Courage Imperial Russian Stout | Wells & Young's Ltd

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Courage Imperial Russian StoutCourage Imperial Russian Stout
Courage Imperial Russian StoutCourage Imperial Russian Stout

Brewed by:
Wells & Young's Ltd
England, United Kingdom

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
None provided.

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User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 315 | Ratings: 951
Photo of jkblr
4.18/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

275mL bottle bb 8/16/25 (2012 vintage) poured into a snifter at fridge temp 10% ABV. The beer pours very dark brown to black in color with light brown head. There was a small head from an aggressive pour that settled to a film and thin ring quickly. There is some lacing left behind. The aroma is dark roasty coffee and dark chocolate with licorice and fruit mixed in. The taste is bittersweet, mildly ashy chocolate and roast malt that finishes with apple, pear, vague smoke and tobacco. Bitterness is medium to heavy. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with less than medium carbonation and a mostly dry finish. There is a hint of alcohol as the beer approaches room temp. Overall, very good. I would like to try this with both less and more years. The complexity is still there at 6 years old but all the flavors and aromas kind of run together. Worth a try if you enjoy the style.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.05/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

from 2011, so about 8 years old now, definitely mature, definitely a little oxidized, but made for this kind of ageing obviously, and still doing just fine. we enjoyed this one as a night cap last night, seemed like a good evening for something old and dark and strong, now that fall has fully set in here in denver. its more brown than black in the glass, chocolate looking, a little dusty looking too, with a patchy tan head bubbling up slowly. it smells like its been in the bottle awhile, but has a classic english grain profile, the dark bitter roasted elements tamed a bit by time, and plenty of english crystal type sweetness through it for balance. the yeast is bready and timeless, and to me makes this beer, even though it isnt a central flavor agent or anything, it really brings it together, adds a cool maturity to it, and makes it special to me. lots of chocolate to it, some brown sugar and molasses too, hints of wet tobacco and licorice as well, but not overly complex, its old enough to sort of be decaying in on itself just a little, smoothed out some nuance but really a pleasant drink, no trace of its alcohol strength either after the initial vapor dissipates. im not sure i would keep this for much longer in the cellar, it seems about maxed out right now, still delicious, but i cant imagine any more time being good for it. cool beer, aged really well, a great cap on a really fun evening with new friends, and a perfect segue into fall. id like to try it fresh to compare...

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Photo of RichardLeahy
4.17/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

From 275 ml bottle into tall glass. You don't need a pint glass for this one. Pours dark and syrupy, tan head, coffee/liquorice aroma. Head fades quickly to patchy froth. Taste is blackened grain, caramel, coffee, alcohol and Vegemite (an Australian yeast extract that you spread on toast). A little less impressed on this sampling than previous, but still an iconic stout and deserves its reputation.

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Photo of Beersnake1
4.14/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

1977 bottle. Poured from slightly colder than cellar temp, but allowed to warm. Slight hiss when I cracked the cap, which was surprising. Other than that, no signs of carbonation. Nose is heavy on licorice, molasses, and dark fruit. A bit of root beer and soy sauce as well, but not in an off-putting way. Taste shares some similarities with the nose, but has a distinct smokiness and burnt taste. Bitterness sticks around on the palate, and this is a burnt taste. Plenty of black licorice and some distinct soy sauce flavors. Not getting the root beer from the nose. Mouthfeel is nice and thick. Overall, I am really glad to try this 41 year old beer, and it didn't disappoint.

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Photo of bret717
4.18/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2012 Vintage

Look- pours black w/tan head

Aroma- subtle sweet chocolate, doughy bread, slightly fruity

Taste- rich, chocolate coffee followed by intense prune and roasty bitterness

Feel- full-bodied and creamy

overall- very enjoyable RIS

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Photo of bsullivan
4.89/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

1993 Vintage, 170ml bottle into white wine glass

I was skeptical of ordering a bottle from my birth year, but wow was I impressed. Poured deep dark brown, sediment stayed stuck to the bottom of the bottle for the most part. Smell and taste was overwhelmingly sherry, I would not have believed you if you told me it was in the 10/11% ABV range.

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Photo of timmy2b
4.12/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage. Very dark black pour with almost no head at all. Scent is of Raisons with a subtle hint of chocolate. Raison flavor with chocolate in the aftertaste. Very mild amount of coffee as well. A little heavy and slightly boozy on the tongue. Very drinkable, but it is a sipper.

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Photo of Lamar
4.83/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Ideal Russian Stout; full of espresso and coffee like flavors. Rich and full bodied a simply great stout. I drank this one fresh; so rich and full of flavor and alcohol that it will age wonderfully. I will grab a few to sit down.

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Photo of bnes09
4.21/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage. Dark brown, tootsie roll color with gentle transparency on the pour and some haze. No head to speak of but this is expected considering the age. Pleasant booze, bourbon, oat, roast and licorice aroma. Cocoa is prominent at the front of the tongue. Espresso in the middle. Spicy hops at the back dominate through the finish. Good balance of molasses sweetness, roast and hop. Medium body with slightly sticky texture. Very well carbonated for the age. Overall, a very well executed RIS. A little light for the style and hops seem to dominate in the finish. Tastes very young for 5 years old. Great brew.

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Photo of Brutaltruth
4.34/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From the 11.5 oz bottle in a snifter via our friend from across the pond----Thanks Keith!
This tasty beast pours a deep, dark, murky, blackish brown with a subtle light head of off white
foam that subsides to a thin ring, thin light pool, and shows subtle light lacing. Nose of heavy
dark chocolate, dark coffee, black raisins, brewers licorice, and sweet toffee with deep roasted
notes. Flavors hit the note with dark bruised fruit and heavy dark cocoa mingling with extra dark
coffee and a touch of vanilla with heavy char notes. Excellent mouth feel; full body, low carbonation,
and a rich coating char loaded finish with a wafting hint of herbal hops.

Overall----Excellence, a perfect example of the style from England.


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Photo of keithmurray
4.42/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2012 vintage
Bottle #075309

Appearance - dark, murky mahogany body with almost no head

Smell - espresso, fudge, chocolate, coffee bean, char, port

Taste - fudge, espresso, chocolate, roasted coffee bean, black licorice, char, hint of red wine

Mouthfeel - medium bodied, low carbonation, fudgy upfront, char and smoky on the back end, fudge lingers in the back end

Overall - nice, classic RIS here, decent flavors, a bit heavy on the char, but still enjoyable

Price Point - $2.99/9.3 oz bottle

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Photo of ofYYC
3.17/5  rDev -25.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Pours a solid blackish brown without any real head. Smells quite sour, poisonous even. A high proof smell, to say the least. Taste is very similar to the smell, powerfully sour, with bold flavors of bakers chocolate and black coffee. Not necessarily a bad tasting beer, but definitely not something I'll be purchasing again any time soon, unless, perhaps, I come across a fresher bottle. Maybe I just got this one at an odd point in the aging process. Definitely an interesting experience, though.

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Photo of dd43
3.99/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had a 2012 bottle, some definite oxidation in the nose as well as the flavor. Kind of a wet brown paper bag thing, it was a little strange but not a terrible off flavor or anything. Some sherry notes in the aroma, perhaps from age. I don't know what this beer tastes like fresh. Very minimal carbonation, I might have liked a touch more. Roast character for an imperial stout was subdued, was more of a raisin and fig kind of flavor profile. I'd like to get a more recent bottle to see how it compares.

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Photo of WildMaverick1200
4.17/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Dark as a cloudy night in the middle of the woods - just like any stout should be. Very little foam, dissipates quickly. Aggressive and surprising smell of peaches and vodka, somewhat unusual for the style. Sour-sweet taste followed by notes of dark cacao and coffee. Very evident aftertaste of wood and a bit of smoke. It's thick and gooey, but not as much as I would expect for a beer with this much alcohol.

Overall, very nice brew. Aggressive but balanced flavors and favorable texture. Very easy to enjoy as a sipper.

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Photo of DVMin98
4.02/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage sitting on the shelf. Color is deep brown. Smell is very mild oxidation. Roasted malts. Flavor has just a touch of oxidation. Get the roasted malts and some really good chocolate notes on the back end. Overall, I really enjoyed this and having a 5 year old bottle of beer that I didnt have to age, found on the shelf for $4 is a good deal

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Photo of mynie
4.56/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage, "best before" dates is August of 2025.

This is billed as the world's first Russian Imperial. It was originally made by a now-defunct brewer called Barclay's, then sold to Courage and contract brewed at Smith's in Tadcaster, now apparently brewed by Wells and Young's. I don't know, really, why this context is necessary, but it's important to keep in mind that even the most authentic and traditional of beers have gone through a great deal of change.

Smells vinious and chocolatey with hints of sherry. Not as hoppy or aggressively variegated as newer American imperial stouts, of course, but it's still a very interesting and strong.

Tastes interesting. Discernably old, if that makes any sense. Very clearly a dated version of a style that has sense mutated greatly, yet still an obvious iteration of that style. Raisins, coffee, and chocolate up front; sherry and burnt barley in the middle and back; hops, black chocolate, alcohol and char on the finish. There's a mild herbaceousness to it that gives it the vague feel of an old timey tincture, and that effect is quite pleasant.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
3.5/5  rDev -18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled May 2011; drank 6/17/14 @ the Yarchives.

Brown/black hue. Huge tan head with mocha streaks; a curtain of lace.

Apple brandy nose, with a hint of nail polish remover.

Thick mouthfeel.

Apple cider, caramel & burnt sugar flavors up front, with hints of creamy oats. A slight pickle juice taste on the finish. A bit of a mess currently, although certainly interesting...

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Photo of stakem
3.75/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Vintage 1993 and 2012 consumed side by side. Rating reflects an approximate average of the 2 drastically different beers. The '93 I was in love with, the 2012 is a wretched mess.

1993 nip bottle appears pitch black in color with no head formation. A rough pour yields scant large bubbles.

The aroma is vinous with chocolate soy and earth with mild tobacco. As it breathes it has suggestions of oak and a spiciness almost like cedar/burning incense.

The taste is brett forward and tart with tobacco, earth, chocolate and lingering vinous almost port flavors that dries out to faint oakiness and leather in the finish.

This is light in body, still and boozy yet exceptional.

2012 bottle

The brew appears black in color with a mocha head that fades leaving a full wall of spotty lace.

The aroma is meaty with minerals and faded herbal hops and a slight raisony aspect.

The taste also includes raison, neutral alcohol and a meaty almost mineral laden character with a chemical aftertaste.

This is medium to fuller in body with modest carbonation. At 5 years in the bottle, i should have waited longer, as I did not dig this so much.

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Photo of Lucaskowalik
4.5/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 Vintage

Poured from a 275mL bottle into a small Heineken glass (only glass i had on hand).
L- Dark chocolate brown with a slight red tinge. The head quickly dissipated to a thin film on the beer due to the high abv and is tan.
S- Chocolate, coffee, caramel, espresso, smoky bacon, paprika or cayenne pepper, hearty bread, dates. Very complex with a consuming smokiness.
T- Same as smell but the smokiness is turned up to 11. The alcohol taste is present but does not take away from the taste and instead compliments a nice warmness.
F- Very full-bodied with a nice creaminess and long-lasting dry finish. Almost like I ate a piece of marble rye soaked in espresso.
O- The beer is definitely for the faint of hear and requires a real enthusiasm for dark beers to truly appreciate. I can't wait to buy this beer again because I feel like it would go brilliantly with a traditional American breakfast.

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Photo of JackRWatkins
4.22/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2012 vintage

A: pours a deep chocolate brown with a thin, quickly dissipating .5 finger khaki colored head, that stays as a thin trim for a bit around the edges of the glass. some pleasant lacing as well.
S: a more subtle nose, mostly chocolate bit also a bit of the malt there, though honestly not so much roasted malt as a more biscuity sort, reminiscent of crackers, also some ripe fruit characteristics
T: fantastically clean and quite different from american interpretations of the style, less overt chocolate and coffee, has a vinous pinch to it that is quite nice, also some hints of dark fruit and a different sort of roasty quality that feels less like coffee and more like malt, it does have pear overtones as the label describes, though I'm not sure I would have picked out that that's what it was had I not read the label
M: quite dry
O: A fantastically interesting beer that merits revisiting, I will be coming back to this one as I am certain that there is more to discover, some for the cellar? methinks yes.

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Photo of Everydayoff
4.21/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

275ml bottle poured into an oversized wine glass. This one is vintage 2013.

Deep brown to opaque black color, it tops with one finger of foamy tan head that withstands with good retention before slowly collapsing to some everlasting bubble film atop and leaving plenty of patchy and spotty lace along the way.

The aroma is enticing with chocolate and espresso coffee in the lead, then it is suggestion of dried-fruit in kind of dark raisin, prune, and plum. Sweet breadiness and roasted note is also there with touch of dark bread, vanilla, caramel, creamy, and some smokiness.

Sweetness is upfront in the palate but not that cloying. Chocolate and espresso coffee closely follow together with notes of roasted, smokiness , dark bread, vanilla, and caramel while the presence of dried-dark fruit is still existing providing some liveliness before the warmth of alcohol poking through. The finish is quite lasting with all the flavors mixed up giving a pleasant end.

The body is full with smooth mouthfeel and rather small to moderate carbonation through the palate, slight sticky, very dry finish. Very well done, it is delicate, robust, and very tasty. Great for aging in order to see how it is matured by time.

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Photo of AZBeerDude72
4.6/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a review of a 1993 Courage Imperial Russian Stout. Was given bottle from my brother 23 years ago and aged it from that point till now.
Poured an off black, almost chalky black in appearance with zero head and zero lacing. The smell was very nice, it was like cask aged wine, just a smokey woody scent. Taste was shocking, I did not expect much and got a very nice surprise, full of whiskey notes and wine flavors, this beer turned into a gem. Overall it had a smooth finish and notes of smoke and earth with a very awesome wine finish. I think this beer was exceptional, not due to age but just pure taste, it was like nothing I ever had so hard to compare.

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Photo of ilikebeer03
3.37/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2012 bottle opener 9/6/16
Dark with a tan head, which disappeared quickly.
Nose is very heavy on coaco. Slight oxygenation. Sherry. Taste follows, a lot of chocolate and oxidized fruit. Raisins. Some roast comes through as it warms.

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Photo of PDXAmbassador
4.41/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2013, tried summer 2016.

Wow I was impressed with this old timer. Tried pouring from some inches above the glass to try to get some head, as I do with US BA stouts....but that was completely unnecessary. This has most amazing head retention I've ever seen -- the foam was literally as thick as chocolate mousse, coating the tongue and lasting the whole glass. Can't imagine how they accomplished that.

Aroma of damp earth, a bit like an apple core that had been left out all day, roasted malts being mashed in the brewhouse, some espresso notes. Not much chocolate or hop aroma at this point -- maybe a hint of earthy hops left over? Somehow I continue to catch whiffs of vanilla, and if you'd told me this was barrel aged I would've believed you.

Taste is big -- defiantly more roasty than most US stouts (reminded me of HF Everett), some charcoal, licorice, a bit of sherry and umami oxidation, a very small amount of burnt caramel sweetness, bracing hop & malt derived bitterness, very little alcohol burn. Some toasted bread crust too. A complex flavor, as my list of descriptors indicates. It tastes rich but not quite sweet. Really nice. Fairly thick mouthfeel too, helped by the amazing lingering head.

Overall I very much enjoyed this stout. reminds me of US shelfies like Expedition Stout and Founders RIS...but I gotta give it to the Brits. This comes out on top.

I would love to try one of these with more age on it. Much more age, in fact. I can imagine that like JW Lees this might hit its stride around 8 years after bottling.

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Photo of FBarber
4.54/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a viscous black as night color with a thin mocha colored head. Head dissipates leaving a tan oily slick on top of the beer.

Smell is the most remarkable part of this beer. The instant I opened it I was hit with a pungent aroma of dark fruits, roasted malts and rich chocolate. The pungency was comparable to a "hop bomb" IPA. Just incredibly aromatic. Brown sugar, molasses, rich ripened stone fruits and cocoa also come through on the nose.

Taste follows the nose with a lovely array of chocolate, roasted malts, cocoa, prunes, dates, brown sugar, and molasses. on the back end you get some oaken notes, giving way to a mild earthy hop character. Provides a nice balancing bitterness on the finish. The flavor is so rich and deep that its as good an complex as any bourbon barrel aged stout.

Feel is thick and viscous yet completely drinkable. Mild carbonation. Slightly dry finish coats the mouth.

Overall this really is the standard for Russian Imperial Stouts. Just incredible. Put this on the list of beers that you must try before you die. If not for the price tag, this would be the only Russian Imperial Stout I'd ever drink again.

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Courage Imperial Russian Stout from Wells & Young's Ltd
Beer rating: 4.27 out of 5 with 951 ratings