A night with the Russians...

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It was not planned this way, but somehow I ended up drinking a Russian beer and one with the most famous Ruskie ever, (no, not Ivan Drago from Rocky IV)...Grigori Rasputin on the label. Everyone knows that guy, right?  This is him to the right. Pretty, huh?  Suffice it to say, he was thought to possess inexplicable powers and possibly aided in the fall of the Romanov dynasty, the czarist government of Russia.  Yep, it's alot to take in, but check out his bio, it's fascinating.

Anyway, on to the beers:

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BEER #35

Baltika 6 Porter: ABV: 7% This beer is Russian, made in St. Petersburg, so my expectation was that this was going to be a monster.  The baltic porter from Finland was decently bigger than other porters, and I was thinking this was going to be the beer equivalent of vodka.  Strong and rough. And thick enough to get stuck in all those Russian beards.

Welllll....not so burly.  Not at all. The nose was full of dark syrup, molasses aromas with a definite presence of figs and dates...So bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding....No kidding, that's what I started singing.

The palate was super-sweet from midway to 2/3 of the way through.  Then the finish, most unfortunately just dies.  So you are left with all of that sugary weight on your tongue. I took it over to Jon, and said, "Smell this please."  He looked at me with an uneasy expression, but put out his hand, used to this routine.

Jon stuck out his tongue.  To which I said, "Can't you just see some old Ruskies with leathered skin, beards, and big ushankas (fur hats) gripping onto one of these beers in a cold, dark bar in Moscow? Jon: "Yeah, with vodka."  Pat: "I'll have one of those with a vodka back please."

In my humble opinion, this beer is off balance.  My biggest critique is that it desperately needs some bitterness on the finish.  With the cloying sweetness of the aromas and flavors and no cleansing end, you are left with a seemingly endless mouthful of sickening sweetness. It reminds me of a unbalanced dessert wine, meaning one lacking acidity.  And as I have mentioned, acidity is CRUCIAL to dessert wines such as Sauternes.  To make you WANT to drink more and more!

And I tell you folks, I did NOT want to drink more and more of this one.  I had to just chug it, like so many Natty Lights, Schaefers, and Milwaukee's Best in high school.  Ahhh, the memories....

Famous Russian saying: "The fish rots from the head." I can't say I'm surprised that a country who made this beer came up with that saying. Yummy.

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BEER #34

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout: ABV: 9%

The name just sounds daunting doesn't it...and I'll admit the first time years ago when I had this beer on cask for the first time, I leaned back in my chair and breathed out a Whoa...but what I got was a delicious, creamy thick black stout that I have always remembered since.  I think I am probably one of many out there whose first dive into the Imperial Stout abyss was with Old Rasputin.  So having only experienced it on cask or tap as far back as I can remember, I didn't know WHAT to expect here in bottle... Wow. Very perfumed! I had no more poured it in the Riedel, and smells were exploding out of the glass like aromatic fireworks. I didn't even have to put my nose down to catch notes.  THAT has not happened before.

My first thought was cookies, but not chocolate chip here folks. More like rich, homeade molasses cookies.  Putting in their 2 cents were a focused group of baking spices.  Clove, nutmeg, cardamon, and even pepper prickled my nose. Then the finish, ohhh yeah.  Tobacco and dark, dark chocolate with its trademark bitterness, a wonderful complement to the sugar and spice.  And this one is everything nice.  While I still prefer this on cask, let that baby breathe and you'll be just fine.

Side note: Something else happened with this beer which was more pronounced than with ANY other beer I've tried so far: the VAST and surprising difference in the aromas from one glass to the next.  I poured a part in the Pinot Noir Riedel, as always, and the other portion into a tulip Fin du Monde glass. Mistake. You couldn't get ANY aromas in the Fin glass, in fact it smelled like rainwater. Seriously.  But in the Riedel, WOW! Like I said, aromas all over the place!  And, of course I sent it around for others to smell.  I like to make sure I'm not completely mad.  Everyone was in agreement.  So this raises a major problem for service of such a beer and countless others.  I feel sorry for the person who receives such an aromatic and flavorful beer in an improper glass.  You may be ehhhh about a beer, or think you don't even like it, but in reality, you might just be missing everything! Hmmmm.I don't have any answers here, so for now, to be continued.....

Stay tuned for the Anchor Porter review tomorrow!!

Posted on November 12, 2009 and filed under Uncategorized.