What does "Imperial" suggest?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by TastyAdventure, Jan 11, 2013.

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  1. TastyAdventure

    TastyAdventure Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2012 Kentucky

    there are imperial stouts, imperial IPAs, others....

    what's the word "imperial" mean when infront of a beer style name?
  2. mikeburd1128

    mikeburd1128 Zealot (514) Oct 28, 2011 New Jersey

    double digit ABV
  3. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Meyvn (1,167) May 8, 2006 Michigan

    Bigger, grander, more robust. Of outstanding size or quality.
  4. smitherz22

    smitherz22 Initiate (0) May 8, 2012 California

    I think, and im probably mistaken, but didnt imperial have to do with beers needing tp travel to Russia, so they needed more Hops and other flavor additives so that the flavor would travel? ...i think that in general, it just means bigger...
    TWStandley and Zach136 like this.
  5. stealth

    stealth Zealot (507) Dec 16, 2011 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    Dates back to when brewers were making beer for russian royalty made them high abv brews to try and impress them. Usually pretty hoppy to allow the stuff to make it to Russia without going bad. Hence, the RIS. Now its a spin to infer high abv, or more hops, than their traditional counterparts.
  6. rodlavers

    rodlavers Defender (606) Jun 20, 2012 Maryland

    best ingredients
  7. AndyAvalanche

    AndyAvalanche Savant (994) Jun 16, 2008 Massachusetts

    Intended for Royalty
    jhartley, mintjellie and JxExM like this.
  8. mudbug

    mudbug Defender (603) Mar 27, 2009 Oregon

    marketing hype
  9. devlishdamsel

    devlishdamsel Initiate (0) Aug 1, 2009 Washington

    taken from http://www.thekitchn.com/beer-labeling-what-does-imperi-112370
    Browse through the beer section of any well-stocked store and you'll notice the word "imperial" showing up in front of many of your favorite beers: imperial stout, imperial pale ale, imperial pilsner and who knows what else. That word might actually mean something different than you think!
    The term "imperial" was used in the 1800's for beer (usually stout) that was brewed in England but then shipped to Russia - specifically the imperial court of Russia! Brewers later started using the term more generally to indicate their top-of-the-line luxury beers.
    With beers coming from American craft brewers these days, "imperial" is an indication that the beer is going to be big and bold regardless of the style. The hops and malts used during brewing are doubled or even tripled, and the resulting beer can pack quite an alcoholic punch ranging from 8% to 12% ABV.
    These beers are definitely worth a try whenever you see them. If you like the basic style (stout, IPA, etc.), chances are that you'll enjoy the amped up imperialized version as well. They go well with rich, strongly flavored foods, and they make an excellent after-dinner sipping beer. Because they're so high in alcohol, one or two is usually our limit!
    A few good ones to try are Left Hand's Imperial Stout, Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA (or 120 Minute IPA, if you can find it), and Rogue Ale's Imperial Pilsner.
    Dtrain4, Stout_Combo, dsal89 and 2 others like this.
  10. devlishdamsel

    devlishdamsel Initiate (0) Aug 1, 2009 Washington

    Or Green flash Imperial IPA!
  11. incapacitant

    incapacitant Initiate (0) Jan 15, 2011 New York

    Inflated attributes given its style.
    jlenik and rocdoc1 like this.
  12. JamesMN

    JamesMN Initiate (0) Jul 12, 2012 Minnesota

    Bigger ABV than you'd expect from the usual version of the style. Craft beer 101.
    jglowe77 likes this.
  13. xxbillay

    xxbillay Initiate (0) May 31, 2012 New Jersey

    Imperial suggests that I will enjoy it.
  14. lsummers

    lsummers Initiate (0) Jun 21, 2010 California

    To me it means the flavors more intense (to some is great or bad), and a higher abv. Other than that I like to take note of the difficulties the brewery had to bring me such a beer. Also it means special (costs more). :slight_smile:
  15. basscram

    basscram Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2006 Maine

    means its going to be bad ass, expensive, tasty, sure to give you a good time, not disappointed, hoppy,malty,buzzed after one beer.
    DelMontiac likes this.
  16. gcamparone

    gcamparone Meyvn (1,425) Dec 6, 2011 Rhode Island
    Beer Trader

  17. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,245) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania


    Read the descriptions in beer styles listings.
  18. supermodified

    supermodified Initiate (0) Nov 28, 2012 Ohio

    The word for that is "premium," which is ambiguous enough to be applied to anything.
    TastyAdventure likes this.
  19. Moose90

    Moose90 Meyvn (1,455) Nov 25, 2012 Washington
    Beer Trader

    Strong, Big, Robust. Doesn't have to meet any ABV but should be ≥8% IMO. Kind of a gray area now.
  20. marquis

    marquis Crusader (744) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

  21. BEERchitect

    BEERchitect Poo-Bah (8,816) Feb 9, 2005 Kentucky

    In very general terms, I refer to beers as "imperial" when they exceed the common characteristics of a widely accepted style. (By the way, I loosely use the word "style") But let's take the IPA profile for example. It has a range of hop and malt ranges, balances, and alcohol perceptions that are widely understood and accepted. When a beer exceeds those characteristics, I begin to describe them as "imperial"-- that's all. (And, by the way- I shy away from the term "double" unless I actually know that the beer is double something. And that's rarely the case). I know that my delineation for "imperial" is very open ended and flexible but I think it's ok, at least for my understanding.
    TheBeerAlmanac likes this.
  22. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,303) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    re: The Russian Imperial Court-
    Allsop's called their East India Pale Ale "Imperial" even when they exported it to democratic Brooklyn.

    Brooklyn Eagle April 12, 1856​
    cavedave, jglowe77 and bozodogbreath like this.
  23. sunkistxsudafed

    sunkistxsudafed Initiate (0) Apr 30, 2010 New Mexico

    I can't speak much to its historical meaning, but in modern (american) craft tradition it means that it's stronger. usually expect higher ABV and IBU.
  24. GuyIncognito

    GuyIncognito Initiate (0) Sep 16, 2012 Maine

    It means an extra $3 per 4-pack.
  25. dirtyfab

    dirtyfab Initiate (156) Oct 21, 2004 New York

    Way over-used term.
  26. marquis

    marquis Crusader (744) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    The Imperial in this case could simply be a reference to the fact that the beer was brewed to go to the Indian Empire.
    I'm sure Ron will put me right if necessary but it's unlikely that it would be strong.IPA was usually weaker than domestic beer.
  27. Dennoman

    Dennoman Initiate (0) Aug 20, 2011 Belgium


    In this article, Martyn Cornell suggests there's no direct evidence to link the term "imperial" to any historical court, be it Indian or Russian. It seems to be a generic term to indicate the strongest/best we make.

    He does mention he himself believes it to be a reference to the Russian tsarist court, despite the lack of evidence in that direction.
  28. lurpy1

    lurpy1 Zealot (570) Jan 15, 2010 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    Total throwaway word that is not backed by anything. Kind of like a deluxe taco at Taco Bell, although in that case you 20 cents gets you a taco fit for royalty, sour cream and meat that is at least 40% beef.
  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,303) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Note that I didn't claim it was strong :wink: (though others in thread have stated that's the original meaning of the term).

    I'm merely showing that an "Imperial" labeled IPA (and not an RIS) was being exported to the US in the pre-Civil War era, only a bit more than three decades after their initial exports to India (< according to Amber, Black and Gold).
  30. WhatANicePub

    WhatANicePub Initiate (183) Jul 1, 2009 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    It takes less than a week to get from England to Russia by ship.
  31. BigCheese

    BigCheese Defender (689) Jul 4, 2009 Massachusetts

    This, never seen an imperial below 8%.
  32. Ravenacht

    Ravenacht Aspirant (201) Aug 10, 2012 Florida
    Beer Trader

    I believe they were English stouts shipped to the Czar's but brewed with a higher ABV so as not to freeze/spoil on the long trips. The Czar's were some obviously impressed BA's :slight_smile:
    Dtrain4 likes this.
  33. xxbillay

    xxbillay Initiate (0) May 31, 2012 New Jersey

    Troegs perpetual "imperial" pale ale at 7.5%

  34. Thirstygoat

    Thirstygoat Defender (616) Nov 22, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Imperial seems in many , if not most cases, to mean double. DIPA = IIPA .....
  35. DCgolfpro

    DCgolfpro Devotee (479) Oct 26, 2011 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    It's a fancy of way of saying, "A shit ton of"
  36. mychalg9

    mychalg9 Champion (849) Apr 8, 2010 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Basically it means "more"
  37. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (502) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    It means it was better last year, before anyone else had heard of it.
    Photekut and Reagan1984 like this.
  38. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,303) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    I guess you missed out on Horlacher's Imperial Pilsener? Circa 1975 and mostly likely in the 4-6% range (as were most US beers at the time).

    BigCheese likes this.
  39. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (380) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    An "imperial" is typically a large, powerful beer that has extended its authority over neighboring smaller, weaker beers.

    A corollary to this occurs when the imperial's influence prompts changes to these smaller, weaker beers, as in the case of pale ales that become hoppier and hoppier over time. In contrast to imperials, such pale ales are said to have become "colonized."

    You can learn more by checking out that book cowritten by Michael Jackson and Antonio Gramsci.
    nogophers and arfenhouse like this.
  40. Schwantz

    Schwantz Initiate (0) Dec 16, 2012 Florida

    It's a double!
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