Guest Post By The Devil Drink: Espresso Stout

Lee Marvin is the Devil Drink

THE OWL IS EITHER A symbol of wisdom or bad luck, depending on which pagan tradition you prefer. The eyes on this one also stared out at me from the “Assorted” fridge at the local bottleshop, where the curious are tempted by the unfamiliar and challenged to test themselves against Beer Lotto. When the going gets tough the weird turn pro, as Hunter S (pbuh) remarked. Owl Stout went straight to the counter. Hitachino! Espresso! Hoooooooo!

Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

To quote the back label:

THIS ESPRESSO STOUT IS BREWED USING WELL-ROASTED ESPRESSO BEANS. THE RECIPE IS BASED ON THE IMPERIAL STOUT LOVED BY THE RUSSIAN EMPEROR. PLEASE ENJOY THE BALANCE OF ITS RICH TASTE AND COFFEE FLAVOR.

Which really raises as many questions as it answers. Nicholas II, one of the Alexanders? Peter, perhaps? The internet claims an association of Imperial Stout as a genre with Catherine’s court, and yes, Catherine was supposed to have drunk coffee something like fifty-fifty ground beans and boiling water, and yes, as a good Prussian she had beer in her blood, but I can’t quite picture her ordering the two to be mixed. I suspect a bit of clever marketing along the way. She was a truly strange ruler, but cultured.

It’s a baffling mythology. The Slavophile monarchs might have been [ahem] spirited souls but the more Western inclined nobles surely would have preferred putting away the burgundy and beaujolais like proper little quasi-French absolutist liberals. Did it come across the Sea of Japan via Vladivostok and thence by Siberian train, did the Kiuchi brewery get it via the British concessions in Imperial China, or was there a local franchise of Japanese-British coffee brewers to the Tsars in St Petersburg?

You know what, who cares. Crack the bottle top (with another cute cartoon owl) and marvel at the 7.5% alc/vol smashing black malty coffee syrup. Frothy like a newly snow-bound steppe or cherry blossom falling in front of Fuji; black and bitter like the Romanovs’ moustaches, or the seaweed around a fresh nori roll. As a metaphor, it’s a very pleasing two standard drinks.

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FDB · 20 October 2011, 09:30 · #

My workmate’s got some coffee brew or other maturing in the lunch room fridge. More of a dark ale than a stout, really. I’m intrigued though.

I believe her theory is that drinking at work on a Friday arvo will be more acceptable if we’re kept alert.

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Fyodor von Bazarov · 20 October 2011, 14:20 · #

The Russians are mad for espresso* and beer*, so the two together sounds logical, yet the overall vibe is one akin to “fruit tea”. You know: shite.

The proper Russian porter is Baltika 6, which is a decent “Baltic” porter – think Tooheys Old without its ridiculous over-carbonation and with an alcohol kick (7%) like a fucking mule. And, oh yeah: in a half-litre bottle. I drank quite a bit of it in Russia in the late 1990s and it was one of the few consumer goods the Russians did well back then. That, and ice cream**.

NOBA: Catherine II was Saxon, not Prussian.

*Yes, really.
**No surprises there.

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Lefty E · 24 October 2011, 16:14 · #

I had some Polish chocolate beer recently.

Not nearly as bad as it sounds. Quite good actually. Mind you that was after a few vodka shots so results may vary.

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