Bitter Old Rasputin

Old Rasputin (9% ABV bottle)- Russian Imperial Stout- North Coast Brewing Co. CA
Grade: C+

Old Rasputin

If I trawl the old memory banks I think good ol’ Rasputin was one of the first handful of imperial stouts that I had and the one thing I’ve always liked is the way it looks. Pitch black with a respectably thick tan head that thins down to a thin cover that leaves sticky lacing all the way down. No light getting through this stuff at all and as crazy as that might sound that’s a good looking beer to me. The nose is appealing with sweet notes of dark fruit like plum or raisin. Of course at 9% ABV you can definitely smell the booze.

To be blunt the first sip of Rasputin is a kick in the mouth. The carbonation is sharp and hits your tongue first. After that it’s a big bitterness around the edges. There’s a coffee flavor that goes beyond dark roasted into burnt. The fruit in the nose of the beer are pretty much nowhere to be found in the taste.

As you make your way through the bottle your palette starts to get used to the bitterness. With that acclimatization comes the realization that Rasputin does have a nice velvety body that bitterness aside is very pleasant. Flavor-wise you notice some fleeting hints of unsweetened baker’s chocolate and maybe a touch of roasted malt. Lingering underneath that is an earthy, chalky aftertaste that isn’t all together unpleasant, but can be a bit off-putting. Aside from the bitterness there are no other assertive flavors in here to hang a hat on and enjoy.

Put all of this together and Rasputin is a decent imperial stout, but personally I don’t see it as balanced, complex, or amazing as many others do. Russian imperial stouts tend to split into two schools, sweet or bitter, and Rasputin is very much in the bitter end. Still, for those still trying to find their preference in the world of RIS I would recommend trying Rasputin at least once to see if a bitter stout is for you.

Cheers! -John

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Cream of Sam’s Crop?

Samuel Adams Cream Stout (4.69% ABV bottle)- Milk/Sweet Stout- Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams), MA

Grade: B+ 

Poured from bottle into NERAX imperial pint glass.

Appearence: Nice dark brown, not quite black. 3/4 in. tan head which drops to a thin covering. Good lacing that sticks around to the bottom of the pint.

Smell: Coffee and some very faint chocolate and smoke. Not an overwhelming aroma, but not bad either.

Taste: Coffee and smoked malt are right up front. There’s a touch of chocolate and caramel sweetness in the undertone. A slightly bitter/metallic finish, but it’s not bothersome. Solid, enjoyable taste.

Mouthfeel: Generally good. Not as creamy/rich as many stouts out there, but still has a full enough body to let you know you are drinking a stout. Carbonation felt a little harsh.

Drinkability: With an ABV of under 5% this has session written all over it if you are a fan of the dark.

Notes: This is one of the better “Brewmaster Collection” brews I’ve had from SA. Seems like they do their version of good cop bad cop with that program and unfortunately bad cop tends to show up with a punch in the mouth more often than not. I wish the cream stout had better bar distribution as it would make a great alternative to the usual dry stout triumvirate of Guinness/Murphy’s/Beamish on offer at most places. One can dream, no?

And so it begins…

Guinness (can)- Irish dry stout- Guinness Ltd., Ireland
Grade: A-
     Do I really need to tell anyone anything about this beer that they don’t already know? You either love it or hate it. Very dry and on the bitter side it’s still amazingly smooth to drink. While it’s not my favorite stout, it is as dependable as the sunrise and that first sip is just as refreshing. This is one of the only beers I have downed an entire pint, not chugged mind you, but slowly savoring each mouthful because I simply could not help myself. If you think Guinness is too bitter, but still want to try a traditional Irish stout search out Murphy’s. If I could find that in more bars, that would be my Irish stout of choice as it’s got slightly less metallic bitterness to it and more of a coffee finish.

Sam Adams Hefeweizen (bottle)- American pale wheat ale/hefeweizen- Boston Beer Company, MA- USA
Grade: C-/D+
     This stuff isn’t bad as far as beer goes, but in terms of hefeweizen I wouldn’t even consider it one. That’d be like calling a Segway a motorcycle because it has two wheels. Sam’s hefe has a decent taste, but very little body to it. That is really where a hefe is made or not, in the body where you actually feel like you are drinking something crafted versus something simply made. Harpoon’s UFO, Red Hook’s hefe, and Blue Moon (though technically a witbeer, not a hefe) are better American choices and of course the Germans, Paulaner and Franziskaner, do it the best. Sam Adams does plenty of good beers, but this isn’t a shining example of one of them.

Tell Tale Ale (draft)- Euro dark lager- Boston Beer Works, MA- USA
Grade: B
     If you live in the Boston or Salem area you can usually count on decent brews coming out of the Boston Beer Works. Only downside to brew pubs like this is that who knows when they’ll have a particular brew again thanks to their constantly rotating selections. Tell Tale Ale is an interesting beer, easy drinking, but still plenty of flavor. A little sweet and caramel-touched, which might be too much for some, but I thought was just right. It’s on the dark side of things but it’s far from heavy and scary. Definitely worth a pint next time you’re down by Fenway or the Garden.

Macau (bottle)- Euro pale lager- Macau Beer Company Limited, China
Grade: C
     Not great, but it is fun to drink exotics like this if only for the oddity factor. Macau is crisp with a bit more of a sweet finish than most lagers as is common with Asian beers. It’s very similar to others like Tsingtao and even Singha or Kirin, though not nearly as good the latter two. I would say 2 of these in one sitting is enough because it builds up a slick sticky aftertaste that can get too overpowering. Basically, if you see it around give it a try for the hell of it.