Fuller’s Imperial Stout

Fuller's Imperial Stout.

Critics of beer bloggers often say, ‘Free beer tastes better’, the suggestion being that samples from breweries get gushing reviews.

It is certainly true that the price you’ve paid for a beer changes your relationship with it. Having paid (with case discount and delivery) around £6 each for twelve 500ml bottles, we really, really wanted to like Fuller’s Imperial Stout.

Mas­ters of ‘pre­mi­um’ pack­ag­ing, Fuller’s have giv­en each bot­tle its own lit­tle box of majes­tic pur­ple, glint­ing with inlaid sil­very foil – pret­ty much how we imag­ine Queen Vic­to­ri­a’s cof­fin might have looked.

The beer slides into the glass absolute­ly black, with a fast-col­laps­ing Rich-Tea-bis­cuit coloured head, announc­ing itself as Some­thing a Bit Spe­cial.

We can­not, how­ev­er, announce a tran­scen­dent expe­ri­ence on tast­ing it, or that we found any unex­pect­ed aro­mas or flavours – choco­late and espres­so both present and cor­rect.

What is strik­ing is the beer’s almost ashy dry­ness, which brought to mind those com­plete­ly unsweet­ened cook­ing choco­lates of which you’re only real­ly sup­posed to use a few shav­ings; or a dust­ing of cocoa pow­der; or per­haps the grit from the bot­tom of a cup of Mid­dle East­ern-style cof­fee.

Once we got over the big black wall, we did spot some­thing which remind­ed us of Irish cream liqueur, although that might have been sug­gest­ed by the beer’s rather oily, creamy body.

As light­weights, we rather resent drink­ing a very strong beer (this one is 10.7% ABV) and being left with the feel­ing that a weak­er one might have giv­en us the same effect. If we had tried to guess the strength of this beer tast­ing it blind, we’d have said 7.5%, so that’s a mark against it.

On bal­ance, though Fuller’s Impe­r­i­al Stout is an excel­lent beer, it is not £6‑a-bot­tle, 10.7% good. But per­haps future iter­a­tions will have more depth and com­plex­i­ty.

NOTEEd seems to have been less impressed than us.

8 thoughts on “Fuller’s Imperial Stout”

  1. That the price was spe­cial­ly increased for those that buy direct from the brew­ery shop may not have put me in the best mood for review­ing it!

  2. If we had tried to guess the strength of this beer tast­ing it blind, we’d have said 7.5%, so that’s a mark against it.”

    My view is the oppo­site. It takes a lot of skill to fer­ment a huge, burly beer and not pop exot­ic fusel alco­hols and oth­er spiky bits as the yeast­ies strug­gle with the load. Pure alco­hol does­n’t have much of a taste, and if it’s well-con­cealed in there, I con­sid­er that a big plus, not a minus.

    (Six pounds a bot­tle is aver­age-mar­ket for a spe­cial­ty beer in the US, inci­den­tal­ly.)

    1. Jeff – there’s some­thing for us to unpick here around ‘big­ness’. We don’t want evi­dent alco­hol, nec­es­sar­i­ly, but do expect more com­plex­i­ty and ‘weight’ when we’re drink­ing beers up in this ABV range. To put it anoth­er way, why drink a beer at 10.7% when we could get more flavour and excite­ment from one at 7.5%? What’s in it for us?

      1. I argued with Stu­art of Mag­ic Rock about this – he said that Can­non­ball is bet­ter kegged because it does­n’t drink its strength that way. From my per­spec­tive, tast­ing like a much weak­er beer is a bad sign, not a good one – if I get the same sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ence out of beer 1 and beer 2, except that if I have a ses­sion on beer 2 I end up falling over, I’m going to go for beer 1 every time (par­tic­u­lar­ly if it’s cheap­er!).

  3. But, to be fair, the amount of skill that goes into a beer that dis­ap­points for the price is about as much as it takes to make one that soars. It’s the deci­sions made in devel­op­ing the beer that leave one want­i­ng when the beer is com­pared to oth­er drinks val­ues. Six pounds would be the high end in NY for 500 ml of this. Not count­ing the insane con­scious efforts to inflate by, say, Alla­gash or the Bruery.

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