Imperial Russian Stout | Stone Brewing

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Imperial Russian StoutImperial Russian Stout
Imperial Russian StoutImperial Russian Stout

Brewed by:
Stone Brewing
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.60%

Availability: Spring

Notes / Commercial Description:
None provided.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 2,778 | Ratings: 8,449
Photo of Tonerelia
1.65/5  rDev -61.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.25 | overall: 2

Poured into snifter looked like motor oil with the same consistency, low if any carbonation even when poured more aggressively than normal.

Smell was strong and of sheer alcohol, there was almost no smell of anything else present.

taste was so hoppy, I do understand that, that is Stone's style but jeeze for a stout to be the hoppy good lord.

Overall I certainly will not be purchasing this again,

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Photo of sfprint
1.79/5  rDev -58.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Bought from Ledgers in Berkeley, CA.

A: It looks quite frightening actually. It poured more like tar or molasses than a beer. Little carbonation. Looks like a super dark, dense, flat cola, tar pit.

S: Unique smell, having problems identifying it exactly. Very strange. Although the bottle cap states that its 100% natural,part of the smell it has i would associate with chemicals, the other part with rubber, or rubber cement.

T: Wow, quite different from other Russian Imperial Stouts I've had. The alcohol is very strong in the taste, and it unfortunately doesn't taste very natural to me. The aftertaste is unpleasant, very bitter, like a some kind of garden weed. In the body, I do taste coffee, but it's not good coffee. Somewhat sweet.

M: Initially it goes down very smooth, but then the aftertaste creates this bizarre, mouth puckering sensation like you've consumed something potentially poisonous.

O: Bleh. Maybe I've drank this beer too soon. On the back it recommends trying it every 5-6 months, and since it was "released" this spring, and it's only June, maybe it wasn't the right time to drink? I will go read the other reviews now and try to see what everyone else see's in it. It's definitely disconcerting that my experience is so far different from the other reviewers here.

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Photo of philipquarles
1.87/5  rDev -56.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

Spring 2009 release. Pours a used-motor-oil black with a creamy dark beige/light brown head that disappears to leave a bit of lacing. Smells of Drambuie-soaked raisins, dates, and other dark fruits, as well as a load of chocolate and some brown sugar. It would be pleasant if it weren't overpoweringly boozy. The more it warms, the worse it gets. More cocoa and dark fruits in the taste, and again, loads of alcohol. The initial chocolaty sweetness turns to intense bitterness from heavy hopping. Slightly astringent as well. Warming alcohol-laden finish. Thick body with nice carbonation. Too intensely boozy to be very drinkable. This might have the potential to be nice after a couple of years, but a fresh bottle tastes like chocolate macerated in port with a few dabs of soy sauce added for good measure. Poured half the bomber down the drain.

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Photo of mrasskicktastic
1.9/5  rDev -56.1%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

Spring 2007 release

A - Black brew with an excellent cascade. A bit of lacing is left on the sides.

S - Molasses, licorice and a hint of fresh pitch. Burnt pith and alcohol. As the beer warms, only slightly. A pretty unpleasant smell.

T - Molasses, soy sauce, sour, licorice, black pepper, alcohol. Aftertaste is a bitter scorched malt and some sourness.

M - Thick, syrupy, smooth, a bit refreshing.

D - This beer is not very good at all. I neither hate nor love Stone beers, and I neither hate nor love extreme beers - but, objectively, this is just bad. A little short of drain pour. Truthfully, I don't think age will make a worthwhile difference in this one. I'll let it sit for a few years I think and then crack it open. I am really sad that I bought two when I saw it. Very few times that I say this, but "at least it is strong." Barring the one I bought synchronously (which I might just trade), I won't have this again.

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Photo of chugalug06
1.92/5  rDev -55.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

2011 bottle aged 1 year; update: This brew has soured horribly... Much worse then 2009 Abyss... I won't touch any of my previous scoring, this was a drain pour.

For the record, this is not the Belgo Anise version

A - Awesome big fluffy tan head. Some lacing. Head quickly recedes. Brew is thin oil black.

S - Weird. Not sure how I feel about this scent... Very weird chocolate scent, some licorice too.

T - Not impressive. Weird dark malt with over amounts of chocolate. also, some cheep Folgers taste.

M - Carbonation is a little too high. Bitterness is nonexistent. Dryness/sweetness is too high, doesn't fit style. Brew is was too thin, too.

O - Not impressed with this Stone offering. I hope it flattens out with age, I still have two more... If anyone would like a Belgo Anise version, please let me know!!! What happened to Stone brews setting the pace for the rest of the West Coast? Close to a drain pour...

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Photo of Ecliptica
2.03/5  rDev -53.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

When I finally saw this for the first time at Julio's Liquors in Westborough, MA I was excited - one of the highest rated beers on BA and not available in Louisiana where I usually am and usually purchase beer. It was an automatic purchase, even at $8.00 a bottle.

Poured the brew in a pint glass that I brought back with me from my favorite bar in New Orleans and the beer poured as expected, a completely opaque black that absolutely refuses to let light pass through it, no ruby tints as with most other Imperial Stouts. This is as black as black can be. The beautiful tan head leaves zero lacing behind.

The smell can best be described as a licorice-laced espresso. There is a hint of fruity esters somewhere in there and it's actually quite complex and quite leading. I don't know why it doesn't taste like it smells.

Although the beer is 10.80% ABV, the only distinguishable taste is the alcohol. I'm getting very little fruit and NO chocolate whatsoever. It tastes almost like soy sauce, leaving the mouth dry and wanting more. . .but certainly not more of this beer.

The beer is nowhere near as thick or as smooth as it should be considering the vigorous pour, and as I mentioned above, there is a quite bitter and sour aftertaste that leaves the palate desiring more liquid and I continued to drink the brew even though I knew I wasn't enjoying it.

Drinkability. . .::sigh::. . .I don't even know. This is probably the second beer I've had in the last couple of months that almost resulted in a drain pour. I'm just left wondering why it's rated so high. . .is it because it's a Russian Imperial Stout? Is it because of the high ABV? Is because the brewery itself is known for producing quality beers (this is the first one that has let me down, FWIW)? I'm just confused, I don't recommend this at all, and between this and the Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (Aged in Malt Whiskey Casks) that I had last week, I've been having pretty bad luck with choosing my beers lately.

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Photo of Erdinger2003
2.2/5  rDev -49.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

2006, cellared for one year. In proper storage conditions.

This beer pours out a good head, soft and tan/brown. The color is dark brown with a black color in the middle. The head falls very fast and leaves a slight lacing. The smell is boozy and harsh with some off flavors, I have had these off flavors before I just can't put my finger on it. The taste is slightly roasty, alcohol presence is noticable. Their are off flavors again. Mouthfeel isn't very good, it leaves my mouth dry and want of more, not more of the beer, but something. Overall, this was a bad experience. If the 2007 is like this I will not buy this again.

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Photo of Kudashov
2.24/5  rDev -48.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

This brew was going to be enjoyed while watching my beloved Boston Red Sox . I got neither . The Sox game was called off and this beer was not enjoyable . When poured , the color and the crusty bubbled head was nice and very impressive . The head reminded me of the inside of a Crunchie Bar that my folks would bring back to the States from Ireland . The aroma is coffee and boozy . Burnt and overwhelmingly bitter . I have enjoyed the Storm King and Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout . The latter is one of my favs . Stone makes some very tasty brews but this was a mess . It was not a drain pour but it will not be bought again .

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Photo of Bejogle
2.29/5  rDev -47.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

Poured from a 22 oz bottle into a snifter.

This beer is opaque black in every sense of the word, with a really impressive, pillowy tan head. The head subsides very quickly, however, and leaves only slight lacing.

The smell was not very interesting really, smelled pretty much like a Guinness if Guinness made malt liquor, lots of hints of fusel alcohol.

The taste was worse than the smell, unfortunately. There is no presence of chocolate or coffee flavors at all in this beer as there are in other RIS'. It tasted pretty much like a mixture of cough syrup and the fusel alcohol i mentioned before. I don't understand where people are getting the complexity.

Mouthfeel was good, thick and oily like a RIS should be, but the taste ruined the experience and therefore the drinkability.

I was hoping it was just a bad bottle but I bought another one and it had the same exact problems. I really really wanted to enjoy this beer because of its high rating, but I'm starting to think it's rated so highly simply because its a seasonal from a reputable brewery and because its so high in ABV. I won't be buying this again, sticking to Old Rasputin.

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Photo of DerBayer
2.43/5  rDev -43.9%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

The aftertaste of creamsoda

A - Nice tar colour but the off-brounish brackish head ruins it for me

S - Complex smell of aniseed, caramel and spice

T - At firt quite good you taste the spice then some faint chocolate then ... American cream soda - OUCH

M - Too flat flat flat I m afraid

D - At first this is slightly moorish then quickly creamsoda overkill and you dont know if you re in 21st century London or a 1950s american movie

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Photo of DoctorDog
2.44/5  rDev -43.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Presentation: 12 oz. bottle into a mug. Labeled as "Limited Spring 2008 Release."

A- Black, completely opaque in appearance. Pours with massive, cascading brown/tan head, which fades slowly to a thin ring, leaving moderate lacing.

S- Hoppy burned alcohol.

T- Hoppy burned alcohol. No coffee or chocolate notes to be found. The astringent equivalent of letting an aspirin sit on your tongue for a few seconds before swallowing. Excessively drying.

M- Thin and watery.

D- Between the alcohol content, poor taste, and excessive drying, this one gets low marks in my book.

Future outlook: Very disappointed in this one. Doesn't look like this one is my cup of meat.

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Photo of dwarvenspirits
2.45/5  rDev -43.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

This was the 2005 limited early summer release editon of this beer.

KAA-POW! That's the first thing that came to my mind, then "WOW!" This beer is a one beer per night drink. Definitely sip this monster beer because it's so thick and syrupy that you can only sip it. The worst part about this beer was the overpowering taste of alcohol. You can smell it when you pour it when you drink it, even when it's just sitting there. This definitely needs another year or two to age just to mellow out the alcohol in it. The color is rich and black and there is a roasted smell with the complements of coffee. The flavor is chocolate, at least what I could tell throught the hot alcohol flavor. Drinking this beer is like putting vodka in a stout and ruining the flavors of the stout. And I also think this definitely needs more hops added to it for bitterness just to balance out the sweet malty taste of it and the incredible alcohol flavor. I was really disappointed with this beer. The Stone Ruination IPA was fantastic but this RIS is horrible.

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Photo of Cnote_crafty_1
2.47/5  rDev -43%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.75

Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2016 release - 1Pint 6 Fl. Ounces bottle
10.8% ABV. dated 03.13.2016 had in a tulip glass

Nose: there is not much smell that I can pick up from the bottle, or from the glass. All I really get are normal, actually average stouts smells of grains, beer smells. I don't get any chocolate, coffee, or anything interesting.
Look: oilly black, hardly any carbonation except for directly after it was poured and there was a 2 inch head. The head is the most dark brown I have ever seen on a stout.
taste: it is honestly just like a regular stout taste of malted barley, then a bitter finish with lots of boozeyness to it. I thought the aftertaste was actually pretty bad. It's like a dry finish with a ton of booze burn. I hate the bitterness. It's not a good bitterness that I typically find in stouts that I like. The burn on it is almost like the burn from a glass of vodka. Not smooth at all. In fact the buzz is going right to my head, past the midway point of the bottle.
It is weird because there are so many good reviews of this stout. They always say that you can't taste the alcohol, but I really tasted it right on the finish. That is the worst part of it is that nasty alcohol burn that lies on the back end. It's like having an o.k. stout that kicks you in the ass at the end like you just drank grain alcohol. I need a freaking chaser, or something! I hate to say this about a Stone beer, but that is just how it is. I usually love Stone stuff, not this right now.

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Photo of Nutwood
2.5/5  rDev -42.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Had this on tap in a shaker pint after work.

The appearance is striking and maybe a bit strange. Pours a drk, seemingly purplish black. The head came to one finger and was dense, with a bit of an odd buised purplish dark brown hue.

Aroma was agressively boozey, to the point of overpowering the faint roasted malt and a bit of vinous fruit note. I did not get much in the way of chocolate or coffee. There was a hint of hops present.

Flavor here was a bit off for me, more like a burnt barleywine with some molasses and caramel. I found the alcohol to be pushy and distracting, and I was put off by a presence of what seemed to be some fusel heat in there.

The mouthfeel was again all alcohol, along with some decent body and moderately low carbonation.

Overall I would not cite this as a good example of Russian Imperial Stout style. I get the impression that Stone was trying to push the envelope and sacrificed flavor for alcohol content. It's missing the roasty malt goodness and full flavor, balance, and body that smooths out the alcohol. If you want to try this beer, do it early in your session and consider making it a one beer session.

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Photo of mikeal1917
2.74/5  rDev -36.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

I spotted this number at my local Beer store.

Appearance: Amazing dark chocolately brown color with small head

Smell: Quick pungent, with a chocolate definitely pronounced initially

Taste: Unless your a fan of strong brews, think beer is quite bitter, and the chocolate doesn't match it very well in my opinion, and that was gently chilling it as the guy at the store advised.

Mouthfeel: thick brew rolls down your palette, feel a lot like milk, nice and smooth

Drinkability: Both the price and thickness will keep this beer as a once in awhile beer in small amounts

given the average of the beer, I'll probably end up trying it again just to be sure, but as of now not that impressed

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Photo of Dijeriduster
2.84/5  rDev -34.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

2010 version in a one liter growler to a tulip

A - Very dark to black with a dirty head that is thick. Maybe one finger in my tulip. Looks mean.

S - Something is missing here. Its very robust but the booze comes thru a little and its not as roasty as I've had in the past. Smells sweeter as well...

T - Eh not up to my par for Stone IRS. Keeping in mind that I loved '09 I just don't think this one has it as much. It was rather sweet and boozy, again lacking the roasty flavours I love in IRS.

M - Was thinner then usual, still felt thick upon quaffing but faded to thin as it went down. Didn't have the slight creaminess I've had in the past.

D - I know there was controversy over the change this year to belgian yeast. Clearly they also changed the base recipe as well. While I am stoked to try the belgian one, I don't think I'll be aging this years version.

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Photo of Liquids
2.86/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

On vacation in NYC, treated myself to a bottle of this over everything else available at Whole Foods in NYC, especially as no Stone over the border in CT, and it should be amazing. I let it warm to room temperature to get the full experience in the evening when I'm back in the room.

Great looking bottle, pours a thick and syrupy (for a liquid) pitch black. Head is creamy and darker brown hue. Aroma is sweetish molasses, charred malts, and alcohol.

Taste - a disappointment. Sure I like big beers too, but this is just straight up boozy. Everything else is an afterthought to my tongue. Plenty of malt flavor behind the booze, and some hops which are more so dominated by the alcohol. Trying it later after chilling it, the booze is present but less so, with more hop flavor, but still boozy. It's hard to imagine anyone likes this so much except that they like the *idea* of drinking bigger darker thicker beer and enjoy the sensation of alcohol burning the tongue and nose.

Mouthfeel is good and thick. Drinkable? This has to be the least drinkable beer I've tried for those that I could get one I know who likes drinking good beers would think this was worth any amount of money but to get drunker faster. I drink for the flavor, so this is a disaster. I finished it as cold as I could get it over a few days, a small glass a day--all I could stand. Surprisingly, Victory Imperial Stout is hands down better in my book...this wouldn't make it into my glass again unless it were free. Stone is not for me.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
2.95/5  rDev -31.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2012 scores (4.5/3.5/4/4/4.5)

After having the 2013 vintage (and the Espresso version), I can now safely say this isn't quite for me. While it looks good and has a big feel, I just don't care for all the licorice in the flavor profile. And that's the problem here - it's too licorice dominant with no real complexity, depth, or even bold flavor. The thick, viscous mouthfeel means little if it doesn't have a great taste to prop it up.

I've got another bottle, and that one won't be cracked open until after tax 2014. Right now, I can think of quite a few readily available imperial stouts that wipe the floor with this one.


Poured into a Williamsburg Winery wine glass.

A: Pours a damn near pitch black body with good thickness and viscosity. The head is a two finger light tan color with excellent texture, decent retention, and solid lacing.

S: All the usual RIS notes are here; slight soy, dry baker's chocolate, roasted malt, coffee, leather, and tobacco nicely mingle on the nose. While it's a nice melange, it's too subdued, much to its detriment.

T: The flavor starts off with some dark fruit notes (raisins, currants, plums) along side some leather and licorice. Afterward, it progresses toward dark chocolate and roast notes, and it finishes salty and slightly boozy. There are hints of tobacco and piny hops throughout the flavor progression. Balance is decent, but not impeccable, as it slightly leans towards fruitiness. On the plus side, it featured the kind of complexity I was expecting from a beer of this caliber.

M: Decently heavy with good viscosity and low carbonation, with a dry finish, almost to the point of causing the mouth to water. The aftertaste lingers nicely with dried dark fruits. Touches of alcohol can be felt on the tongue, throat, and stomach.

O: A tough beer to digest at first - but one that rewards its drinker with good complexity and a breadth of flavor storytelling. It isn't immensely drinkable, but then again, something like this should be savored slowly. Given its price point, it's one I can heartily recommend.

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Photo of JFresh21
2.99/5  rDev -30.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2013 vintage edition

This beer tastes like oak. The booze is well masked for 10% but its lacking the depth and flavors that make a stout great, chocolate and coffee. Stick with breakfast stout.

Not great but a well crafted beer if you dig the oak flavor.

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Photo of biglite351
2.99/5  rDev -30.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I wanted to like this beer more. I really did. All the talk about Stone Brewing and how good everything is...

My issue... hops and bitterness.

I like Stouts because of their typical lack of hops and bitterness. This brew is certainly Stone Brewing. Stone loves their hops and bitterness and they managed to get some into their Imperial Stout as well.

I did not care for the smell and the taste put me off as it is mildly hoppy and bitter. Midly for beers on average, very hoppy and bitter for a stout.

If you like other Stone Brewing brews then you should like this one as well.

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Photo of Cramshawbar
3/5  rDev -30.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Not sold on this. Kind of watery despite the booziness and much too sweet and syrupy for the style. Not that I like stouts much mind you, except a select few. I received two as gifts, I will finish and forget them.
The highlight here is the nose. All else is forgettable.

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Photo of HopDamn
3.01/5  rDev -30.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

LIMITED SPRING RELEASE 2008 bottle purchased at once upon a vine for about 4$ a 12 oz.

A- Pours black and thick, tall head in begining, decent carbonation, looks like a wonderful brew, Although i find the Appearance to be sort of a trivial category, The bottle looks very impressive on the other hand.

S- Smells of malts and chocolates, The alcohol smell is present, and also i almost smell a sort of metalic aroma like aluminum, not sure why this is

taste- Very rich and similar to the smell, alcohol is present, leaving a roasted metalic after taste in my mouth, taste stays with you for a moment, and packs a powerful wallop, perhaps a hint of black coffees in the mix

Mouthfeel- A little intense at first and the feeling coats your mouth, Wouldn't want to drink this as a session beer

Drinkability- One is plenty for me

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Photo of mobyfann
3.03/5  rDev -30%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Paid $4.75 for a 22oz. bottle labeled, "Limited Spring 2003 Release"

The apperence is a nice thick stout with a deep dark brown body and a chocolate-mocha colored head that retains low but the thick lacing proved to be quite nice. The aroma is also nice, full dark coffee smell and hints of fruit, molasses and some other small stuff. So far a solid start... but

The taste wasn't all too spectacular, it was very thick, as thick as Bell's Expedition Stout, but not as strong. Absolutely no carbonation! The flavors in the taste were pretty good, but that's it. Too much syrup flavor as well. Mouthfeel was way too heavy for this, as I had problems wanting to finish up. The drinkability is non-existent as well; feels like it would be more suitable in taking shots of this and having a decent if that aftertaste.

Final Thought: This is the second strong beer I've had that has been too heavy, and really shouldn't be classified as a beer. I'll try it again but as of now I prefer Victory Storm King and Great Lakes Blackout over this any day...

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Photo of jdoolin
3.04/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

Presentation: 22oz bomber poured into a wine glass in front of a fireplace in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains.

Appearance: Completely black with a thick, luxurious light brown head. Very nice looking beer in a great setting.

Aroma: Hmm... I smell the typical roastiness of a stout, but I get a lot more malt than anything. Strong caramel and molasses aromas, a lot more like a barleywine. Also a very strong alcohol aroma.

Taste and Mouthfeel: Very thick and syrupy. Much like the description of the aroma, I could taste the roastiness and light hints of chocolate and coffee, but it was overpowered by the malt sweetness and the associated flavors of caramel and molasses. Alongside the malt sweetness is the strong flavor of alcohol. Once again, more like a barleywine. No way I could have more than one of these in a sitting.

Notes: I find myself describing this beer much like I did Speedway Stout. It tastes like they mixed a stout with a barleywine. Not enough stout flavors and too much malt and alcohol for my tastes. I can see why this beer is so well liked, but personally, I prefer a roastier, dark malt flavor. I won't be reaching for this if I'm in the mood for an Imperial Stout.

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Photo of Spiff
3.05/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Appreciate Imperial Stouts - but this is more bitter than expected - too much licorice. Bites the side of the tongue. Instead of alcohol flavoring - it ends with hints of hand sanitizer. Spiff is hurt and disappointed.

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Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing
Beer rating: 4.33 out of 5 with 8,449 ratings