Russian River Brewing Company

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Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Ranked #23
Ranked #3,334
4.1 | pDev: 9.51%
Russian River Brewing Company
California, United States
Reviews: 480 | Ratings: 1,274 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of patre_tim
4.1/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark brown and slightly transparent and cloudy, with lots of carbonation, and a hint of beige head.

Smells of cherries, cocoa, and Belgian yeasts.

Tastes of dark fruits, cherries, cocoa, and Belgian yeasts.

Medium, slightly watery for a heavy brew, with lots of carbonation.

I had this on tap at RR's new Windsor pub, Feb 12th, 2019.

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Photo of Buck89
4.46/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On tap at source. A hazy plum/brown color with a frothy tan head. Raisins and chocolate on the nose. The taste was amazing. Raisins, chocolate, caramel, and toffee. Floral notes as well clean and dry. Outstanding.

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Photo of iguanodon
3.04/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

[Original rating 2015-01-01] Bottle from C-mini mart in Dublin, CA. Pours reddish brown with a small tan head. Aroma of Sweet caramel, malt, faint booze. Taste of sweet malt, raisins. The alcohol is very well hidden. Mouth feel is a bit thin, maybe I just expected it to be thicker because of the appearance. Nice fine carbonation.

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Photo of stevoj
3.84/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Draft at brewery. Near black pour, small ring of beige head. Aroma is yeast and roast malts. More yeast in the taste, kind of sweet, candy sugar. Some chocolate too. Some porter.

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Photo of rypkr
4.05/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle date 11-28-16. A few weeks from being a year old.

Huhe pop of the cork. Huge carbonation.

Smells like dark fruit and spices of coriander and anise.

Tastes very, very sweet. Dry dark fruit.

Feel is awesome. So frothy and creamy. Again dry.

Solid belgian dark ale.

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Photo of stakem
3.68/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

375ml corked bottle batch 10 into a lost abbey teku appears dark brown with no head formation.

The aroma is fruity and a bit oxidized with almost an earthy brett component. Some raisons and sherry with currents.

It tastes fruity like raison, current and sherry with a bit of oak/oxidation interplay. Some molasses and warming alcohol overtake the finish.

This is medium in body with little to no carb. Quite tasty but showing its age which id guess is more than 5 years old at this point?

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Photo of Gajo74
4.34/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Aaah! Russian River! What a way to end a minor BA review hiatus. (Was drinking a lot of stuff I'd already reviewed)
Pouring forth from the bottle, a brown and almost translucent liquid becomes darker and nearly opaque in the glass. A lovely creamy tan head retains beautifully, almost like a still life withstanding time. When it finally begins to recede midway through, it leaves a thick film with a cascading lace.
In the nose there is a lot of fruity goodness, mostly on the dark side. There is a refreshing tartness from cherries, red grape and plum. Raisins and figs round things out on the fruity side. There is also a toasted amber malt backbone that is punctuated by a lovely herbal spice.
I really like how the flavor and feel of this one evolve. At first there is a vinous flavor that combines the dark fruit flavors, evident in the aroma, and goes down with a chalky, dry and almost acidic finish. It reminds me of a European wine. Soon, however, the amber malt flavors also make themselves known, providing an elegant and creamy sweetness.The feel and finish become increasingly silky and smooth. The middle phase of this drink is interesting in that there is a moderate hops bitterness and peppery phenolic bite that provides an interesting complexity. In the final phase, a brown sugar sweetness, in both the aroma and flavor, take over, albeit balanced by the hops presence that takes on a citrusy zest.
As I reach towards the end of this brew, I'm reflecting on how despite not detecting any alcohol in the aroma and taste, it's there alright. The medium body, alongside the well masked alcohol content, make this beer dangerously drinkable. Overall, it is elegant, classy and delicious. A finely crafted Belgian style brew from Russian River.

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Photo of spoony
3.92/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

From a 375 ml bottle (bottled April 18, 2012) to a tulip.

A-The beer is more than five years old, so I am not surprised that the pour looks sorta flat. There is no head, just a collar of tan-grey foam. The liquid is dark and tea-like in color. There is no carbonation and it is nearly opaque. Not a real looker, but appropriate for the style.

S-The aroma is a mix of earthy fruits and some cocoa powder with a little spice. I pick up prune mostly, but also some fig, and plum. Also, hints of Belgian yeast. Smell is subdued, so I'm wondering if the bottle is past its prime?

T-The taste is similar to the smell, lots of prune, some plum, vague spice notes of clove and cardamom, some nutty flavor, and a little kick of cola on the finish. There is a moderate alcohol flavor that is medicinal and slightly bitter, as well as some grain husk flavor. The beer is pretty sweet, but a little oak flavor dries things out on the finish.

M-The body has some weight and there is nice creamy carbonation. The beer is quite slick on the palate.

O-This is a pretty good BSDA. The flavors are a little muted, which could be because of the age, but I did not taste significant oxidation, so who knows? I had been sitting on this beer for a while and I would like to try a younger example to see if there is more pop in the fruit.

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Photo of q33jeff
3.92/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75


Bottle to snifter.

LOOK: dark dark brown. Small eggshell head.
AROMA: raisin, cherry,yeast, touch of cola.
TASTE: cola, touch of banana, brown bread.
FEEL: medium body, great Bottle fermented carbonation.

Good beer.


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Photo of drtth
4.31/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

The beer pours out into a snifter glass a slightly hazy dark brown color with some dark reddish highlights and a 1" light tan head that slowly recedes to thin layer on the surface while leaving a few patches and bits of some leggy lacing on the sides. Sipping creates lots of scattered patches of lacing on the sides but by midway through the beer the foam has become a ring around the glass and a thin irregular island of foam on the surface.

The aromas are from the dark malts and the Belgian yeast so there is dark fruit up front with chocolate from the malt and a hint spice in the background along with what may be a touch of alcohol.

The flavors, as expected from the nose, show the dark fruits (raisins, plums) along with a rich chocolaty sweetness. In the background there's a bit of spiciness and just a hint of earthy bitterness. The alcohol is well concealed.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied and lightly prickly from the moderate, persistent carbonation. The finish begins as the dark fruit and the chocolate sweetness fade away leaving the light spiciness and some earthy, dry bitterness to close out the show with a very long ending in the back of the palate.

This is a very well made and enjoyable beer and I’d be happy to have another. This beer would be among my top five or six choices for a Russian River beer to be able to buy again. This is definitely a sipping beer and one to savor while just relaxing or while enjoying a good book. Is it as good as or better than the Belgian imports? Hard to say for sure without a blind side by side tasting.

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Photo of VABA
4.25/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Revisited 10/4/18

A-Pours a nice very dark amber color with a slight head and lacing
A-Aroma has generous Brett hints
T-The taste follows the nose with a very nicely balanced Brett flavor
M-A medium bodied moderately carbonated beer
O-A wonderful beer with a great flavor!

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Photo of PlinyMeNow
4.51/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This was $15 for a 12.7-oz bottle at our local specialty market in LA. I therefore split it with someone and poured even shares into 8-oz drinking glasses.
Wow, what was this delicious rich dark smooth ale that had me savoring every sip and lamenting its ending? I can't give a full review because I tried other beers afterward, but this was the standout tonight. I remember a beautiful dark brown ale with a creamy head, rich mouth feel, smooth all the way down with lots of notes in the flavor to think about without being overly complex. However, it will be a while before I fork over another $15 for a single 12.7-oz bottle!

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Photo of Tucquan
4.11/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had this on 2017-03-04 in Norristown, PA at Capone's on tap

Dark brown with great lace. Mild smell. Full duble flavor with fruit. Light chocolate. Enjoyable.

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Photo of richdeneault
4.35/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

From the bottle: dark brown ale in color with notes of fruit and spice in both the aroma and flavor. It is refermented in the bottle to create a fine carbonation.

I think it is a 95 score beer at the brewery, but I like it a bit less in the bottle (say 85).

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Photo of Lingenbrau
3.61/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown color, but highlighted by deep red when held to light, and a nice, big, fluffy, off white head that sticks and stays on the surface. Lots of suspended particles floating around. Smells a lot like Unibrou's Trader Joe's Vintage ales... Musty, woody, spicy and a hint of acidic vinegary goodness. Tastes similar, but a bit muddled. A touch of fig, especially as it warms. Unfortunately, the acidity is missing in the flavor. Mostly earthy, and woody. Seems a bit off. Feels highly carbonated, and extremely dry. Honestly, this is my least favorite of the corked RR beers I've had. I am concerned I may have gotten a bad bottle. Not a bad beer by any means, but not one I'd seek out again. All well....Cheers!

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Photo of Flieshbeer
3.95/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

L: Dark brown opaque color with a generous head with initial pour.
S: Fruity but not citrus-like. More like plums and raisins.
T: Bitter at first, but mellows out quite nicely.
F: Medium bodied, moderately carbonated. No negative lingering after taste.
O: Not my favorite Russian River beer, but definitely more enjoyable than I was anticipating.

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Photo of Brolo75
4.25/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

375 ml bottle poured into a tulip, big pop on the opening, lots of carbonation

A: Pours a dark brown cola color with a big frothy head that lasted a few minutes, lots of carbonation streaming up the glass's side, light does come through when held up, very nice.

A: Lots of dark fruits like figs, plums, raisins, sweet burnt caramel and toffee, Belgian yeast notes, nice aromas.

T: Not as sweet on the taste, more toasted caramel and toffee, slight bitterness in the middle, finish has some sweet and slight dark fruits, Belgian yeast notes as well, complex and balance.

M: Medium bodied with a semi-dry finish and lots of carbonation.

O: Another solid Belgian inspired beer from Russian River, good amount of flavor, very drinkable, complex, and balanced. There is more bitterness than I expected but very enjoyable.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.32/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Batch 10.

This one pours a dark, slightly murky brown, with a creamy looking white head, and not much in the way of lacing.

Smells like dark fruit, raisins, prunes, etc, with some port-soaked black bread, chocolate, and lots of caramel.

This is one of the better American-made BSDA's that I've had, it was really quite wonderful. It has a really rich and deep malt complexity, reminiscent of port wine. It's pretty bready, so it's reminiscent of pumpernickel soaked in port. There's chocolate, and lots of bittersweet caramel, and a whole slew of semi-sweet dried dark fruit. I love it.

This is medium bodied, pretty rich and creamy, with the typical level of carbonation for this style.

This is was a real treat to drink. It's aged very well, so there's no alcohol presence at all. Get some!

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Photo of JohnnyHopps
3.84/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - The beer was a murky brown color with some carbonation

Smell - There was a slight sour nose to the beer.

Taste - The beer started slightly sour. Notes of dark fruit, raisins, currants, and a slight coffee presence. The chocolate notes become more evident as the beer warms. There is a slight metallic presence. Slightly sour chocolate notes finish the beer.

Mouthfeel - The presence of lactose quality presents a stickiness to the mouthfeel.

Overall - Not one of my favorite Russian River offerings.

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Photo of agreenman19
4.19/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

L - pours a silky creamy caramel color. Very fine-bubbled head gives it an uplifting aura. Salvation, indeed.

S - smells of dark fruits and raisins. Molasses and chocolate. Sweet caramel. They guy who said apple skin is dead on. Great nose.

T - extremely full-flavored with plums, raisins, and a mild hop bite toward the end. Has an oh-so-subtle Flanders red feel to it. Slight brown ale characteristics with a metallic tartness. Sweet syrupy maple... or that's what it feels like it should be. Interesting.

F - incredibly smooth, but will foam vigorously if jostled. Makes it feel like the volume of beer is expanding in my mouth. Bonus!

O - finely crafted dark ale. Not the best of the -tion series, but strong nonetheless. Decadent and smooth for 9.5% ABV. You could get into trouble with this one.

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Photo of gandres
4.28/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tap to glass @ Russian River Brewing tap [email protected] Santa Rosa,CA
A: Brown, big tan head, tan foam, minimal lacing
A: fruity, alcohol is the dominant smell
T: low bitterrness with sweetness that last long
MF: balance
OA: Excellent beer for the style, ok to repeat, look for
Drank: April 14, 2016

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Photo of Raj
4.08/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Bottle date: 10/10/14

Pours dark brown with red highlights, Off white head with good retention. Nose is caramel, chocolate roast and red apple skin. Taste follows with prominent porter-like chocolate and roast, plum, raisin, dark fruit notes,. Nicely balanced, very mild tartness. Finish is spicy with peppercorn and clove, slightly astringent. Not much barrel character. Very smooth with no alcohol burn.

This toed the line between a oud bruin and a Belgian strong dark ale. Not my favorite beer from the RR sour program, but a good entry nonetheless.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.08/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Big dark bready style of pour, aroma was much the same way. Lots of prune in it.

Taste, reminiscient of those shitty fruitcakes your aunt would bring to the holidays. Lots of spice rack and clove here, dark fruit notes all over it, rye bread.

I'm glad they like it, but I just can't get into this style of beer.

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Photo of VashonGuy
4.19/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Batch 11, whenever that was (bottle bought at brewery about three years ago), poured into a wine glass.

Salvation starts out with a big foamy head that lasts, and lots of lacing. It's dark amber, but not inky black like some stouts. The aroma is mild, but my sniffer is never the best, so discount that.

The taste is the thing here: this beer is chocolatey and raisins, not too sweet, maybe just a little tart or a little bit of Belgian funk slipping in there. The ABV is hardly noticeable. It's a terrific beer to drink, or maybe sip, certainly not to guzzle. Did I mention how incredibly smooth this beer is? Medium carbonation.

I've got to get back to Santa Rosa to pick up some more!!!

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Photo of neenerzig
4.62/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

My good buddy Jon Passow, who as of a few months ago became the Manager of Barrel Room Operations at Anderson Valley, sent me this in a package from northern, CA recently. Poured out of a 12.68 oz bottle into one of my tulip glasses, this beer pours a very dark brown color with a slight hint of deep ruby high lights when held to the light. Has a slightly tan, very creamy/froth looking head that is about a good solid inch when first poured with excellent retention. Some pretty good lacing too, but man this head just does not want to quit! Aromas of dark fruit such as plums, raisins, dates, and perhaps hint of apple along with a hint of spice and some dark sugar. The taste pretty much follows suit, with a slight malt caramel sweetness upfront that gives way to big dark fruit flavors of the aforementioned plum, raisins, dates, and a hint of red apple followed by brown sugar and nice spices. I think I detect some Belgian candy sugars and peppercorn. Just a phenomenal flavor profile! Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, and frothy, just slightly prickly, medium to full bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. Has a slightly dry after taste and man does that sweetness really linger! You really just want to keep drinking the hell out of this and you wish that your glass was never ending. WOW!!!


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Salvation from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 91 out of 100 with 1274 ratings