Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Founders Imperial Stout - Founders Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Founders Imperial StoutFounders Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
96
world-class

1,774 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 1,774
Hads: 7,291
Avg: 4.33
pDev: 17.32%
Wants: 711
Gots: 2,207 | FT: 154
Brewed by:
Founders Brewing Company
Michigan, United States | website

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout | 10.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: mjohn27603 on 01-13-2003

75 IBU
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 1,774 | Hads: 7,291
Photo of camil1mj
4.21/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage poured at cellar temp into my Founders snifter.

A: Deep, dark brown. Wonderful 2 finger mocha colored head. Great lacing. Loons perfect.

S: Roasty, chocolate. Great smell.

T: Immediate roasted malt tast. Great tastes of chocolate and toffee.

M: Thick, full bodied and well carbonated.

O: Great imperial stout. One of my favorites.

 348 characters

Photo of dancinwillie
3.78/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

BA has this listed at 25 IBU, while my bottle has it listed at 90. Curiouser and curiouser...

Decants quietly, and dark black. A milk chocolate colored head, about a half inch high is an appealing crown.

Sweet chocolate mixed with roasted malts rise up make my mouth water. Second sniff reveals a fruit aroma, dark fruit, maybe cherries or plums, I'm not quite decided.

Roasted malts, chocolate covered malted milk balls (Whoppers), and burnt malts on the back end. A little bit boozy, not over the top though. And at first I didn't think I noticed any hop flavor, but as usual, as I let it warm a bit I'm picking some up. I guess I have to believe the brewers claim of 90 IBU, and I'm guessing that it used to be 25 and the brothers are busy as usual, but if I tasted this blind, and had to guess between the two numbers, I'd go with the 25. Take that for whatever you think it's worth.

Full in body and somewhat silky, but that bit of booziness gives this a bit of a bite. Long bitter finish lingers, making the distance to the next drink a little less urgent. Sip this one, and enjoy.

Doesn't seem like 10.5% ABV. This could be trouble, I could drink 2-3 if I had the next day off, and on a full stomach. Which sounds like a little bit of heaven, I might have to do this soon. Cheers!

 1,292 characters

Photo of mikem0487
4.08/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle, bottled on 12/07/12

A-Poured a thick jet black. Surprised to have no head what so ever in the poor. A incremental sized brown head formed for a moment than receded to the edges. Had this on draft a couple weeks ago and poured a nice foamy head. Complete opposite of what it is now. Hope that does not carry over to the smell and taste.

S-Smells like a great imperial. Roasted dark chocolate malts, mild smoked tobacco in their with prunes, raisins. Minimal hop presence in the nose which does not diminish at all the great aroma this beer has.

T-Roasted malts, dark chocolate, tobacco, dark fruit on the palate. This is defiantly a malt driven beer with the hops for balance. Finish's mildly bitter on the end and leaves a chocolate burnt aftertaste. Very enjoyable brew. Taste great throughout than leaves with that burnt after taste which is not my favorite.

M-Medium bodied beer. Low carbonation. Finishes on the dry side. Great for this style.

O-A great beer overall. I enjoyed it much better on draft than I did in bottle however. The appearance did not resemble the first time I had it on draft and the tobacco burnt taste is more heavy on my bottled beer tasting. This is still a great beer overall but if I had reviewed it when I had it on draft this would have gotten a much higher score. Goes to show you that everything in the brewing process down to the packaging of the beer can take away from such a stellar beer.

 1,445 characters

Photo of jdoncbus
4.42/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep black into a snifter. Thin, mocha colored head that clings to the glass when swirled; oily residue & dot effect.

Creamy aroma of dark roasted malt, kaluha, & pine. The booze dances around the nostrils along with coffee.

Smooth and silky on the tongue leads to woody, dark coffee, molasses malt, and an avalanche of piney-acidic hops & alcohol. The mouth feels dry and I sm left with a boozy burn.

This thing is a sipper from start to finish. A very tasty and complex beer that really packs a punch. I plan to age a couple bottles and see what happens when the hops mellow out.

 592 characters

Photo of Wadsey
4.47/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Founders Imperial Stout

Served in New Belgium tulip

A: Pours black with a thin but dense chocolate mousse head. Swirling the beer in the glass reveals an oily appearance on glass. It also resuscitates head and deposits some suds on sides of glass. 

S: Cocoa nibs, ash, chocolate milk, and earth.  Nothing fruity or hoppy on the nose. At subthreshhold of smell, soy and smoke play, adding complexity to the beer.  

T: Chocolate milk was a more apt descriptor than I anticipated. Roast and bitterness step in and rise in intensity, summoning dark chocolate truffles and coffee liqueur on to palate.  Finish is long, bitter and roasted. No/little alcohol is detected. 

M: Medium-heavy body and medium-light carbonation. Mouthcoating, creamy and full. 

O: Such a wonderful interpretation of the style. I don't think Founders could possibly improve this beer. And it is drinking marvelously at 4 months. 

 912 characters

Photo of meich75
4.28/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Very dark almost black.

S: Slight coffee smell over the roasted malt smells.

T: A little bit of coffee and chocolate taste. Very good Imperial, one of my favorites so far.

M: Smooth and viscous, feel adds to the flavor.

D: Easy to drink, especialy for an imperial.

 305 characters

Photo of schlimenhaumer
4.41/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass at low altitude.

A: Pours jet black with a creamy three-finger hot chocolate-colored head. Great retention and beautiful lacing.

S: Chocolate and coffee are the strongest smells in my opinion, with a bit of booziness in the background. I also sense some dark fruit smells in the sense that this beer smells a bit sweet.

T: Dark fruits up front with a little bit of heat from the alcohol. There's a delicious chocolate flavor afterwards which lingers in the mouth for quite some time. Great balance and barely bitter at all, especially considering its 90IBU content.

M: Wet and creamy, perfect for an imperial stout. Hides the alcohol content ridiculously well -- this could be dangerous.

D: If you can get your hands on this, buy it.

 777 characters

Photo of predikit
3.96/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours thick, and deep brown, settles in the glass black. Leaves brown head that leaves plenty of lacing.

Smell is rather muted, some notes of molasses, slightly fruity.

Taste has some dark fruit notes, before quickly sliding into molasses and bitter coffee and chocolate, which take the finish and the aftertaste. Alcohol is well hidden, though I noticed when drinking along side a meal, the alcohol will come out more.

Full bodied, syrupy thick, extremely smooth and creamy.

A very good stout.

 499 characters

Photo of NateDyk47
4.4/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had a bottle of this at home.

Look: jet black with half a finger of dark brown head
Smell: dark chocolate, dark coffee, caramel
Taste: bitter dark chocolate & coffee
Feel: heavy body, not very carbonated

Overall: really solid beer from Founders. Not quite in line with KBS/CBS, but really close and much more available for a more reasonable price point.

 357 characters

Photo of Chcshammonde
4.41/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is an excellent imperial stout. I found a single bottle of this at a little specialty shop, I guess it's not on shelves at my WF yet. Anyway, this is a stellar offering. Pours super dark black. Smell is bitter, sweet, roasty malt. Taste is decadent chocolate, bittersweet cocoa, caramel, malt. Feel is super rich. Overall: i dunno why people go nuts over Breakfast Stout....this right here is the real McCoy

 421 characters

Photo of punkrkr27
4.65/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Dark black pour with a small, loose, brown head and good lacing. The aroma is a rich, deep blend of espresso and dark chocolate with notes of lush, ripe dark fruit, molasses, brown sugar and graham cracker. Intense espresso flavor with layers of milk chocolate, bakers chocolate, black strap molasses, brown sugar, caramel, dark fruit, and a healthy dose of spicy, piny hops. The mouthfeel is full and creamy with very gentle carbonation.

 438 characters

Photo of nickadams2
4.73/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A_Pitch black with a thick dark brown head that quickly dissipates. Thick lacing.

S_Smells roasty with chocolate,espresso,and alcohol.

T_Roasted malt and dark fruits up front. Bitter dark chocolate and espresso round it out. Very tasty. Alcohol very well hidden with a gentle warming effect.

M_Very thick and very,very cream. Usually dont get too worked up about mouthfeel but this is great.

D_Buy a case.

 409 characters

Photo of E-McFarden
4.61/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Black as night, but with a taste that cannot be ignored. Apparent but not overbearing in the toasted flavor, and a pleasant undertone of cherry and chocolate. What a good beer.

 176 characters

Photo of garbercury
4.01/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A--Deep dark mahogany with killer amber red head and tons of lacing, beautiful, scores a perfect 5.

S--Coffee is strong on this one, bit of licorice.

T--This is a strong beer taste wise, coffee and hoppy finish dominate. Flavor is heavy duty, dark malts with a hoppy back end that really hits hard.

M--Fantastic, smooth and silky, milkshake like.

D--Heavy and hot, needs time. This is a beer that will benefit greatly by aging...

 433 characters

Photo of jmvecchio1
4/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Imperial Stout pours out a dark black off the pour - no light is getting through this beer. A chocolate colored head develops and sits on top like a cap until it eventually fades out into some lacing. A mixture of bitter chocolate and roasted coffee greet you on the aroma with some sweetness on the finish. Alcohol takes the front seat on the first few sips, but fades out and allows the beer’s complex flavors to shine through. Hops hit up front, but are balanced nicely with roasted malts that are truly the backbone holding each flavor together. Chocolate and coffee notes are present, but not overwhelming. The alcohol slowly warms with each sip you take.

 662 characters

Photo of adman08
4.42/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-Pours a very very dark brown, almost black, with a fairly small amount of brown haed that leaves some decent lacing.
S-Aromas of dark, bitter chocolate with some coffee. A very slight hint of smoke with a little molasses.
T-Strong flavors of coffee and dark unsweetened chocolate. Lots of roasted malt but there is some sweetness to balance things out. There is a hint of smoke flavor. Very complex.
M-Very full bodied and a little on the sweet side overall. Light carbonation.
Overall, a great imperial stout. Good balance of sweetness and roasted malt bitterness. Very complex flavor with the roasted/dark chocolate flavor along wiht the sweetness. Really a great beer.

 673 characters

Photo of mtlasley
3.33/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance- A thick, viscous elixir pours from the bottle and fills the glass like velvet. It's pitch black light a moonless night in the forest. Sinful is a word that comes to mind. No light gets through this beauty. A small cocoa colored half finger head dissipates quickly.

Smell- I get strong dark chocolate notes up front. Very sweet smelling. There's coffee, followed by that signature Stout roastiness. There's a faint hint of oak lurking beneath it all. Almost a whiff of cherries in there?

Taste- Coffee and deep dark chocolate notes lead off and it's quite pleasant but it trails off quickly into an unknown bitterness. It invites a second taste quickly. The roasty character is almost too strong on the second go and it starts to overpower quickly. I find myself wishing that some of the underlying malt and chocolate flavors could shine through.

Mouthfeel- Rich and sticking. It takes on the velvet quality here in the mouth just like in the pour. It sticks to the tongue and the chops.

Overall- A sweet, decently priced Imperial Stout with some slight balance issues? We can't all be perfect and this beer really shines everywhere else. I'm definitely more partial to the BS, and especially the KBS but this is an easy to obtain winner.

 1,253 characters

Photo of tattooedtolley
4.23/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an beautiful black with a brown head that hung out a bit longer than I would have guessed. Excellent looking impying stout. Nose is full of big roasted malt aroma and a hint of molasses. Taste is big and roasty, excellent impy stout flavor. After having the breakfast stout so many times, its nice to have something without all the coffee in it. Probably not going to session this but its not hard to finish. I had this side by side with some other impy stouts that had a bit more of a hop profile but this was very tasty and well made, I'd buy it again.

 560 characters

Photo of titty_mcbitty
4.58/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: Dark dark black. More black than other doubles. Awesome color but not much head.

S: Good god. Chocolate, vodka or bourbon, cherries, malt.

T: Similar to the nose. Chocolate (dark), booze soaked cherries, raisins, cognac, cinnamon, syrup, toasty malt, bread crust, and butter. This is superb.

M: Damn near perfect. Thick and viscous. Creamy with some good carb as well. Has that booze burn to it, and it's not a bad one!

O: This beer is truly amazing. It reminds me a bit of Ten Fidy but less 'oily', if that makes sense. This brew has got a huge punch of flavors all at once, which makes it very complex.

 614 characters

Photo of jslot38
4.52/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Easier to get a hold of versus all of the other Founders high octane stout options... and more than holds its own for me.

12oz bottle to Bell's tulip glass. Very thick on the pour, minimal head, some good lacing though especially for a high ABV brew. Needless to say, black as night body, mocha colored lacing.

Aroma has a bit of a burnt note to it, not quite ash like, but very roasted, deep and complex. Molasses, touches of chocolate and coffee.

Taste: Strong roast flavor. A bit of dark fruits run throughout - dates, maybe plums. In the middle of a sip comes some coffee and baker's chocolate. Just a touch sweet, no noticeable alcohol presence, outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and smooth, low carbonation, velvety.

Overall: One of my favorite imperial stouts. I'll let everyone clamor for KBS and CBS and keep drinking this.

 838 characters

Photo of merryjoulton
4.51/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a thick deep dark black with a thin film of brown that sticks around til the bitter end. Smell is very malty, roasty, toasty, hint of coffee and chocolate, vanilla and smoked bacon. Taste is clean, crisp, malty and dark--much cleaner than I expected as this style tends to be a bit rough around the edges. Mouthfeel is thick and juicy, drinkability is great.

 364 characters

Photo of dmfrench
4.85/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Sweet, inky, creamy, hoppy, frutiy, cocoa... epitome of RIS

A: Flawlessly opaque black with a two finger dark khaki head that soon diminished to a thin film, but regenerated with every sip, never exposing the body. A beautiful, slow, and subtle cascade effect entertains as the head stabilizes. Not a whole lot of lacing, but everything else is in perfect order.

S: Balanced presentation of heavily roasted maul, spicy hops, cocoa, dark fruit, and coffee, in that order. A mouth watering aroma, if not overtly powerful.

T: Sweet inky creamy fills every corner of your palate, carrying embittering burnt malt, drying hops, cocoa, fruit, and coffee. Finish is forever long on drying hops and cocoa. Just delicious. Compared to Bell's Expedition, it's heavier on burnt flavors and lighter on fruit, but they have a similar vibe, with Founders Imperial being the classic Stout that I would come back to more often.

M: Biggest, creamiest mouthfeel possible.

O: What can I say but classic... perfection.

 1,002 characters

Photo of afausser
3.77/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Pours a near pitch black--the only real hints of color are in the carbonation bubbles and the very small ring of head around the edge of the snifter, which is a fizzy soda/caramel color. What little head there is is not lasting and leaves little trace of its existence save for that ring. The lacing is nice and sticky in a fine foam sheet, which is pretty surprising given all of the other characteristics of the appearance. The lacing bubbles are much smaller than the bubbles that make (or made) up the head, which is also quite interesting.

S: Metal, dark chocolate with slight hints of raspberry, smoke, earth, and coffee notes are all initially present while this one is still cold. There's something a little spicy--but the only specific spice note that I'm getting out of it really is a slight alcohol heat, though that comes across as well blended and creamy. As it warms even a little, it comes across as smooth cocoa and coffee--almost like a very very sweet mocha.

T: Fruits come through nicely in this one. That's not to say that the beer is overwhelmingly fruity--it is mostly metal, smoke, and earth, with dark chocolate and coffee notes, but is definitely colored by a spectrum of fruits. There's raspberries, to be sure, as well as strawberry, lime, and a very faint sour apple blends quite nicely. As it warms, more and more sour cherries come out, as well as a dark raisin note that provides a sort of juicy element to the taste, and eventually the prominent fruit notes are these and the apples. A definite anise notes comes out more and more as it warms as well. There's a very odd slight hint of teriyaki sauce, of all things.

M: Full bodied, smooth and creamy. The bubbles deliver just the slightest crispness to the mouth, which also results in a bit of alcohol heat. I'd describe the crisp feel as subtle but persistent--the bubbles are small but definitely there in force, which results in a sort of minty hint in the aftertaste.

D: Drinkability is low on this one, though still good for the style. Maybe I'm just not feeling it very much tonight, but I'm barely through any of it and am already getting a bit frustrated. Definitely not Founders' best, though usually I'm so impressed with Founders beers that this isn't really all that negative of a comment.

 2,294 characters

Photo of righthereisay
3.39/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Got this is Swansboro, NC at Harrika's Brew Haus. I was looking for some stouts to try. Didn't particularly like the 10.5% ABV on this one.

Poured into a glass, it looked great. Near black. I'm not into labels, but I personally thought the lablel made it look like a cheap beer.

Anyways, it does smell like coffee, maybe some chocolate, but mostly alcohol.

The taste was rather good. Nice blend of flavors. I thought that there may be a little too much carbonation, but that could be a result of the alcohol. I personally didn't appreciate the bitterness at the end, or the lack of a body.

 593 characters

Photo of mfunk9786
4.05/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I feel strange reviewing this brew first before reviewing any other Founders offerings, because they really do a great job and I feel like by not giving this an A+ I'm understating how fantastic this brewery is on the whole. But I have to keep the style and other examples I've had of the style in mind, so here's my analysis:

A: Black as night. If you were to deep sea dive into a pool of this beer, you'd feel like you'd died and gone to liquid purgatory. There's absolutely no sight of the other end of the glass. Where the appearance really lets me down is in the head, which is minimal at best. The lacing is fantastic and the head never disappears entirely, but from the time I poured it into my Piraat glass, there was never an entire coating of head over the top of the beer, and that was a little disappointing, and it definitely comes into play when we get to the mouthfeel.

S: The smell certainly improves on the appearance. It smells sweeter than this style usually does, which definitely gives it a distinctive edge in this category. A bit of vanilla on the nose, which I found surprising.

T: The taste was a letdown. Once the beer enters your mouth, it's surprising just how bitter and burnt this beer tastes. Maybe I'm spoiled by Founders various Breakfast Stouts, but I was expecting a bit more dark fruit and chocolate, and was met with the liquid equivalent of an 80%+ dark chocolate bar, that's just far too bitter to enjoy straight-up. I've had Imperial Stouts that are able to represent their individual flavors much better than this one, and it came as a huge shock to realize that this beer is so one-note compared to others I've had. That being said, the alcohol is very nicely hidden, and I certainly didn't pour it out, there's definitely enough to like here if you have some stout experience.

M: For the style, the mouthfeel is about average. Thick; chewy.

D: Like I said, I didn't pour my glass out, but the bitterness certainly starts to take its toll towards the end of the glass. It's not the juicy hop bitterness that comes with a great double IPA, instead it's a burnt cocoa and alcohol bitterness that eventually begins to make your tongue go numb. Although, would a numb tongue improve the drinkability rating? These are the questions that plague us. But I'm going with a completely middle-of-the-road score for this style. Not terrible, but not great either.

There are obviously a lot of admirers of this brew, and perhaps Founders' love of chocolate, coffee, and oatmeal in their other brews have spoiled me (is there any better beer on the planet than Founders Breakfast Stout?) but this one just fell short of my expectations. Buy a single bottle if you can find it before you take the plunge on a 4 pack. Luckily, Founders is spreading ever so slowly across the country, so your chances of locating a bottle will increase every year until they get their due as a nationally available brewery.

I purchased my 12 oz bottle for $4.50 at Pinnochio's Beer Garden in Media, PA. It's worth noting, as I probably will be with every single Founders review, how much I appreciate the 12 oz bottles when compared with bomber-obsessed breweries - it's a lot nicer to spend a bit less to try a beer but still get plenty of it to enjoy - and to have a 4 pack available if you do love it.

 3,320 characters

Founders Imperial Stout from Founders Brewing Company
96 out of 100 based on 1,774 ratings.