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Question about Russian Imperial Stouts

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by igorquad, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. Hello everyone,

    I am quite new to the world of decent tasting beer and in the last few months I got blown away by many Belgian beers that I tried, especially Quads. Now when I look back at when I thought Leffe was the best beer in the world, it makes me laugh. :)

    Anyway, I've noticed that many of the top rated reviews here are from Russian Imperial Stouts so I got curious about them and decided to try one. I purchased from Brewdog an Abstrakt snifter glass (to add to the experience) and a bottle of Cocoa Psycho, which seemed easier to obtain since BD is from Scotland.

    The thing is, I found it absolutely vile! I wouldn't mind a roasted taste and smell but on this beer it's a lot stronger than that, it smells and tastes like something burned! It leaves a horrible aftertaste as if you had licked burned wood or something like that. Is this normal? Is this the kind of taste that I should expect from the majority of RISs? Am I simply being a big wuss or is this probably just a bad beer?

    Cheers in advance and sorry if this is a silly question.
    19etz55 likes this.
  2. Not everyone likes every beer style. People rave about how wonderful sours are but I have zero interest in them (at least at this point). It happens. Find the styles you dig and drink up. Periodically check back in to the stouts though (maybe every six months???) as your tastes may change.
  3. draheim

    draheim Poobah (1,120) Washington Sep 18, 2010 Verified

    I haven't had that particular beer, but I'd say that if it tasted bad to you, then as far as you're concerned (which is all that matters) it's a bad beer.
    If you can get Courage Imperial Russian Stout from Wells & Young's give that one a go. That beer has all the essential qualities I look for in a good RIS.
  4. Hanzo

    Hanzo Champion (965) Virginia Feb 27, 2012

  5. PJHealy

    PJHealy Aficionado (110) Ohio Jun 14, 2012

    Never had Cocoa Psycho, but I worry it's not representative.

    Hoppin' Frog BORIS has won the Great American Beer Festival gold medal for best RIS twice, and I've seen it for sale at Cask Pub & Kitchen in London. Try that. If you don't like it, then you don't like RIS's.
  6. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Advocate (690) Colorado Jan 20, 2012

  7. I'd ask- what temp. was it served at?

    Also, there is a lot of variance in the style. You'll find great ones (to you) and terrible ones (to you).

    It often seems like a style that many brewers bungle, too. More of everything does not always equal a great beer.
    BeerKangaroo likes this.
  8. Not unusual for a first time imperial stout tasting. You might want to work up to them a little more. Start with dry Irish stouts, then maybe milk stouts, oatmeal stouts, robust porters, export stouts, and come back to the imperial. It's described exactly how it's meant to taste, imperial, as in dominating and powerful. They take a little bit of getting used to.

    I would recommend Old Rasputin. It's fairly inexpensive, not too hard to find, and a classic example of the style.

    EDIT: Whoops, you're in the UK. You probably don't get North Coast over there. Sorry...
    Flight0011, creepinjeeper and zid like this.
  9. Hey, I have Cocoa Psycho in the house. Pretty full from gourging on Chinese food right now but I'll try to drink it tonight & get back to you.
  10. If you like Belgians, try to find a good Belgian stout, which is much more subtle than an Imperial but still gets you attuned to roasty dark flavors. Once you get to the point where Belgian stouts are enjoyable, go back to Imperial stouts. Try to find a "plain" one that doesnt have added coffee or chocolate so as not to overwhelm yourself
  11. Smitty1988

    Smitty1988 Savant (385) Arizona Oct 16, 2012 Verified

    I believe you can get Oskar Blues Ten-Fidy in the UK, its very mellow and has a somewhat tabacco flavour, with a bit of chocolate(In a good way) Some RIS taste very smokey and like burnt food but some are more chocolatey and the Malt comes through the way a good coffee does. Dont write them off yet! Cheers
    Kerrie likes this.
  12. Highbrow

    Highbrow Advocate (645) California Jan 7, 2011 Verified

    wait. let's start at the beginning. do you even like porters or regular stouts? not everyone's first experience with a red car... should be a Ferrari. ijs.
  13. I would say that cocoa psycho is on the sweeter side of RISs in the grand scheme of things. Different strokes for different folks. Also, if you aren't accustomed to the style, most "extreme" (not that this really is one) beers are an aquired taste. I personally LOVE cocoa psycho, and all of Brewdogs stouts/strong ales, yet I would have HATED it if I had it before I developed my palate.

    Drink what you like, pay attention to what those who know more like (for educational purposes), and remember that it never hurts to try new things. You really can't go wrong with that.
  14. BKBassist

    BKBassist Advocate (515) New York Jan 24, 2013 Verified

    You're in the UK, get Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout. It's one of the few old English breweries that most modern American BA's agree is still top notch. Also Mikeller, Evil Twin and Nogne ø are European brands that make quality stouts, although they will be pricey for experimenting.
    chuckstout likes this.
  15. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poobah (1,355) Wyoming Sep 14, 2002 Verified

    I've read, I believe, that most of the Courage IRS gets shipped to us Yanks cuz we dig big brews so it might, and I say might, be not so easy for the OP to find.
    CwrwAmByth likes this.
  16. zid

    zid Advocate (700) New York Feb 15, 2010 Verified

    Yes. Try porters and stouts without the word "imperial" in the name.
  17. SimcoeJoe

    SimcoeJoe Aficionado (110) Michigan Jan 13, 2013

    Smells like burned wood and tastes like you licked burnt wood? Sounds about right actually. Start slow though. Instead of climbing the ladder you took the Sears Tower elevator straight to the top.
  18. CMUbrew

    CMUbrew Savant (425) Michigan Jan 27, 2012

    I love a good char character in stouts.
  19. Cocoa Psycho is not exactly where i would begin if I were venturing into the world of Russian Imperial Stouts. Courage, or the new incarnation from Wells & Young is where you begin. They are intense, they do taste burnt they are made for sipping.
  20. RIS is probably my favorite style i've had thus far, but you should probably work up to it.
  21. tai4ji2x

    tai4ji2x Advocate (640) Massachusetts Aug 10, 2007 Verified

    lol at all the americans recommending sam smith. the brewery is more renowned here in the states than it will probably ever be in the UK, where it's usually considered mediocre at best.
    mh007 and CwrwAmByth like this.
  22. baconman91

    baconman91 Advocate (505) Ohio Dec 13, 2009

    try Old Rasputin..simply the Best
  23. True, but I just want my opinion to be biased on a bad experience so that's why I thought I would come here and ask for advice. I should probably try others brands first.
  24. Thanks. That one is obtainable here but it's quite expensive (£5.40 per bottle) but getting just one won't kill me. :)
  25. I am waiting on an order that has a couple Black Alberts in it. Any other suggestions for Belgian stouts?
    CwrwAmByth likes this.
  26. Cool, did you drink it? What was your verdict?
  27. Like i said on my initial post, I am quite ignorant on the beer subject, so no, I haven't tried any of those yet, with the exception of Guinness, which I disliked. I decided to try a RIS by chance just because many of them have very high ratings around here. I had an idea of what kind of flavour I was getting but I didn't think it would be anything like the taste I described.
  28. You might be right, so how did you develop your taste?
  29. I live in the UK, so that's pretty much out of question.
  30. baconman91

    baconman91 Advocate (505) Ohio Dec 13, 2009

    Woops, well, if you ever get the Chance..Remember it. It's a Good one.
  31. Cocoa Psycho isn't a normal beer. It's way more bitter than most, because of the coffee and pure cocoa used.

    Start yourself off with Thornbridge St. Petersburg, Kernel Export Stout or Buxton Tsar.
    Bitterbill likes this.
  32. Don't, it's 3x more expensive than most non mass produced UK imperial stouts.
  33. You can't.
  34. VladTepes

    VladTepes Aficionado (190) Finland Oct 18, 2012


    As the name says, it is dark chocolate forward Imperial Stout. I liked it a lot. Imperial stouts could be quite dry and rosty or much sweeter side. That Brewdog beer you had is between those. You should try something sweeter variation, (like Dark Lord lol.) You may like sweeter ones more. And as others have said, everybody can't like same thing, so it is also possible, that simply you just don't like Imperial Stouts. It is good to remember, that Imperial Stouts are quite powerfull beers, so it could take some time to get use to it.

    Enjoy good beers!


    Edit. I have to say, this topic are full of bad advices. Ten Fidy and Old Rasputin are excellent Imperial Stouts, but defenetely not for you, if you find even Cocoa Psycho too rosty.
  35. In my experience with imperial stouts, European brewed versions tend to have more of the roasted/charred character than American versions (there are always exceptions of course).

    I have not had Cocoa Psycho, so I am not sure where it rates on the roasted scale, but you might struggle with the Black Albert. Aged bottles are not that bad, but the last fresh bottle that I had, had a lot of roasted/burned notes and was quite bitter.

    If I had to recommend a few sweeter examples of the style I would say:

    UK examples:
    US examples:
  36. VladTepes

    VladTepes Aficionado (190) Finland Oct 18, 2012

    Hmm, why those links don't work when I click them? :O

    Black Albert are interesting alternative. Actually it is almost burnt, but there is still quite much sweetnes and a bit of belgian quolity on it.
  37. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poobah (1,355) Wyoming Sep 14, 2002 Verified

    Thornbridge is an excellent one!
  38. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poobah (1,355) Wyoming Sep 14, 2002 Verified

    Kabert from De Struise is a very good one.