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What Does Imperial Mean in Beer?

Photo by David CC BY 2.0

Are you new to the craft beer world and wondering what imperial means in beer? You’ll be glad to know that it is actually quite simple!

This guide will explain what imperial beer is and the different types that are available. Read on to find out everything you need to know about imperial beer.

What is Imperial Beer?

Imperial, or “double”, refers to a style of brewing where the original gravity of the wort is higher than normal. This results in a much stronger and more flavorful beer.

Imperial beers are generally higher in alcohol content and tend to have more complex flavors than their regular counterparts.

Definition of Imperial Beer

Imperial beers are brewed with large amounts of malt, hops, and sometimes other ingredients. The result is a much stronger flavor, higher alcohol content, and often more complex flavors than regular beers.

History of Imperial Beer

Imperial beers originated in England during the late 18th century when British brewers were looking for ways to make their beers stronger and more flavorful. The name “imperial” was derived from the style being favored by the Russian court at the time.

Eventually, this style spread throughout Europe as brewers sought new ways to impress their customers with these strong ales.

Styles of Imperial Beer

There are several different styles of imperial beers; some popular examples include:

  • India Pale Ale (IPA)
  • Double IPA
  • Russian Imperial Stout
  • Old Ale

Each style has its own unique flavor profile, but all have high levels of alcohol content and bold flavors due to their increased malt content. In addition, each style will have its own brewing process and serving temperature which can affect its flavor profile as well.

Alcohol Content of Imperial Beer

The alcohol content of an imperial beer can vary significantly depending on its style; however, most will contain between 7-12% ABV (alcohol by volume). This is much higher than most standard beers which generally range from 4-6% ABV.

Flavor Profile of Imperial Beer

The flavor profiles for imperial beers vary significantly depending on their style; however, some common characteristics include robust malts, distinctive hops bitterness/aroma, dark fruits/spices/chocolate flavors, high levels of bitterness/alcohol warmth on the finish, and possibly sweet caramel/toffee notes as well.

Brewing Process for Imperial Beer

Due to the high gravities associated with imperial beers, they require longer boiling times (1-2 hours) as well as a higher volume of grain/hops which results in increased bitterness/alcohol content when compared to other styles.

Most imperial styles also use specialty yeasts which add complexity and additional layers of flavor due to fermentation byproducts such as esters & phenolics (fruity aromas & spicy notes).

Additionally, some brewers may choose to dry-hop or oak age their beer for additional character & complexity which can further contribute towards a unique flavor profile depending on the type used & length aged respectively.

Serving Temperature for Imperial Beer

Like any other beer it’s best served at temperatures between 38 °F – 50 °F degrees Fahrenheit; however, most imperials should be served slightly warmer (45 °F – 50 °F) so that both aromatics & flavors can be appreciated fully before it warms up too much in your glass or bottle resulting in potential oxidation.

Also, lower temperatures can mute hop character & sweetness so it’s better saved for lagers & lighter styles instead.


Imperial beers are a great way to experience bold, intense flavors and high alcohol content in one package. These beers are brewed with a special process and can be enjoyed in many different styles.

By understanding what imperial means in beer, you can make an informed decision when selecting one. Cheers!

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, homebrewer and beer taster. I’m also the editor of Beer100. I love travelling the world and trying out new handcraft beer and different beer styles. I’m not an expert in brewing beer, but I know a few things about beer, which I share on this blog. If you need help or have a question, please comment below.

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