In 2014, in a small corner of Asia, a guy named Putin decided to have some fun with his neighbor Ukraine. Now this was not at all my particular brand of “fun,” but there’s no accounting for taste. Normally we like all things Russian, particularly when they have anything whatsoever to do with our favorite fermented beverage. Even my own babushka hailed from the mother-land. Heck, give me a shot of vodka, some pickles and a loaf of black bread and I’m happy. But this Putin guy was making it hard to enjoy my normally apolitical dining practices.
In early 2015, when the Duck Foot Brewing Co. was just a wee baby, we were working on some killer beer recipes to add to our portfolio. We hit upon a really great one in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. These big, dark, immensely flavored brews are best suited to sipping during cold nights while gathered around a roaring fire with good company. Maybe throw in a game of Uno or co-ed naked Twister. Whatever floats your boat.(ok, so technically the history of the Russian Imperial Stout is that it was brewed by English brewers for export to Russia and the Baltic states. But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story!)
The beer was tasting great, but since we were feeling mildly annoyed at Russian presidents and their invading ways, we didn’t think it was super cool to call it a Russian Imperial Stout. Thus was born the Ukrainian Imperial Stout. A metaphorical finger in the eye of Putin and also a way to express our solidarity with our Ukrainian friends who may not be at all welcoming to their new Russian overlords. The UIS is just as big, just as bold, just as black, but with less Putin for your drinking pleasure.Fast forward now to 2020. A year that will live in infamy, but not because of our beer. We’ve drunk pints of UIS, we’ve shared it with friends and we even barrel-aged a bunch of it. But time marches on and new beers must be brewed.Enter Matt Akin, he of Alesmith and Benchmark fame and now Duck Foot’s shiny new Head Brewer. I said to him, “Matt,” (because that’s what I call him) “let’s brew an Imperial Stout next.” and he said, “ok.”Hmm. In retrospect that wasn’t that interesting a conversation. I probably should have embellished a bit. Let me try that again.“Matthew!” I cried over the deafening roar of the churning and cranking brewhouse equipment. I lay pinned behind the mash tun with boiling wort and spent grain raining down all around me, blocking my exit and threatening a slow and painful death. My skin was raw and red and a mixture of sweat and yeast blurred my vision. I was close to passing out from the heat. If only I could regain my composure and figure out an exit.Just then, a pale arm thrust through the cascading sheets of hot wort. Obviously it was someone who has somehow become immune to hot brewing liquids and flying debris. Some sort of super brewer? The darkness had begun to envelop me but with my final reserve of energy, I lifted my arm in response and accepted the glass of beer that was held at the end of the outstretched arm. I took one, long draft and emptied the glass. My senses immediately returned and my body cooled and healed from the delicious elixir. The roar of the machinery quiesced and the hot liquid drained away down the floor drains. I stepped forward, unsure of exactly what had just happened.“What was that?” I asked. Matt shook his head and smiled, “Just a turn of darkness.”
And so that’s exactly how our new Imperial Stout “Turn Of Darkness” was born. Yup, exactly like that.With its copious amounts of Roasted Barley, Flaked Oats, Brown Malt, Caramel Malt and brown sugar, this Imperial Stout fires on all cylinders and will satisfy any and all dark beer urges that might be lurking within.”But wait,” you say. “Since the Beer Judge Certification Program’s beer style guidelines of 2015 dropped the ‘Russian’ moniker from the Imperial Stout category, are you just going along with them?”Yes. Yes we are. But since the Russian Imperial Stout was never really Russian to begin with and because these days it’s actually more American than British, we’re ok with that.
Ok, so time to relax and enjoy a glass of Turn of Darkness. I don’t know about you, but the chill of winter makes me crave dark and potent beers. The roasted barley and dark fruit notes meld beautifully with the warming, bittersweet finish of this drink. I’m ready for another.
By Brett GoldstockChief Fermentation OfficerDuck Foot Brewing Co.