Redux Review 0002: North Coast Old Rasputin

I reviewed North Coast’s Old Rasputin, a Russian Imperial Stout brewed in Fort Bragg, California, on February 27, 2011. It scored the following in the categories I use to rate beer:

Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 11 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 32 of 35 points

Final Score: 92 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.

I recently sampled Dogfish Head Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, which is also a Russian Imperial Stout, and rated it 99 points. After having that beer, I passed by a four pack of Old Rasputin in my local bottle shop. Thoughts went through my head: I should review that one again. Maybe my palate has changed when it comes to Russian Imperials.

So here we are, for my second Redux Review (the first was Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale). For this type of review, I revisit beers I have already put through a regular review, to see if anything has changed with the beer or with me since the last time I tasted it.

Since the initial review, North Coast doesn’t appear to have gone through any major changes and Old Rasputin should be exactly the same as it was during the first try. I have reviewed one other North Coast beer in this time frame, their Old Stock Ale 2011, which only received 78 points. I thought that beer could use some aging.

Let me make it clear that this is not a bottle of aged Old Rasputin, although you could clearly do that. It comes in at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume), so this one could store for a while. This is a fresh bottle.

The Redux Review

The pour made for a large tan head that billowed overtop the glass, creamy in texture with big soda pop bubbles. The head was of lasting quality, atop a very dark, motor oil black beer that had gorgeous ruby/dark amber edges. The body looked to be clear of any particles or sediment, but it was hard to tell for sure since the beer was opaque. The bottom of the bottle didn’t show any evidence of yeast. This is one excellent looking beer, complete with large wispy sheets of lacing.

The aromatics were solely geared toward the malt end; there’s a big note of caramel, along with a general roasted and smokey scent. There’s a bit of coffee and some general grain, with a small note of chocolate. As the beer warmed, the chocolate note got more pronounced and made the aroma even more appealing, but while overall good, not as vibrant as you’d think, if you judged by appearance.

On the taste, the tongue is met with a combination of chocolate and caramel, leading to some roasted malt and leading to a surprising finish. This beer has a hoppy ending, but it fits right in with the coffee note that hits you after the swallow, giving a fitting bitterness. There’s a good hit of acidity and then a warming effect from the 9% ABV. The warming was almost medicinal while the beer was directly out of the refrigerator; as the temperature went up, the medicine-like taste went away.

Man, this is a fantastic beer. Old Rasputin is a BIG beer, very well made, and you should seek it out now. This is a mysterious beverage that fits the mysterious looking bottle. There’s no hops in the aroma but they’re definitely there in the taste. This beer does things that generally don’t happen…

So, in redux:

Appearance: 15 of 15
Aroma: 13 of 15
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 33 of 35

North Coast Old Rasputin, redux score of 95 points. Price: $8.99 US for a four pack.

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