Beer and Pavement

Top 5 Stout Franchises

Posted in Beer, Top 5, Uncategorized by SM on December 19, 2011

Breweries brew all kinds of beer, but only a few produce exceptional imperial stouts time and time again. Often, they use one base imperial stout in their aging and barreling programs, but other times they add ingredients to alter the flavor one way or another. These are the five best breweries at producing series of imperial stouts.

(Note – I considered including non-imperial stouts, but the list became too unwieldy and I tend to prefer imperial stouts this time of year. Had I gone with all stouts, Bells would have surely deserved a mention. Their imperial is excellent and their lineup of non-imp stouts is impressive.)

5. Mikkeller – Between the Black Hole series and all those Beer Geek Breakfast/Brunch beers, it’s hard to find a more intriguing set of imperial stouts. Add to that one of the better big beers I’ve had this year in Black, Mikkeller holds the title of best Danish/Gypsy brewer of imperial stouts all by himself.

4. Great Divide – Sometimes, it becomes easy to overlook the great beers that do regularly ship to one’s market. We get Great Divide here in Missouri which is a treat. Their Yeti series of imperial stouts is pretty impressive. They add chocolate, oak, Belgian yeast, etc. for a nice lineup of tasty imp stouts.

3. Three Floyds – I have had one Dark Lord in my lifetime and it was pretty great. If you look at any beer rating site, the top imperial stouts list is littered with variations of this one beer. This fact makes it hard to not rate it in my top-5, but the fact I’ve only personally had one bottle makes it even more difficult to rate it higher than the next two breweries.

2. Goose Island – GI is famous for a couple of things. One is the fact that they were bought out by ABI. The second is that they brew Bourbon County Stout. On it’s own, BCS is an incredible beer. However, GI does several versions that are hard to get, but if you do, it’s totally worth it. On top of that, they sell the base imperial stout used to age in those bourbon barrels known as Big John. Let’s hope the first fact mentioned here doesn’t interfere with the second.

1. Founders – Even beyond all the hype built for the release of Canadian Breakfast Stout in bottles this year, Founders brews a mean lineup of imperial stouts. The breakfast stout is the only beer with coffee (aside from some of the Mikkeller beers) that I will regularly buy. Then, there’s Kentucky Bourbon Stout and their “regular” imperial stout. Plus, there are periodically versions of these beers popping up here and there in kegs all over the Midwest. All of this make Founders the king of the imperial stout, IMO.


Southern Tier – The Darkwater Series is hard to deny. Check out Chokolat, Creme Brullee, Mocha, and Java for four of the tastiest dessert beers you’ll ever find.

Hoppin’ Frog – I haven’t gotten far into the Frog’s BORIS series, but what I’ve had is pretty good. It would help if they had a wider distribution in Missouri, but I can wait for periodic shipments from Ohio now and again. Rumor has it that a DORIS is coming my way.

Alesmith – Alesmith’s Speedway stout is a pretty grand imperial, but I just haven’t had enough of it or any of its variations to be able to report on it. Plus, although well-hyped in its own right, it just doesn’t hold the cachet of a Three Floyds yet.

13 Responses

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  1. johnking82 said, on December 19, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I agree with Founders as #1, in my opinion, they are the best quality brewery out there time and time again. I can honestly say I have never really had a beer of theirs I haven’t liked.

    I will disagree with 3Floyds because other breweries like Portsmouth (Kate the Great) and Cigar City (Hunaphu’s) could fall into this same category. 3Floyds is more about the hype than anything else. I’d also move Great Divide up there. AT GABF this year they have 6-7 taps of different kinds of Yeti and my intoxicated wife started hugging all of the servers there. So thats up there for me.

    Hoppin Frog just came to Kentucky and I haven’t bitten yet because of the prices, although they are quality beers. In honesty, it’s hard to come up with a brewery which makes a plethora of imperial stouts.

    • Zac said, on December 19, 2011 at 8:14 am

      I considered Portsmouth and Cigar City, but I am less familiar with them than I am 3Floyds to be quite honest. I haven’t actually been that impressed with CC, but people I trust dig them. I don’t think I’ve even had a Portsmouth stout. So, take such a list with a grain of salt. 3F dominates the ratings sights. So, it’s hard to justify leaving them off the list.

      • johnking82 said, on December 19, 2011 at 9:09 am

        I’m not saying CC or Portsmouth deserve to be on the list…I’m saying they fall into the same category of 3F in producing just one big Imperial Stout that is sought after by beer geeks. Other than Dark Lord, their only other stout is Moloko, a milk stout.

      • Zac said, on December 19, 2011 at 9:19 am

        Excellent point. However, the variations of DL often available at DLD are staggering. Their version with the vanilla bean is world-famous. Although, maybe <1% of the world's beer geeks has actually tried it. I probably should have placed Southern Tier on the list and left TF off with some of the rarer/more hyped beers.

  2. Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on December 19, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Yeah I think Founders has it right. I definitely enjoy what they do, and it isn’t just stouts that they do, which of course makes them even more awesome.

    • Zac said, on December 19, 2011 at 8:16 am

      Agreed, but their lineup of stouts are impressive.

      • Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on December 19, 2011 at 9:31 am

        I wish I could get three floyds where I am. That is one of the breweries I always hear about but am completely unable to find. I have a brother in Oregon who I keep telling to look around for it, but he has never found it either.

      • Zac said, on December 19, 2011 at 9:37 am

        I think you can only get it in a select few states. I’m only aware of Indiana (where it’s brewed), Chicago, Ohio, and Kentucky.

      • johnking82 said, on December 19, 2011 at 9:47 am

        we get some of the bombers and as far as 6 packs go, only Robert the Bruce.

  3. Dan said, on December 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Founders is a great #1 choice, but mine would be North Coasts Old Rasputin Imperial Stout — how’d that not make your list?

    • Zac said, on December 23, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Alone, it’s a great beer, but I’m talking about breweries who release a series of stouts based on one recipe.

  4. Alex said, on December 20, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Solid list, Zac. I’ve never tried the Dark Lord and Founders seems determined to stay away from Colorado (I was disappointed by their absence at GABF). I would probably insert Stone and Cigar City in their place for my own list. I loved Stone’s Belgo-Anise IRS, and got to taste CC’s Hunaphu and Nielsbohrium at GABF this year; both were amazing.

  5. […] There’s the top-5 stout recognition. […]

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