Courage Imperial Russian Stout | Wells & Young's Ltd

303 Reviews
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:
No notes at this time.

Added by rastaman on 02-11-2002

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Reviews: 303 | Ratings: 921
Photo of ofYYC
3.17/5  rDev -24.9%
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 -5.5%
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 -1.2%
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 -4.7%
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 +8.1%
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 -17.1%
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 -11.1%
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 +6.6%
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 0%
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 -0.2%
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 +9%
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 -20.1%
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 +4.5%
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 +7.6%
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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Photo of Abinlp
4.85/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is a memorable beer. Quite expensive in the bottle, about $8 for 10 oz. Yet I've never so willingly spent that money. Its got as luxurious a mouthfeel as any beer I can think of, but its the taste that leaves you so impressed. I don't know if I can say its the best beer I've ever had, but I can't really think of more than a couple that I'd put in its league, of any style. I was a bit surprised to see it listed at 10%, as I've had maybe 5-6 bottles of this and never recall an strong alcohol note with it. Heading to the UK in November of 2016 and I intend to find this on tap there.

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Photo of Mitchster
4.54/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

$6.99 for a 9.3oz bottle at Binny's in Chicago. 2012 Vintage, No.106675. 10% ABV.
Pours out to a cloudy inky black, forming a modest espresso like head with good retention and average lacing. Carbonation is light, about 2.0 carbs or so. Nose of soy sauce, black walnuts, dark chocolate. Mouthfeel is rich, silky, dense bodied, lightly acidic, finishing lightly dry. The taste is a recap of the aroma, however there is a very interesting balance here between the roast, the hop bitterness (which is earthy, and I think absolutely perfectly balanced), prune juice, rum soaked raisins, figs, dates and soy sauce. I don't get the typical English yeast esters. No oxidation or harsh alcohols, thankfully.

A really nice Russian Imperial stout, considered by many to be the benchmark of the style. I would agrees that's its definitely up in the top 5 that I've had, however considering it's poor availability and price, I'll stick with my Founders.

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Photo of Act25
4.26/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Amazing 2012 sourced in Banff Canada.

A: A single finger thick tan head on a jet black body with only modest lacing.

S: Starts with oak and raisiny dark fruit, then vanilla, dark chocolate, roasted malt.

T: Starts with inky dark chocolate, leaning on bitterness, char, roasted malts, cedar wood, vanilla, espresso, toffee. Complex, twisted, licorice, a dark winding path of flavors. Among the best for intensity

M: Intense. full body and moderate carbonation, lingering licorice feel.

Overall: Rare, full flavored, excellent balance and licorice with dark bitter chocolate.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.61/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2013 vintage.

Pours a very dark brown color. It doesn't have the pitch-black opacity of more modern imperial stouts, as expected. The head is three fingers high (poured aggressively) and mocha in shade. While the retention fails to impress, webs of lacing manage to stick to the glass.

The age has done this very well. In addition to notes of sherry oxidation appearing vividly, there's a very powerful aromatic note of dark chocolate. Of course, I pick up nice amounts of dark fruits - when combined with a touch of non-harsh alcohol presence ringing distinct, I'm really reminded of rum-soaked raisins. Err, make that rum-soaked raisins coated in chocolate. Some smoke appears as it opens up, as does some caramel. Needless to say, the aromatic complexity is endlessly intriguing, helped by the world-class balance and boldness of notes.

A bit of a letdown next to the nose. It opens up with some espresso and dark chocolate, before trailing off into notes of dark fruit and rum. It finishes somewhat charry and acrid. The notes seem a lot more muddled tasting them compared to smelling them. And that's where the disappointment sets in: it tastes similar to the aroma, only it's far more indistinct and undefined.

I really enjoy the initial feel - creamy, soft, and full. The finishing feel, however, is wanting. It has the dryness I want, but affects the palate with too much astringency (thanks to all the char). It's still a sipper, natch, and it still coats the mouth like a big, rich imperial stout should.

I've always wanted to try this, but after hearing how this directly inspired Stone's IRS (an imperial stout I'm not particularly thrilled by), it gave me a little pause. I still picked up a bottle the minute I found it, and I'm here to report it's just decent. Not amazing, not great, just solid. I'm glad this was pre-aged, because I don't think it would be very good fresh. I would be intrigued to try this with, say, 10 years of age on it however.

3.61/5: An interesting history lesson, but not quite as fulfilling as some my favorite imperial stouts

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Photo of gshak
4.3/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2012 edition, with a best by date of 8/162025. Imbibed on 4/18/2016.
A - Pours dark brown, not nearly opaque, but thereabouts.
S - Rum-soaked raisins! Very significant dark fruits - raisins, prunes, dates, figs on the nose, liqueur-like even. Makes me wonder if it was aged in sherry casks.
T - I'm getting oak, chocolate fudge, charred malt, ashes, and leather. Pretty sure much of that sounds unappetizing, but believe me, it seems to work for this beer!
M - Full, and the low carbonation provides a creamy mouthfeel, with just enough burst of flavors.
O - Fantastic IRS that definitely seems to gain in complexity as it ages. I wonder what 13 years in the cellar might do to this beer. I think it's drinking great at 4 years.

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Photo of CoreyC
3.88/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2013 vintage
A - nice dark black/brown with good tan head
S - very light, some dried fruit
T - bitter dark chocolate, somewhat smokey, too bitter of a finish for me
M - nice and thick
O - ok stout, but not great for me. Too bitter (even at 3 years old) and not a lot of depth of flavor

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Photo of sjccmd
4.21/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage

Dark fruit and licorice in the nose. Toffee and burnt caramel with some spices. Pumpernickel bread. A subtle minty note. Some tobacco and earthy notes. Rich and sweet smelling.

Pours black as black with just a tinge of brown highlights. Small tan head with decent lacing and retention.

Rush of dark fruits and toast, finishing surprisingly dry. Berries and raisins give way to burnt sugar and hearty rye bread. A subtle green hop character is noticeable with a balancing steely bitterness. Espresso with pear and some honey. Smoke lingers on the palate.

Full body with low carbonation. Silky with just a tinge of bubbles.

Much more balanced though not lacking in intensity than many of the American counterparts of this style. Even with 3 years age there's enough roast and hop bitterness to balance out sweetness.

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Photo of Derek
4.36/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Highly desired for some time... perhaps a bit anti climatic.

Pours with a very thin head, shows some leg.

Really nice aroma: Huge Chocolate, some roasted nut, coffee, light liqueur.

Taste: Rogue chocolate stout comes to mind, it doesn't seem any bigger, very drinkable.

Fairly full body, but not much residual sweetness or booze; roasted acidity is certainly subtle as well.

I expected this to be big and bold, but it's remarkably balanced and drinkable.

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Photo of utopiajane
4.44/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

The pour is viscuous and black with a mocha head of foam that is creamy and lasts well . The beer has excellent clarity and although it is truly black as you drink it will show you honey hues from deep within. head refreshes on each tip. The beer is 10 percent.

Nose is sumptuous with earth and roast. Caramel is strong but soft. Bitter chocolate. There is a dark fruit presence but it's like it has sunk in to the beer because of age and has become a sweet part of the earth in this beer. It remains vibrant though. Powerful and edgy with hints of smoke and char but nothing to show for them really.

Drinks full and creamy with an undeniable smoothness. No alcohol on the palate. This malt is like pillowy softness meets dramatic flavor. The drink follows the nose to perfection except for a brief bit of nut. This beer is foreboding and jolly. I have never used the word jolly for an RIS before but it is. Dry roast lingers bitter in the finish as the palate dries out to show you espresso in the aftertaste.

Complex and wonderful.

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Photo of ChrisCage
4.76/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is the 2012 vintage..Best before date of Aug 25/16....within the recommended usage timeframe!

A- This pours an oily thick black color with a coffee colored head that looks very thick and creamy....the resiliency of the head is quite good, keeping in tact for a long time after the initial pour and without having to swirl. The lacing is also outstanding....tons of circular specimens of foam are heartily sticking to the side of the glass and from what I can see, the carbonation appears to be tight and smooth.

S- The aromas are amazingly good and surprising in nature! Initially, there are heavy dark dried fruit....raisins and prunes to be exact.....after this on the forefront, lingering semi-sweet dark chocolate, molasses, rummy oak, OKA cheese and burnt sugary caramel....delicious on the nostrils!

T- WoW! Heavy cocoa, scalded semi-sweet dark chocolate, espresso, dried black cherry and figs, raisins, smoked cheddar tones, black malt with burnt caramel sweetness, Earthy near the finish, with lingering rooty/licorice flavors....extremely well balanced between booziness, sweetness and dryness....just awesome!

M/O- This is heavy in a milkshake but it's beer! Over time, this has smoothed out very well and the carbonation is velvety on the palate! Highly drinkable and the alcohol is super well hidden for the content! Even with this said, this is most definitely a sipper and I think is probably one of the nicest Imperial Stouts one could find on the market! Will absolutely purchase this one again and I highly recommend this to the masses!

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Photo of Andrewharemza
4.29/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From bottle, pours black with A ring of foam that circles the glass. Aroma of caramel, chocolate, soy sauce, brown sugar, hint of coffee. Taste Sweet flavour, caramel, coffee, dark fruit, vanilla. Alcohol very well hidden.

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Courage Imperial Russian Stout from Wells & Young's Ltd
4.22 out of 5 based on 921 ratings.
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