Saturday, August 8, 2015

Cellar Rats Russian Imperial Stout

The use of a hammer and sickle on a label for a Russian Imperial Stout seems to be somewhat of a paradox.  A historical contradiction.  After all, the Russian Imperial Stout style emerged in the court of the Czar Peter the Great.  British brewers increased the alcohol and hops in their porters to create a beer that could be transported to St. Petersburg.  The beer continued to thrive in the courts of successor Czars, such as Catherine the Great.  According to one historian, "The Empress of all Russia is so partial to Porter that she has ordered repeatedly very large quantities for her own drinking and that of her court."  The History and Antiquities of the Parish of St. Saviour, Southwark.

Yet, the hammer and sickle is the emblem of the Soviet Union, whose founders overthrew the Czarist court, executed the Czar, and implemented a version of communism that lasted over eight hundred years.  While Soviet leader may have been preoccupied in Western imperialism, that focus was not on British beers.  One could safely assume that most Soviet leaders drank vodka, and a lot of it.    

This discussion is prompted by Cellar Rats Brewery's Black Rat Imperial Stout, whose label contains that historical contradiction.  According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, a Russian Imperial Stout should appear a very dark reddish brown to jet black, with a rich and complex aroma that should feature roasted malts, hops, and alcohol and a taste that could be reminiscent of bitter or unsweetened chocolate, cocoa or roasted coffee.  

The brewers at Cellar Rats have produced a Russian Imperial Stout that fits comfortably within the style.  The stout pours a jet black color, and a thick, puffy foam.  It has aromatic elements of roasted coffee.  Those earthy notes carry over to the taste, which is full of mellow, roasted malt notes wrapped in a thin sheet of booziness.  There is a little bitterness on the palate, most likely from the roasted malts, but also from the hops.  This bitterness is not overwhelming and does not detract from the overall smooth, mellow nature of this beer. 

I have to say that this is one of the better Russian Imperial Stouts that I have tasted.  I was given a bottle of this beer to try by my father, so I don't know the price of the beer or where to find it.  Given Cellar Rats Brewery is based on Madison, Ohio, I am sure that you can find the beer in Ohio.   If you see it on a menu or see a bottle in the store, it is worth trying.  

ENJOY!

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