1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Plead The 5th Imperial Stout - Dark Horse Brewing Company

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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
96
world-class

2,923 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 2,923
Reviews: 757
rAvg: 4.31
pDev: 8.12%
Wants: 494
Gots: 707 | FT: 79
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:
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

(Beer added by: HopHead84 on 09-27-2008)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 2,923 | Reviews: 757 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of 57md
3.6/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Appearance is dark brown to black with a thin layer of beige head. The nose was troublesomely reminiscent of wet cardboard. There roasted malt blends well with the creamy consistency. This is certainly a full-bodied RIS. The finish has both sweet and roasted notes along with a very subtle alcohol presence.

57md, Apr 04, 2013
Photo of ratedz
3.6/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours pitch black with a very thin mocha brown head that receded to a small ring around the outside of the glass.

S - Roasted malts, chocolate, and subtle coffee notes. Some dark fruits and a little smokiness are also noticeable.

T - Bittersweet chocolate, heavily roasted malts, burnt coffee. Some slightly bitter hops bite the tongue for a split second before it finishes with a little smokiness and alcohol heat.

M - Smooth and creamy, but a slight bite on the tongue seems a little off for an RIS.

O - A very good RIS, but there are others that I prefer over it. I'd be interested in trying the bourbon barrel aged version of this to see how it compares because I really enjoy bourbon barrel aged stouts. Thanks to Andy (pest) for sending a couple bottles of these in a recent trade!

ratedz, Jul 13, 2011
Photo of mynie
3.6/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Sold to me as "Plead the Fifth" imperial stout. Also it came in a fourpack, not a bomber. And I should mention that I bought it at Eagle River Liquor in Fulton, Illinois. Because that store doesn't sell enough good beer.

Damn fine pour. Damn fine. I'd pit this bad mofo up against Dark Lord and the Abyss. Black as the total absence of colors and then there's a wonderful chocolate brown head sitting on top of it that is just mouthwatering. Seriously--I've been here for like 4 years and I don't think I've ever used the phrase "mouthwatering" before, since it's so cliche. But that's what this is.

Smells very rich and intense. This is a room temp pour but it's still pretty hard to pick out one flavor from another. There's a little bit of smokiness, but that's overridden by chocolate and roughraw porter malts. You also got some bread and nuts in there, too. Not much of the liquor or alcohol burny yeast that you normally expect from an RIS.

Tastes...wow the taste is solid but still a total letdown. Little dull and watery at first, but that falls into a meaty smoke flavor that runs quickly into a chocolate malt and gives way to some lightly burny yeast. Eh. The blend ain't all the great, the seltzery beginning is nothing short of offputting, and it's not nearly intense enough for the style.

Don't get me wrong: I am by no means the kind of guy who gets down on beers for not being Xtreme enough. But I expect a lot out of an RIS. And this one, while plenty enjoyable, doesn't fully deliver.

mynie, Jul 14, 2008
Photo of RonfromJersey
3.59/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

$4.00 single from Abe's.

Body is a total black hole. Not a highlight to be seen. Three fingers of dark tan dense foam.

Heavy chocolate aroma. Licorice and alcohol in the background. Some dark fruits.

Taste features chocolate up front. A smoky note. Dark fruits. Alcohol in nose not noticeable in the taste.

Mouthfeel is medium plus, a bit thin for an imperial stout.

There is a lack of depth throughout this beer. There is not anything really wrong, but everything seems to come up just a bit short.

RonfromJersey, May 11, 2013
Photo of otto251068
3.58/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Chimay chalice. No freshness date on the bottle.

Appearance: Very dark. This one is as dark a beer as I can ever remember seeing. When held up to the light, there is only a faint dark brown around the edges. A very hard pour only produced a half fingers worth of head, which looked great by the way. Very dense with a milk chocolate color, made my mouth water. It does fade quickly to only a few wisps and a ring hugging the glass.

Smell: Dark chocolate out in front, between bitter and sweet, this is more on the bitter side of the spectrum. Roasted flavors also come out. A sweet cream aroma comes out more as it warms, along with some very faint and pleasant vanilla. After the pour some serious vodka comes out.

Taste: Smooth cocoa with some smoke is the main attraction. Intense dark chocolate comes out for a final kick at the end. extremely dark and very rich. A charcoal bitterness and heavy clear alcohol aftertaste on this one.

Mouthfeel: Big body with medium carbonation. This beer is thick and chewy, but with a nice carbonation level that perks this one up a little.

Overall: Lots of heavy lingering flavors, but this is easily drinkable and very enjoyable. The 12% ABV, while very evident in the aroma, is well hidden within all the heavy chocolate. While the chocolate is on the bitter side, there is a bit of sweetness for balance.

otto251068, Jul 30, 2011
Photo of Retsinis
3.58/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this beer in a trade (thanks mnbearsfan)

2010 bottle

A: Poured from the 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass, the beer pours black, with a dark brown hue. Very low carbonation, just film on top, then quickly became just a ring of tan cream bubbles at the edges of the glass.

S: Espresso, medium roasted malt, mild vanilla, scents of oak, and a touch of honey.

T: Licorice, bitter dark chocolate, touch of brown sugar, and smoked roasted malt. Light dry bitterness on the back end, like 70% dark chocolate, & charred oak. Alcohol is detectable, but not distracting.

M: Light oily texture, sweet but not sticky. Light carbonation.

O: Decent sipper, but half the 12oz was just fine. I had split this with my wife, who enjoyed what she had as well. I was hoping for a bit more roasted chocolate malt notes, a bit less licorice, and a more creamy mouth, but it is above average, just not great to me, in my humble opinion. I am curious what the bourbon barrel aged version adds to this beer though.

Retsinis, Sep 20, 2011
Photo of birchstick
3.58/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - pours a black with a dark brown head

S - smells of roasted, semi-sweet chocolaty malts with a little bit of sourness to it

T - the taste follows the nose. Lots of dark chocolate with some vanilla and dark fruits (raisins) that segues into some sourness/fruity/tart flavors. Strong coffee flavors linger on the palate on the finish and a hint of grassy hops. Pretty solid.

M - slick mouthfeel that is medium bodied without much carbonation

D - pretty decent RIS. I would put this as above average but nothing that blew me away too much. Another solid stout in Dark Horse's lineup.

birchstick, Nov 18, 2010
Photo of brewcrew76
3.58/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to GrandCruDrew for this one.
12 oz bottle - Plead the 5th on the label

A - Pours solid black with 2 fingers of cocoa brown head that leaves a thin layer of foam behind.

S - Roasted, almost burnt, malt. Bitter chocolate, burnt coffee with hints of smoke and licorice.

T - Intense roasted malt, bitter chocolate, burnt coffee and a touch of smoke.

M - Medium to full body, low carbonation and a creamy mouthfeel.

D - A solid RIS but too much burnt flavor/aroma for me.

brewcrew76, Aug 15, 2008
Photo of ArrogantB
3.58/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle courtesy of dancingcaddis, thanks man! Dark black with a short head of coffee colored bubbles. It smells odd, kind of sweet, unfamiliar. The flavor is fruity and sweet and quite interesting. The alcohol was well hidden and I am usually pretty finicky about beers with ABv over 10%.

ArrogantB, Jul 31, 2009
Photo of JohnQVegas
3.58/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle into Bruery tulip, much thanks once again to my friend Jeff (AleWatcher) for more Midwestern goodness!

Pours pitch black, nary a hint of brown to be seen, with a dense one-finger dark brown head on top, that fairly quickly settles down to a thin brown ring on the outside edge of the glass. Nice lacing.

Nose has a clean, fruity quality to it. Somewhere between cherries and blackberries, with a spicy alcohol bite and a bit of burnt sugar underneath. Bit of molasses mixed in. As it warms, roasted malt comes through a bit cleaner, still wrapped in the spicy alcohol, still a big healthy dose of clean, dark fruit. At one point I even picked up pretzels.

Taste starts off with a healthy dose of alcohol bite. Molasses in there, again, with a big bitter burnt sugar bite towards the finish. Lots of dark fruits, again. Finish is long, burnt, bit boozey, bittersweet. Lacks the complexity that I generally look for; lots of flavor, which is to be expected for a beer this size, but this one seems to clash a bit - the burnt flavors, the alcohol, the sugary sweetness. Seems to be a big dose of crystal malts in there that could use just a bit of toning down in my opinion. Not a flaw per se, more a matter of preference.

Mouthfeel is slick, full bodied, light carbonation, long finish and a bit of an alcohol burn in the back of the throat on the swallow.

Drinkability is decent, though the flavor profile is a bit coarse and raw. Alcohol definitely bites back, as well. Again, a decent enough beer, but it doesn't have the beautiful cohesiveness that the best IS seem to have. Doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyable, though.

JohnQVegas, May 30, 2010
Photo of thegodfather2701
3.56/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.75

I received this beer in a trade a little over three years ago, so take that into consideration when reading my review.

A-Poured into a snifter rather hard and there was no head, which wasn't surprising given its age. It poured very dark, nearly pitch black and looked very thick, even for the style.

S-dark chocolate, hint of roasted malt, dark fruits, espresso, molasses, and alcohol. Fairly complex, but at times the alcohol really seemed strong.

T-The flavor profile consisted of dark chocolate, dark fruits, alcohol, and espresso. However, the flavor was not as strong as I expected, especially for the style it seemed somewhat mild.

M-Rather thick and creamy, one of the highlights of this beer.

D-Very drinkable given for the style due to its milder flavor, but still a sipper given its high alcohol content.

Overall, I wouldn't consider this one of the best versions of the style. However, I would like to try it fresher to see if the flavor is stronger. I did enjoy it and would drink it again.

thegodfather2701, Aug 15, 2013
Photo of AgentZero
3.55/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A - Motor oil black, no head at all on the hard pour, but some bubbles rose to the top and formed a tight ring momentarily. No light coming through this one.

S - Chocolate, a lot of roast. The alcohol is buried in this one but comes out as it warms up. There's a little bit of wood on this.

T - First sip of this was great, with roasty malts dominating and some latent sweetness coming from chocolate malts. There alcohol burn grows and grows here as you keep drinking it, making it hard to do.

M - Thick, syrupy, with a moderate does of carbonation. It's very coating, covers the tongue.

D - You really start to get the 12% out of this about a quarter of the way through. It's a good beer, but a bit hot, and not outstanding. I'd drink it on occasion if available, but nothing particularly special.

AgentZero, Dec 26, 2010
Photo of chefhatt
3.55/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured some into a snifter from my brothers growler. It is black as night body with a tsmall tan head. The smell has a roasty malt aroma with chocolate notes. The taste is has roasted malt taste with chocolate coming on the back of the tongue. The mouthfeel is smooth and overall a pretty good stout.

chefhatt, Dec 25, 2013
Photo of callmescraps
3.55/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Been hearing about this one, just stumbled across it.

Appearance- Black with a very thin mocha head even with with a vigorous pour. No lacing, just the thinnest of caps.

Smell- Big, rich chocolate. Bourbon and vanilla. It really has nice bourbon. Some toasted marshmallow. It's very nice.

Taste- It has some nice chocolate, and some booze. Ok, plenty of booze. It's got a ton of dark fruits, tons of raisin. Seriously, lots of raisin. It finishes with bitter chocolate, and a little ashy. Sweet, booze, raisin.

Mouthfeel- Just too thin, frankly. A little flat.

Overall- I was so excited about this one after the smell. But it does not deliver.

This is just disappointing. It should have lot going for it, but it's thin, a little hot, kind of ashy in the end, and basically a raisenette beer. So it goes.

callmescraps, Mar 31, 2011
Photo of jsanford
3.53/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours black with brown highlights and a thin mocha ring. Aromas of dark chocolate, bitter roasted malt, and a touch of caramel. Nice, but fairly typical of the RIS style. Taste is similarly middle-of-the-road, with more roasted malt, dry cocoa powder, espresso beans, and a long bitter finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and moderately creamy, with a medium-full body and low carbonation. Overall a tasty RIS, but nothing new.

jsanford, Sep 14, 2012
Photo of thecarster1
3.53/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a- bottle poured into a tulip glass, pour is very thick, scant head which is normal for a brew of this strength, very dark black motor oil coloring.

s- dark and stormy nose, lots of bourbon here, dark roasty burnt coffee, and dark chocolate, very strong, some alcohol.

t- lots of bourbon off the bat here again, dark heavily roasted malts, dark back coffee and chocolate, the alcohol is here but it kept in check pretty well for a 12% brew.

m- thick and coating.

d- not a bad beer by any stretch, but a sipper for sure at this strength and because of the massive flavors it packs, i've got another one i'm popping in the cellar to see how well it fares with a bit of age on it.

thecarster1, Mar 07, 2011
Photo of thain709
3.53/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - This beer is pitch black as soon as I started pouring...a dark brown, 1.5 finger head formed and settled into a ring around the glass...not much lacing

S - Dark fruits (figs, dates, raisin)...chocolate...roasted malts...smoke...and alcohol

T - The flavors from the nose all come together in the taste...sweet, dark fruits present a sweet caramel flavor with more sweetness...the roasted malts are deep and presnt themselves with chocolate, coffee, and caramel notes...there are underlying notes of roastiness and smoke lingering around...the alcohol is very present

M - Full bodied...this one is thick...good points - roasted flavors and smoke notes that last long...bad note (big kicker) - alcohol is big

D - This RIS started off good with the appearance and smell but it fell off with the big alcohol kicker...I enjoyed the other stouts (blueberry and smoked) from Dark Horse over this one

thain709, Aug 02, 2010
Photo of CaptinRedBeard
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Deuane for grabbing this for me.

A: Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Cigar City snifter. No head whatsoever. No lacing. Just a pitch black RIS.

S: Up front you get aromas of dark fruits. Followed by some subtle hints of chocolate.

T: Raisins, molasses, a bit of chocolate and a just a little bit of alcohol heat. Very little for a 12% beer though.

M: Fairly lively carbonation for such a big stout. A bit on the thin side and a little slick.

D: Noticable or not twelve percent is twelve percent. So I really wouldn't want more than one. I had this beer before and I really liked it a lot. This one seems a little raw. Maybe I'll try it again in six months or so and see how it changes with some age on it.

CaptinRedBeard, Jun 16, 2010
Photo of schmidtmattsays
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%

schmidtmattsays, Mar 20, 2014
Photo of beveritt
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Poured from a 12 oz brown bottle into an Imperial pint glass. Picked this little gem up in Indiana recently. Not sure if it will be available here in Ohio; it is right at the ABV number past where drinking becomes oh so bad. The label is black and white and depicts a stylistic horse head. If I remember correctly this is the top of a series of labels from stouts that makes a continuous picture. No freshness date.

Appearance: Pours with just 1/2 inch of dark brown head. This settles quickly to a ring around the glass and a very thin and incomplete layer of foam. The beer itself is black as ink. Lots of sludge remains in the bottle.

Smell: Roasted barley bitterness with the added edge of alcohol sweetness. Some soy sauce and chocolate notes.

Taste: Acrid roasted barley bitterness upfront. Alcohol sweetness is barley noticeable, significantly less present than in the smell. Medium hop bitterness begins to appear in the finish, but is still dominated by barley. Long, lingering finish.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation level is average to average plus; a little too high for the style. Body is decent.

Drinkability: Definitely strong, but the many flavors do not seem to meld well together into a nice coherent presentation. Not one I will seek out again.

beveritt, Jul 19, 2009
Photo of ohiobeer29
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%

ohiobeer29, Oct 24, 2013
Photo of DCgolfpro
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%

DCgolfpro, Jul 07, 2014
Photo of TheMonk41
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%

TheMonk41, Mar 06, 2012
Photo of Makebelieve81
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%

Makebelieve81, Jan 12, 2014
Photo of knight84
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to alexgash for this bottle. 12oz 2008 labeled as "Plead the 5th"

With a vigorous pour this motor-oil black beer produced very little head. What did show was a hazelnut brown with little lacing. Cold coffee dominates the smell though there is a hint of oak and molasses.

Chocolate sweetness shows up front but is quickly overwhelmed by coffee. I didn't get much else, just very sweet and roasty.

Light carbonation seems to explain the lack of head, it seems to lack some of the robustness I would have expected. It feels more like a coffee stout, similar in feel to the ABC Espresso Love. A bit less "imperial" than I was hoping.

Not a bad beer overall but, given my excellent past experiences with other brews from Dark Horse, I expected a little more than I got. Drinkable but not terribly memorable.

knight84, Mar 24, 2008
Plead The 5th Imperial Stout from Dark Horse Brewing Company
96 out of 100 based on 2,923 ratings.