Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout 9% ABV
Russian Imperial Stout
North Coast Brewing Co.
The wind howls. The ground is covered deep in inches of powdery snow. It is so cold outside you can literally throw boiling water into the air and watch it turn to ice particles which are quickly blown away in the blustery wind. The high today was 5 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. That’s -5. The low with the wind chill reached negative 33. I sit inside with the heat blasting, wearing multiple layers and I pour myself an Old Rasputin. This weather is an anomaly for me, a hopefully once in a life time experience. For St. Petersburg, Russia it’s a normal winter day. So I pour myself this dark black brew with a thick brown head and dwell upon Rasputin, the man, the myth, the legend. The beer has a strong complex character, not unlike Rasputin. It has a strong bite to it. After a few sips in I notice a nice hint of sweetness in the finish. The high octane alcohol content is perfect for the bitterest of cold winter days. I begin to think about the finish of Rasputin’s life which was far from sweet. For those who aren’t familiar with the tale, let me provide a summary, with thanks to Orlando Figes and his book “A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924”.
Rasputin was invited to meet with the Grand Duchess Irina, arguably the most beautiful woman of the Russian aristocracy. He was warned on the day of the meeting, December 16th, 1916, that there was a plot on his life and that he must not go. He spent the day depositing the sum total of his money into his daughter’s account and burning his various correspondences. Though he was aware of the threat, he could not resist the lure of meeting this beautiful woman who sat at the height of society. There was nothing he liked more than humbling the high brow of Russia and making them lower themselves to his command and control. He a lowly filthy peasant from Siberia, who never bathed and stank like a goat, would seduce them and make them lay with him. It mattered not if they be woman or man. So he made his way to the estate expecting another conquest. Upon his arrival he was told to wait in the basement as the Duchess was finishing up a prior meeting. He found two of his favorite beverages and drank several glasses of each; unaware that the sweet Madeira was poisoned and the other drink was full of cyanide. To the shock of his murderers the copious amounts of toxins in his system took no effect. Not knowing what else to do one of them raised his pistol and shot Rasputin in the side. Leaving him unconscious on the floor they went to discard his overcoat. Upon their return they saw the basement empty as Rasputin had left through a side door when he regained consciousness. They found him staggering in the snow trying to reach the outside gate. Two more shots were fired and missed. Running after him they got close this time the shots found their mark. For good measure one of the assailants kicked in Rasputin’s temple. They then chained up his body and threw him into the Neva River. Rasputin’s body was found days later. His body was buried by order of the Tsar the following month. After the revolution in February, his body was exhumed, dosed in kerosene and burned. His ashes left to be scattered by the wind.
Russian history is littered with these most interesting of individuals, which is why I enjoy it so much. This beer is aptly named and quite fittingly, after this tasting, one of my favorite brews. Next time it’s cold outside and you need a strong dark complex brew to help warm your soul and provoke your thoughts of dark history and lore, drink an Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Just hope that no one is plotting your demise and has spiked it with cyanide.