Breweries often release small batches of Russian Imperial Stout to great critical acclaim, with devotees scrambling to get their hands on a rare bottle or two. Some are so coveted that they have entire beer festivals celebrating their release. Thankfully there are plenty of amazing Russian Imperial Stouts that are readily available. As good as many of these are fresh, with time many transform into something really special, rivaling even the brightest cherry or the whitest of whales. Here are some of those classics, all of which are in stores now. All will age gracefully, gaining complexity over time.  

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North Coast Old Rasputin

2016 marks the twentieth anniversary of this award-winning Russian Imperial Stout. It’s one of the original American examples of the style and throngs of brewers and drinkers alike herald it as one of the best examples on the market. Available year round as a 4-pack for only $8.99, it’s an affordable way to study how RIS ages over time.  

AleSmith Speedway Stout

When we first heard AleSmith was finally coming to Chicagoland we were ecstatic. One of the most decorated breweries in California, their Speedway Stout is one of the highest rated examples of the style, and for good reason. Brewed with beans from San Diego’s Ryan Brother’s Coffee, it is rich, roasty and fruity with an incredible creamy mouthfeel. Fresh it shows a touch of its 12% abv, but that heat fades with time. Serve with either dark chocolate or your favorite blue cheese for an experience you won’t soon forget.  

Lagunitas Imperial Stout

Lagunitas likes to brew big beers, and this is one bold interpretation of the style. Pours inky black with aromas of dark chocolate and coffee on the nose. With some time its bold, smoky bitterness begins to fade giving way to chocolate and toffee. At only $4.49 a bottle it’s a great candidate for a vertical tasting, where different vintages of the same beer are opened at once in order to see how it develops over time.  

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Stone is famous for their generous use of hops and their IRS is no exception. First brewed in 2000, we’ve opened some very old bottles over the years and rest assured this beer has some serious lasting power. Fresh it’s truly a monstrous brew. Licorice, coffee, and cocoa give way to a savory and roasty finish. With time the hoppiness fades and its rough edges become polished. Unlike our other recommendations, this one is only released once a year, but it just hit our shelves so pick up a few before their all gone.   Check out the Beer Buzz for updates on new beer, tastings, sales and more!