I could not have picked a better beer for my first beer review. This one was one sale at my local Spec's, so I figured I would pick up a 4 pack for $7. I don't normally go for such expensive beers, but this one peaked my interest.
It's North Coast Brewing Company's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, and the marketing for this beer is great. It features a picture of Old Rasputin himself in a gold border on black cardboard. Nice.
If you're not familiar with Russian Imperial Stout, it was first brewed in London to transport to Russia in the 18th Century, and the alcohol content was a little higher than a normal stout to keep it from freezing in transport. This one here is 9% ABV, which is not unheard of but definitely on the high end.
For my first pour, I completely flubbed it and ended up with a drink that was 3/4 head. So I promptly poured another glass to drink while that one settled, and I got a couple fingers head, which seemed a bit small but I was after all overcompensating for my previous botched pour. The picture here is after the head has gone down.
The smell and taste of this beer go together. Never mind how the color complements both of those perfectly: this beer is black, as in no light will go through. It is darker than coffee. Darker than Darth Vader's cape. And the first taste is unlike any other beer I have had.
My fellow taster remarked, "That's like coffee, wine, and beer all in one glass..." He was awed by it, as was I. I noted a lot of chocolate in it as well as a bit of licorice smell, but the finish is sweet, almost like a fine high cocoa content chocolate bar.
In all, this is a fine beer that I will enjoy on cold nights. There's a reason it has won so many awards, after all.