eye out for the release of a barrel-aged version of Black In The USSR in the upcoming months.
EDITORS NOTE: I had a barrel-aged version of Black In The USSR during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week 2015. And, well…just take my money, Grist House.