Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The word "Imperial" has a particular place in the history of beer.  According to the Oxford Companion to Beer, at pages 478-479, the term "Imperial" was reserved for beers specifically made for the royal courts of Europe.  The most well known example of an imperial beer is the Russian Imperial Stout, which was produced by English breweries (such as Henry Thrale's brewery) in the 18th century for the court of Catherine the Great.

What was once reserved for the privileged few soon became available to the masses.  Beginning in the 1980s, English and American craft brewers began brewing the imperial stout for everyone, not just kings and queens.  Soon, American brewers began to "imperialize" other beers.  Their efforts led to a change in the meaning of the word.  No longer did it mean "reserved for the court."  Instead, it meant an extreme version of a beer style.  As Garrett Oliver noted in the Oxford Companion to Beer, "[a]ny beer stile that has been given a dose of steroids is now said to have been 'imperialized, a term that brings to mind the sudden attainment of superpowers by a comic book hero."  Craft brewers have been working like Stan Lee to produce beers of epic strength, pushing the limits of IBUs and ABVs.

While most "imperial" beers tend to be IPAs or Russian stouts, there are some craft brewers who are seeking to create heros with less likely origins.  One such beer is Revelry, an Imperial Red Ale produced by Jim and Jason Ebel, the brewers at and owners of Two Brothers Brewing.  There really are no standards or guides for an Imperial Red Ale.  Just amp up the hops and/or the malts.  This does provide an opportunity for some creativity when it comes to brewing a particular beer. 

The Two Brothers Revelry pours a nice burnt red color.  This Imperial Red Ale is definitely hop forward, with the aromatic elements principally comprised of the citrus and pine notes.  While the hops are the first elements one senses in the aroma, there are also malty, caramel-like tones.  As for the taste of this beer, the Revelry presents a good balance between the hops and malts used to produce the beer.  This balance is also rounded out by a sweetness and a boozy nature that definitely comes out in the finish. 

An Imperial Red Ale, like the Revelry, pairs well with meats, from beef or steak dishes to lamb or even pork.  It would pair well with these proteins, regardless of the cooking method used.  Grill or oven, the balance of malt and hops will complement the flavors of the meat.  The malty and sweet nature of this beer could also pair with somewhat spicy foods, such as curries, and substantial dishes, like stews or and chilis.

This bottle of Revelry was given to me, so I do not know how much it would cost.  I have not seen many Two Brothers beers around where I live, but I know they are generally available in the Midwest, especially in Chicagoland, where Two Brothers is probably the largest, independent owned brewery in the region.



Steven Lincoln said...

Your description makes it more enticing to try. Thanks for doing the initial heavy lifting!

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you very much for reading my post.

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