Beers of Milwaukee, vol. 22

So I picked up a bottle of Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout.  It tastes more like a porter to me, so that’s how I’m going to approach it.

My journey into beers with meat-loaf textures begins in… oh, about 1999 or 2000, when Calgary’s Big Rock Brewing Company came out with a winter porter named “Cold Cock”.  (It had a snow-covered rooster on the label.  Get it?  Geddit?)  Naturally every pub at my university had to get a keg or three of it, and my drinking crowd loved it for the double entendres.  I loved it for something more — it was tasty damn beer: thick, rich, and sweet without being overwhelming.  Oh, and it was about 7.5% alcohol by volume.

Big Rock pulled their Cold Cock off of the market after a few months.  Probably something about the name.

Shortly thereafter I came across a beer by Okanagan Springs going by the title of “Old English Porter”.  Now, anyone who writes “Old English” when they might be tempted to write “Olde Englishe” gains a quantum of my respect simply because they passed up an obvious opportunity to be retarded, so I bought a six-pack.  It was good — much like Cold Cock, but readily available and at least half a percent more alcoholic.

My basic problem with Okanagan Springs’ porter is that I tend to drink a six-pack in one evening, regardless of my better intentions, and my system is ill-equipped to recycle two litres of 8% ABV beer without a raging hangover.

I was reasonably satisfied with the Old English Porter until I discovered Flying Dog and their Road Dog and Gonzo Imperial porters.  Well, Road Dog is ridiculously tasty and reasonably forgiving, and Gonzo is more aggressive but not — quite — homicidal.  Gonzo RIP (do note the acronym) held my fancy for some time until I came across Old Rasputin, which at 9% ABV packs quite a punch and also holds the title as the only beer that’s ever inspired me to lick the glass clean.

And now there’s Stone’s Russian Imperial Stout, figureheaded by a gargoyle wearing a bestarred fur hat.  Oh, and it’s 10.5% ABV.

This is the best 10.5% beer I’ve ever tasted.  It’s sweet, of course, but not overpoweringly so.  In fact, it reminds me very much of the Okanagan Springs porter I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, though more so in just about every direction.  It is thick, rich, bittersweet, and utterly worthwhile beer.  It demands, and earns, every ounce of one’s respect.  It is not particularly nuanced or subtle: Stone’s RIS is a precise and fine-tuned but very direct beer.  It goes straight to the midbrain, and the first thing it destroys is the little chunk of sensible caution which says “perhaps only one pint of 10.5% beer in an evening is enough”.

It is, however, half a percentage point behind Old Rasputin.

That could easily be attributed to measurement error.  I’ll have to drink more of both and attempt to duplicate the result.


The trials and tribulations of a beer reviewer.

5 Responses to “Beers of Milwaukee, vol. 22”

  1. June 23, 2009 at 21:49

    Aw, poor baby. I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

    As an Oregonian, I’m quite proud of my state’s reputation as a craft brewing Mecca (maybe that’s the wrong place name to use for the discussion of alcohol), but the one thing I have against most of our brewers is that they brew stuff they call stouts that aren’t stout enough — a stout should be like drinking bread — and seem more like porters than stouts, as you’ve mentioned. But it doesn’t affect me as much because I’m more of a fan of paler ales, especially this time of year.

  2. June 24, 2009 at 16:48

    Ah, ok. Makes… sense, I guess.

    That’s the other advantage to living here in Oregon when it comes to beer — sure we brew our own, but we love it enough to get serious about importing it. Eugene has a population of only about 150,000, but we have several great places to buy beer, including the Bier Stein, which boasts over 1,000 brands, including some from every continent except Antarctica.

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