Imperial Stout style. I beg to differ, but I understand why people think that way. It's widely available, well brewed, and quite good.
It's also, like most imperial stouts, a possible candidate for cellaring ... so I sought to do just that when I bought Old Rasputin twice for my "cellar," once in the winter of 2010 and again in mid 2011. The problem? I never marked the beers, and North Coast doesn't date stamp them, so I have no idea how old this beer was. It's at the youngest about 18 months and at the oldest maybe three years. Keep that in mind when reading this. (Also keep in mind that this was enjoyed and written in autumn 2012 and is only being posted now.)
An Old Rasputin with mild age on it pours with a fizzy head of about one finger even after some time sitting around. It smells of licorice, coffee, and alcohol heat, none of it luxurious or inviting, but none of it unpleasant, either. Still, the aroma feels somehow subdued.
The drinking experience offers much the same experience. The body is thin and light for an imperial stout, lacking the rich, heavy sweetness I enjoy in the style. There is lots of coffee, mocha and cocoa, so that's nice, but oddly, the booze is not as mellow as it is when fresh. The other odd thing? There is a vaguely milky quality to it without the body of sweetness of a milk stout. Don't know what to make of that.
So did it improve over time? I think so. Overall this beer is smoother and more enjoyable than it is when fresh. Pair this with a rich cheese or dessert dish and you'll enjoy it greatly.
BEER: North Coast Old Rasputin imperial stout
VINTAGE: 2010-2011 (?)
TIME AGED: 12-24 months (?)
NOTES: Still boozy, but pleasant, dessert-like tones come out to play
VERDICT: Definitely give this beer a year in your cellar, maybe more.