Thursdays are for Beer Education!
Today, our Harbinger brings you another Beer Vocab word:
Much like “session” from last week, “imperial” is a term based mostly on the alcohol percentage and drinkability of a beer. But where “session” refers to lower ABV beers that have an easy drinkability, “imperial” mostly refers to higher ABV beers with amped up style characteristics.
Let’s look at some history!
“Imperial” came on the scene linked with the origination of the Russian Imperial Stout, which was a new beer style made in England in the 1700s specifically for Catherine the Great (and her imperial court), the illustrious Czarina of Russia at the time.
Even though this term has some centuries under its historical belt, it’s really the last 30 years that we’ve seen it used alongside a variety of beer styles. Indeed, “imperial” can be added to any existing beer style—for example, you can not only have Imperial Stouts, but also Imperial IPAs, Imperial Brown Ales, etc.
The common meaning behind “imperial” means that a beer style has a high ABV—usually 9% and above. It also tends to represent an amped up version of a beer style, i.e. Imperial IPAs have increased hop bitterness, stouts and browns have amped up malt characteristics, and so on and so forth.
Are these strict rules to using the term “imperial?” No way! This is a general term whose definition has broadened over the years. Use it as you will and look for it on beer cans and tap lists—compare how different breweries define the term.
Remember, we educate because we want you to have the best craft beer drinking experience! Knowledge and beer are fun compatriots!