26 days of beer

I is for imperial

There are a few beer adjectives that cause me some confusion.
‘‘Premium’’ is one of them, as in ‘‘premium lager’’. Firstly, it implies there has been some sort of special treatment given to this beer – and therefore also implies that the other beers a brewery makes have not been given this treatment and are ‘‘unpremium’’.

Russian imperial stout is believed to be the style that started the fondness for the "imperial" adjective.

Russian imperial stout is believed to be the style that started the fondness for the “imperial” adjective.


But after tasting the so-called ‘‘premium’’ beer I’m at a loss to discern what is so special about it and what has been done to it. Because it doesn’t taste very ‘‘premium’’ at all – in fact it’s no better than that ‘‘unpremium’’ beer they make for the plebs.The ‘‘double’’ in ‘‘double IPA’’ is another one. What’s been doubled? Does it have twice as much alcohol? Has the brewer used heaps more hops? Did they go crazy with the malt? Or does it just mean it’s stronger than a normal IPA? If so, how strong?

It’s the same deal with ‘‘imperial’’, a word OCB editor Garrett Oliver describes as ‘‘unfortunately vague’’ in his entry on the word itself.
The name comes from a Russian imperial stout – at a big 10 per cent – brewed in the 1700s by Henry Thrale’s London brewery for that alleged horse-lover Catherine the Great.

That imperial stout style caught on quite a few years later in the US – the 1980s to be precise. It prompted American viewers to start labelling as ‘‘imperial’’ any really souped-up version of an established style.And if they want to go super-crazy, they could brew a double imperial beer. Though how strong that would the beer is anyone’s guess.

What’s the go here?: For those who have just stumbled across this post, I’m going through the Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB) and posting an entry for every letter. Why? Because I have a copy at home but hadn’t really gone through it page by page and I figured this would be an exercise that would force me to do that.

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