Friday, July 3, 2009

Samuel Adams Imperial White Ale

   AROMA 5/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (597) - Albany, USA - MAR 1, 2010
When we think of an "imperial" beer, usually darker beers like stouts tend to come to mind as the alcohol can really accentuate the rich flavors and complex palates of beers of the style. But why not an imperial witbier? After all, wheat beers can be quite complex in terms of taste without the need for intense potency.

Samuel Adams Imperial White is, I believe, an attempt to volumize a witbier as if it were a stout. It’s a hefty, complex, spicy, and full-bodied beer. It’s definitely not a beer for everyone, but if you can appreciate what it really is, you’ll be inclined to enjoy it.


I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. The appearance was a very hazy shade of dark amber or even pure orange. It formed a fairly large, frothy white head which lingered for a little while but eventually dissipated away. It regenerated with a good swirl of the glass and left some impressive lacing as well.

The aroma was strong with alcohol being the most dominate scent, in fact, it’s so strong it’s almost like rubbing alcohol from the medicine chest. However, there is also a distinct mélange of candy-like spices: butterscotch, cinnamon and a even hint of citrus.


I’ve drank various sub-styles of wheat beers from around the world but even the strongest hefeweizen or witbier is quite different from Samuel Adams Imperial White. This is a beer that really makes is presence known from the first sip to the last. Up front a warm, dry alcoholic flavor coats the palate. It’s a rich, thick sweetness of pure butterscotch and finishes with a spicy cinnamon-like flavor.

The palate here is comparable to a Caribbean-style spiced rum rather than a European-style wheat beer on steroids. As the bottle indicates, there are hints of orangepeel and coriander, but only hints. The alcohol is a little too strong, but the spicy components do a good job of giving the beer genuine flavor rather than an attempt to simply "mask" the booze.

It’s a little difficult to appreciate the palate here. I’m not a fan of big beers in general, so it was something of a challenge for me to get past the alcohol to the flavor. As the beer warms, the palate opens up even more and banana and clove flavors can be noticed. I would’ve enjoyed the taste if the alcohol hadn’t be so prominent. I can’t help but wonder what this beer will taste like as a vintage.


Drinking Sam Adams Imperial White is going to be a bit challenging even for the most experienced beer drinker. What’s ironic is that this beer is actually quite soft and wet in the mouth, but because it’s so intense it’s difficult to drink in anything larger than sips. The heat from the booze warms up the tongue and the spices dances as they go down and leave a noticeable aftertaste.

The beer is literally thick, sticky and heavy in the mouth, although the aftertaste is quite pleasing. Weighing in 10.3% ABV, this is a beer that goes to your head rather quickly. I drank a 12oz bottle over the course of an hour and only halfway through I could feel the effects.


I have mixed thoughts about Samuel Adams Imperial White. I can really appreciate the complexity and the originality of this beer,  as well as the taste it does have. The only problem is this is the kind of imperial beer that really wants you know just how big it is and I could’ve done without the overt booziness. This is a beer for acquired tastes only, but then again, if you can appreciate it you’re going to be impressed by how impressed you are with it.

Grade: 8/10

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