What is Russian Imperial Stout?
Ever wonder why the beer style is called Russian Imperial Stout?
It’s not because the style comes from Russia, it actually comes from England. The Russians, at the time, felt that only water from the Thames river could produce a decent porter (stout was not a term used at the time). So they imported huge quantities of this strong porter from England.
The original RIS was a porter called Thrale’s Intire brewed at Anchor Brewery in Southwark Parish, London. This beer was not only exported to Russia, but all over the world including Africa and India. It’s a common misconception that the high hops and ABV were to preserve the beer over the long, cold journey. The more accurate truth is that it was brewed that way because that’s what people liked. Probably the most famous drinker being Catherine the Great of Russia. She was known to import vast quantities just for the Russian Imperial court. Later Barclay’s renamed the beer to Barclay’s Russian Imperial Stout as a marketing term referencing it as the beer drunk by the Russian Imperial Court.
The term “Imperial” later came to be used to just mean “our strongest offering” but it certainly had it’s origins with the Russian Imperial court. Now you’ll see Imperial IPAs, Pilsners and everything else, which is referencing the “strongest offering”. But Russian Imperial Stout has a nice ring to it and is why the name has stuck all these years.