An Ode to Imperial Stout

Winter is here, so pour yourself a thick, warming imperial stout – the bear hug of beer.

It’s a thing of beauty, an imperial stout. It’s inky-black and viscous, topped with a thin sliver of foam that is sometimes white like beer foam is, or sometimes brown, like beer foam isn’t.

Many great beers are works of subtlety, but not this one. Imperial stout is a sledgehammer of voluminous dark-roasted malts and big, brash hops to match.

While they are not subtle, they do have depth. Dark chocolate and coffee notes come standard. Some versions taste of “dark fruit” like raisin, date, black cherry and berry; others, tobacco and leather. Others, all of this.

Lately, brewers have taken to spiking their imperial stouts with all kinds of adjuncts and barrel aging that play well with that roasty-chocolatey base flavor. Some of these variants are good, some are bad; none is necessary. Imperial stout needs no adornment.

And drinking one, it’s an experience. A moment at the end of the day when you can ignore Netflix, the news and everyone else in the house and just savor the delicious flavors, the thick, soft body and the hefty, warming alcohol.

There’s no season for an imperial stout quite like winter. So light that fireplace, crack that bottle and while away a cold Wisconsin night.

3 Awesome Imperial Stouts You Can Find the Grocery Store


The gold standard for Russian imperial stout – deep, bitter and immense.


This great brewery’s signature beer has big bourbon barrel character for a kind of fudgelike sweetness.


Chocolate, coffee, caramel and huge body collide in a landmark of the American variant of the style.


This Story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s 2019 Drinking Guide. 

Click here to read more from the guide. 

Find it on newsstands or buy a copy at

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.





Executive editor, Milwaukee Magazine. Aficionado of news, sports and beer. Dog and cat guy. (Yes, both.)