It’s Barrel-Aged Beer Day so get to the cellar or your closest store and grab one to celebrate. My choice is the North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin XVIII Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout Aged In Rye Whiskey Barrels.
First, let’s get this out of the way. At 22 to 25 bucks for a 500 mL bottle, this beer is costly. However, let me tell you why I’d buy another. And another. And the sister Wheat Whiskey Barrel Aged beer.
Be a bit careful with the cork as this beer is highly carbonated to a surprising level for a Russian Imperial Stout. As you pour this moonless-midnight black beer, you’ll see the carbonation through the massive tan head more resembling crema atop an espresso than bubbles atop beer.
The sweet and fragrant aroma gives the nose abundant scents to investigate. A sniff easily detects whiskey, molasses, maple syrup, honey, vanilla, chocolate, and a bit of cherry.
The beer leaves gorgeous lacing as the head recedes, and should you swirl the beer, you’ll actually watch it crawl down the sides of the glass. Based on observing this, I expected to almost chew this beer; however, the beer’s medium body was a bit of a surprise. That said, the medium body combined with the high level of carbonation resulted in a nice creaminess.
With the high carbonation, I anticipated a bit of initial burn on the front on the tongue, but this area was instead intrigued with a hint of cherry tartness and dark fruits of figs and raisins. The cherry is sustained to the middle of the tongue while the sides get a taste of bitter chocolate. The bitter chocolate fades to a milk chocolate sweetness on the back of the tongue before the 11.3% ABV and barrel influence of this big stout shows. Where most beers are fading, this one really ramps up. As the beer hits the back of the mouth, the taste buds find molasses, rye dryness, and a lingering whiskey heat that pairs perfectly with the first hint of hop bite. This bitter/heat combo lingers long into an aftertaste that makes you reluctant to wash it away with another sip.
My wife and I split a bottle and each enjoyed every sip and lingering aftertaste of this beer for nearly an hour. This beer is definitely meant to be savored and appreciated. So if tonight is going to see you setting at home, grab a bottle of this or your favorite barrel-aged beer and share with a friend. I think the relaxation and conversation that can be enjoyed as this big onyx beer warms your soul justifies the price.
Outdoor Friendliness (not unless you are sipping on your patio)…N/A
Aroma (sweet dominance but plenty of scents for the nose to detect)…9/10
Taste (very complex with perceptible flavor distinctions)…10/10
Style-Appropriateness (a perfect barrel-aged stout with massive flavors but nothing overpowering)…10/10
Alex writes a beer review every other Friday. Two weeks ago he reviewed the Firestone Walker Opal: The Reason for the Saison.