Brau Brothers Ivan The Great Imperial Russian Stout Review: Nicer Than Ivan

Ivan The Great (aka Terrible) was a very strong leader, as have been many of Russia’s.  While he freed Russian lands from enemies, he also murdered his own son and reportedly had a terrible, uncontrollable temper. He also killed many of his political opponents. Love him or hate him, Russians had to respect him. So if a Russian Imperial Stout is named after him, it had better leave a strong impression on the drinker!

What makes a stout Russian? Well, in the 1700s, Thrale’s Brewery in London made a particular type of stout (ale brewed from dark-roasted grains) that it exported to Russia’s Catherine II. So, a modern Russian Imperial Stout is brewed in that tradition. Usually, this sort of ale is brewed from dark-roasted, malted grains, and is dark in color, and sweetish in flavor. The roasted grains impart a coffee-like flavor, and actual espresso beans are used in the brewing process. Brau Brothers Ivan the Great Imperial Russian Stout (9.5% ABV) is made from pale malts, four roasted malts, oats, and biscuit malt, as well as Summit hops. It is warm-fermented and top-fermented.

Everything On Tap Review: Brau Brothers Ivan The Great Imperial Russian Stout:

Bottle: The very dark-brown glass sports an off-white label, on which appears the pink-red, slightly-muted image of Tsar Ivan himself. The lettering is red, black, and white, and the company logo is small, black and white, and in the upper left corner of the label.

Pour: The color is deep, dark caramel-brown, almost black and swampy. It is very opaque and hazy, thick and tarry. The head (or what there is of it) is dark khaki, but so thin as to almost be non-existent. It dissipates very quickly, leaving no trace of its former place.

Aroma: The aroma begins with some piney hops. This is then taken over by raisins, cocoa powder, licorice, some smokey, figs, and dates, with a hint of brown sugar. The aromatic finish allows a slight piney resin to return along with the sweet malt.

Flavor: The flavor begins with dark, dried fruit, like raisins, figs, dates, and currants, followed by toasted, smoked malted grains. This is then chased with dark chocolate, the slightest hint of coffee beans, caramel, and toffee. The finish imparts a bit of pleasant hoppy bitterness, some grass, and some pine resin. This is a delightful stout, as it is not merely sweet, but also bitter — a great combination. Finally, there is a hint of ethyl alcohol on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Although the thin mouthfeel belies the apparently thick pour, this is absolutely typical for a stout. It is smooth, lightly carbonated, with a nice ethyl alcohol burn on the finish.

Structure: Despite the thin viscosity, still, this stout has a broad, strong structure. The aroma and flavor palates are quite wide and firm, and the hops and alcohol levels ensure stability.

Food Pairing: This Russian imperial stout begs to be paired with seafood, especially raw, boiled, or broiled oysters; steamed mussels in white wine; boiled crabs; or even spicy gumbo.

Overall Rating Out of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: