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Ivan The Terrible Imperial Stout - Big Sky Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Ivan The Terrible Imperial StoutIvan The Terrible Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

82 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 82
Hads: 441
Avg: 3.97
pDev: 20.65%
Wants: 11
Gots: 87 | FT: 6
Brewed by:
Big Sky Brewing Company
Montana, United States | website

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout | 9.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: jegross2 on 05-23-2012

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 82 | Hads: 441
Photo of ManBearPat
4.75/5  rDev +19.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Great RIS. The comparisons to old Rasputin are legit. Only points off for a lack of proper carbonation... Otherwise, a well above average example of the style.

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Photo of Mehinaman
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This might not be the best stout I've ever had, but it's still pretty damn good. Tastes or chocolate and coffee. Pours pitch black and is not too thin at all which gives it a good mouthfeel. I will buy again

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Photo of BeerWithMike
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled this evening on 2/8/16. Comes in a 12-ounce bottle. Bottle chilled down to 36 degrees F in my beer cooler and poured in to a "MOOSE DROOL" handled-glass stein.

Brew pours a pitch-black in color with close to a 3-finger foamy/creamy beige head. LOTS of ring-like lacing is seen with each sip that stuck to the sides of the glass. Aroma is of dark fruits, roasted malts and black coffee. More going on with the taste with some bitter-sweet chocolate and a hint of smoke also in the mix. Minor bitterness for the finish which is common for this style of brew but doesn't last long. Medium+ to full-bodied with perfect carbonation. More of a sipping type brew then a chugging one for sure. Slow down and and enjoy it. Overall a great brew!

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Photo of Libeertarian
4.49/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This is the 2014 bottling. I had saved a few. I may review the 2015 bottling soon as well to see if aging the 2014s a year made much difference.

Nearly opaque and pitch black, although I can just barely see very dark red hues in the light. Head is fine and frothy, a slight orange-tinted medium or dark brown. Sinks down quickly at first, then retains a nice thick lining for the duration. Strong aromas of molasses, licorice, and pure ethanol. A bit of soil and burnt toast in there as well. So sweet and hot on the palate, it will take me a few moments to figure out just what is going on in this beer. Booziness runs through this beer all the way, which could be an effect of aging. Still, you can definitely make out such flavors as molasses, vanilla, toffee, baking chocolate, licorice/anise, leaf matter, menthol. Lots of good flavors, here, but the alcohol makes it a little too harsh. It is hard to distinguish roast qualities from hop qualities. Finish definitely produces hop bitterness, but it's subdued, and fairly nondescript, meshing well with roasty and boozy aftertastes. Medium body and fine, subtle effervescence makes this deceptively drinkable. Were I not reviewing this, I'd have been in danger of drinking it too quickly. It's watery, yes, but not watered-down. Only mildly astringent, and quite warm. 4.47.

Update: Okay, I'm reviewing the 2015 bottling now, approximately 24 hours later. Fresh, instead of aged a year. Let's see if there's much difference here:

Looks the same for the most part, but with better lacing. Smells roastier, smokier, with more chocolate notes, not much of anything else beyond ethanol, disproving my speculation that the latter aroma might be the result of aging. More chocolate as well on the palate. Otherwise, most of the same flavors as in the year-old 2014, except that leaf matter is swapped out for tobacco, and then booziness is not as pronounced in the taste, but still shows its full strength in the mouthfeel and finish. Mouthfeel is also slightly different. About the same level of carbonation, but more classic suds than effervescence. Fuller, less watery perhaps. Warming still, but less harsh. In all, I'd say appearance and smell are in the same range, but taste has slightly improved, though not really enough to change the rating, though the feel has vastly improved. I gave the year-old 4.75/4.5/4.5/4/4.5. I'll re-rate it based on this fresh batch. Fresh, in my opinion, it's slightly better than the 4.47 I had given it for year-old, but that is very much a matter of personal preference. 4.49.

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Photo of tzieser
4.46/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass (no tulip on hand, sorry proper glassware nerds!)

L: pitch black in color (completely opaque) with a thick eggshell colored head. The head on this beer never seems to quit. One of the best looking stouts I've seen in a while

S: rich, sweet malt aroma. suggestions of hot chocolate, roasted malt. Coffee. Alcohol is barley noticible in the nose. Quite nice

T: incredibly smooth. One of the smoothest Imperial Stouts I have ever had. Sweeter than I was expecting, lots of chocolate malt, dark chocolate, coffee, mocha, a bit of dried dark fruit in there as well. Finishes a little bitter, with roasted malts lingering. Excellent

M: mouthfeel is dry, inviting you to drink more

O: an outstanding imperial stout. Not too boozy or bitter. Well balanced for a beer of such high gravity. Well done!

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Photo of zfw
4.42/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Nice caramel start, roasted malt, alcohol is there but not overpowering even at 9.5. You can find a new dimension to the flavor with every sip. My only criticism is there are others in this style that I can buy much cheaper.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.4/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Howler style.

Black pour, 1" head of tan foam, very good lacing.

Dark, bitter, chocolate and roasted malt in the smell. It *almost* has an oat note or maybe it does. It's faint.

Dark chocolate in the taste, not overly bitter, nice roasted malt flavour, light sweetness, pretty basic but delicious.

Medium bodied, same for the carbonation.

An all around well brewed Imperial Stout. No barreling required for my enjoyment.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.37/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2014 twelve ounce bottle poured into a mini-snifter.

Pours a deep black, somewhat viscous, and produces a finger thick khaki-colored head. It sits well over the oil-like liquid. Lace forms around the edges of the liquid and streaks across the top. There's much to admire here. 4.5

Dark chocolate is potent as is sweet vanilla and caramel. There's a burly sweet malt thickness apparent on the nose. I'm reminded more of a scotch ale. 4.25

Dark chocolate takes the lead on the palate as well, toffee and vanilla follow-up and then there's a spicy bite of hops. Baker's chocolate lingers on the finish. With some warmth, some dark fruit flavor and even some cherry emerges. There is an excellent number of flavors here. 4.5

Smooth and creamy, but with a rush of carbonation mid-palate and a spicy hop heat that give the beer some bite. There's no alcohol feel or burn, which is impressive for this 9.5% brew. 4.25

This beer deserves more props. It's damn good. All across the board. A 4-pack for around $10 is a steal. I look forward to aging the other three bottles and enjoying them many years from now.

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Photo of alarmclock314
4.35/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated 2014. Pours black with a small tan head on a hard pour. Smells of roasted malts, oak, and cocoa. Taste follows with cocoa, roasted malts, and some oak on the end. Some pleasing dryness in the finish. No alcohol warming. Surprisingly low carbonation, even for the style. Medium body. Overall, it has a good balance of favor and the lower carbonation works well.

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Photo of markgugs
4.35/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Way underrated brew...this is one of the better non-BA imperial stout I've had, reminds me in many ways of Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout, only with a thicker, more viscous mouthfeel (thus, the surprise that it's not, in fact, barrel-aged). Nose is earthy, like freshly-ground espresso and cocoa beans, and the taste features so much fudge and mocha-like coffee it's overly decadent. Rich, thick, chewy, amazing. Excellent "normal" imperial stout.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.34/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a chalice. 2014 bottle.

Appearance: Pours midnight black with a moderate amount of bubbles. About one finger of tan head which settles into a thin creamy layer.

Smell: A rich, roasty, and sweet dark malt forward aroma with hints of chocolate, coffee, and biscuit. Dark roasted barley malt with upfront hints of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, biscuit, toast, caramel, smoke, and yeast. Hints of molasses and some anise licorice. Dark fruit hints of fig, raisin, and plum. Subtle earthy hops. A pretty good smell.

Taste: Like it smells, a roasty, rich, and sweet dark malt forward taste with good notes of dark chocolate, baker’s cocoa, biscuit, burnt toast, coffee, cream, caramel, smoke, and yeast. Sweet notes of molasses. Subtle notes of anise licorice. Dark fruit undertones with notes of raisin, fig, and plum. Light note of earthy hops. A very good taste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Creamy, rich, and somewhat slick. Alcohol heat is minimal.

Overall: A very good take on a Russian Imperial Stout. Good dark malt flavors with a good balance of roasty bitterness and sweetness.

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Photo of Pegasus
4.25/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: A nearly three-inch, dense and fine-beaded tan head, with excellent retention crowns an obsidian body. Thick, utterly glass-coating lacing adorns the glass walls abundantly.

Aroma: Profound aroma of vinous alcohol, burnt caramel, cocoa, vanilla, and dark fruit

Taste: The taste begins with burnt sugar, then bitter cocoa, then baker's chocolate. Midway through the taste there is cold coffee, black licorice and charred barley. There are hints, but only hints, of the high ABV of 9,5%, mainly slight vinous alcohol flavors. If anything, the alcohol is more notable in the aroma than in the taste. Hints of vanilla and wood appear as well. Finishes with a lingering burnt and moderately earthy note.

Mouth feel: Rich, smooth, velvety, and full.

Drinkability/notes: An absolutely wonderful Russian Imperial Stout, worthy of the style. I am surprised that this was offered in a four-pack of twelve-ounce bottles for $11.99, rather than a twenty-two ounce bomber at the same price.

Presentation: Packaged in a standard twelve-ounce frosted brown glass long neck bottle with a pry-off crown, served in a New Belgium chalice.

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Photo of adman08
4.25/5  rDev +7.1%

Dark brown with minimal tan head. Sweet almost oak aroma with hints of coffee and molasses. Prominent dark chocolate flavor, some coffee and a slight sweetness. Creamy smooth body, not terribly thick. Tasty imperial stout, a little on the sweet side but certainly not too sweet, just not super roasty.

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Photo of hardy008
4.25/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with a one finger tan head. The aroma has dark roasted malt, cocoa, and some dark fruit.

The taste is mildly sweet with cocoa, dark chocolate, dark fruit, and there is dark roasted malt which brings bitterness for balance. The alcohol is well disguised. I would not have guessed this is a 9.5 % abv beer.

Medium to full bodied with modest carbonation. Chewy. There is a chocolate aftertaste. A well made beer, and I am glad I had a chance to try this.

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Photo of GilGarp
4.24/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2014 vintage. 12 oz bottle.

Served slightly chilled into a goblet. Ivan the Terrible is a deep dark brown with good clarity. The head is thin and leaves no lacing.

Aroma is rich and roasty with a hint of sweetness.

Flavor is bold and full of dark chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and nuts.

Mouthfeel is full bodied, nicely carbonated, and well balanced.

Overall a very good imperial stout. Nice to see it in 4 packs this year.

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Photo of Tone
4.24/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a black color. 1/3 inch head of a tan color. Great retention and decent lacing. Smells of sweet malt, slight roast malt, yeast, hint of sugar, hint of syrup, hint of hop, and alcohol. Fits the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. Mouth feel is smooth and clean, with an average carbonation level. Tastes of sweet malt, alcohol, slight roasted malt, hint of syrup, hint of hop, and a hint of yeast. Overall, good appearance, strong aroma, strong body, good blend, and good feel.

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Photo of flagmantho
4.23/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I had this beer in a snifter at the Pine Box in Seattle.

Appearance: beautiful black hue; rich and thick with a finger of creamy tan foam with great retention and a thick lace. Just wonderful.

Smell: surprisingly mild, but still quite good. Nicely roasty with a little bit of a creamy character. A bit on the light side, but well-composed.

Taste: richly roasty, chocolatey, with caramel, toffee and a little dark fruitiness. There's a bit of an oaky, vanilla component, although this is not the barrel aged version -- interesting. I think it's very good indeed.

Mouthfeel: big body with a good carbonation and a silky smooth texture and a brilliant creaminess. Wonderful!

Overall: this is surprisingly easy-drinking despite its ABV. Very, very tasty and highly quaffable -- what else do you need?

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Photo of WoodBrew
4.21/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Ivan the Terrible.....is terribly awesome. Great stout....would love to try the barrel aged version. Pours opaque black with then ecru head that is leaving a spotty lace. The carries a deep roast with waifs of alcohol. The taste is like peat and espresso mix. Themouthfeel is close to oil....nice an thick....luv it. Overall...if your a Russian stout fan.....you should like this.

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Photo of IPAGeorge
4.21/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured form a bottle into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint

A. Pours a beautiful black as espresso impenetrable by light with a 2 finger cappuccino colored head with very nice lacing. Looks great.

S. Aromas of dark chocolate and dark roasted malt make up the character here. A slight aroma of a dark dried fruit like prunes or raisins.

T. At first I get a chocolate flavor suddenly followed by a fig like dark fruity sweetness then a finish with a little bitterness and a pleasant baby spinach note. A bit of complexity here hitting different notes at different times. Each flavor blending into the next with ease. I'm liking it.

M. Not motor oil but still thick. Chewy but also with a little carbonation. A tad warming going down. The carbonation is a nice counter balance to the chewiness.

O. A very drinkable stout. A little thick but it fools you with the carbonation so the finish is more like a black ipa. Beautiful to look at. Very solid complexity of flavors here and the aroma basically backs that up. Nicely done.

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Photo of Nugganooch
4.19/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle with my Stone IRS snifter glass
Notes taken 02/27/2015

A: Black as the beard of Ivan itself with a nice oily luster look. A thin layer of smooth khaki cream settles over top, holding true for a few shortened minutes. I see a few dots and random swaths of lace decorate my glass after each sip. Looks fitting for the Tsar of all the Russias to me.

S: Roasty and well composed with prevalent chocolate in the nose. I get some toasted bread and a brown sugar sweetness all encompassing. Finishes with a soft earthiness and a trailer of licorice with some alcohol spice noted. Pretty warm and inviting for me.

T: Cocoa melds with coffee, brown sugar, and dark toasted grains or breads. There is a relatively big hop bitterness that cuts through the sweetness nicely aiding in the overall balance. Segues into an earthier root like note akin to licorice or chicory. Never too harsh, acrid, or charry. Overall this is quite tasty and well balanced with a bit of alcohol spice exuding in the finish.

M: Full bodied with a silky mouthfeel and moderate amount of hop bitterness that leads into a somewhat dry finish. Fairly clean with a light sleek coating and some mild alcohol warmth noted.

D: Solid brew all around from Big Sky. Ivan ain’t so terrible you know. While his legacy is complex; he was an able diplomat, a patron of the arts and trade, and a leader highly popular among the common people of Russia. Albeit, wrought with mental instability and brutality. Any who, I will definitely be grabbing a few more of these. Worth checking out & the BA version could be promising.

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Photo of Roguer
4.17/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark black, topped with a one finger dark brown head. Decent retention and nice lacing.

Huge roasty aroma. Notes of coffee, char, chocolate, and overripe dark fruit. Waves and waves of roasted barley. This is a beautiful traditional imperial stout aroma.

Flavor matches the nose across the board. It's a smoother, roastier Old Raspy. A touch of overripe fruit and red grapes up front, quickly washed away by extremely dark cacao, burnt coffee, and charred toast. Slightly creamy sweetness lingers throughout. Huge roasty finish that washes over your palate.

Big feel; not quite chewy or even all that thick, but full-bodied and potent. Very lively. ABV only really makes an appearance on the back-end.

This is a really good traditional RIS. It hits all the notes you want from the style.

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Photo of Brutaltruth
4.17/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Thoroughly enjoyed form the 12 oz bottle in a snifter via a friend from work----Thanks Randy!

This roasted monster pours a a deep blackish brown with an excellent head of brown foam that dissipates to a thick ring, thin pool, and excellent lacing. Nose of roasted grains, deep coffee notes, subtle cream, dark chocolate, and a touch char. Flavors exceed the nose with coffee and dark chocolate blending together on the front and sides with a touch of cream and toffee. Dark berries and raisins blend into the middle to back of the taste featuring black berry and a hint of blueberry that settle on the back with deeply roasted malts and subtle grain notes. Great mouth feel; lightly warming that belies the alcohol in this one. Mild to medium carbonation with a moderately bitter malt aftertaste that lingers and a lightly chewy background.
Excellence that is easy drinking----smooth yet beefy. This brewery deserves more recognition for making this deeply roasted beast so approachable.


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Photo of THSdrummer
4.14/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a solid black, with a medium sized, creme head. Minor lacing left behind. Smoked malts and espresso form a delightful aroma. The espresso doesn't stand out, but plays along subtly. The taste a mix of roasted malts, espresso, and a slight bit of booze. It has a biscuit malt finish. Mouth feel is really good, although it feels a bit harsh in the carbonation. Still a pleasure to drink. Overall, this is a great stout. Fairly easy to drink with a good display of flavors.

Served in a 12oz snifter.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
4.12/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a snifter

Appearance – The beer pours a pitch black color with a small head of tan colored foam. The head has a light level of retention, fading rather quickly to leave a tiny bit of streaky lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is massive of a roasted malt smell mixed with strong aromas of some caramel and a little bit of a chocolate and vanilla smell. Along with these aromas comes a quite robust smell of a boozy, slightly bourbon like aroma, that mixes with the dark and roasty smells to produce a rather warming smell overall.

Taste – The taste begins with a rather strong roasted malt flavor mixed with a whole lot of a cocoa and some sweetness of caramel. As the taste advances the sweetness increases a bit as more caramel and some vanilla and dark fruit flavors of plum and raisin come to the tongue. While the sweetness increases up to the middle, it later fades a tad later on, all while some slightly more bitter flavors come to the tongue. The bitter are predominantly from a coffee like flavor but contain some of a more earthy and woody hop flavors as well. With a decent sum of a bourbon booziness joining the flavor profile later at the end, one is left with a rather dark, moderatly sweet, and slightly boozy warming taste to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is very thick and creamy with a carbonation level that is a bit on the lower side. For the rich roasty flavors as well as the sweet upfront, the thick feel is rather nice, as it really allows all the big and robust flavors to linger on the tongue.

Overall – A rather well done stout overall, as it wasn’t too sweet, nor too dry, but had a whole lot of roast, a decent amount of sweet cocoa and coffee, and a nice warming feel.

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Photo of samtrillo
4.11/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The nose features roasted malts and toasted nuts with some burnt coffee and cocoa.

The taste and feel comes off as a smoked porter. Lots of burnt coffee bean and roasted dark dark chocolate. The after taste is great with the lingering smokiness. They could have called this a smoked stout and gotten away with it, IMO. Some roasted almond and hazelnut in there, but overall a charred mocha thing. Mouthfeel is very smooth and drinkable for nearly . Try it!

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Ivan The Terrible Imperial Stout from Big Sky Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 82 ratings.