Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine and get 12 issues / year of fresh beer content delivered to your door each month.

Already subscribe? to manage your subscription.

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.
BA SCORE
93
outstanding

829 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 829
Hads: 3,524
rAvg: 4.2
pDev: 3.81%
Wants: 549
Gots: 927 | FT: 105
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: 829 | Hads: 3,524
Photo of drumrboy22
3.92/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 12oz. bottle into Great Divide Yeti chalice. Beer was thick and jet black, with no head. Very little carbonation and no lacing.

Aroma was chocolate, coffee, bitter hops, dark fruit, licorice, molasses and burnt grains.

Taste was chocolate, vanilla, coffee, cherries and burnt grains. Very good, but just a tad thin.

Nice beer and great to get as an extra in trade. (381 characters)

Photo of aaronh
3.92/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer definitely looks thick as it pours, and I was convinced it was flat as I completed the pour. However, after a few moments a thin layer of dark brown bubbles formed atop the beer, only to disappear before I made it to a comfortable place to sit. The aroma has a slight hint of musty fruit, intermingled with coffee, alcohol, and brown sugar notes. The flavor is powerful, with highly evident tobacco flavors that are accented by coffee, cocoa, and pure alcohol. A bit of an earthy note is in there as well, with a moderate sweetness wrapping things up. Mouthfeel is very silky and seems nearly devoid of carbonation, even though visibly carbonation is evident. Drinkabilty is surprisingly good for such an assertive beer. Not sure how old this one is, but a few years of age would have rounded it out nicely. Yet another fine beer from this "Dark Horse"... (865 characters)

Photo of Shumista
3.91/5  rDev -6.9%
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 ohiobeer29
3.91/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've tried this beer many times and never been thrilled with it until now now I get why people really enjoy this beer a nice balance of dark malts,chocolate and heat behind it a well put together stout will def be buying more next year (235 characters)

Photo of aasher
3.91/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

This pours into my snifter an oily midnight black with a dark, dark khaki head that quickly dissipates and laces the glass. The aromas are of oak, bitter chocolate, and a considerable amount of alcohol. The 12% is very present in the nose. The flavors are of conflicting chocolate (both sweet and bitter), oaky smoke, and alcohol. It's good but not as good as it could be. The strongest aspect of this beer has got to be the mouthfeel. It drinks exceptionally smooth and also lighter than it looks. It's velvety smooth. Overall this is a very fine beer but it misses on a few levels. The amount of alcohol present in the nose and flavor is a slight turnoff. It's 12% and you know it. It's good but powering through a four pack of this would be quite difficult but one or two is just fine. (788 characters)

Photo of Steasy66
3.91/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A Dark with dark head, no head retention
S Roasted malt
T Sweet, roasted malt, caramel, a bit boozy, but masks the 12% well
M Fairly thick, low carbonation
Overall, a very nice imperial stout, masks its high ABV well even without aging. Wouldn't mind some more roasted flavor and a bit of carbonation. (301 characters)

Photo of divineaudio
3.91/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 vs 2012 comparison, 12oz bottles. notes from april 2012 or so, right after the 2012 release. both bottles poured into snifters. ratings above reflect the current batch.

a - '12 pours a viscous, oily black. gave me a thin cap of dark brown head that is only about two shades lighter than the beer. spotty lacing in the glass. 4.5

'11 same color/look, though no head whatsoever and no lacing. 3.5


s - '12 chocolate, slightly nutty, raisin. 3.5

'11 wow! port, faint tobacco, faint licorice, lots of roasted malt and a slight booziness. 4.5

t - '12 chocolate, molasses, noticeable alcohol twang in the finish. bitterness like black coffee more so than hops. a little rough around the edges i think. 4.0

'11 espresso, rich dark chocolate, raisin, dark cherry, tobacco. very smooth with no alcohol taste at all. maybe showing some slight oxidation. 4.0

m - '12 full bodied and chewy. adequate carbonation, fin co2 profile. slight alcohol warming. 3.5

'11 full bodied with lighter carbonation and a fine co2 profile. very rich and smooth. 4.0

o - fresh is pretty damn good, but with a year or more on it this beer becomes something very different. very drinkable for the high abv %, though i think 2 in a night is all most people could handle. enjoyable fresh or aged and highly recommended. 4.0 (1,308 characters)

Photo of lnashsig
3.9/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Many thanks to GordianKnot for the chance to taste this one. a 12% imp stout bottle, no bottle date. Poured from bottle into Brooklyn Tulip glass. Pours a pitch black syrupy appearance. Barely any head (what you would expect from a beer this big). Smell- rich roasty maple syrup. Maybe some vanilla bean, some subdued chocolate flavor. From appearance and smell, it appears this one might have some time on it (yay!). Taste- Different flavors from what I would have expected. A roasty sweetness up front, some liquorice, sweet chocolate, not much bitterness at all. There is a creaminess to the mouthfeel, very little carbonation. Overall for the style, I would have expected more of a roasty possibly dark chocolate presence. I got almost too much sweetness from this one, and it kind of bugged me. Overall good though. (820 characters)

Photo of HattedClassic
3.9/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Appearance:
Pours an opaque black with a hint of very dark brown. The lacing is a dark tan.

Smell:
I get hints of dark chocolate, toffee, and some coffee notes. The smell of the beer tends to be a little dull and not very distinct. Additionally, the smell does not mix well and feels as if they are there because the beer has to have a smell.

Taste:
I get hints of dark chocolate and coffee and slight hints of roasted malts.

Mouthfeel:
Very smooth for an imperial stout and heavy bodied.

Overall:
I think that this an okay imperial stout. My main beef with this beer is that it tends to fall up short in terms of flavor. Kinda of like that little engine that almost but didn't quite make it. (697 characters)

Photo of claminat420
3.9/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- poured the typical stout color with a dark chocolate head.

S- smell some weird fruity smell like bananas and a slight alcohol scent. weird but good.

T- roasted malts from hell. the alcohol being 12 is really hidden. the fruity scent kinda hangs as an aftertaste.

M- medium light bodied. nice carbonation.

D- could drink a couple 12's but i'm not to much of a stout fan to begin with.

Overall- this stout is defintitely one for the stout fans. the 12abv is subtle. not to much carbonation and wasn't to much of a head but still good. (540 characters)

Photo of KFBR392
3.9/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours medium heavy compared to other RIS. Head is a lighter off white color, a notch lighter then a solid tan color. Carbonation is what you would expect, thin but was present enough for you to acknowledge it.

Smell: The front is a subtle burnt chocolate which really opens up to a hearty barley malt aroma with a heavy dose of hops. The chocolate aroma has plenty of darkness to it but also has a very creamy texture as well. The booze plays its role by adding a little wicked edge.

Taste: Milk chocolate cream hits right away on the front of this brew. The high ABV takes over in the body but is certainly not offensive. Too spicy for an RIS for me but the taste is still pretty good. The hops linger around for a while.

Mouthfeel: A unique mixture of hops and molasses. Heavy feeling with interesting high points on the palette.

Overall: This beer is very good but did not live up to the hype for me. The usual place I buy from sold 4 cases of this in about 6 hours. I had to go out of my way to find some and I'm glad I at least got the opportunity to try it. Its not Founders or Oskar Blues RIS but I enjoyed this one. Would love to try the bourbon barrel version of this, but I'm sure all of you would. (1,225 characters)

Photo of EliteDigger
3.9/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle of "Plead the 5th"
A-Forceful pour yields almost no head at all. Small amount of tiny bubbled, dense light brown foam appears around the edge of the glass, but that's it. However, when taking a sip, there's enough carbonation to leave a bit of lacing on the sides and rebuild the bit of foam around the edges. Body is dark, basically black with virtually no light peeking through the edges.
S-Not a large amount of aroma here, but I pick up a bit of molasses, dark chocolate, and earthy roasted grains.
T-Subtle flavors in this one, growing stronger the more it warms...very subdued coffee shows through, with more dark chocolate. Tastes of molasses, dark fruit, more roasted grain, and a bit of hops shows up.
M-Nice thickness, creaminess, and although the head was non-exisitant, the carbonation is adequate to give this one a very pleasant mouthfeel.
D-Decent drinkability taking into account the ABV but I'm not sure I'd want more than a couple.
Overall a decent RIS, but not outstanding. I'm glad I got to try it and I threw a couple down in the cellar to see what some age does to this one. (1,112 characters)

Photo of mmva321
3.9/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a pint glass.

A: There's very litlle head and no retention. But this stuff looks like motor oil coming out of the bottle, which is very impressive. Needless to say this is a jet black body. A thin caramel colored lacing lines the bottle.

S: The smell hit my nose right out of the pour, so a beer with that amount of initiative deserves a little boost in the score, though I wish the final product was a little better. It's a bitter roasted smell. Nuts, chocolate and perhaps some dark fruit. Nothing really reveals itself as being special.

T: A bitter roasted taste. Dark bitter chocolate and dark fruits are the dominant flavors and make this a very dark beer. Roasted nuts and maybe some vanilla are there as well. Very well balanced but very, very blunt and not too subtle. The roasted malt and nuts really come through at the end.

M: Thick, thick, thick. A little carbonation. Serves the dark flavors well. But the fruit flavors perhaps demand a mouthfeel that is a little lighter.

D: Though everything is really good here, this beer ends up being a little less than the sum of its parts. I find the strong and sweet dark fruit flavor to be a little off putting. I'm not sure but the beer does everything well, but has a few things that keep from being great. Try it for yourself though, it's a unique a well done beer that maybe you have a taste for. (1,371 characters)

Photo of DavoleBomb
3.89/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter.

3.0 A: Black color. Not quite one finger of light brown frothy/creamy head. Retention is poor, even for a beer this big. No lacing left.

4.0 S: Supple roastiness. Caramel and lots of molasses. A touch of black cherry. Light chocolate, a bit burnt, and booze that's well hidden.

4.0 T: Roasty with lots of molasses and caramel. Cherry, chocolate, and toastiness underneath. Actually, there's lots of cherry in this. Well hidden booze.

3.5 M: Heavier medium to heavy body. Good moderate carbonation. Could be a bit creamier, but it's still good here.

4.0 D: Tasty with well integrated flavors. (619 characters)

Photo of mulder1010
3.89/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bought last year at West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago.
355 ML poured into a tulip

A-- Poured ink black. Think the light ran away from this. Evil looking. Very short lived dark brown film that became a thin, dark brown collar. Obvious alcohol legs.

S-- Heavy roasted malts, candied soy sauce, deep, dark bitter chocolate and notes of coffee. Smells slightly oaked and even for a year old a good amount of alcohol is obvious.

T-- Hops have held up well as slightly spicy green pepper taste. Dark, bitter, sweet chocolate, coffee, candied char and candied soy sauce. Alcohol is really obvious.

M-- Slick, oily and sweet. Finishes with a dark bitter chocolate and coffee. Heavy feel and low carbonation are an understatement. A touch too sweet in the front and mid palate.

O-- Loved the BA treatment and this is good but probably a bit too young and slightly too sweet. or my palate is no longer American. Slow as heck sipper. (931 characters)

Photo of fscottkey
3.89/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: [4.00] Looks jet black in the glass. I get no light penetration. It has a brown head that looks creamy and delicious. The head is much more brown than most stouts. Unfortunately it dissipates quickly. The ABV is on the label (11%). There was a bottled date but it is smudged almost completely off.

S: [3.75] Dark fruits. Plums. Some alcohol. Maybe a hint of smoke and malts.

T: [3.75] Does not follow the nose. Smokey malts. Chocolate. Some booze.

M: [4.50] The body is medium+. It is chewy and nice. There is a bit of alcohol astringency on the finish that makes it feel a little dry and tight.

O: [4.00] I held on to this one for a while - waiting for a good opportunity to try it. I was not blown away (maybe my expectations got too high). It is a solid beer. The flavor is really good. The mouthfeel is great. At 11% the alcohol is only poking in just a bit. I would probably not actively seek this out again. There are lower ABV beers that I prefer. (984 characters)

Photo of Murchmac
3.88/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had both an 08 and an '10 over the weekend.

Both poured a black as night dark with some lacing. The 08 was still really carbonated and the 10 was not at all.

Both had a mixture of smells chocolate, coffee, booze, with the 10 having some soy sauce smells.

the 10 had tastes of cherry, soy sauce, coffee, chocolate, the 08 was still carbonated with just a chocolate taste

the 10 had a bitter finish with the 08 being smoother with a bigger body. (449 characters)

Photo of JamesShoemaker
3.88/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a new snifter. My parents got me this bottle for Christmas, thanks!

A - very good looking beer. Forced pour produces little head, foam starts dark brown like an RIS, but lightens as it settles. Bubbles swirl on the surface, making it look alive.

S - phew, not good. I don't know if it's my glass, but it smells sour, almost like a Belgian dark. Not what I expected and totally unpleasant. I can't even stand taking my customary deep whiff.

T - good, creamier than I expected, though my initial expectations were kind of rocked by the odor. I like the milky flavor working with the malts to cover up the alcohol (which is undetectable even at 12%). Not a great big slap in the face like most specialty double stouts from Michigan breweries.

M - the consistency is really interesting because of the aforementioned milky flavor. It's a smooth drink to be sure, and the alcohol is clandestine in a very dangerous way. If this bottle's smell is a fluke, I could drink more than one of these in a sitting.

O - I'd love to try this on tap, but another bottle may be out of the question, assuming it's not my glass making it smell like this. Dark Horse is a great company regardless, I love the sheer variety of stouts they produce. (1,254 characters)

Photo of WYVYRN527
3.88/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours black with a thick tan head that settles quickly. It retains a thin film on the edges, and lacing is minimal.

S: Malts lend a roasty character, with hints of dried dark fruits, such as prune and rasin. Chocolate and coffee aromas are also present. Still quite young, the hops lend somewhat of an off-putting vegetable-like smell in the backround.

T: All malt at first. Roasty espresso and chocolate flavors mingle with notes of dark fruit, molasses, and a bit of licorice. The hops are more balanced in the taste than the smell. They give the beer an earthy character, and dry out the finish.

M: Very full-bodied and chewy, and flavors are long lasting. Finish is silky, and alcohol gives a nice warming sensation.

D: Quite drinkable, despite it's ABV and youth. Although it will definitely benefit after a year or so in bottle, it is quite good young. It's worth picking up a four pack. (900 characters)

Photo of BuckeyeSlim
3.87/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a standard pint glass at the South Park Tavern in Dayton, OH.

A - No real head to speak of. Very thin lace across the surface. Tar black and solidly opaque.

S - Light, but consistently present, nose of roasted malts with a bit of dark chocolate.

T - Yummy dark chocolate flavors, well-roasted malts, some hints of dark, dried fruits. Almost reminds me of a Belgium dark ale, but with more dark roast and chocolate and far less fruit. A bit of a boozy backend does give it a hint of having a medicinal quality, like Jagermeister. Not at all smokey or burnt like some stouts.

M - Somewhat creamy, with just enough carbonation to let you know there's CO2 present. Medium body. Good structure and nicely integrated. Moderate finish, but soft. This beer really needs to be on nitro.

O - Take a standard English porter and then intentionally push it toward a stout via the malts. This is that beer. Delicious and very drinkable. I was very surprised to discover its 12% ABV, both because it came in a pint glass and because it's not at all that boozy or big-bodied. If I liked the stout end of porters, I could make this a regular. (1,142 characters)

Photo of SomethingClever
3.87/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a Speigelau glass

A: pitch black rich chocolate head

S: lots of roasted goodness with some very strong chocolate and licorice

T: very smooth sweet chocolate a little bit of lactate milk taste

M: a touch thin for a stout but it's not bad

O: this is a pretty good stout it's got a lot of nice chocolate and sweetness with a little bit of roast it's a tad thin though (397 characters)

Photo of DrinkSlurm
3.87/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from tap into tulip at south park Dayton. Nice deep brown color with tan creamy lacing. Lots of roasted malt aroma...done. its very one dimensional but nice.
Taste is roasted bitter malts with a hint of chocolate and coffee but again its dominated by the roasted malt. Its a bit bitter...super dry but still pleasant. Its a big beer for sure but not my fav of the style. I had high hopes for this...maybe too high. Its kind of like a triple Guinness...if such a thing exists. (483 characters)

Photo of portia99
3.87/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a Dogfish Head signature glass.

A - Pours thick and syrupy with an oil-like opacity and a deep brown/approaching black color. An aggressive pour fails to yield any head...all this can muster is the thinnest of collars and no lacing to speak of.

S - Sweet and molasses driven aroma. Caramel and brown sugar behind that along with some creamy vanilla. Booze is evident and appears in conjunction with the vanilla and also caramel candy. A bit of burnt creme brulee sugar as well. This really smells sweet overall - like a dessert. Some black licorice creeps into the aroma too. Really not getting much roastiness at all, which surprises me. I wouldn't call this necessarily typical for the style, but the sugary candy aspects are pretty appealing.

T - Whoa, boozy up front with a big hit of alcohol slamming the back of my throat on first swallow. Flavor is much different than the aroma. Where the aroma lacked roastiness, this cannot be said for the flavor. Behind the hit of alcohol is burnt toast-like malt, heavy espresso roast coffee and a bit of char. This really takes away from the multi-layered sugary sweet aromas that don't carry into the flavor. Very noticeable alcoholic aspect to the flavor. Licorice is mild but noticeable.

M - Full bodied, lower carbonation just on the above ground side of life. Boozey, warm alcohol throughout hitting the back of the throat initially and eventually filling the entire mouth in sensation. Heavily roasted and burnt flavors overpower other aspects and simplify the flavor profile. Burnt roastiness continues to the aftertaste.

O - This is a good imperial stout, but have to say I don't really understand the hype surrounding this one. The aroma completely doesn't match the flavors - wish they met somewhere in the middle. Balance seems a bit off...alcohol is dominating and heavy handed. It is fairly enjoyable, but when it comes to world-class RIS's this really leaves a lot on the table. Perhaps a bit of aging will smooth this one out a bit...fresh, doesn't live up to the hype/expectations I had coming into this. (2,096 characters)

Photo of steve8robin
3.87/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got this in a trade...

A: Pitch black with little to no head that leaves a slight mocha head on the top of the brew. Decent.

S: Roasty oak upfront with dark fruit boozy chocolate in the middle and creamy bourbon type scent on the backend. Good.

T: Watery boozy roastiness upfront with dark fruit and chocolate blended in the middle and bitter hops on the backend. Decent.

M: Very smooth carbonation feel. A bit watery, but good.

D: Goes down super easy. Very good here.

All in all, this is a decent brew. Ok to try at least once, but not great. Ok, for a stout. Many better brews in the style. (599 characters)

Photo of BierFan
3.86/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a tulip glass.

An inch of light brown head settles to a thin layer. Almost completely disappears after a minute. Very dark black body. Smells like cocoa powder. Not a lot to the aroma. Roastiness in the flavor that I didn't get in the aroma, quite a bit of bitter cocoa. (306 characters)

Plead The 5th Imperial Stout from Dark Horse Brewing Company
93 out of 100 based on 829 ratings.