On December 21st, Down The Road heralds the true arrival of winter with a celebration of the darkest night of the year, Winter Solstice. For one night only, our taproom will be transformed into a feast hall, filled with seasonal revelries and song. Naturally, there is only one beer worthy of assuming the seat of honor at such The Darkest Night festival: our Darkest Night Russian Imperial Stout. Inspired by Baba Yaga, a Slavic witch of folklore, this boozy brew balances rich chocolate and coffee malts with a complex palate of fresh, piney hops. But who is Baba Yaga, and why is this withered old woman the face of one of our rarest beers? The devil, as they say, is in the details.
The Witch of the Woods
The primeval forests of the Slavs are dark, and ponderous places. Hard roots of ancient trees tap deep into the frozen earth, drawing sustenance from thousands of years of rot and detritus. In the dark heart of these labyrinthian woods lies Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged hut where the dread sorceress tends to her crops and livestock. It is from this cozy hovel that the old crone beckons lost travelers to their salvation, or their doom.
The old crone is capricious at best, her blessings and curses fall from her lips with no rhyme or reason - at least, not to the minds of mere mortals. Some wanderers may find her to be a maternal figure, spouting wisdom and bestowing gifts upon them for as little as a few compliments or a humble donation. Other less fortunate souls may draw her ire, suffering lingering maladies from her curses that haunt them for the rest of their miserable lives. And woe to the sorry sot who crosses Baba Yaga when she is hungry, for nothing warms the bones quite like hot, sweet blood.
A Serious Stout for Serious Beer Enthusiasts
Like so many of the folkloric namesakes of our beers here at Down the Road, Baba Yaga represents duplicity and chaos. She is a being that demands respect, and rewards it in kind. At 14% ABV, our “Darkest Night” Imperial Stout asks the same of beer drinkers. The well-balanced flavor of this deeply rich brew can be deceptive, and it would be wise to treat it with the respect it deserves. Yet those who can appreciate the composition of this complex and lusciously dark stout will find a warm companion to help them through the harsh cold of winter.
She’s still out there, you know, Baba Yaga. Time may pass, and the world around her may change, but the witch of the woods has gone nowhere. In the shadow-addled depths of Eastern Europe’s endless woodlands, Baba Yaga churns the forest’s rich loam for her crops and chickens - one eye on the footpath, the other turned toward the secret things that flit just beyond the edge of mortal vision, and to her, we raise a glass. Na Zdravie!