It was a dark and stormy night, a perfect time for a couple of dark and stormy stouts.
I started off with 2X Stout, a double milk stout from Southern Tier Brewing Co. of Lakewood, N.Y.
I’ll sum it up in one word:  Yum!
But here are a few more:  Soft and roasty, toasty, smooth, rich, sweet, luxurious and very, very yummmmmy.
Hmmm? What am I forgetting?
Perhaps I should have mentioned up front that I’ve never met a milk stout I didn’t like, but then would have to add there aren’t that many out there.
I can’t remember when I had my last drink of milk. Can’t stand the stuff. There isn’t really milk in this stout. Brewers use lactose, or milk sugar, to make milk stout. I guess you could think of it as using cream and sugar to smooth out the taste of bitter coffee. Lactose smoothes out the astringency of the roasted barley that makes stouts stout, resulting in a soft and sweetish stout.
This one is delicious and highly recommended.
From there we head across country, to North Coast Brewing of Fort Bragg, Calif., for Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
Big, bold, brassy and the very essence of darkness, kind of like the old Mad Monk himself, Rasputin, a name I am told means “debauched one.” His visage on the bottle seems to back that up.
It’s a symphony of dark flavors that grow as the liquid warms in the glass. Dark chocolate and toffee and blackstrap molasses and dark roasted coffee bean. The char on a great piece of grilled meat.  You can lose yourself in a veritable black hole of dark flavors.
Russian Imperial Stout is related to India Pale Ale, in that its name relates to where it was shipped rather than where it was brewed. Peter the Great fell in love with English porters during a visit to England in 1698, so much so that he ordered some sent to the imperial court in Russia, but the beer could not stand up to the 1,000-mile journey. So the brewer tried again, this time boosting the malt and hops to create a very hardy black beer that could withstand the travel to Russia. Of course, boosting the malt content also raises the alcohol content. And Imperial Russian Stout was born.
Catherine the Great (1729-1796) continued the importation of large quantities of Imperial Russian Stout for her court, but the name “Catherine the Great Imperial Russian Stout” doesn’t grab you the way an “Old Rasputin Russian Stout” does.

Good Old Rasputin! What a mystic wag!