Dessert Imperial Stout

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Fargrow, Sep 23, 2015.

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  1. Fargrow

    Fargrow Initiate (0) Feb 7, 2013 Michigan

    A look at the top rated American Imperial Stouts list has got me thinking about dessert.

    In the top 20, only a few don't contain an adjunct such as coffee, cinnamon, maple, coconut, vanilla bean, or cocoa nibs. The new stuff on the ISO:FT forums like Sunday Brunch, Morning Wood, Morning Delight, and See The Stars - they all have the delicious adjuncts. I believe it's not until number 77, Bell's 30th Anniversary Ale, that you can find one without adjuncts or barrel aging. Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord: #7 on the Top 250. Dark Lord: Not even on the Top 250.

    It makes sense. If you want a big, decadent stout, you also want some complex flavors to go with that huge sweetness.

    My question is: How could you go wrong? Have you ever had a bad BBA Imperial Stout made with vanilla, maple, and coffee (other than just being too sweet)? At what point does it not even matter what the base stout is, as long as there's plenty of dessert adjuncts?

    Could you/have you come close to these dessert beers by adding your own adjuncts (cold brewed coffee, vanilla extract, real maple syrup)? I've added vanilla, coconut, and maple, and the results were fantastic.

    And, if you're catching my drift here, why is someone willing to trade their cellar for a bottle of these kinds of beers? I will admit that I geek out about rare beer as much as anyone. But what if you could really just DIY?

    Apologies to those who are trading these beers. Good luck.
    rozzom and Hop-Droppen-Roll like this.
  2. Hop-Droppen-Roll

    Hop-Droppen-Roll Initiate (0) Nov 5, 2013 Minnesota

    I like stout. Too much 'extra' flavor tends to irritate me, though I love coffee stouts. I readily admit however that I don't have much experience with these 'dessert' stouts.
    creepinjeeper and Fargrow like this.
  3. ianskate

    ianskate Initiate (0) Sep 28, 2010 New York

    My guess is just because of how they're harder to come by, due to the aging time and amount brewed/bottled/released per region or batch.

    By DIY, are you referring to adding any of those dessert ingredients to a non-BBA homebrew or high quality stout you've picked up and poured into a glass?

    As for homebrewing, I'd love to barrel age with those ingredients, just don't have the space for it. Personally I really enjoy all of the things you've mentioned, but in small quantities.
  4. Fargrow

    Fargrow Initiate (0) Feb 7, 2013 Michigan

    I'm referring to adding them to a beer like Ten Fidy, Expedition Stout, Narwhal, Stone IRS, or even BCBS. I've added a little maple or vanilla to the bottom of my glass before pouring and it's turned out great.
    ianskate likes this.
  5. MarshallBirdhouse

    MarshallBirdhouse Devotee (407) Feb 19, 2013 Kentucky

    BVDL was probably the sweetest beer I've ever had. That's like the perfect beer for a share because after 2oz you're ready for an insulin shot.
  6. Buschyfor3

    Buschyfor3 Devotee (488) Jan 4, 2009 Kentucky

    You can't go wrong. Simple as that. These "dessert" imperial stouts are some of the most decadent beers which highlight flavors from adjuncts that naturally compliment one another. They're also the most sought after beers for a good reason, not just because they are limited in distribution or "rare," but because of their outstanding quality (after all, they wouldn't be nearly as sought after across the country if they weren't some of the best-tasting stouts to ever grace pint glasses). It also doesn't hurt that they are beers which age quite well and pair with a lot of foods/desserts, so they are quite versatile and something that can be cellared away for special occasions in the future.
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  7. rozzom

    rozzom Meyvn (1,058) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    I'm really on the fence about beers like these.

    On the one hand, purely from a taste perspective - yeah the good ones can be absolutely fantastic. But who doesn't like the idea of mexican chocolate, vanilla beans and coffee etc - a lot of these beers read like the menu at a fancy ice cream shop (looking at you Ample Hills). Not saying everyone likes these types of flavours, but those flavour-types appeal to lots of people well outside the realm of beer.

    But from a beer perspective - then for me it's a different story. Beers like these seem to be popular because they taste less and less like beer. They're so easy to be appealing, that it almost feels like cheating. And then make them a limited run, and it's no wonder beer geeks are foaming at the mouth. And then you read reviews about the "complexity" etc - that bothers me a bit, and cheapens the idea of good beer a little.

    And I'm not judging - when Mex Cake etc are released, I'm a right slag like many on here when it comes to making sure I get to sample some. But it's sort of like a guilty pleasure.

    PS - preempting some corrections about the use of the word "adjunct"

    Edit - and to answer rest of question, based on what I've read on BA, it sounds as if people have had a fair amount of success using ingredients at home. Personally I've only tried it once using an ounce of strong cold brewed coffee and adding to a BCBS. Worked pretty great.

    As for not trading the cellar for a very limited run variant - these are beer geeks we're talking about here...
    #7 rozzom, Sep 23, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
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  8. Fargrow

    Fargrow Initiate (0) Feb 7, 2013 Michigan

    Exactly. Sometimes it feels like I'm drinking Hershey's syrup or a latte, which are both delicious. But it does feel like cheating a little. Other styles don't usually get those nice adjuncts to cover their flaws.
    rozzom likes this.
  9. gibgink

    gibgink Savant (920) Oct 27, 2014 Missouri

    When it comes right down to it, I have a sweet tooth, so any "dessert" stouts are inherently good imo. I looked at the listing of American Double/Imperial Stouts, and have rated/reviewd 26 of the first page, with 3 more I didn't review.
    #9 gibgink, Sep 23, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
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  10. sittinggc

    sittinggc Aspirant (226) Mar 2, 2015 California

    Recently picked up a bottle of Curly Wolf, which is a Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout with Maple and Vanilla. Did not get any of the flavors listed except maybe some bourbon. Other than that, it tasted like cough medicine. I don't know if those flavors didn't mix well, or if I had a bad bottle...but I had to drain pour this $16 bomber. Was really sad.
  11. Billolick

    Billolick Poo-Bah (9,102) Dec 20, 2003 New York

    Captain Lawrence Frost Monster is pretty damn good
  12. lester619

    lester619 Initiate (0) Apr 17, 2009 Wisconsin

    I'm a purist when it comes to this. I like a good stout and I think the roasted chocolate coffee flavors should come about naturally from the beer itself not a bunch of added flavors. I've found the "dessert" stouts I've had to be way too sweet for my taste.
    dennis3951 likes this.
  13. Beer_Line

    Beer_Line Aspirant (298) May 29, 2015 California

    One thing to keep in mind is that there are def some horrible adjunct stouts out there as well. It's not THAT easy to add adjuncts to a bad base stout and make it good.
  14. zid

    zid Poo-Bah (1,776) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    The more outside elements there are to a stout, the more "that sounds good" posts it will receive.

    What I mean is this: In the new releases forum, if a new stout is said to be made with coconut and cocoa, it'll get some "that sounds good" posts. If it's made with coconut, cocoa, and maple syrup, it'll get more "that sounds good." If it has all that and is also aged in rum barrels, it'll get a ton of "that sounds good." People latch onto the identifiable tastes that they are very familiar with, and they can then imagine what the beer will taste like. It plays into the imagination of the reader. If a new stout is said to be made with ___ malt, ___ hops, and ___ yeast, it won't get many "that sounds good." It might seem backwards, but a malt/hops/yeast ingredient list is probably more abstract in the minds of the consumer. (IPAs and hops are the exception to this.) There's a breaking point with this theory though. Once you get into the realm of Bell's Neptune, the ingredient list has the opposite effect.

    Personally, I'm much more drawn to beer without the extras. It amuses me when someone claims that a highly sought after stout tastes like a liquid Almond Joy candy bar. I'm being a fool for not treating such claims as dramatic overstatement, but has it occurred to the person that they can grab an Almond Joy while waiting on the check out line at Home Depot if that's what they're after? No need to jump through hoops trading for the beer version. I'm partially kidding, but not totally kidding.
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  15. KingEdward

    KingEdward Initiate (0) Jan 6, 2010 North Carolina

    2014 prop tastes like an almond joy 100% and thats not an exaggertion or overstatement.. Had it on draft monday and will have on draft today..
  16. zid

    zid Poo-Bah (1,776) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    If that's so, then it begs the question I raised earlier. I mean this with no disrespect at all, but there is plenty of Almond Joy sitting on the shelf. :slight_smile:
    #16 zid, Sep 24, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
  17. KingEdward

    KingEdward Initiate (0) Jan 6, 2010 North Carolina

    Yes but the almond joy on the shelf has a much lower abv. I would not trade my cellar for it or pay some crazy price for a bottle but, if its on draft i would order it every time.. same with abraxas, pirate bomb, cake, ect.. because i love super thick chewy dessert beers but i don't eat candy bars.. but i totally agree with not blowing my savings trying to get it..
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  18. Fargrow

    Fargrow Initiate (0) Feb 7, 2013 Michigan

    Yeah, this is my thinking as well. Cost vs. Reward. I'm sure Prop is delicious. But every beer can get you a buzz and candy bars are delicious. I have to sit back and really think about why I would trade a ton of amazing beer for it.

    Wild ales, IPAs, etc. can really only come from the brewer. But a dessert imperial stout can be simulated with a great imperial stout and your own adjuncts.
  19. AugustusRex

    AugustusRex Initiate (0) Apr 12, 2013 Canada (ON)

    These flavoured beers are doing to beer what Starbucks is doing to coffee. Because people are ordering Vanilla Caramel Supreme Lattes (in a 20 oz cup) the quality of coffee is low.

    If people ordered pure coffee, (with the exception of milk in 6oz cappuccinos) the cafes will be accountable for the cleanliness of their equipment, precision in their preparation, and freshness and quality of their beans.

    The base stouts might be good in the top beers list, but many start up breweries are going for the flavoured stuff right away. The stuff sounds good to the public, the beers sell well, and then the brewers don't have to improve.
    raynmoon likes this.
  20. raynmoon

    raynmoon Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2011 Colorado

    thats a good way of putting it. I wonder what the quality of these base beers are compared to the quality of the adjunct. Like... is abraxas before the adjuncts just a mediocre beer, but they do a good job at adding the spices/ are other beers extremely well brewed but the spices never came through? I dunno. It's a different art I suppose.
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  21. floridadrift

    floridadrift Initiate (0) Oct 24, 2014 Florida

    Ive had so many barrel-aged stouts that I love to have adjuncts to layer the flavors a bit more. Non-BA imperial stouts are just as good and end up getting even better with time! Thats what's nice about them, the long haul. The BA beers I drink within a year or two.
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