South Florida has a fair number of interesting connections to Russia.
There were Ksenia Khodukina and Yevgen Risanov, married Russian nationals who were arrested and accused of running a high-end prostitution ring out of Trump Tower III in Sunny Isles Beach. But there's also a large population of Russian immigrants who have brought their food, culture, and hearty lifestyles to these shores. In fact, Sunny Isles Beach is nicknamed "Little Moscow."
This influx might explain the rise of a bold, opaque beer called the Russian imperial stout.
The drink earned its title after Russia's Catherine the Great ordered large quantities from London's Anchor Brewery (not associated with Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco), according to the late British journalist John Pudney, who penned A Draught of Contentment.
Traditionally, Russian imperial stout is made with "generous quantities" of roasted malt or grain. That produces a dark beer with deeply intense flavor and lots of alcohol.
Popular brands in the United States include North Coast's Old Rasputin and 3 Floyds' Dark Lord. In South Florida, local breweries such as Funky Buddha, LauderAle, and J. Wakefield make their own interpretations.
1. El Congo by Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery. At 16 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV), Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery's El Congo Russian imperial stout is a heavy-hitter. Using additional grains and a nine-month aging process, Legacy's brew is smooth and rich. It's considered a special release, which means it's not found in the taproom year-round. It's expected to be available in November and will be sold in four-, 12-, and 16-ounce servings for $1 per ounce. 13416 NW 38th Ct., Opa-locka; 786-681-6572; legacyccb.com.
2. Nikolai Vorlauf by Funky Buddha Brewery. Nikolai Vorlauf, Funky Buddha's Russian imperial stout, is available only intermittently because it's barrel-aged, according to the brewery's marketing director, John Linn. Two special releases will be available in the coming months, including a version aged in cabernet wine barrels. Then there's the Love Below, which is aged in red-wine and bourbon barrels, then blended with chocolate and cherries. It will be released in February close to Valentine's Day. The brew is served in a 12-ounce glass for $7.42 after tax and sits at 9.5 percent ABV. 1201 NE 38th St., Oakland Park; 954-440-0046; funkybuddhabrewery.com.
3. SS Copenhagen by LauderAle Brewery. SS Copenhagen Russian imperial stout, which was released by LauderAle Brewery this past April, is a barrel-aged version of Rapture of the Deep. The beer is part of the brewery's Shipwreck Series, which names each beer for shipwrecks off the Florida coast. The original SS Copenhagen was a steamship that launched in Scotland in 1898 and sank near the coast of Pompano Beach in 1900. Twenty-two-ounce bottles of SS Copenhagen, which weighs in at 12.5 percent ABV, are available in the LauderAle taproom for $25 each. 3305 SE 14th Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-653-9711; lauderale.co.
4. La Nada by J. Wakefield Brewing Co. J. Wakefield's La Nada, which means "The Nothing," is a Russian imperial stout named for the nefarious entity in the movie The Neverending Story. On its Untappd page, the beer is described as an "inconceivable, formless, featureless negation of existence impossible to describe, surrounded by an otherworldly mist of chocolate and roast." However you want to describe La Nada, it's 13 percent ABV and can be found in the brewery's taproom for $9 for a nine-ounce glass. 120 NW 24th St., Miami; 786-254-7779; jwakefieldbrewing.com.
5. Bushka by Hollywood Brewing Co. From Russia with love comes the Bushka, sitting at 9.4 percent ABV and selling for $6.50 per pint. Hollywood Brewing offers a Wednesday special where a pint of Bushka comes with a free shot of house bourbon whiskey. 290 N. Broadwalk, Hollywood; 304-414-4757; hollywood.beer.