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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

70 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 70
Hads: 399
Avg: 3.97
pDev: 21.66%
Wants: 9
Gots: 80 | FT: 6
Brewed by:
Big Sky Brewing Company visit their website
Montana, United States

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: 70 | Hads: 399
Photo of biboergosum
3.68/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, 2014 edition - nice to see another of this brewery's stronger offerings make it across the border.

This beer pours a solid, light-absorbing black, with rather spare basal cola edges, and two fingers of wanly puffy, tightly foamy, and duly creamy chocolate milk brown head, which leaves some crumbling ski hill snow mass lace around the glass as it slowly abates.

It smells of bready, meaty caramel malt, bittersweet cocoa powder, syrupy dark sugar, muddled black dried fruit, Nordic liquorice, sugary root beer, and a stultifying whiff of aggressive alcohol. The taste is semi-sweet, gritty chocolate, bready caramel malt, a bit of dank and fleshy ash, still indistinct, but surely present black fruit, subtle dry coffee grounds, Zellers-quality black liquorice, tame earthy, weedy hops, and a well-restrained (for now) metallic booziness.

The bubbles are fairly understated in their tempered frothiness, the body an adequate medium-heavy weight for the style, and more or less smooth, a trite, kind of pithy creaminess straining to be noticed. It finishes surprisingly dry, the cocoa turning as such, while the malt maintains its disaffected posture, and the other sundry characters play out their guest fees.

A generally engaging, but not particularly world-beating version of the style - lots going on, but a certain dissociative nature starts to become evident early on, and that clamminess just carries on and on, once it sticks to your palate. Yeah, ok, but not something I care to immediately revisit, well-integrated ABV considerations aside.

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Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 9/25/2014. Pours pitch black color with a 1 finger dense dark tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, toast, brown sugar, raisin, prune, licorice, dark bread, light char, herbal, and roasted earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt, fruity yeast ester, and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, toast, dark bread, brown sugar, light dark fruit, light licorice, light char, herbal, and roasted earthiness. Moderate amount of roast/earthy hop bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, toast, dark bread, brown sugar, light dark fruit, light char, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Very nice complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast ester flavors; with a nice roasted bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a very smooth, moderately creamy, and lightly bready/chalky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is a damn nice imperial stout. All around great complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast ester flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of mothman
3.81/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2014 Vintage

Tan head. Color is black.

Flavor profile: Cocoa, chocolate, caramel, molasses, raisins, figs, plums, brown sugar. Has a burnt roasted malt flavor to it. Coffee roast. Some vanilla.

Overall, a solid beer for the price. $3 a bottle. I thought this was going to be the same recipe as the 750s (i.e. barrel aged), but it isn't which is kind of a let down.

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Photo of Zorro
3.82/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Black colored beer with a momentary brown head that promptly goes poof!

Smells fruity and strongly of grapes from a distance. Fairly boozy scent and t5he smell of brandy. Scents of chocolate and coconut, but not super strongly. Faint scent of licorice.

Starts out tasting of grapes and patent malt. Taste of brandy and a little chocolate. Slight berry flavor.

Mouthfeel is OK.

Overall an OK RIS.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4


12oz picked up at Bier Thirty.. Have seen it around town at all the usual beer shops. Poured into my FW Reserve goblet.. Dark tan head shows nice lacing and good retention.

Nose is ashy and a bit burnt with some milk chocolate.. Pleasant and well rounded.

Flavor has a light fruity element that helps tie the chocolate malt back to the bigger roasted/black malt... light licorice that I don't really appreciate... Still very well rounded and a nice standard RIS.

Medium body with good bubble.

I didn't think I would appreciate this one as much as I did... We forget about the base beer once they are put in some random barrel.. This is a good beer without any accentuation.


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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 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 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 wordemupg
4.08/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

355ml 2014 bottle poured into tulip 17/12/14

A black liquid with a thin cola edge, thumbs width of mocha head hangs around for a few sips leaving a single thick ring of lace

S lots of licorice, dark chocolate, molasses, prune, raisins, a hint of coffee and booze, a little chocolate syrup, smells on par for the style

T mimics the smell, dried fruit, lots of chocolate, coffee, a little nutty, some sweetness, licorice, again it fits the style

M thick and creamy, a little sticky on the lips, bitter but nothing crazy, just a little booze on the finish, solid in this department

O well rounded RIS, hits all the spots but stops short of blowing you away, would make a great industry standard for the style

this one pleases but now I really want to see what the bourbon barrel does for it, fingers crossed it makes it to Alberta

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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 barnzy78
3.78/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle, 2014 release, 9.5% ABV
A - dark brown colored ale, nice creamy light brown head holds great retention
S - sweeter aroma with cocoa, molasses, brown sugar, and some mild roasted barley
T - roasted barley, bittersweet chocolate, a bit herbal and earthy, molasses, brown sugar
M - full body, ample carbonation, finishes bitter and semi-dry with roast and a bit of pine lingering
O - not my favorite RIS, but it's pretty good. I doubt I'd get it again with so many good ones out there.

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Photo of CrazyDavros
3.42/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours black with a tan head.
Nose shows dry roast, sweet bready malt, toasty notes, soft coffee and liquorice.
Aggressive flavours, loads of roast, liquorice and booze. Almost abrasive.

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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 TX-Badger
3.75/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a very dark brown almost black with tan head. Coffee, roasted malt, and a little raw cocoa on the nose; follows onto the palate. Finishes with alcohol and roasted malt.

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Photo of StoutHunter
3.79/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Short Review. This is a pretty solid RIS, it had just about everything that I look for in the style, i wish it was a little more robust, but I thought the alcohol was hidden well. I wouldn't mind finding a bottle to review and maybe one to cellar.

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Photo of notchucknorris
4.04/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Pours black with a one finger tan head that shows good retention. Really nice lace down the glass with each sip.

S: Rich roasted malt and dark chocolate with a slight blackberry edge to it. Fudge, dark roasted coffee and some oak barrel.

T: A nice roasty and slightly charred malt flavor right off the bat. Some toasted oats, bittersweet chocolate and some burnt toast. Intensely roasty and dark, but a slightly thin mouthfeel brings it down a touch to me. Still, a very solid RIS.

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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 Beaver13
3.91/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle. Pours dark brown with a medium creamy brown head that retains well and laces the glass.

The aroma is roast chocolate malts and anise.

The flavor is sweet chocolate malts, some dark fruit, anise and a lot of roast in the finish. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with smooth carbonation.

Overall, a solid roasty chocolate imperial stout.

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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 mfnmbvp
3.78/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle, with no apparent bottled on date present, vintage 2014 printed on the label. Surprisingly, my first review of a beer from Big Sky Brewing Co., acquired a single bottle of this stuff from the local beer store.

Poured into a clear balloon snifter.

A - It pours a dark inky black, with a good fat fingers worth of creamy mocha head. Leaves lots of good sticky lacing behind. Looks good for what it is.

S - The aroma is pleasant enough: chocolate, cream, burnt, roast, a hint of smoke, and a touch of alcohol.

T - Taste follows the nose: chocolate, cream, burnt malt, roast, and a slightly pervasive liquid smoke flavor.

M - The feel is smooth & creamy. Very easy drinking for the high 9.50% abv.

Overall, a nice example of the style from Big Sky. A little rough around the edges, but a good sipper nonetheless.

Big Sky Brewing Ivan The Terrible Imperial Stout -----3.5/5

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Photo of Moose90
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 Vintage, 12oz bottle (looks bad ass), poured into 16oz snifter

A – Pours deep onyx black, head is thin but mocha colored. Lacing left behind is clingy and steady.

S – Boozy, dark roasted malts, roasted chocolate and coffee notes as well. Some light spice and fruit notes as well which is unexpected.

T – Very nice, chocolate and dark roasted malt notes. Some sweetness and bitterness but it is balanced quite well.

M – Not overly thick, carbonation tends towards the lower side of the spectrum. Little bit of alcohol comes through as well on the finish.

O – Very nice representation of the style, like many, it gets better as it warms. Notes of rich coffee and roasted malts, a little coffee and fruit undertones as well.

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Photo of EyePeeAyBryan
3.93/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lots of heavy stouts change with temp but this guy transformed into a really solid stout once it warmed a bit. The alcohol was very well hidden after that change and ended with a nice dry chocolate flavor. Probably would be fantastic w/ a great cigar.

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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 jegross2
4.06/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewing the non-barrel aged base beer for Ivan The Terrible from Big Sky Brewing Company out of Montana. I had the pleasure of drinking this beer at the Map Room in Chicago for Chicago craft beer week while chatting with Big Sky's head brewer Matt Long.
Score: 91

Tap pour from the 2012 batch that is currently sitting in barrels for a late October 2012 release. Served in a chalice glass and enjoyed on 05/23/12 with a cup of Intelligensia coffee.

Appearance: Pitch black color. Seems completely opaque in the bar, though the lighting is not the best. Served with a finger of soapy tan head that slowly recedes into a thin layer atop the glass. Amazing lacing and retention. 5/5

Smell: Brown sugar, roasted chocolate, a little black "medium roast" coffee, and some dark fruit. 4/5

Taste: A decent amount of roasted chocolate throughout, but this is not a chocolate-forward beer. Rather, Ivan is a balanced medley of traditional stout flavors. Dry fig and black cherry, with more bittersweet dark fruit flavor growing on the midpalate as the beer warms. There is a little brown sugar flavor in the mix too, but not in a "sweet" way. Some cocoa and raw chocolate. There's a bit of nondescript butteriness. A bit acidic, but not overly so, as the low amount of carbonation keeps it quite drinkable. Unlike the nose, I did not detect much, if any, coffee flavor. The alcohol is completely hidden. The flavors linger a bit, particularly the bitter chocolate, and it helps some of the beer's tastier complexities layer. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, minimal carbonation. Roasty, bitter and a bit acidic. Decently dry finish. 4/5

Overall: Initially I was a bit disappointed to arrive at the Map Room only to find out that the "real" Ivan, the barrel aged stuff, was not what was on tap. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the base beer. This is a real nice and roasty stout, and it is different from most Russian Imperial Stouts (which tend to be sweeter and chocolatier). Ivan's base beer is quite delicious in its own right, and I can't wait to try a bottle of the barrel aged stuff.

Recommendation: If this stuff saw regular 12 oz bottle format treatment, I would likely buy a four/six pack. I'd recommend this all around to people who do not mind roasty stouts.

Pairings: Intelligensia's house blend or diablo roast coffee.

Cost: $5 for a 12 oz pour in a chalice glass.

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Ivan The Terrible Imperial Stout from Big Sky Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 70 ratings.