Courage Russian Imperial Stout

By: Benjamin Welton

After taking a swig of Courage’s Imperial Russian Stout, it’s not hard to imagine burly Baltic sailors getting mondo ripped on this stuff. To landlubbers this drink probably tastes like sucking on a used coffee filter with the grounds still in it, but to those weatherbeaten souls who signed up to haul freight or lug cargo from one end of the world to the other, the Courage Imperial Russian Stout is better than most shipboard meals.

All wishful scenarios aside, the Imperial Russian Stout is a beer with guts and a chocolate-meets-espresso throat punch that will concuss the unready. Ever since first being cooked up by English brewers looking to export their wares to Catherine II’s Russia, the Imperial stout style has become a byword among hard man drinkers who enjoy the challenge of swigging down bitter dark beers with high ABVs. The Courage Imperial Russian Stout meets that criteria, so are you tough enough, squid?


First Impression: I got this beer ahead of a St. George’s Day celebration. My friend, being a proper Englishman, wanted me to pick up some pale ale for that night’s fish and chips soiree. Tucked behind a Boddingtons four-pack and a row of Wells Bombardier, this little red label caught my eye with its clean, classic logo and promise of rib-sticking enjoyment. Since the Courage Imperial Russian Stout is anything but a pale ale, I bought a bottle for myself and went to the party with the secret secure behind my teeth.

Pour: Sadly, having specific, highly cultured taste often means getting the dirty end of the stick.  Beer is no different, and mere seconds after taking the lid off of my purchase and pouring it into my trusty glass, I realized something horrific: my beer was flat. Flat as in Kansas scenery. Flat as in a plywood board. For all intents and purposes, my review beyond this point is little more than conjecture because my beer either sat on the shelf long past its expiration date or was DOA even before it left the brewery. What a crime.

Taste: When a beer pours without a head, you know you’re in trouble. Sure, even the most tepid bucket of suds can have some life to it, and my disappointing Imperial Russian Stout did shine through with some heavy dollops of chocolate malt and wood barrel smoke. However, for the most part, my experience with the Imperial Russian Stout can best be characterized by a slightly less obvious Mr. Yuck face. Or, at the very least, a pained wince that was one part natural reaction and one part sadness over misfortune. Alas, not all Craft Beer Critic reviews can come to a happy ending.

Grade: N/A

ABV: 10%

IBUs: Between 64-65

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Courage Russian Imperial Stout