John: I tend to anticipate high quality from Founders so when I picked up this imperial stout my expectations were high. I wasn’t disappointed. It appeared as a deep, rich brown/black making a statement from the beginning. The head was creamy light brown but disappeared quickly. The aroma was alcohol, dark rich chocolate, heavy molasses and flavorful roasted grains. It was inviting from the first smell. I love beers that have a taste that aligns with the aroma. This one does. No surprises. Just consistent aroma to taste. It starts with a pretty big alcohol taste but quickly moves to roasted grains, rich chocolates and a nice dry finish. The mouthfeel is medium to thick. A great beer on a winter’s day of watching basketball. As always with Founders a great beer experience. Grade: A
Michael: I know a bit about economics. I know that when I say a lack of supply creates increased demand, that the logic is a little off. And yet, in the beer world, this principle seems to be right on.
Founders has several beers that follow just such a premise and their Imperial seems to be one. Well, by a stroke of luck I was sitting in a title office and had a few spare minutes to wander over to my local Binny’s. I knew these extra specials were stored behind the counter so I politely asked for my limit (two) and left a (perfectly) happier man. Founders has always done right by me. Really, I don’t think I’ve had a beer they’ve crafted that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.
From the pour I knew I was in for another treat. It was thick like oil and I don’t use that analogy sloppily. It literally looked like oil. A few stray drops popped from the glass as the liquid poured in and they splattered on my hand like little pebbles, not liquid anything. The head confidently rested heavily, a finger and a half thick and a deep, chocolate brown. I smelled whiffs of bittersweet chocolate and dates. The roastiness is present, but in a backdrop sort of way, allowing the other scents a more prominent spot in the lineup. Then I sipped. Wow. I was expecting a lot, but not this. It was bursting with bitterness, burnt malts and sour chocolate. I guess each one of the 90 IBUs showed up to prove something in this stout. The mouthfeel was good, very thick, but not syrupy and the bitter chocolate rested on my tonsils like I had just let a piece of Lindts 85% Cocoa just melt in my mouth. There weren’t quite the subtlties that I so often enjoy from a stout, but the bold flavors were right on and this big impy was definitely well done. Grade: A-
Tom: Some beers you know will be winner, this was just that! Everything about this glorious brew screamed A+ to me. From the thicker than engine oil pour, raven black hue and mocha head, to the aromatic burnt malt and spicy hop notes I fell in love with this stout. At 90 IBUs and 10.5% abv it packs a punch, but it is appropriate to style and brings a great depth to an already deep dark beer. I was glad to finially sample this brew as it seemed a good point of reference for then comparing KBS and Breakfast Stout against. This super viscous liquid had the most smooth, silky, oily, velvety mouthfeel of any beer I’ve had to date. It made this Imperial monster palatable and perfect for an evening night cap. The finish marks a great blend of abv heat and piney hops that help lift the syrupy burnt grains off your palate ever-so-slightly. With a gentle swirl I noticed that it has caramel colored legs on the side of the glass and the faint floral hop notes became noticable. Great roasted/burnt malts provide layers of aromas and flavors just as blueberry, oats, campfire ash, and blackstrap molasses. The aftertaste is warm and roasty making it perfect for fighting those remaining winter nights. It is just an all around awesome brew! This beer has an annual January seasonal release. Grade: A+ Note: 2010 vintage sampled in 2010.
I opened up my 2010 vintage one year later to see how it aged. This beer still has all the wonderful aromas and flavors that made me fall in love with it last January. Still carrying a huge nose there are deeper notes of licorice, astringently burnt grains, and blackstrap molasses. The abv has mellowed out a little providing a better platform to really take in all the malts used. The nose had a smokey aroma to it like a half burnt log the morning after a campfire. In addition there were hints of blueberry like a deep coffee might possess. The mouthfeel is still slick and oily bringing it pretty close to that of the Bkft Stout. At 90 IBUs there is still a grand piney, woodsy bite on the finish which fights hard to balance out the grain bill. Personally, I think this beer would be great to do a vertical with. It is still robust after one year which leads me to believe you could probably go about 8-10 years out…because of the abv. Interestingly, the burnt grain flavors reminded me of Hoppin’ Frogs 100th batch of BORIS which used English malts. Grade: A+