Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Samuel Adams Imperial Stout

Boston Beer Company
Boston, MA

Style: Imperial Stout

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Editor’s Note: This review is a companion piece to the review for Samuel Adams Imperial White

I have a confession to make that I’m not proud of:

I watch Family Guy.

While many of you are likely puzzled as to my embarrassment over that fact, let’s face it … high brow, intellectual humor it ain’t. It’s crude, disgusting, often offensive, and just as often hilarious. While I’d still take The Simpsons over Family Guy any day, I do enjoy them both, often back to back in syndication after a long day selling macaroni noodle trinkets to Japanese tourists.

What does my penchant for Family Guy have to do with my latest review, which is actually a double dip of Samuel Adams Imperial brews? It reminds me of the line a few seasons back, when a group of businessmen are having lunch and one orders a Sam Adams, much to the surprise of his companions. Mimicking the famous commercial from several years ago, when ordering a beer at lunch was apparently considered salacious, the guy says “I need to get the taste of weed and hooker spit out of my mouth.” His fellow diners quickly follow suit and order the same thing.

And that, my friends, is a sampling of what many in the mainstream think (or thought) of Sam Adams. It was a cute little joke to the millions of shit beer consumers out there, many of whom must’ve figured the only reason one ordered a beer was to get drunk, because it sure as hell didn’t taste good. This new stuff was too strong and this new company too small to play with the big boys. But, as I stated over a year ago in my review for Hallertau Imperial Pilsner, Samuel Adams and their head honcho, Jim Koch, have nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, they’re now the largest brewer in the country thanks to the international sell-offs of Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors, as well as the disappearance of Pabst, Blatz, etc. as actual brewers. Sam Adam’s continues to make some respectable beer, and Mr. Koch will always be known as a craft beer pioneer. While many of their widely distributed selections are so-so at best, Sam Adam’s is a fallback beer that even the dorkiest of Dorks can still be satisfied drinking (okay, maybe not Sam Adam’s Light, but everything else). The only “special” Sam Adams brew I’ve had to date was the Hallertau, and I was extremely impressed. Let’s see if they can duplicate that success with their Imperial Stout and Imperial White, which claims to be a unique “imperial” version of the typically timid Belgian witbier.

Imperial Stout ends up being everything you’d expect an imperial stout to be, but nothing more. It’s very good but indistinguishable from a number of other craft versions that rate in the high three to four mug range. Pouring a deep, impenetrable black hue with a mild tan head that dies into a nominal dark lace, the only thing lacking in the appearance is any hint of sedimentation. Aromas are the biggest disappointment, as it’s a struggle to pick anything up, even in my snifter glass (snifters are supposed to be ideal for picking up aroma). Subtle notes of cocoa, roasted malt, and dark sugars are present, but faint. Honestly, I’m shocked that a brew this powerful is so difficult to detect with the nostrils.

The taste is far better than the aroma, but nothing special in terms of an imperial stout (that means it’s just really, really good rather than “holy shit” good). What really stands out, especially initially when still chilled, is a smoked peat profile. The smoky tones permeate throughout, giving it a consistent backbone as other flavors come through. Those other flavors include dark, sugary notes of toffee, molasses, and dark brown sugar, as well as earthy, grainy barley notes and slight hints of dark fruit. As the beer warms, the smoky peat tones seem to evolve into more of a roasted coffee flavor, but either way that smoky, roasted theme dominates. A slight hint of alcohol is present as well, not surprising in a brew that checks in at just over 9 percent ABV. Imperial Stout is smooth and does capture many of the plethora of flavor nuances associated with imperial stouts, but ultimately its just very good, not great, making it a high three to low four mugger in my opinion.

So there you have it … coupled with the Imperial White, two distinctly different beers from Sam Adams, but two that continue to prove Boston Beer is willing to push the envelope, even if the end result doesn’t add up. Both Imperial Stout and Imperial White are far cries from Hallertau Imperial Pilsner, but neither is a failure and both are worth a sample. Imperial Stout is a solid, if not spectacular brew, one that safely falls into the parameters of the style. Imperial White is more of a risk, and one that I feel doesn’t really pay off. But … it’s still a good beer and my assessment is very much open to debate. If all else fails, there’s no doubt it’ll get the taste of weed and hooker spit out of your mouth.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on April 7, 2009.
Agree with this review?
Happy anniversary, Lakefront Brewery!

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

Want to know how healthy the craft beer industry is? As always, look to Portland. Craft pioneer Bridgeport announces sudden closure, adding to a growing list of PDX casualties.
Did Anheuser-Busch Chicago offer their shit beer to Cody Parkey before his missed field goal? Because that may explain why he "accidentally" biffed it.
Chicago now has the most breweries of any city in the country. Other things Chicago has the most of: murders, mobsters, and Ditkas.
Trying to spin it positive, BA releases end of year graphic. Only 5% growth in the craft sector when nearly 1000 new breweries opened? That's a collapse waiting to happen.
R.I.P. Tallgrass... another casualty as the regional/national craft beer market continues to get squeezed.
Wait... Constellation Brands cut all of the Ballast Point and Funky Buddha sales staff? They merged it with their Corona/Modelo staff?? We're SHOCKED!!!
Pizza Beer founder crying about failure of company, blames everyone else. Reminder, the beer tasted like vomit. Try having better ideas or making better products so you're not a failure.
It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
Indiana brewery to open with controversial beer names to "get the conversation going". Translation: taking advantage of serious issues for free publicity.
Hundreds of amazing beers in Wisconsin and the Cubs took back the one everyone drinks just because it exists and people have heard of it. How fitting...