BREWERY: North Coast Brewing
LOCATION: Fort Bragg, Calif.
STYLE: Russian imperial stout
ABV: 11.1 percent
RELEASE DATE: 2017
AVAILABLE IN: 500ml bottles
BEERS POURED: One
Opening in 1988 as a local brewpub in Fort Bragg, Calif., North Coast Brewing has been led by Mark Ruedrich, the company’s president and co-founder, into the modern age of craft beer. The brewery is a proponent of both sustainability and philanthropy. It is TRUE Platinum Zero Waste Certified, produces 14 non-GMO Project verified beers and lead a carbon farming project to reverse its carbon footprint.
North Coast produces 12 year-round beers including Red Seal ale, Acme IPA, Brother Thelonious and the ever-popular Old Rasputin, a 9 percent ABV, 75 IBU Russian imperial stout. Old Raspy, as many lovers of this beer call it, is named after Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (1869-1916), a Russian mystic and self-proclaimed holy man who befriended the family of Tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia and gained considerable influence in late imperial Russia.
North Coast has been bourbon barrel-aging some of its Old Rasputin for over 20 years and producing the limited offering each year for those that find it at their local bottle shop. Prior to 2010, the barrel-aged version was produced in such small batches that it was only obtainable by visiting the brewery. As the popularity rose, the brewery started to produce more so that it could be available to more people, although it is still considered limited.
Bottled in 2017, this version is poured from a corked and caged 500ml bottle with a picture of Rasputin and the Russian phrase “A sincere friend is not born instantly.” The color is near pitch black with plenty of deep beige, foamy head that seems to never leave. Aroma is bold and filled with a big nose of bourbon and hints of vanilla and raisins.
Taste hits up front with a light whiskey burn, dark licorice and dark fruits followed by soothing vanilla, wet malts and a bit of dark chocolate. The carbonation is correct for the style and the mouth feel is a touch lighter than I would have expected. While the balance is complex, the overall body, especially on the finish seems to fade away too rapidly causing you to wonder if what you just drank was a dream.