Essential Info

  • Color: Varies
  • ABV: 7%-14% (varies widely)
  • Commercial Examples: The Alchemist Heady Topper IPA, 3 Floyds Brewing Co. Dark Lord Imperial Stout, Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

“Imperial” is another term you’ll see on a lot of beer bottles. You might also see its sister term, “Double,” which is increasingly preferred, though they basically mean the same thing: “this beer is really strong,” brewed with twice the amount of hops and malt (sometimes more), resulting in more flavor and more alcohol generally.

The first “Imperial” beer was brewed, and brewed strong, for the nineteenth century Russian Imperial Court, hence the name. And while that first Imperial was a stout, many types of beer can be “Imperialized”—there are Imperial IPAs, Imperial Pilsners, and Imperial Pale Ales. And while it’s probably wise to try the regular (as in non-Imperial) style of a beer first, the category can be a fun way to get a sense for flavor profiles turned way, way up.