The Joys of Empire

Friday, September 26, 2008

The new way American brewers are Americanizing classic beer styles, or simply one-upping existing already-beefy Americanized styles, is to jack-up a beer's alcohol content, grain bill and hop portfolio and call it "Imperial."

As far as I can tell, the "Imperial" moniker started with the Legend of the Russian Imperial Stout: Russian nobles drank British stouts in England, loved them, and wanted them shipped to Russia. The problem was distance and time. By the time the beer got from London to St. Petersberg, it was stale or spoiled. So British brewers developed a style of stout with more alcohol (kills creepy-crawlies), more hops (a natural preservative, as they found in their famous IPA-style), and that had a long enough fermentation time that by the time it got to the Russian Court, it was ready, and huge, and an instant success. It become the Russian Imperials Stout.

Well, now we have Imperial IPAs, Imperial Stouts, Imperial Red Ales...anything that already comes with a hop profile can be boosted into an Imperial style. And that's how we roll here in the U.S. of A. We see your beer, we'll make it bigger, and call it Imperial. Our American empire is alive and well, folks, and it's covered in beer.

Today's selection is brough to us by Bobby Mason and the good folks at Michigan Brewing Company: MBC Imperial IPA.
As expected, the beer pours an effervescent copper color complete with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves a thin lace on the glass. It just has the look to it taht tells you at a glance what you're about to experience.

Big caramelized malts greet your nose right away, nestled amidst a massive king-size bed of hops. The hops themselves cover quite a spectrum, with a great mix of fresh flowers, orange zest and earthy, garden-y aromas. The citrus is not nearly what you find in West Coast IPAs, nor is the floral and earthy as much as you find in normal Brit/Mid West examples. Instead, it is a great mix of aromas....multiplied.

To balance that many hops, you need a big big grain bill, and MBC's offering delivers. Syrupy carmelized malts are in a nearly-perfect concert (for this type of style, mind you, which is still hop-heavy) with a citrus zip and bouquet of flowers from all of the hops. Under it all is a nice, slow alcohol burn from the hefty 10.2% ABV, but it is almost overshadowed by the malt character of the beer.

With its medium body and medium carbonation, this carmelly-sweet hop bomb goes down as easily as...well...I'll keep it clean. I'll just say I drained the glass before I knew it. This Imperial IPA drank as easily as a regular IPA. It didn't leave that copper penny/iron taste on my tongue, nor was it overly dry. This is a solid offering from MBC and is still easily available at their pub in Webberville, MI.


Sopor 9:18 AM  

Are they selling this in the 24oz plastic bottles again? Are they doing growler fills?

I've had MBC's IIPA/DIPA/BIG ASS AMERICAN IPA before, and I have been impressed! It was one of the hoppiest beers I really enjoyed, it was hugely bitter and hoppy flavorful but still balanced enough to not be over the top. Good stuff!

Smitty 9:38 AM  

I don't think this in plastic. I had it out of normal 12 oz bottles and a growler.

Bob 10:38 AM  

The return of beer over politics. Our once a week haven from the poltical world.

Not a big fan of this type of beer, but nice review. If its a good review, I usually try the beer to broaden my horizons.

Mike 8:51 AM  

I had an Imperial Pumpkin Ale last night. Weyerbacher, I think. Good stuff.

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