Courage Imperial Russian Stout

The alcohol percentage on this one is downright frightening at 10%. But that's how Catherine the Great of Russia liked it, and she got what she liked when she made demands of her courtiers in 1795.Courage Imperial Stout

A bit of background here: Russian Imperial Stout is a strong dark stout dating back to the 18th century when it was produced at Thrale’s Brewery in London to export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. The high alcoholic strength was necessary to prevent the beer from freezing in the temperatures of the Baltic Sea on its voyage to Russia and along with a high degree of hop, it has the keeping quality of a fine wine.

Despite being out of production for a while Courage – it was last brewed in London in 1982 – it has been recreated by Wells and Young’s head brewer, Jim Robertson, who last crafted the beer in Horselydown, London.

Deepest, darkest brown in colour with a serious tan head, a large amount of raw ingredients have gone into this beer and you certainly get elements of each and every one of them. Treat this like a rich wine with wintry dishes or warming puds. Or if solo, savour this as you would a whisky – it's so intense and concentrated that I imagine that a whole bottle would be challenging. It has elements of boozy, chocolate-laced Christmas cake, with a rich espresso body and a smoky, fruity finish.

Alongside those fresh ingredients, the brew boasts chocolate, amber and pale ale malts, Hersbrucker and Styrian Goldings hops and accredited natural mineral water from the brewery’s very own well. Like I said, there’s a lot going on.

10%; limited availability at the moment – it's only just been relaunched in the UK – but you will find at the wonderful Beers of Europe and beerritz.co.uk