North Coast – Old Rasputin XVI Review

RasputinAll You Need to Know

Brewery: North Coast Brewing
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.3%
Cost: $27 (16.9 oz)
Glassware: Snifter
Temp: 55°F
Availability: Once a Year
Purchased@: Hunger n Thirst

Quick Take: If you, like me, enjoy Old Rasputin, you will absolutely enjoy the bourbon barrel-aged version. There is no question of that, but the cost versus quality is way out of whack. Without needing to justify the expense, I can easily declare this to be worth no where near the cost. If cost is not a factor or you can find this for less than $15 (I did see a forum post where someone paid $13.99), it’s definitely worth a try. While I find the experience to be lacking given the chalky finish and less than luxurious mouth feel, plenty of people will find this to be an enjoyable and very drinkable bourbon stout.


Brew Facts: This beer has only been available outside of the actual brewery since 2010. Prior to this in 2009, North Coast threaten litigation for copyright infringement against De Molen’s Rasputin. De Molen ended up changing the beer name to Disputin and finally Cease & Desist.

Appearance: Chilled, poured into several snifters and shared around with other Bulls Head Pub patrons. The glass in front of me is jet black, like charred mahogany (why not). Weak tan millimeter thick head, not the fluffy, big-bubbled foam cloud I was anticipating. Some lacing but pretty tame overall. Swirling the glass leaves a clear, slick oil coating. Looks like any other Russian Imperial stout you’ve ever had, but you aren’t really paying for the clarity or appearance. Dark beer looks dark.

Aroma: Bourbon with a side of bourbon. No mistaking that you are about to sip on a liquid that has soaked in bourbon barrels. Along with the whiskey/wood is the typical buttery/diacetyl smell. Tagging along for the ride is tangy raisin, wisps of roast and a hint of baker’s chocolate if I desperately look for it.

Taste/Mouth Feel: As expected, the initial fizz on the pour settles to light carbonation. For a Russian Imperial Stout, it has a medium, drinkable body with some creaminess, much like the original Old Rasputin.  The initial sip is front heavy with raisin and plum. Some hints of chocolate, roast and boozy alcohol follow the dark fruits. There are some bourbony hints of buttery vanilla and very mild bitterness. The flavor wave finishes up with surges of warmth, really dry bourbon and sticky lips. The dryness leads to a chalky mouth feel that leaves some anise and tobacco to linger on the tongue. This is much like regular Old Rasputin, but with a shot of bourbon in it.

Final Thoughts: If you, like me, enjoy Old Rasputin, you will absolutely enjoy the bourbon barrel-aged version. There is no question of that, but the cost versus quality is way out of whack, which is unusual for a brewer that has some fine, economical beers (Prankster, Old Rasputin, and Brother Thelonious). This as straight forward as a bourbon barrel-aged stout comes. Without needing to justify the expense, I can easily declare this to be worth no where near the cost. It really just takes the regular Rasputin (a great RIS) and adds a balanced bourbon element. That’s it. While that certainly sounds like a great thing, and to some degree it is, the complexity and depth just isn’t there for this to be worth over $15 let alone well north of $20.

I hate to compare beers, but value savvy consumers have to be conscious of what beer they get for the money. Knowing that Deschute’s Abyss or Firestone Walker’s Parabola, beers with infinite more depth, retail for much less and give you more (22 oz versus Old Rasputin’s 16.9 oz) makes this a beer I cannot condone purchasing (but if you can get a friend to do it…) I’m aware that not everyone that can get the barrel-aged Old Rasputin will have access to the beers I mentioned, but many will be able to find a far cheaper beer that equals or exceeds the experience here.

If cost is not a factor or you can find this for less than $15 (I did see a forum post where someone paid $13.99), it’s definitely worth a try. While I find the experience to be lacking given the chalky finish and less than luxurious mouth feel, plenty of people will find this to be an enjoyable and very drinkable stout.

Note: I shared this beer at the Bulls Head Pub with the bartenders and several bar patrons. The universal determination was that it is an average to good, well-balanced bourbon stout, but the cost was a major deal breaker.

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