Plead The 5th Imperial Stout | Dark Horse Brewing Company

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Plead The 5th Imperial StoutPlead The 5th Imperial Stout

Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

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
2014 - white label with black logo cap, ABV of 11% in the top right corner, government warning on bottom right side of label

Added by HopHead84 on 09-27-2008

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Reviews: 901 | Ratings: 3,852
Photo of Xul
4.05/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to kstrickler for the extra!

A: Pours almost pitch black with hints of light on the edges, revealing trails of carbonation making their way up through the beer. Head is approximately one finger of fizzy, mocha colored foam that quickly settles down to a thin layer capping the beer.

S: Strong semisweet chocolate up front, followed by moderate roasted notes with some coffee lurking therein, vanilla, and some dark fruits - cherries mostly. The chocolate is dominant, but not quite overpowering.

T: Boozy notes up front, but dark chocolate overtakes fairly quickly. Dark fruits - cherries, raisins, and plums - come in on the mid-palate along with roasted malts and coffee, before giving way to a finish of vanilla and cocoa.

M: Thick and chewy with low carbonation, it coats the mouth on the way down and leaves a long finish.

D: The ABV and long finish keep it to sipping, but it's by no means a tough drinker.

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Photo of SHDoyle
4.16/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Description: Dark black appearance with a slight tan/khaki head. The aromas I got were tobacco, smoke, leather and coffee. The taste was similar and I didn't pick up any sweetness or chocolate...maybe some dark, baker's chocolate if anything. Alcohol is apparent which doesn't come as a surprise with the ABV. Mouthfeel was a little thinner than I expected but it was smooth and only lightly carbonated.

Suggested food pairing: BBQ

If you like this beer then you should also try: Ten FIDY

Overall: 4 (This beer is good and I may or may not drink it again) I feel like the brewer went down a checklist of all the things required to make a good stout and did that. But it was only "good" to me and not "great". Drinking this felt like buying a used car: it works, you're glad to have it and it meets your basic requirements but doesn't necessarily light your world on fire. I'd like to try the BB version to see if that would improve things a bit.

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Photo of youradhere
3.77/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Re-reviewed on 2/17/11. 2009 vintage received in a trade.

Pours black with no head, no lacing. Initially head started to form, but it quickly fell. Smells of oak, booze, char, coffee. Tastes of anise, alcohol, chocolate and toasty char. High carbonation, light-ish mouthfeel for the style. Not as good as I remember, maybe this stuff goes through an ackward stage in it's life.

The unassuming little bottle pours out a thick black concoction with a brownish tan head that falls rather quickly, leaving moderate lace behind. Copious amounts of yeast sediment remain in the bottle, this could either be good or bad depending upon how the yeast reflects in the glass. Smell is dark coffee and not much else, possibly some slight caramel in the back. First taste has this malt forward brew brining the malt bitterness of black patent roasted malt, followed by a subdued sweetness and an even more subdued smokiness which is a nice surprise. Yeast is barely detectable in this cornucopia of flavors, all jockeying for my attention; this is so much that it takes me a quarter of a glass before I even find the alcohol (12%), and even then it is perfectly balanced. The mouthfeel of this beer is something somewhat of perfection- it keeps the malt char, sweetness and smokiness all in line and playing beautifully with eachother on my palate. The carbonation is perfect, and I can see now why there was so much yeast sediment- as to even reach this modicum of CO2 a damn near entire yeast starter slurry is needed to survive the flavor and alcohol. Very drinkable, I wish I had more of it here in the PNW.

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Photo of TTAmod
4.13/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Picked up a four-pack at my special beer store for $13.99. The date stamped on the bottle is 043-13, or February 12th, 2013. I poured one of the 12 oz. bottles into a tulip.

A: This beer is BLACK with a two finger brown head. Retention is good considering ABV.

S: Strong whiffs of chocolate, coffee, and alcohol.

T: Strong notes of dark chocolate, dried cherries, charred malts, roasted coffee, a trace amount of bittering hops, and a bit of heat. It doesn't taste too sweet; in fact, it ends on a dry note. It's not overly bitter at any point, but there's enough bitterness to add depth. Ash and roasted coffee stick around after the finish.

M: Another strong point of this beer. Obscenely smooth and quite drinkable, even if it is a bit hot. There's some carbonation, but it feels like silk going through my mouth and down my throat. No fuss at all.

O: This is how to do a strong stout right. The alcohol is kept in check by the onslaught of roasted malts, which invoke flavors of cherries, chocolate and coffee. However, these malts are balanced by just enough hops which keep the stout flavors from completely dominating.

This one is right up there with some of the best strong stouts on the market; however, this one is a LOT harder to find than some of the more prevalent ones (Ten Fidy, Founders IS, etc) mostly because Dark Horse is a pretty small brewery and doesn't have quite as wide of a distribution area as other breweries. Add to the fact that this is a seasonal (late winter) brew and most stores only get one case, and you got yourself a tough beer to find.

So, if you can find it, definitely pick it up. If you cannot find it....don't fret! Pick up some Ten Fidy or Founders IS, both of which are much easier to locate and are just as good as this one.

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Photo of marvin213
4.17/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The darkly tanned, thin layer of fizz looked great, though it dissipated more quickly than I'd have liked. Other than that, it's a dark black, imperial-looking stout. Kudos for what appeared like oatmeal sediment as the last drops fell into my Carolina Brewery pint glass.

Smells good and imperial. I've noticed lately how some dubbed RIS fail to smell like the ones that got me so loving the style. This one has a nose for a king (or queen, as it were): dark fruits (without a sourness), nicely toasted malts (with maybe a hint of chocolate without a disgustingly candy aroma), and a poignant while modest alcohol vibe (alluring like a treat instead of an unabashed alcohol bomb).

It's a bit more plummy and figgy than a great one but, thankfully, not overly sweet. It's solidly an appropriate representation of a Russian Imperial Stout. There ia an oatmealish flavor in there, perhaps affirming my sediment observation. The taste of the chocolate, as in the nose, is basically perfect--hinted at without a sweetness smack. This beer really seems to nicely blend all the right components of an RIS. There's nothing really unique about it, on the plus side being plainly good. When the marketplace seems flooded with over-the-top obnoxiously done stouts, this is a simply good (yet imperial) russian stout.

Oatmeal input allows for a silky input. It conjures images of soothing oatmeal baths on sunburn-singed skin. It really, really sits well. It's silky like soy milk. I cringe at penalizing simplicity, but only a complexity could attain world-class status. With all due respect, it feels like a Russian Imperial Stout is supposed to feel.

The alcohol is perfectly intertwined with the taste of this beverage. The aforementioned plumminess makes it a wee bit tart for multiples, but 12% is subtlely placed. The sediment stain I see on the bottom further represents oatmeal presence, but there's a thickness there discouraging multiple sessions. Still, Dark Horse comes strong with a well-built stout. Thanks to NotCreative for the chance to enjoy.

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Photo of jmerloni
4.65/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Jet fuel black. Thick as shit. Dark brown head, beyond tan and beyond beige. Impressive. Thick. Would be stickier if I were drinking it slower, I assume.

S - Wild aroma. Deep deep mocha aroma, with mild dark fruit aroma like cherries or raisins or even red grapes.

T - Wow. Dense flavors. Chocolate, coffee, more raisins and black cherries than grapes. Molasses malt. Slight alcoholic aftertaste. Interesting.

M - Thick as shit. Not very dry. The viscosity of this beer is impressive. Definitely chewy. Carbonation is perfectly appropriate and non-interruptive.

D - I'll get this again in a heartbeat. This is a beer everyone should try at least once. This is impressive. It tastes like it should be 500 calories.

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Photo of alovesupreme
4.32/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured intoa snifter this beer yielded a dark brown head which dissipated to a ring over a few minutes. This beer is black.
Black coffee with dark belgian chocolate. Bananas, walnut and alcolhol are also present.
Trader Joe's Belgian Dark chocolate with a chalky character. Walnuts are once again present and coffee finishes the beer with a roasted after taste.
A good body that holds up to the flavor of this beer.
A great imperial stout that I would love to enjoy again.

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Photo of CooperEllis
4.37/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Weisguy who tucked this into a box that was already chock full of excellent brews.

12 oz into chalice-ish glass

Aside from the total lack of a head this is a perfect pour, nice color, despite no head decent rim lacing that is a bit sticky.

Straight roast malt armoa. Clean, crisp and very refreshing for such a dark beer.

Full taste, gone a bit quickly, not much to stick around, which is the only reason this wasn't a 5. spot on.

A bit light on mouth, and as noted above, it doesn't stick around particularly long. This may be the most refreshing RIS I've ever had, and for that I'm greatly enjoying it.


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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!

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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.

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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,

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Photo of ravot
4.14/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured a Plead the 5th, 2013 vintange, into a Bells Brewery snifter.

Pours of motor oil. Jet black. Minimal lacing on the glass. Head was minimal if any. The pour seems as if it were thick like oil.

This bottle immediately smelled of chocolate, dark roasts of coffee. More chocolate.
Some cocoa, coconut.

Dark roast malts, chocolate. Some slightly alcohol tasting, very good. Definitely sweet as you drink it. Some hops are hiding in there. Bitter chocolate notes in there. Being that it's ABV of 11%, hard to tell.

Creamy, refreshing like a milk stout. Dessert like feeling.

Man this is a great stout. Aged for a year. I feel this might better aged than fresh but now i need to take another test and get some fresh since coincidentally, distribution is right about now.
Get your hands on this, fresh or aged, you won't be disappointed in an overall solid Imperial Sout

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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.

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Photo of OldManMetal
4.45/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This is a black hole of a beer; it is completely impervious to light and contains no highlights. The pour shows a slight appearance of viscosity and generates a thin, brief-lived creamy tan head that leaves sparse, fine-grained streaks of lacing. The nose is medium-big: a bitterish blend of coffee, milk chocolate and toffee with very prominent alcohol overtones. The palate is smoother and sweeter than the nose would lead you to expect: a rich range of chocolate notes backed by bitter toffee and booze. A strong roast character provides enough bitterness to largely balance the sweetness of the malt; the net result is just a bit on the sweet side. The finish is chocolate and booze, followed by the onset of a slight chocolate bitterness that lingers for a few minutes. The mouthfeel is biggish for the full body, and the texture is viscous, creamy, and just slightly peppery from the nicely restrained carbonation; all told, just about optimal for a big stout. While boozy, this beer drinks quite smoothly for the ABV. (12 oz bottle, 119 days after pkg)

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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Plead The 5th Imperial Stout from Dark Horse Brewing Company
4.23 out of 5 based on 3,852 ratings.
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