Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Samuel Adams Imperial White

Boston Beer Company
Boston, MA

Style: Belgian White (Witbier)

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Pair With:
• Bass
• Crab
• Eggs
• Halibut
• Lobster
• Salads
• Salmon
• Shrimp
• Sushi
Editor’s Note: This review is a companion piece to the review for Samuel Adams Imperial Stout

I have a confession to make that I’m not proud of:

I watch Family Guy.

While many of you are likely puzzled as to my embarrassment over that fact, let’s face it … high brow, intellectual humor it ain’t. It’s crude, disgusting, often offensive, and just as often hilarious. While I’d still take The Simpsons over Family Guy any day, I do enjoy them both, often back to back in syndication after a long day selling macaroni noodle trinkets to Japanese tourists.

What does my penchant for Family Guy have to do with my latest review, which is actually a double dip of Samuel Adams Imperial brews? It reminds me of the line a few seasons back, when a group of businessmen are having lunch and one orders a Sam Adams, much to the surprise of his companions. Mimicking the famous commercial from several years ago, when ordering a beer at lunch was apparently considered salacious, the guy says “I need to get the taste of weed and hooker spit out of my mouth.” His fellow diners quickly follow suit and order the same thing.

And that, my friends, is a sampling of what many in the mainstream think (or thought) of Sam Adams. It was a cute little joke to the millions of shit beer consumers out there, many of whom must’ve figured the only reason one ordered a beer was to get drunk, because it sure as hell didn’t taste good. This new stuff was too strong and this new company too small to play with the big boys. But, as I stated over a year ago in my review for Hallertau Imperial Pilsner, Samuel Adams and their head honcho, Jim Koch, have nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, they’re now the largest brewer in the country thanks to the international sell-offs of Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors, as well as the disappearance of Pabst, Blatz, etc. as actual brewers. Sam Adam’s continues to make some respectable beer, and Mr. Koch will always be known as a craft beer pioneer. While many of their widely distributed selections are so-so at best, Sam Adam’s is a fallback beer that even the dorkiest of Dorks can still be satisfied drinking (okay, maybe not Sam Adam’s Light, but everything else). The only “special” Sam Adams brew I’ve had to date was the Hallertau, and I was extremely impressed. Let’s see if they can duplicate that success with their Imperial Stout and Imperial White, which claims to be a unique “imperial” version of the typically timid Belgian witbier.

As for the Imperial White, Sam Adams claims (check that … Boston Beer claims, as Sam Adams is long since dead) that it’s a “new perspective on the classic witbier style.” They say its an “amped up” version of a typically light and refreshing brew, but is NOT just an “imperial” version of their White Ale; it’s a whole new beer altogether. Claiming to maintain many of the witbier qualities, including the light fruity/spicy zest, its meant to be both powerful and refreshing, a treat that sustains you all year ‘round. We shall see.

Imperial White pours a brilliant golden brown/orange hue with a pillowy white head of well over an inch that dissipates into a sticky lace in my weiss glass. While cloudy, it again lacks the chunky, translucent characteristics often found in the style, which isn’t surprising since I’ve always kind of assumed that Sam Adams is a big fan of filters. The aroma in White is the antithesis of Stout: HUGE aromas are present, albeit very disappointing ones. It’s sweet for sure, but the notable aromas of clove, coriander, and orange zest are muddled, making the aroma big and, well … kind of unfortunate. It’s hard to describe, but I can’t say I found it terribly pleasant; it’s almost like they forced it, feeling compelled to jack up the aroma in order to justify the jacked up flavors.

As for that flavor, again … it feels forced. It has all of the characteristics of a Belgian witbier, including huge amounts of spice (clove, coriander, black and white pepper), citrus (orange zest, banana, and grapefruit), and light wheat malt. It’s not bad, but it’s more loud rather than complex or unique. The official description from Sam Adams is quite accurate; it’s an amped up witbier, but I don’t see the need for it. Witbiers are MEANT to be light and refreshing; pleasant session brews with a unique bite. They aren’t meant to knock you upside the head, but this one does, and it suffers as a result. Simply adding flavors willy-nilly and doubling the ABV does not mean it’s better. On the contrary, it spoils the session. I wouldn’t call it a disaster by any means, and it is still enjoyable, but I’d rate it a very low three mugs; perhaps even a high two.

So there you have it … coupled with the Imperial Stout, two distinctly different beers from Sam Adams, but two that continue to prove Boston Beer is willing to push the envelope, even if the end result doesn’t add up. Both Imperial Stout and Imperial White are far cries from Hallertau Imperial Pilsner, but neither is a failure and both are worth a sample. Imperial Stout is a solid, if not spectacular brew, one that safely falls into the parameters of the style. Imperial White is more of a risk, and one that I feel doesn’t really pay off. But … it’s still a good beer and my assessment is very much open to debate. If all else fails, there’s no doubt it’ll get the taste of weed and hooker spit out of your mouth.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on April 7, 2009.
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