Ground Control Imperial Stout | Ninkasi Brewing Company

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Ground Control Imperial StoutGround Control Imperial Stout
Very Good
Ground Control Imperial StoutGround Control Imperial Stout

Brewed by:
Ninkasi Brewing Company
Oregon, United States

Style: American Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
Ground Control boldly combines local and out-of-this-world ingredients. This rich, complex Imperial Stout is brewed with Oregon hazelnuts, star anise and cocoa nibs, and fermented with an Ale yeast that survived a trip to space and back. Mankind will enjoy the sweet finesse of this beer that only fares better with time.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 30 | Ratings: 191
Photo of StJamesGate
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Jet with tan. 4
Whisky nose. 4
Fig sauce, whisky cake, a bit of cocoa, a speck of rugelach, and whiskey burn. 4
Medium, chewy, round. 4

Chocolaty! And no burn at 10%. Not seeing the star anise or hazelnuts, though. And what’s all this about space? 4

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Photo of IvoryFoxhole
4.18/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

They had me at "space yeast..."

2015 bottling, aged for nearly two years. Poured into Kane tulip glass and let come up to temperature for an hour.

L: Very dark brown-black, not much change at edges. Very light tan 1F head with little retention or lacing, leaves a small rings.

S: Roasted malts, cocoa, definitely get the star anise. Not much in the hazelnut department. Little bit of something else that could be the space yeast, for all I know.

T: Roasted malts, cocoa up front and as usual cocoa persists through. You do pick up a bit of the hazelnuts here and some star anise. It is a bit malty and yeasty. Finish is pretty neutral, no ABV heat to speak of.

F: Medium-bodied, not much carbonation. Construction good, flavors have rounded and melded nicely over a couple of years. Good balance.

O: This is ground control to Ninkasi - you've really made the grade. And the papers want to know what hops you used. Now it's time to get another batch and brew.

I'm so sorry.

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Photo of beergoot
4.17/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Dark, ink black body; creamy, sticky, light tan head; sheets of foam adhering to the glass. Fine blended aroma of roasted grains, chocolate, spice (the anise?). Milk chocolate taste with a spicy kick; charred and bitter edge to things; boozy with a note of bourbon. Heavy body; dry, boozy notes; suggestion of light astringency, perhaps a tad woody; smooth and deeply sweet overall.

Space beer! Well, a yeast culture that took a trip to zero gravity. I doubt if the stellar yeast trip contributed anything of note to the beer, but it is a great back story. The beer itself is pretty solid with great balance between malt sweetness, high alcohol content, and boozy and hop bitterness nicely complementing the total picture. A fine tasting, well brewed and aged imperial stout.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.98/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Ninkasi Brewing Co. "Ground Control"
22 fl. oz. brown glass bottle, no apparent freshness dating but it's got to be old
$12 @ Union Tap House, Philadelphia, PA

Notes: Black-brown body beneath a full head of tan that steadily dwindles to a thin but solid cap, and then eventually a wide creamy collar. Average lacing. Aroma of chocolate and fruity anise. Flavor of... wait for it... chocolate and anise with some berry/apple fruitiness. The hazelnuts come through as well, but at this point the anise comes through clearer. It does not appear oxidized, although it must be to some extent. The alcohol is present but it doesn't jump out at you. Medium bodied and smooth. The chocolate is kind of one-dimensional, but still nice. Overall a decent double stout but I'm not thrilled by it, I'd expect a little more body and maltiness. Perhaps if I'd had it fresh the chocolate and nuts and anise would have been more in tune, but I actually doubt that.

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Photo of Radcpa
3.77/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark appearance with little head and carbination. Very mild nutty and coco aroma. Taste is also very mild nutty and coco with little hint of alcohol. Too mild for me

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Photo of ccg
3.98/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Side-by-side comparison with the bourbon-barrel-aged Ground Control.
This beer looks more like a barrel-aged beer than the actual barrel-aged version of itself. It could be because I've had this bottle in the cellar for something like a year, while the BA variant is more recent, but usually barrel-aging kills some of the carbonation.
Smell is initially dominated by the anise, then it becomes somewhat nutty (the hazelnuts, I assume), and then it takes on kind of a smokey and salty scent. It has many layers. The barrel-aged version has more booze upfront, and it's more smokey, chocolatey, and roasted-malty. The BA version smells kind of like regular Yeti by Great Divide.
Flavor is more roasted malt and chocolate and smoke than the smell was. The BA version is slightly softer and sweeter, but there's not much bourbon-barrel-aging noticeable.
The feel is full and robust. Surprising, but it's better feeling than the BA version.
I have to say that the whole outer-space thing is hokey, but this beer was kind of a pleasant surprise. I thought it could turn out to be more gimmick than quality, but I was wrong. On the other hand, the BA version is a big disappointment. The barrel aging actually made it worse. I'm guessing that it wasn't barrel-aged long enough to really give it the richness and body that you get from a bourbon barrel, but it did add enough extra alcohol to numb some of the underlying flavors. It's too bad the base beer is what has been discontinued. It'd take the base over the BA variant, which is still on the shelf here.

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Photo of johnnyboy76
3.97/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Great looking brew. The thin tan khaki head sticks around for the life of the beer in your glass. Smells sweet, little cocoa in the note. Taste was better than I expected from Ninkasi. A lot of their stuff is pretty average. Roasty, chocolate and some faint nuttiness on the back end. Mouthfeel was solid for this style of beer. Not too thin at all. Overall a pretty solid beer. Looking forward to trying the BBA version.

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Photo of Buck89
4.1/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opaque brown with a lush tan head. Great aromas of roasted malt, caramel, and chocolate. Big RIS taste with roasty malt, chocolate, caramel, and cherry. Nice firm balanced bitterness.

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Photo of bin31z
3.88/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.75

Pour dark and oily. Nose has usual chocolate and coffee notes, very big. Has weird soy sauce and star anise notes, does not go well in my opinion with beer. Palate follows nose, thick, sweet and oily.

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Photo of jefewyatt
3.23/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.25

Had out of a 22 oz bottle 8 months after the bottling date.

This stout poured a very dark brown. It had thin head that dissipates to a ring rather quickly. No lacing to speak of. The nose is spot on chocolatey. The cocoa nibs overwhelm pretty much everything else. The taste is the same, huge hit of chocolate, and a bit of spice on the finish, probably from the star anise, I would guess. The roasted, malty pungency I look for from an imperial stout is absent. This beer is just extremely sweet. I don't mind all too much, considering how much I love sweet beers, but this is very one note. The mouthfeel is sublime. There's a delightful, silky creaminess that I wish all stouts could have. Combined with the flavor it reminds me of chocolate melting in my mouth.

Overall, this is a pretty nice chocolate stout. It's not as complex as most stouts, but do I like drinking it? I sure do. If you like sweet stouts this one will be great, otherwise I'd keep looking for something with more character.

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Photo of Lingenbrau
4.57/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I don't know how this doesn't have a better rating! This was by far one of my favorites of the year. An outstanding stout all around, and competes with all the rave BA stouts while not being one itself, in my opinion. Cheers!

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Photo of MtnSoup
3.92/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Slightly underwhelming given the price tag. Bitterness mixed with coffee and nuts, but cloyingly sweet and lack of memorable finish. Meh. Glad I tried it - hell, malts in space?! Wouldn't buy again.

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Photo of jmasher85
4.09/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

I wouldn't call it "out of this world," or really a drastically revolutionary beer in any way other than that fancy pantsy gimmick, where they wanted to say that the beer has been to space so they shot the lightest, easiest-to-transport part into probably the lowest legally-defined realm of space. In other words: it doesn't deserve the hype and fanfare, but it's still damn tasty.

Some chocolate and nutty flavors that are rich and a bit sweet, but not too heavy. A bit of anise and some savory spice add a nice pizzaz. Mildly bitter finish, but a rich and creamy texture puts it down easy. Also remarkably smooth for a 10% abv brew. Having recently struggled to get through a whole 16.9 oz bottle of BCBS, I'm surprised that had I not been splitting this bomber with a buddy, I still could have easily polished it off alone.

The worst part of this beer is the price tag. I think I got a good deal on it for $20 but I've seen it for $30 at some places. This is a damn good beer, but at least half of what you're paying for is the gimmick, so I'd happily drink it again, but I'd probably not buy it unless for a gift or something. That will lose it some overall points for me.

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Photo of arizcards
3.81/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Picked up a 32 oz growler from Kings Convenience Market on Monday this week for $10.

Beer poured black with an impressive head upon the initial pour.

Nose initially was pretty muted but cocoa is becoming more prevelant as it warms towards 60 degrees.

Taste is cocoa dominated with hints of anise lingering in the background. There is some bittering hops but this one is a tad too sweet for my pallette.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and fairly smooth.

Overall not a bad beer but nothing special for sure. I could not pull the trigger on an $18 bomber that the yeast went to space (and not barrel aged to boot). But it was worthy of a shot at $10 for a 32 oz growler. A shout out to Mickey at Kings for making the price reasonable for this one!

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Photo of frozyn
4.6/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L -- Pours jet black with a very thin tan head that dissipates quickly into a very minor edge ring that leaves no lacing.

S -- Starts off with strong cocoa scents. I get sweetness, a little nuttiness, and notes of coffee here and there. The malts produce plenty of aromas to accompany the adjuncts that it makes for a pleasant smelling beer. Nothing incredible, but quite nice.

T -- First hit with a strong coca note, then a very prominent plum-like note comes on that is pretty sweet, but with a fair bite to it in the way that fruits are acidic. The hazelnut is there at first in muted form. With warmth, the nuttiness evolves, strengthens, and joins plum as the two most obvious flavors. The cocoa becomes more bitter, which helps to counteract the plum sweetness. I don't often notice any sort of black licorice notes, which it was star anise is known for, but I can also imagine some of the more bitter sweetness I get may come from that addition. The warmer the beer gets, the better it tastes.

F -- A good full body, viscous and chewy, yet still easy to drink and not syrupy. It's almost exactly how I imagine great stouts would feel. There's a very minor, ephemeral cloyingness from the malt sweetness, but it's offset by a similarly short-lived dryness that evens it out a bit. In a perfect world, I'd get neither the sweetness or the dryness, but given both exist, they balance well. The star anise shows up with a very mild numbing sensation on the tongue, although the alcohol may do the same. Luscious is a good word for the feel.

O -- I find this to be a very delicious beer. Some may find it a bit sweet and I understand that. I found the the adjuncts and other flavors offered by the malt offset that and create something I enjoy drinking. It's not something I'd drink often (even if priced less absurdly), but something I would love the chance to put some age on.

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Photo of kemoarps
3.75/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pour is smoothe dark almost black with ruby hues around the edges. Minimal dark brown head relegates itself to a crescent moon around the back edges.

Nose starts out disappointing. Thin and plum sweet with faint strains of powdered chocolate and ground nut. It does not smell like outer space at least!

Thankfully, the flavour tends more towards the side of things I prefer (because it's all about what *I* want! But really though in this case it is...). Chocolate duels with that same plummier side of dark stouts that can evolve. A definite nuttiness runs through and gives it a smoothe warmth as well. This warmth occasionally dips into the alcohol pool (drank).

Very fine carbonation, and the finish blends that stone fruit with a dark bitterness that threatens to wander into alcohol aftertaste sour but doesn't actually veer into that territory.

Bottom line: I am a little disappointed in this one. I'm willing to accept that I perhaps should have drank this one sooner (was not intentionally letting it sit, it just kind of got lost in the shuffle) but that's a question I won't be able to answer unless they send another satellite out there...
As far as gimmicky beers go, I adore the concept behind this one, though I can't see how it actually affects the beer itself.
Definitely glad I tried it (gimmick aside), but it tends more towards the stone fruit side of stouts which I don't really prefer.

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Photo of ZakFaruki
4.51/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

L: Poured from a Bomber into a Stout glass, pours a jet black with a nice tan head

S: A overwhelming smell of chocolate, not that its a bad thing at all

T: Chocolate on the nose, fades into an almost tangy sweetness similar to Nutella, just a tiny speck of booze and bitters at the end as it finishes

F: As a stout should, a thick milkshake-like body with a limited amount of carbonation

O: I bought this for two reasons: A) its Ninkasi, a brewery with an amazing track record; b) the malt has been to space! While I'm yet to develop superpowers from ingesting this brew, its an exceptional stout and if you can lay your hands upon it, it will be worth the $20 you punker down.

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Photo of Sleeb
4.82/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A- Beautiful Obsidian thick frothy head

S-Mocha, hazelnut(nutella) full of rich sweet aromas

T-spices, roasted, chocolate

M-Smooth, thin, and a but creamy. Excellent quick finish

O-A strong sweet beer. Yes it is expensive but worth the price.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.93/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle, with some pretty snazzy cardboard box packaging, and another silly conceit writ large, at least as far as the shelf tag is concerned - let's see if the brew can keep up, shall we?

This beer pours a solid black abyss, with subtle red cola basal edges when held to the light, and two stubby fingers of puffy, broadly foamy, and somewhat bubbly brown head, which leaves some decent sea-borne volcanic island profile lace around the glass as it gently subsides.

It smells of softly roasted caramel malt, bittersweet chocolate, zesty and salty black licorice, sugary hazelnuts, a bit of cold coffee, and leafy, herbal, and slightly perfumed floral hops. The taste is bready, lightly toasted, and rich caramel malt, chocolate syrup, those Scandinavian licorice 'candies', a more generic honeyed nuttiness, cafe-au-lait, and plain earthy, leafy, and weedy hop bitterness - the alcohol still with its head in, um, space, I guess.

The bubbles are quite understated in their wan frothiness, the body medium-heavy in weight, and rather smooth, with a mild spice-tinged creaminess. It finishes sweet, all that caramel, cocoa, licorice, nuttiness, and finally booze, hardly having to make a case for themselves.

A pleasant, if a bit disjointed, big-ass (I'm not going to say 'out of this world') American stout, the various guest ingredients mingling well enough, but no serious hook-ups here, I'm afraid. Not sure that aging this one would have all that much effect, as the 20-proof booze is already well-integrated - and by then, I'm sure we'll have an IPA made with Space Station cultivated hops to worry about.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.11/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

i should start by saying that paying 18 bucks for a stout that isnt barrel aged is ludicrous, but i did it anyway, and a lot of other people apparently have too, so they got me there. the space yeast thing is interesting, but im not sure it does anything for the beer. whats supposed to be the point? anyone know? nothing about this is interesting in terms of yeast character in the beer. its thin for its size, and the booze is very much exposed, but other than that, i liked this one quite a bit, and dont really have any other valid critiques other than it seems a bit of a gimmick with this yeast thing. the hazelnuts are subtle but obvious, nothing like a grey monday, thats for sure, but they add a cool layer and a bit of sweetness, and taste authentic to me. the anise is also subtle, but after breaking out some star anise from the spice drawer, i was able to pick it up a lot more smelling them side by side. its all in the finish, but its tasty. the nibs end up in more of a bittering role than a chocolatey one, which is needed in this otherwise very sweet beer. id like to see some of the best breweries in the country mess around with this handful of ingredients. i think this is well done, but i think it could be done better. more hazelnuts and more body, less residual sugar and booze heat, and even some neutral oak time would do cool things to this. not worth the price, but a tasty beer all the same. someone explain the space yeast thing to me, why did it go to space? and whats the point? thanks!

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Photo of LouZ
4.21/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I felt lucky to find one as I've wanted to try this for some time. One could be skeptical with the gimmick of yeast sent to space, but regardless of that PR stunt Ninkasi made a damn good beer here. Dark with a finger of mocha head, the aroma of chocolate is enticing. Taste is roasty malts with chocolate and a subtle hint of those 80 IBUs and star anise blended in. Mouthfeel was full bodied and smooth. I'd go so far to say that this is Ninkasi's best brew to date.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.93/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to a partial film on top of the beer. Thick rings of lace line the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa powder, candied nut, and slight earth aromas. Taste is much the same with cocoa powder, chocolate syrup, char, earth, coffee bean, and brewed coffee flavors on the finish. There is a high amount of roast and char bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with solid aromas, but the flavors are slightly better to me despite the high level of bitterness I am getting.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of jeffjeff1
4.35/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Appearance- black color, thin head
Smell- hazelnut, chocolate
Taste- hazelnut, chocolate, bit of coffee
Mouthfeel- full bodied, smooth
Drinkability- It was very good. I loved it. Plus it's really cool that the yeast was in space. Probably why it's so expensive. Hopefully I will be able to get my hands on another one.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: thick black stout with a fat and fluffy tan head that left creamy lace arms down the glass

S: hazelnut mocha and chocolate syrup, mildly roasted aromas, something herbal and faint

T: the hazelnuts, cocoa nibs and star anise are all impeccably rendered and blended - full of rich chocolate flavors, roasted warm hazelnut, and with hints of milky star anise - undertones of sweet and creamy coffee

M: full-bodied and smooth, more sweet than bitter, well-rounded and luscious

O: loved it - pricey bottle but worth it - even if only once - with expendable income I'd go for more - mildly reminiscent of Westbrook's Anniversary stout with almonds, chocolate, and coconut. A real treat. Recommended.

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Photo of hreb
3.8/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle served in a curved stout glass. Beer pours dark brown, nearly black, and not too syrupy. A medium chestnut head slowly forms. Bittersweet aroma of cocoa. Flavor identifies this unmistakably has a chocolate stout. Not sweet, but a little tangy, actually. A bit jammy, too, but I'm not detecting distinct star anise or hazelnut flavors. I'm drinking this fresh, but I do wonder if aging it would have mellowed out the tanginess, which I think could be an improvement.

Good beer. Overpriced though.

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Ground Control Imperial Stout from Ninkasi Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.98 out of 5 with 191 ratings