Old Rasputin: Beer for the Bar
Finally! I’m back, after more than a month away. As many of the people who bother to read this blog know, I’d been busy with the month-long Philippine bar examinations held every Sunday of this past October. I know that the word “blog” is supposed to be short for weblog, but in my case, “backlog” seems to be the appropriate term. Thus, I’ll spend November posting about the different books, bites and brews I was able to enjoy over the last few months during my momentary breaks from reviewing. Most of these entries will be based on hastily scribbled notes and my not-so-reliable memory, so please forgive the lack of detail in most of the coming posts.
For my first new entry, I’m featuring a “good luck beer” of sorts – North Coast Brewing Co.’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Craft Brewer Kiyo Miura of Katipunan Craft Ales gave me the idea of having one beer to relax with the night before the bar exams began. I decided that, from among my stash, and what was currently in stock in the Philippines at the time, that it had to be this one. This beer was a birthday gift from fellow UP College of Law alum, fellow blogger, and hopefully, future fellow lawyer, Concon. Not only is the Ol’ Raspy a world-renowned beer and one of the most highly rated Russian Imperial Stouts, but the man the brew is named after was known for being notoriously difficult to kill. I hoped (and still do) that the high ratings of the beer and the resilience of Rasputin himself would translate to my own bar exam experience. That is, that I’d be hardy enough to get through all four weeks of October without burning out, and that I’d pass the examination, preferably with flying colors. I got through the exams alright, and now only time will tell whether I did well enough to approximate Old Rasputin’s grades.
I brought the eight-month old bottle with me to the hotel on the eve of the first exam and poured it into one of the glass water goblets in the room. While I would have preferred to appreciate such a special beer in my trusty Duvel tulip or a a brandy snifter, the round-bottomed, wide-lipped hotel goblet was more than adequate to let the beer really shine. This was viscous, almost oily and opaque, but balanced by a thick yet frothy tan head. Raisin and coffee were prominent on the nose, and likewise on the palate: an wave of initial bittersweet coffee and dried fruit followed by a moderately hoppy finish. Despite the thick, full mouthfeel, this was a mellow and smooth beer that went down like a creamy espresso milkshake. This beer ages beautifully, and I would place this up there with my current favorite, the Stone Imperial Russian Stout. I wonder what a year or two more would do with such a black beauty.
Just as the real Rasputin was a hard man to put down, so is this beer. Just waiting for it to age in one’s cellar (or in my case, covered by paper and old jeans in the deepest, darkest recesses of my closet) is difficult. Nursing the beer while in the glass is even more challenging, because the temptation to just inhale the whole thing is too much. Again, it’s not that this is a light, crisp, easy-to-chug beer. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. The flavors are prominent, yet mellowed, the body thick yet creamy. This beer is a paradox in the same way that the man was – a holy man who in the eyes of many was pure evil.
(Apologies. I need to get back into the flow of writing. For the past few weeks, I’d gotten used to formulaic and simplistic sentence formulation without the tiniest amount of creativity. Hopefully I will get back into the groove soon.)