Big Red (Imperial Red) | Southern Tier Brewing Company

very good
398 Ratings
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Big Red (Imperial Red)Big Red (Imperial Red)

Brewed by:
Southern Tier Brewing Company
New York, United States

Style: American Amber / Red Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by oberon on 07-03-2006

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Ratings: 398 |  Reviews: 321
Photo of Imstillthegman
3.85/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to nlmartin for this bomber. I really like the look of these Southern Tier bottles.

Pours out a slightly cloudy dark amber-copper color with about two inches of off-white head. Some lacing sticks to the glass.

The smell is strong blend of spicy hops and caramel. It smells good, but I think it's a bit burning for an Amber Ale.

The flavor is strong on hops, too. There is a nice, solid malt backbone to add some sweetness to the spice. Blends together pretty well. Don't let this one get too warm, though...the alcohol really starts to come out then and it isn't as enjoyable.

Good medium to full body with a bit of burning bitterness upon swallowing. Again, don't let this get too warm. If you can't finish it fast enough have a friend help you. Another solid brew from ST.

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Photo of Kendo
4.49/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: From a 22 oz bomber into a pint glass, it pours a slightly murky reddish-amber with a 1-finger foamy khaki-colored head with decent retention. Some lacing remains behind all the way down.

S: Very pleasant in the nose -- sweet caramel with a slightly fruity hint to it, but also a spicy, florally kick as well. I kept putting my nose in the glass to get a good wiff, and each time I did I enjoyed it anew.

T: First impression was of the caramel malt sweetness, but it follows up with the taste of honey-drizzled, juicy hops. A very nice balance between the two, though these are not the bitter kind of hops, so the overall impression is more of sweetness than a bitter/sweet balance. Still, it is not an annoying or cloying kind of sweetness at all, but rather is nicely balanced between the malty and the hoppy sweetness. Suprisingly at 9.5% ABV, the alcohol isn't noted at all in the taste, but it definitely warms the belly. And the buzz is felt pretty quickly too.

M: Smooth and creamy but full-bodied.

D: Very good, but I found myself slowing down a bit as it warmed. Good idea with a beer of this strength.

Notes: First -- what's with the painted labels on bombers from Southern Tier? This one fell apart in sheets, similarly to the Unearthly I had a few months ago. . . . The bottle suggests you use a snifter for this, which is what is usually recommended for barleywines. Normally when I see that I use an oversized wine glass, but I was at a friend's house and didn't have that option available. Given the taste of this, I could see why they'd want to treat it like a barleywine. Especially as it warmed, I felt it displayed more characteristics of a BW or a DIPA than an amber or red ale. Maybe the "Imperial Red" moniker is justified, as the color was clearly in red or amber territory, but in taste it's a lot bigger than your average amber or red ale. Being a fan of those kinds of bigger beers, I enjoyed this beer and would recommend it as a sipper for a cool night.

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Photo of quasimoto
3.48/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This is one huge beer right off the bat. It has a nice deep color and a big frothy white head. The aroma is of strong caramelish malts backed up by some serious hops. There is a nice blend of all styles of hops. But the main factor is the malt that is really bready and sweet. The mouthfeel is nice and smooth but very big in the feel. The bitterness is a nice and balanced in the background, and gives a nice even feel to drink. Overall a very drinkable beer. Unfortunatly the 9.4 abv. kills it.

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Photo of jwc215
3.7/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours reddish copper with a fluffy white head that descends to a lasting thin layer.

The smell is of spicy hops - floral - Hallertau written all over it. In fact, not much else is detectable (other than a subtle whiff of alcohol.)

The taste is of hops - not much malt here - the hops have a nice aroma, but in the taste - well, it doesn't really work as well. The hops dominate - this is like a Hallertau IPA to me. I like this hop, but would like a little more to add complexity to it. Very floral taste. Some hints of a red ale malt in the finish - enough to make it into something, but the earthy/floral bitterness outweighs any real balance.

It is on the fuller side of medium body.

A big hoppy beer here - If you like Hallertau hops, you'll like this one - if not, probably won't. Interesting, and smooth with a fairly well-hidden abv level. It's nice, though I don't know that I enjoyed it as much as my score reflects. The imbalanced aspect becomes a tad bit too wearisome despite the nice aroma and decent taste. It seems like a cross between an English IPA with German hops and a hint of American red ale malt. Unique.

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Photo of Cresant
3.62/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured this 22 oz. brown bottle into a DFH shaped pint glass. No date. Clear copper colored body with a health off-white, clingy head.

Smell was spicy and grainy. A little bit funky and yummy.

Taste was sweet and spicy with a loud counterbalance of hops. Faint cocoa and later fruitiness. There was a lingering grassy bitterness. Nice.

Mouthfeel was zippy with a medium body.

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Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

22 oz bomber from Chuck’s Fine Wines. $6.99 Bottle offers a lot of insight into the beer. Contains Halterau variations, chocolate, caramel, and 2 row pale malts. 9.5% ABV. 15 Degrees L. 20 Degrees P. 93 IBU. Advises to drink out of a snifter.

Appearance: Bright reddened copper. Initially large white head settles to skim.

Aroma: Fruity with lots of caramel and citrus juice. Hints of chocoalte. Halterau goodness.

Taste: Chocolate (more then expected) and caramel body. Very juicy as well but individual fruits are difficult to make out because my palate is rather overwhelmed by the bitterness. This could have used some time to meditate, 6 months or maybe even a year.

Mouthfeel: Bitter, American Barley Wine like. Full and strong. As it warms, increasing amounts of bitter fruit and booze come forward turning this more and more into an IPA like beer instead of a red. By the end I can barely taste the chocolate that was so abundant when this was cold.

Drinkability: Ok. This is pretty filling and very bitter. Some time would surely help.

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Photo of mobud
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

poured from bomber into pint glass.

A- Reddish copper with a cloudy appearance and a nice creamy off-white head that remained strong thru sample.

S- Really hoppy with a light alcohol nose. A spicy aroma is also there, but not as strong.

T- A pleasant sweetness from the malt balanced nicely with a spicy hops taste that gives a burning sensation going down.

M- Very full. The burn from both the hops and the alcohol remains, but it is good and not a turn-off.

D- Yes, this is a good beer. The high ABV can be a problem if going at this alone, but the balance of elements make it worth the effort. Another good one from Southern Tier.

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Photo of Sammy
3.95/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

After sitting around in my cellar for nine months, two of us finally got to total this on a good summer day. The label came apart letter by letter from accumulated moisture. Probably the beer benefitted from some ageing, there was good big bitterness there, with the malts secondary and truly adding balance. Great with lunch. CItrus hop aroma, and decent head.

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Photo of Gavage
3.95/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: pours a reddish orange color with a 1" head that slowly receded. Moderate lacing develops during the session.

Smell: loads of caramel and ripe red fruits are easy to detect.

Taste: big caramel and malt sweetness with red grapes, plums, grass, hint of biscuits, strong piney bitterness, and alcohol. This is an alcohol laden and candy sweet kind of beer that is very bold on the tastebuds.

Mouthfeel: smooth throughout. Brief aftertaste of caramel, bitterness, and alcohol. Medium-heavy in body.

Drinkability: the alcohol really a bit to overpowering to score higher on this mark. Not a wimpy red ale at ale, a real slow sipper but still quite tasty.

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Photo of EStreet20
4.35/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 Ounce bomber bottle poured into a 20 ounce nonic pint glass.

A - A nice dark golden color. A two finger head that is nearly white sits atop.

S - Citrusy hop along with a sugary sweetness.

T - A nice blend of in your face sugary and alcohol along with hop flavors. The hops take an approachw ith less huge bitterness and more of a tea like flavor. Very nice.

M - Nice and smooth. Even medium body with just the right touch of prickly carbonation.

D - Very good. A nice hoppy amber. Borders on strong ale due to the ABV but is a little more subtle than an American Strong ale.

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Photo of cbl2
4.05/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

5/12/2007 $5.49 22 oz. 9.50% No best by date.


After a healthy pour, this emerges a crystal clear brown with roughly half an inch of tight white head that settles to a persistent quarter inch.


Notes of fresh pressed grapefruit and a touch of candied sugar.


Smooth hop-oil mouthfeel kicks off this superb concoction. Hops dominate the palate, though not to the extent I would have expected from the 93 IBU's promised on the label. Flavors consist of grapefruit essence, with a faint hint of peach preserves. A bit of the heady alcohol is apparent towards the finish (and it is making my head swoon a bit as well), but overall a well balanced, enjoyable beer from Southern Tier.

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Photo of brewcrew76
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours orange with ruby highlights with a thin off white head.

S - Spicy hops and caramel malt.

T - Spicy, piney and grassy hops and caramel malts with a touch of alcohol.

M - Medium bodied with a warming touch and a dry finish.

D - A tasty red. This one is pretty good.

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Photo of Litterbean
4.2/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am absolutely a fan of this beer. It pours amber in color with a one-fingered head. Lace is clingy but thin.

The hops impart a spicy aroma which is nice, very easy on the nose and herbal. The malts take a bit of a back seat but they're there as well, a bit bready but it's hard to make them out.

The taste is excellent. When served chilled, the hops and malts blend together to form an almost juicy quality, with a lot of citrus notes and herbal/grassy notes, mixing it with some cherry, chocolate, and other sweets. Alcohol becomes more apparent as the beer warms. A wonderful beer.

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Photo of blitz134
4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Just got this in from a trade today. I've been wanting to try some Southern Tier brews for a while.

Caramel colored body. Perfectly clear. Offwhite head, about a half inch on the pour and now its only a thin layer on the top. Nice sporadic lacing.

Smell is strong with caramel and crystal malts and almost leads to a bit of raw sugar aroma. Nice floral hopping works in well. Alcohol peaks out as well, but it isn't that harsh. Simple overall, but pretty good.

Flavor is pretty unique and has a lot going on. Initially the crystal and caramel malts come out. The Hallertau hops offer up some floral and slightly herbal hoppiness next. Next are some slight roasted flavors towards the finish and after the swallow some bitterness lingers, in the form of pine, and alcohol notes begin to expose themselves. I like this. Don't know if it falls into the Imperial Red flavor category; I think it is more of a strong ale with a dominant hop side. Alcohol is a little too evident, but isn't overly fusal so it is easily tolerated.

Mouthfeel is alright, I'll let it slide by with it being called medium, but it seems a touch thin to me. Carbonation level is right on though. It adds a bit of crispness to compliment the hoppiness but not so much to mute a lot of the other flavors.

Good drinkability. I really like the flavors that are in this, its fairly complex, but the alcoholic nature holds it back. I'll have no issues finishing the bomber and I'd probably pick this up on occassion if it were more readily available.

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Photo of sponberg
4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

What is it with alcoholic beverages and farm machinery? Bedell Cellars on Long Island makes a red table wine that's highly drinkable with an old Ford farm truck on the label, now this. Great label BTW - all kinds of info, suggested glass - very good stuff.

Anyway, (holds snifter up to the light) Brilliant golden red witha white head that lasts forever. Very appetizing looking brew. Aroma of deep, caramelly malt and fresh, grassy, noble hops - all kinds of Hallertau varietals are in here, and it shows.

Starts off with a warm creamy mouthfeel, caramel-toffeeish, with a pervasive balanced hoppiness. Nice lingering bitterness, fresh to the point of being almost mintlike. Good hop flavor and spiciness, more English in style than German despite the Hallertaus in here. Alcohol is well controlled - not a lot of burn, although it shows up more when warm. I'd agree with the bottle - better when chilled (42) rather than cellar temperature. Finish is like, well... Think of your favorite red ale from any good brewpub - you know, the one that would be an ESB but it's a bit maltier and more "American" in style? Crank it to eleven. Nice lingering bitterness with a rounded maltiness. Drinkability is huge when chilled, lessens as it warms, but I don't recommend pounding bombers of this 9.5% ABV brew to get the best effect.

Nice effort - one of those "fits the bill" beers when you want something big but not a hop bomb, malt monster, or Belgian.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.18/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Wrong style! No matter how much amber malt they put in the brew kettle, it cannot stand up the the serious hops. A big hoppy nose delivers citrus, pine, and perfumy aromas with a hint of malty sweetness. The flavors again show citrus, grassy, and earthy flavors and become more spicy as the beer warms. A contributing toffee, caramel sweetness drags the hops into reality, kicking and screaming. The feel is large and full, but not thick or heavy. Alcohols and hopping deliver a complex and evaporative, dryness, and numbing. Warm late with a follow-up of hop bitterness. Really good IPA with an English Ale maltiness. Really good stuff.

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Photo of bjohnson
3.6/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: After a vigorous pour. A nice clear deep amber color with a frothy one finger white head that's nice and bubbly. Glass covering lace--amazing!
S: Nice grapefruit hop presence with a good caramel malt backbone. Slight grassyness in the hop notes also. Fresh smelling.
T/M: Smooth and creamy on the palate. Nice bitterness in the finish that lasts well into the aftertaste. A tad too buttery. Fruitiness is present but not very big. Flavor tends to hang out in the shadows. Maltiness is a bit more present than the hop profile. Bitterness is felt, but I'm not sure that's an indication of the hop presence.
D: An interesting brew by Southern Tier. I haven't seen an Impy red yet--this is the first one. That said, I wasn't wowed by this style. More or less a red ale with a creamier body and higher abv. Abv isn't noticeable, which is nice. What's the difference between this and a regs red ale, besides the abv, or is that all? If the abv is the only thing, I'd pass for sure on this guy.

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Photo of Illinick
3.92/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Mahogany and red in color with a medium sized frothy off white head that dissipates and leaves a tiny island and ring formation.
S: Big grassy, piney, and citrus rind scents up front with some sweet caramel malts coming out towards the middle-end. Slight alcohol scents in there at the end too.
T: Big piney and medicinal flavors up front followed by a nice citrus rind and grassy middle ending with some sweet malts, slight caramel and a nice alcohol warmth. As the beer warms more caramel comes out and the alcohol bite makes it presence felt more.
MF: Medium light with a warm finishing bite.
Overall: A nice brew on level with Nugget Nectar at times, but as it warms falls short of keeping up its stature. If you like Imperial Reds, give this a try. It won't dissapoint and at times will impress greatly.

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Photo of tempest
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I like to think I try a lot of different beers, but this is the first one in a while that makes me ask, "what the [explitive deleted] is going on here?"

Basically I was able to boil this beer down to a few flavors: big caramel malts, a touch of chocolate malts, an edge of grassy hops. Definately a combo I've never experienced before. I thought it might be like a barley wine, but I'll be darned if it's close. Not much residual sweetness, and only some hops bitterness.

If you like different beers, find this one now.

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Photo of Jredner
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The body is a ruddy, opaque orange and holds a creamy tan head that is lasting and clinging. Aroma is caramel with a firm hoppy aroma bracing the whole thing. Narrow, but it smells good.

First sip is sweet deep caramel that approached chocolate/cocoa then bitter hops rush in to balance and the finish again touches on chocolate/cocoa with that flavor lingering quite some time. The mildly citric hops combined with the cocoa put me in mind of those Terry’s Chocolate Orange candies that you tap to break up the slices.

More than I was expecting...I thought this would be some in your face hop monster, but I guess Hallaertau isn’t really the hop for that. Very nice beer that would make a great Christmas/Winter beer.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.05/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dusky pumpkin orange with no trace of red... unless I hold the glass up to the red Christmas lights outside my front window. The head, and especially the thick lace that it lays down, are outstanding. Pastel caramel in color, the cap is firm, bubbly and rocky. Pocked sheets of lace cover every square millimeter of glass and will probably look even better after additional pours. If the beer was richer and more multi-hued, the next highest score would have been a given.

I don't mind Hallertau hops and I like them quite a bit in some styles. I'm not 100% sure that a single-hopped Imperial red ale is the correct place for them, however. That was my bias prior to cracking the crown. Sniff.... not bad, not bad. In fact, I like the way the spiciness of the Hallertau stands up to the caramel malt. The best part about the nose is how many hops the brewers added. We can't have an Imperial red without a few fields' worth of hops, now can we?

I would imagine that it isn't easy to Imperialize a red ale and have it taste like a big red ale and not a barleywine or something similar. After all, styles tend to blur at some point. Amazingly, Big Red tastes like a big red. I wish that I had given it another six months to rest so that the alcohol could have cooled down a bit more, but anyone who buys a 9.5% beer knows what they're in for.

The malt bill is made up of pale, caramel and chocolate malts. By concentrating on the former (presumably), the brewers were able to add a modicum of caramel flavor, while staying well short of a barleywine-like amount. The beer could use more toffeeishness though, since the malt doesn't contribute much in terms of flavor; which it needs to do in a red ale in my opinion.

As I suspected, hops rule the roost. I'm not sure that the Hallertau are up the task however. They seem better when present in smaller quantities or when paired with another variety. I'm well aware that that's a personal preference, but then this is my review and my preferences are all that matter. German hopheads oughta dig Big Red.

I'm not a bit surprised that a big beer from one of my favorite breweries has a killer mouthfeel. It's big and firm, like a statuesque supermodel, rather than big and soft; qualities that fit the spicy resinous of the hops beautifully. I'm enjoying the mouthfeel more and more as the beer warms toward an estimated 60 degrees. Which reminds me, please feel free to ignore the 42 degree recommendation on the silk-screened label.

Big Red Imperial Red would be one of the best beers in many craft brewer's lineups. This is Southern Tier though. Their regular lineup is amazing and--top to bottom--is bested by few. While I have no desire to seek out another bomber, this was a ride well worth taking.

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Photo of ppoitras
3.18/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22oz bottle purchased as a single from Julio's, Marlboro, MA.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a 1/2" beige head over the slightly cloudy red brew. Head holds on nicely, with coating lacing. Aroma is balanced with grains and hoppy character. Flavor starts with a moderate maltiness, but is quickly overpowered by hops bitterness. The malt does make a comeback near the swallow, but then is quashed by the somewhat raw alcohol aftertaste. Mouthfeel and drinkability are both not working very well for me either. That parting blow of booze that lingers in the mouth just does nothing for me.

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Photo of kmpitz2
3.93/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bomber. The brew is solid amber in color with excellent clarity. There is a finger of ivory head over top that is maintained by a solid carbonation of small bubbles. The color on this brew is excellent. A healthy sniff brings a lot of herbal and grassy hop backed by solid toasty, caramel and grainey malt and a kiss of alcohol to let me know it is there. It has a lot going on there. The flavors follow suit from the aroma. It hits first with a big caramel and bready malt followed by a very herbal hop, finishing with a moderate bitterness and a lot of herbal flavor from the hop. This one is big in flavor. Mouthfeel is thick, with a mild carbonation that really keeps this one feeling big. This brew is definitely not one that will be leaving my glass quickly. With everything about it being big, it is a sipper. I enjoy how the herbal hop compliments the bold maltyness, and how the alcohol really doesn't come through too strong in it. This is a winner.

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Photo of shirfan
4.15/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bright, almost glowing red-copper with a thin layer of fine foam.

Aroma is chunky caramel malt, toastbread, hints of apple juice and slight alcohol.

Fairly unique taste. Has the feel of a barleywine but as the name states, is malted as a large red ale. Then, instead of the usual hop suspects, there's nothing but hallertau. Quite interesting, actually.

Keeps a nice balance most of the way, dries slightly in the finish.
Begs another sip *far* too well for a 9.5 abv brew.

Another winner from Southern Tier.

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Photo of jameaterblues
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass from the 22oz bomber.

A- Big amber with a red hue....1/4th inch cream rose colored head....light lace.

S- Caramel malts and a little bit of chocolate (not dark but sweet). Hops, and much more than expected....spice, resin, and light citrus (grapefruit).

T- Light caramel malts...a little toffee. Resiny spice in the hops....the hops are really big and seem to grow with the beer as I drank it.

M/D- Mild carbonation. Long lasting bitter finish. This beer was normal for a bomber and definitely enjoyable, but not so sure that I would buy another one at $5.99 or $6.99 a pop. Definitely a style I want to further explore.

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Big Red (Imperial Red) from Southern Tier Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 398 ratings.
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