Russian Imperial Stout
Way back in the early 1700s, the emperor of Russia, Peter the Great, requested a stronger version of an existing beer from England. After the first batch spoiled during the long journey to the czar, they attempted to make a new one, this time with an extremely high level of alcohol and hops. This extreme version arrived drinkable and pleased Peter the Great tremendously, later becoming known as the Russian Imperial Stout. Over the past century, the Russian Imperial Stout nearly went extinct, but has since been resurrected by American craft brewers in the recent decades.
This full-bodied, rich, and complex beer often has flavors and aromas of dried fruit, coffee, and dark chocolate, and ranges in color from a dark red copper to a deep dark brown. Russian Imperial Stout hop character can very from none, to balanced to aggressive. When American hops are used the presence may add citrusy and floral aromas and flavors. The hop bitterness also helps tame the sweetness and provides a balance to the malt. One of the critical ingredients to pay attention to when Russian Imperial Stouts are brewed is the yeast. A huge amount of yeast should be pitched in the brew. When producing traditional English versions, yeasts that produce fruity esters are used. The best Russian Imperial Stouts express complexities of aromas and flavors from the high alcohol, abundance of malt and hop characteristics, and large pitch of yeast.
Higher in alcohol than traditional English Stouts, Russian Imperial Stouts ABV ranges from 8-12%, usually being in the double digits. The best Russian Imperial Stout glass is a snifter and the beer inside should be chilled. This beer stands up well to earthy, dense, and salty flavors, and the roasty rich qualities bring out the char and umami in meals. Some of the best food pairings with Russian Imperial Stouts include smoked meats and blackened ribeye.
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