Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting 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.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Plead The 5th Imperial Stout - Dark Horse Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Plead The 5th Imperial StoutPlead The 5th Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

837 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 837
Hads: 3,579
Avg: 4.23
pDev: 8.27%
Wants: 554
Gots: 939 | FT: 111
Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: HopHead84 on 09-27-2008

2010 and pre: white label
2011: white label OR black label with black no logo cap
2012: black label with logo cap
2013: black label with logo cap, ABV of 11% in the top right corner and new government warning
2014 - white label with black logo cap, ABV of 11% in the top right corner, government warning on bottom right side of label
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 837 | Hads: 3,579
Photo of docoman
4.12/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First time having non-BBA version of pt5 and it's very similar to BBA version, minus the bourbon influence. Almost has a tobacco smell/aftertaste and I'm not a smoker. Hard to love this beer, it's good, just not great compared to others.

 239 characters

Photo of mikeyv35
4.08/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Date: 03/28/2011
Type: 11.2oz. Bottle
Vintage: 2010
Glassware: Portsmouth Tulip

Poured a deep dark chocolate in color w/ a 1/2 finger tan head that left substantial lacing on the glass. Appears beautifully viscous. Aromas of chocolate malts, molasses, and underlying dark fruits. Taste was about the same, chocolate, molasses, a touch of dark fruits, and a finish of good hop bite and bitterness to keep this from cloying. Full bodied. At 13% ABV you can only drink so much of this despite Dark Horse doing a damn fine job at masking the booze.

Pleasure to sample and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but 11.2oz. really should be split w/ a good BA buddy IMO.

 653 characters

Photo of dukedevil0
4.35/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Picked up a single 12oz bottle from Famous Wines in Lombard, IL. Thanks to the beer guy there for putting this in the system at my request because they weren't selling singles of it at the time!

A: Pours a super DARK BLACK, almost as black as can be, with a very nice chocolate shake colored finger and a half of head that reduces down to a nice layer of bubbles. Leaves a nice little bit of lacing on the glass.

S: Smells very nice, the usual chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt notes...slight bit of dark cherries and dark berries when i search for them...

T: Tastes great, with lots of both milk and bitter chocolate, roasted malts, some coffee flavor to a lesser extent (more so in the finish and aftertaste), extremely subtle alcohol flavor in there

M: One of the more creamy RIS I've had. It just feels dense and heavy. Very smooth, small bubble carbonation.

D: It's a sipper, especially because it's so heavy, but the flavor is great, the alcohol tinge is minor enough that i don't think it really affects drinkability,

 1,031 characters

Photo of Bshaw22
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%

This is one of my favorite imperial stouts. It's too bad it's so hard to get. I've had 3 bottles in my life. The one I am reviewing was a year and a 1/2 old.
Nose was intense with dark fruits and dark chocolate.
Taste was smooth across the board with nothing overpowering. One of the finest mouthfeel ever for this style.

I'll be searching these out again!

 363 characters

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

Bottle to HFS sniffer

A: Black as night with a thin mocha head completely dark with no even hints of brown what I think a IS should look like

S: there is some chocolate in there but there is definitely a dark fruit aroma like figs or something this is coupled with a roasted smell very complex lots of depth but there is is a hint of alcohol as well

T: The taste is not as complex as the smell upfront there is literally no taste which is kinda weird, but once you swallow the taste starts to come out. There is more of a coffee taste then chocolate but that smell could be the more toffee like taste. You can definitely taste the dark fruit which i usually don't like but its well balanced here and the alcohol is fairly well hidden but if you look you can't taste it

M: There is a weird carbonation feel upfront despite the complete lack of carbonation a mildly heavy chewy constancy that goes down pretty smooth and easily for an IS (i can drink this no need to sip)

O: A interesting IS has a lot of different tastes but it is well balanced and other then the slightly weird carbonation and lack of punch with the taste this is really good. Defiantly worth trying again not your average imperial stout which is always a welcome change from chocolate and coffee but those are the flavors i truly love.

 1,308 characters

Photo of Frosty80
4.9/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Color: pours a VERY dark brown. sits black with only the slightest brown rim

Smell: perfect balance of chocolate, coffee and alcholol

Taste: aroma translates perfectly to pallet. sauperb balance of chocolate and roasted malts with a perfect amount of alcohol

Mouthfeel: full body. creamy. low carbonation

Notes: excellent stout. one of the best ive had

 356 characters

Photo of MIbeer27
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle, dated 1.15.15.

Bottle into snifter with deepest black hue and a thin mocha head that quickly recedes to a thin collar.

Aroma is massive. Huge dark fruits like cherry, fig and raisin over top of dark, bittersweet chocolate, espresso, molasses and roasted barley . Hints of alcohol heat are there as well, but hides well.

Taste coats the entire mouth with all of the aforementioned flavors, joined by heavily charred, ashy malt notes. Slight warmth from the alcohol trails all the way down into the stomach. Taste lingers with slight herbal notes and the roasted barley standing out. Burps are rather fruity.

Mouthfeel is chewy thick with modest carbonation.

Overall, Plead the Fifth is one of the most complex beers that I've ever had. Maybe its the age (almost 7 months at time of tasting), but this one was easily the dark-fruitiest RIS that I've ever had. Not quite at the level of Founder's Imperial Stout, but damn close and an instant favorite.

 971 characters

Photo of ixodus
4.47/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a thick jet black with reddish brown hues and a mocha head. Leaves trace amount of lacing.

S: Rich dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans, licorice, anise, plums, raisins, cork like woody smell.

T: Decadent dark chocolate almost like chocolate mousse, licorice, charred oak, french vanilla, molasses, and espresso,
finishing off with a roasty dark coffee like bitterness that lingers for awhile. Complex and definitely on the roasty side. This beer is still quite hot.

M: Thick and vicious, creamy, hot, with soft carbonation.

O: Overall this beer is a excellent. I would definitely seek this out. One of the most complex non barrel aged RIS' I have ever had

 670 characters

Photo of bonbright7
4.54/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

While I was standing around with friends at The Black Sheep of Mineola, NY, I was handed a glass of this majestic blur of dark brown to black ale, which was overflowing with soft foam. The stunning aromas of chocolate and coffee were readily apparent, but there were so many other things to notice, I took my time with it.

The nose on it told me it was a very full bodied ale, but I don't think I was ready for the strength of it. The initial taste was light for .5 second and then it exploded with a full- on licorice, deep coffee, and a dark mess of an ale.

The mouth-feel was luxurious, though the abv really shined with its hotness there as I tasted it as if it was a fine selection from Pommerol.

This RIS went very well with a pulled bbq pork sandwich as it comfortable overtook the food elements.

Clearly, this was one of the better ales I have tasted in a long time and my only regret was that it is listed as a seasonal coming out in February.

 959 characters

Photo of cetherid
3.97/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poured into a tulip


beer pours a dark brown/black. Looks a little like used motor oil. Head was minimal...thin brown bubbly head, like a cola but dissipated quickly.


Dark malts obviously. Notes of chocolate, burnt coffee and a nice little hop aroma. Perhaps a hint of soy in there but nothing terrible.


Big roast up front moving to some slightly sweet, slightly bitter dark chocolate with a pretty boozy finish. I get some subtle licorice and burnt/smokey flavors in there as well. Perhaps a little too boozy, but I suppose acceptable given the ABV.


Full bodied with decent carbonation. Fairly oily/slick mouthfeel to it.


Overall a solid RIS. I'd opt for an Expedition stout over this but I would imagine the BA version of this is stellar. A little hard to come by so I probably wouldn't seek this out again as I can pick up a sixer of Expedition about 5 minutes away whenever I want. I'm curiously how an aged bottle of this be as it's currently drinking a little hot.

 997 characters

Photo of codysjb
4.11/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

pours a brown-black with virtually no head. Smells like bourbon. Tastes like a strong stout mixed with bourbon, nothing too flavorful but respectful none the less. Certainly a good beer to sip a savor. Really shines on the mouthful as the flavor fully comes out and tastes really smooth for the whole time. Overall a better stout, certainly stronger and less chocolaty than I usually like but a great stout none the less.

 421 characters

Photo of Lolli1315
4.27/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- An absolutely opaque blacks as no highlights are seen when placed next to a light. A small thin layer of brown head appears composed of small bubbles. The head becomes slightly patchy with a thick ring around the glass.

S- Tons of what seems to be milk chocolate prominent. The smooth chocolate turns to a bitter chocolate and burnt roasted malt aroma. Figs and plums combine with burnt coffee before an appropriate alcohol aroma helps to finish.

T- Smooth chocolate taste to begin before the bitter chocolate and burnt coffee takes its place towards the middle of the beer. Plums and figs linger in the background as the coffee and chocolate tastes continue into the end. An alcohol taste reveals itself in the end of the beer as it warms the mouth and lingers into the finish with some light bitter character.

M- Full bodied and chewy as the alcohol warms the mouth.

O- Unlike some Russian Imperial Stouts, this one doesn't seem like it needs any time put away and is great now. Great drinking and would suggest this to anyone.

 1,037 characters

Photo of BilbosNuts
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to kstrickler for providing this as an extra in a trade.

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a snifter.

A: Pitch black in color with a small mocha colored ring on top. It appears very still. It's like staring into an abyss.

S: Black licorice, dark chocolate, alcohol, sweet roasted malts all make up the aroma. Well balanced with aspects.

T: Lots of roasted malts and dark bitter chocolate. Black licorice and notes of smokiness come through.

M: Very smooth. Heavy bodied with minimal carbonation. Finishes very smooth and hides the alcohol extremely well.

O: A well put together RIS. Well above average, hopefully I'll be able to try it again sometime.

 661 characters

Photo of OldIronLungs
4.35/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to omgshesaboy for this one! Excited!

Pours an oily black into a deep tulip with a finger of dark mocha head that quickly falls to a ring.

Nose is a blend of medium roasted malts and sweet dark chocolate, some liquorish. Very lightly boozy. Subtle but pleasant.

Holy Moses, this one is viscous! Great body with a persistent tingle that dances through the finish. Dark roasted coffee, molasses and liquorish, a bit of bitter chocolate and a light earthy hop bitterness that blend with the slowly building warmth in the back of the throat. But 12%? Never would have guessed.

For me, imperial stouts live or die by their body and this does not disappoint. It warms beautifully; One of the best stouts I've had in recent memory. I would LOVE to try the barrel-aged and sour versions!

 790 characters

Photo of kirkpjr
4.37/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a SA perfect pint glass.

A: Pours an oily thick black color with minimal carbonation. A very thin ring of milk chocolate head develops and dissipates to the edges of the glass. Little to no lacing.

S: Sweet molasses, dark cherries, and chocolate. Actually reminds me of Dark Lord in the smell. Notes of vanilla, leather, and tobacco.

T: After the smell, I expected an onslaught of sweetness. To the contrary a nice strong bitterness upfront cuts the sweet flavors. Dark chocolate, roasted malts, leather, and tobacco. Wonderful mix of sweet and bitter, smoky flavors here.

M: Chewy, although not creamy. Thick and low carbonation. Fairly spot on for a RIS.

D: Rich and flavorful. The residual sweetness and thickness of this beer limits its drinkability. Outstanding beer and would love to get some more of this.

 829 characters

Photo of WorldWideStout
3.98/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Lukafer, czoch85, and flandersned for all hooking me up with this brew in different trades!

A: Nice and viscous with a dark, but decidely brown body. Very small mocha head fizzles out after around half a minute.

S: Coffee is the predominant scent I get; chocolate and a bit of spicy rye hang around in the background.

T: Starts off with a bit of sweetness, then goes to semi-sweet chocolate. Coffee is there in the middle as well, but less prominent than it was in the nose. Coffee moves forward for a more bitter end, and the aftertaste is a muted coffee flavor.

M: Somewhat silky, a little lighter than I was expecting.

D: Goes down easy for a big fella.

This was a good stout, but not a great stout. There was no delicious flavor or complexity or anything that stood out to me. I was hoping for a more stellar brew, but I enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing how it ages.

 895 characters

Photo of Mississipping
4.47/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into a Jackie O's snifter, both courtesy of drgonzo3705.

A: Pours pitch black, letting absolutely no light penetrate.  A small, one-finger light brown head appears, but only briefly before disappearing.  Only a thin ring is left behind, with some sticky lacing.

S: This smells excellent ... roasted malt and bitter chocolate dominate, with hints of espresso, vanilla, dark fruit, and a touch of anise.  Really a lot going on here, creating an extremely pleasant aroma.  despite the higher alcohol content, there is no sign of it in the smell.  

T: Starts out with dark, bitter chocolate and roasted malts.  Transitions slowly to a sweeter milk chocolate with fig and plumb.  Finishes roasty with an absolutely delicious espresso flavor and a touch of hops that lingers and lingers.  There is a bit of a drying effect on the finish, however, there is almost no trace of alcohol.  Really nice!

M: Full-bodied, thick, and slightly chewy.  Fairly low carbonation that provides a smooth velvety creaminess across the tongue with each sip.  Nice transition from bitter to sweet to bitter/roasty.  Again, slightly drying at the end.  

O: This is an exceptional non-BA imperial stout.  There is a lot going on in the aroma and taste, and the mouthfeel is spot on.  I've had my eye on this for a while, largely due to some of the hype surrounding the BA-version, and this version is better than I had expected.  I'm really glad to have gotten a chance to try this and will try to get my hands on another bottle or two down the road.  

 1,566 characters

Photo of psychotia
4.23/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 bottle to tulip after 20 minutes out of fridge

A - black with the slightest tan head quickly settling to a thin ring around the glass.

S - initial smell is of licorice, molasses, and slight toffee.

T - jumping all over - first caramel, then chocolate, some licorice as i breathe out, then the caramel brings a huge toffee sensation. this is one of the better experiences I've had tasting an RIS.

M - viscous, yet not thick and syrupy. a slight dry/hot feeling after the swallow, perhaps (likely) from the alcohol.

O - wonderful RIS - did not have this fresh to compare, but I am grateful for my local store, their cellar, and their random impulsivity when it comes to pulling things from the cellar.

it's a great feeling when a style that once confused and alluded my taste buds is now discernible. this ranks among my favorite RISs, although I will have to now revisit my other memorable RISs to better appreciate them again (or so i hope!).

 953 characters

Photo of Shumista
3.91/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First of all I just want to start by saying that I really like the way Dark Horse packages their beers. The 4 pack cardboard holder is just plain brown with nothing on it, the bottle has a label that looks like something I could print off of my printer at home, and the bottle cap is just plain black. Everything about it screams microbrewed, and if you didn't know what you were looking for you'd walk right past it in the beer aisle without noticing it.

A- Pours like a RIS. Jet black, dark brown head (darker than most actually). No highlights...I'm shocked.
S- Kind of disappointing nose. Dark roasted malts, chocolate and coffee. It's not bad just not particularly enticing.
T- Big improvement over the smell. Nothing really sets it apart from other RIS's I've had except for the bitterness maybe. Other than that coffee, chocolate, dark fruits etc, etc.
M- Not quite as thick as I usually like RISs to be. I do appreciate the huge amount of warmth that comes after each sip though.
D- I always feel silly talking about drinkability for a beer like this. One is great, two might get to be a little much.

my bottom line: Plead the fifth is an especially bitter, strong, warming RIS. Very tasty but other than the bitterness and strength it fails to really set itself apart from the rest of the RIS pack in my book.

 1,323 characters

Photo of ahq514
4.47/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12 oz bottle into snifter.

Pours jet black with a half finger mocha colored head. Appears to have low carbonation. Light lacing.

Aroma reminds me of a coffee milkshake. Lots of chocolate with some coffee and roast. Some oats too. Not much in the way of hops is detected. Full of complexity.

Right up front are the creamy oats. Next comes in chocolate roast. A slight bit of sweetness in there. There is a lingering coffee-esque flavor to it. A little bit of a dry finish.

Nice full motor oil like body. Low carbonation. A sipper for sure, but very drinkable for an RIS.

One of the better RISs I've had. Really love how full the body is and the perfect balance of dry roast and sweetness. Would love to try the BA version of this.

 746 characters

Photo of iconoklaztor
4.6/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a nice black color with virtually no head. I love the smell though. Coffee and chocolate make up the smell of this brew.

The taste is awesome. I really this this brew and for 10 a four pack I cant complain. Its rich and full of coffee and malts. MMM!

Overall, what a great find and very flavorful! I really enjoy this brew!

 332 characters

Photo of shangwang
4.35/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

received this on a recommendation in a trade with stickman1220- thanks, Chris!

poured into a Guinness glass- no date on bottle.

I liked the looks of Plead the 5th from the start- this is one of my favorite styles of beer and the appearance was exactly what I had hoped- deep brown-black, virtually no head and what little there was in a deep reddish brown color, very little lacing, and tiny tiny bubbles that shimmered in the light. This brew gave off great smells- the sweetness of dark cherry and a boozy roasted malt scent. The taste was spot on as well- a pleasant sweet milk chocolate taste with hints of roasted malt, but not enough to give it any sort of coffee flavor. A good combination of sweet and bitter with nothing out of whack. The mouthfeel was a nice medium-heavy consistency with a smooth creaminess. It finished very smoothly with a sweetness that lingered a few seconds. Very drinkable for a heavy beer with a high ABV, although I was definitely feeling a little buzz after one, so I'm not sure how many of these I'd really want to mess with in one night.

Great job Dark Horse! Just about everything I love about this style could be found in this beer. Definitely worth seeking out.

 1,206 characters

Photo of Marty30
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz Bottle dated 5-11. Poured into a Jackie O's' snifter at 55 degrees.Have been waiting to try for a long time.

A. Black as black get's. No head, just a dark brown cap appear's and then disappears. No head.

S. Dark fruits hit first and shortly after comes the chocolate and cocoa,along with a touch of coffee.

T. Nice! I get a good bit of roasted malts,then a hefty amount of chocolate. I get some sweet figs,grahm crackers,vanilla,with a little bit of booze in the end.

M. Great heavy mouthfeel. Carbonation is perfect for the style. Coats the palate and leaves a chocolate roasty aftertaste.

Overall I did not expect this beer to this damn good. It definately exceded my expectations! Very complex. I will be getting a case of this no doubt. A must try. This could be one of my favorite beers.

 805 characters

Photo of ncketchum
4.75/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Enjoyed on tap at Stubbys, 2nd to last glass I'm told...

A - pours jet black, no head

S - chocolate malt, maybe a bit of hops

T - black licorice up front, then chocolate milk, followed by a bit of bitter hops

M - thinner than expected, little alcohol burn, well hidden for this ABV

O - extremely solid Impy Stout. I could drink this all night, if there were more glasses available and I had a ride home. Very glad I was able to sample this one.

 449 characters

Photo of CO-Bloom
4.44/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Great pitch black stout. Smells roasty, sweet chocolate and some burnt marshmallows. Taste followed nose with roasty coffee, some smokiness, bittersweet chocolate, toasted marshmallow and a little bit of warming alcohol. Great thick and slick moutfeel. Overall one of the better RIS I've had! Kudos Dark Horse!

 310 characters

Plead The 5th Imperial Stout from Dark Horse Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 837 ratings.