Grigori Rasputin was one of the coolest guys in the history of the world. If I was living in the early-1900’s I’d probably have a poster of him hanging in my room. For those three people that don’t know about Rasputin, he was a mystic, a healer, a debaucherer (he’d have a much better Vice Blog than me!), and the controversial counsel to Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. But what continues to remain the most interesting thing about Rasputin is the way he died.
A lot of people hated Rasputin, many fearing the man’s powers, both real and imagined, and thus many wanted him dead. But he was nearly impossible to kill. An attacker in 1914 stabbed Rasputin so viciously that his entrails fell out, but he was able to put them back in and get sewn up in time to survive. On December 16, 1916, a group of noblemen, tired of Rasputin’s influence over the tsars, conspired to murder him. Prince Felix lured Rasputin to his palace for a feast where the mad monk was served cake and red wine laced with toxic levels of cyanide. Can you imagine the scene as a half dozen or so noblemen sat around the dining table, anxiously waiting with baited breath for their hated Rasputin to keel over, and though he’d consumed enough poison to kill five men, he remained lucid and alive, completely unfazed by the poisoning. Was he truly magical?!
Felix began to get concerned about the failing plot and decided to speed up the process, pulling a revolver and shooting Rasputin in the back. The noblemen left for a bit but returned to find Rasputin still alive in the living room. They unloaded bullet fire on him some more, even hitting him square in the forehead, surely enough to kill him, then wrapped the man in a sheet and dropped him in the icy Neva River.
When Rasputin was recovered from the water three days later, he was found wrapped in the sheet with his arms in an upright position and his fingernails worn to the nub. He had survived the poisoning and the gunshots and was trying to claw his way from the sheet and the frozen river when he finally succumbed to drowning as his lungs filled with water.
Further rumors claim that when Rasputin’s body was taken from the river people, were so scared that they decided to obliterate his remains through cremation. As his body burned, though, Rasputin sat up in the fire, still alive, still fighting for his life. I hope I die in such a cool way. But I’m convinced–convinced!–that my death will come one day as I jaywalk in Manhattan, listening to my ipod, not paying attention to the traffic one iota as I ogle one of the countless beauties on the street passing me by. Boom! Hit by a DHL truck.
Back circa 2001-2 when I first got into craft beer, I was not the coolest guy in the world. Hard to believe, but true. In fact, I was a meticulous nerd in all my worldly pursuits. Even beer study. Thus, I printed out Beer Advocate’s top 100 brews in the world list, tucked it into my wallet, and would carry it around with me when I went beer shopping. I didn’t find many of the top 100 beers, but one day I was elated to locate Old Rasputin. It had to be the first Russian imperial stout I’d ever had. And I enjoyed it quite a bit. Yet, I probably haven’t had a Old Rasputin since. I recalled my early craft beer days while at the store over the weekend and decided to see what I thought of Old Rasputin in the present.
It pours dark like prune juice. Maybe the best smelling beer I’ve ever encountered. A somewhat sweet smell for a stout. Pretty interesting. So many stouts smell so roasted and burnt with unpleasing aromas of bad coffee and cheap dark chocolate. But this beer is so sweet and fragrant. Just to let you know how powerful it is, I went to wash the glass I used some 36 hours or so after drinking the Old Rasputin, and the laced remnants were still mindblowingly fragrant! Wow.
Taste isn’t quite as good as the smell but it’s still damn fine. Most notably smooth chocolate and espresso. Very malty. Finishes with a tingly alcoholicness that I love. And it’s stunningly drinkable too for such a big boy.
Russian imperial stouts were initially created in the 1800s to win over the tsars, most notably at the time Catherine II. Maybe Rasputin wouldn’t have been so reviled if he had won Nicholas and Alexandra’s favor by simply giving them an awesome beer like his namesake. Cause it is surely one of the best stouts around. You need to definitely treat yourself to this one on occasion.
VB recommended reading: “The Rasputin File” by Edvard Radzinsky (2000)