In celebration of Arizona Beer Week, we are releasing a new Pilot Series beer: KGB Russian Imperial Stout. In addition to being at the pub, it will be available at some beer dinners and on draft at select locations around the valley. Known for being some of the strongest, heaviest beers available, Russian Imperial Stouts are a personal favorite of mine. For this edition of Clayton’s Corner, we will delve into the interesting background of this beer style.

All “Stouts” are relatives of Porter, a style of beer first brewed in London during the 18th century. The word Stout originally referred to a “Stout Porter,” or a stronger Porter. Over time, the names came to mean different things, so that if you order Stout today, it will not necessarily be stronger than another porter. In addition, there was a style of beer called “Export Stout,” which was a hoppier, slightly stronger Stout. A particular brand of Export Stout was catching on at the court of Catherine the Great, in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was extremely strong, and had enough bitterness to balance its robust malt flavor. Over time, this style of Stout became known as Russian Imperial Stout.

Today, Imperial Stouts typically clock in between 9 and 11 percent alcohol by volume, and have a decent amount of bitterness, usually over 50 IBUs. If executed poorly, the beers can be notorious for being overly heavy or sweat. Yet some really good ones push the boundaries of drinkability, and draw favorable comparisons to an oil slick in appearance. As with all SanTan beers, our version tends to be a little drier and more quaffable. Yet in body and flavor, it is still a beer any dark beer lover (such as myself) can appreciate. And although it unfortunately debuted just after Valentine’s day, it pairs great with chocolate.