Some beers have a pretty doubtful history. There is just a lot of misinformation out there. Why? Because we like our stories to be easily repeatable and neat. Therefore we don’t like it when something it pretty complex. The Imperial Stout – often known as Russian Imperial Stout – has this complexity to it…
The ‘Russian’ part has been mythologized for hundreds of years. It began as a marketing stunt from breweries, which has found their way into history books. We can’t promise that the historical information that we have about this beer is perfect, but we can at least give it our best go. Imperial stout. We can call it the heady, roasted nectar of the gods.
The American craft beer market takes the original imperial stout and will give it twists with anything you can imagine. Name it, and it is probably on the market. However, when we get back to where this beer is from, we all know that an imperial stout is a beer with a high amount of alcohol in it. Many say that it was developed when in “need for a product that wouldn’t spill during long journeys” – instead of the regular porter back then. We can say that since the porter made longer journeys back in the days and it was doing just fine, that this isn’t correct. It’s more likely that the Tsarists court, which had a lot of money to spend, just wanted a stronger beer than the regular ‘stout porter’ (which would be more expensive).
The first “Russian imperial stout” is attributed to Anchor Brewery in London (in 1616). So. This is where it probably comes from. Nowadays we can probably claim that – while the word ‘Russian’ is meaningless since the beer style is brewed on every continental – it probably stands for a higher ABV and higher hop rate (than the American double for example). Another great fact is that the Russian Imperial Stout is probably the progenitor of the Baltic porter as a recognized beer style.
Anyways. We like our strong and dark lagers, whether it’s an imperial stout, an American double or a Russian imperial stout.