TAKE A MOMENT. Conjure up, if you can, the hoary visage and penetrating gaze of Old Rasputin, hand raised to his third eye in invocation. Now decant that essence into a barrel, bury it deep in a cloister, and leave it there until the February Revolution passes. Unearth reverently, serve in a snifter, and behold the vision.
Simply put, Barrel-Aged Rasputin is a masterpiece—a sipping brew of the highest order. The hibernation of regular ol’ Rasputin (already a paragon) serves exclusively to enhance its qualities without drawing out any defects or common tolls barrel-aging so often exacts of its passengers (flatter bodies, lack of liveliness, etc.). Each element is matured—some admittedly toned down, but never to disappointment—and then couched in the smooth warming glow of bourbon. Still effervescent despite its seasoning, it is naturally less aggressive and not as bitter as the original. More prominent is the rich mélange of cocoa, vanilla, leather, oak char, and a prudent dose of cherry. Extremely dark, of course, but never cloying and extraordinarily rich without being too thick in mouthfeel. The only sacrifice made upon the barrel altar is the fresh version’s rewarding head, replaced with a modest ring, but this is a pittance to pay. Superb.
Note: This XII vintage was the first barrel-aged Rasputin to be distributed beyond the Fort Bragg brewery walls since the practice began on the beer’s 10th birthday. Interestingly, the XII features a dramatically higher IBU than the current release, XV, which comes in at only 38. Also worth attending to are the two additional years of aging between its release and time of sampling, when it was billed as “quite likely the last keg on the planet.” The occasion was ripe—a North Coast tap takeover in salute to the brewery’s 23th anniversary. Here’s to as many more.
Served: On tap (The Bavarian Lodge, Lisle)