Stylin’ & Profilin’: What is a Russian Imperial Stout?

Stylin’ & Profilin’ is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either. In addition, Stylin’ & Profilin’ takes a glance at various elements of craft beer culture to further enhance your knowledge and know-how!

What is a Russian Imperial Stout?

Big.

Russian Imperial Stouts are big. Real big.

I guess I could leave it at that, but that wouldn’t make for much of a feature, now would it? But if you’ve been privileged enough to enjoy one of these bad boys in your life, you know it’s got that roasty flavor and aroma that only a stout can deliver combined with that potent punch that insists upon enjoyment in moderation. And if you haven’t tapped into this particular style yet, consider this short blog post your primer.

Russian Imperial StoutAs I mentioned, Russian Imperial Stouts are pretty big in alcohol by volume (ABV). Your typical beer in this category tips the scales anywhere between 8% and 12%, some even higher than that. Obviously, a couple of these will do the trick and significantly shorten your drinking session should you overindulge…which can be easy to do as these lovely brews pull you in close and warm you up with every sip.

According to Beer Advocate, the Russian Imperial Stout dates back to the 1800s as brewers pulled out all the stops to win the affection of the Russian Czar. It is often considered the king of all stouts due to its purposely high ABV and significant malt-forward character. These Stouts have low to moderate levels of carbonation with roasted, chocolate, burnt malt flavors. The higher alcohol content typically shines through and hop bitterness, while in most cases difficult to notice, is sufficient to assist in taming the sweetness.

Like many beer styles, the Russian Imperial Stout faded away amongst a plethora of more popular beers, but has been resurrected in recent years by American craft brewers looking to push the envelope and produce “big” beers. Imperial IPAs are another prime example of this, fully capturing the essence of the beer style but fermented over longer periods of time to enhance the overall flavor profile and bring ABV levels to dizzying heights.

Typical colors for a Russian Imperial Stout are dark red-copper to deep, dark brown and deliver a smooth mouthfeel. The rich malts offer up flavors including chocolate, caramel, coffee, toasty, roasty, and burnt aromas, as well as plums and figs. These dark fruit esters add a healthy balance to the malts.

Russian Imperials are great for aging and their characters will evolve when cellar-aged over time. If you ever see this particular style on Nitro, do yourself a solid and indulge in the rich, velvety smoothness your glass will deliver.

Just like any beer style, you have to dive in yourself and discover if it’s right for you. With Russian Imperials, if you’re a fan of stouts and porters, chances are you’re going to make good friends with this style as well. All the flavors you love are present…with a potency to help you forget about life’s troubles for a while.

Here are a few popular brands of Russian Imperial Stouts you can take for a test drive. If you see one of these or something produced locally on the lineup at your favorite craft beer destination, dive in and consider your blood warmed!

This list courtesy of Beer Advocate

This list courtesy of Beer Advocate

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jason Cercone

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