Why do we love stouts? Un-stout-edly, we shout from the rooftops for the dark depths of these dank-defying beers because they touch our souls.

And we’re not the only ones.

According to data from Untappd, the “Stout – Imperial/Double” category currently ranks as the fifth most popular style, with over 2 million check-ins this year.

So, while we love stouts of all varieties—coffee, pastry, oatmeal, Irish dry, or even oyster—the richer, boozier imperial or double stout captures our hearts.

Bourbon barrel imperial stouts, in particular, were first popularized by Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall when he had the genius idea to age Goose Island’s one-thousandth batch of beer in a bourbon barrel in 1992.

But no matter the barrel or the adjuncts added, imperial stouts continue to impress with their innovation and creativity.

Since we’re celebrating International Stout Day on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, let’s look at some of the all-time highest-rated versions of the imperial stout on Untappd.

It will be no surprise to find some heavy-hitting barrel-aged behemoths here.

We’re talking about many verticals of beers like Toppling Goliath’s Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout or Side Project’s Beer : Barrel : Time. For that reason, we won’t list off every year one of these stouts made the list. We’ll show you the main mention and skip over the next to increase the variety. But if you’re a purist, check out the entire list here.

Sit back and revel in the revelry of beer that appreciates the test of time.

Happy International Stout Day!

Untappd’s All-Time Top-Rated Double/Imperial Stouts

Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout – Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

Decorah, IA

toppling goliath brewing company kentucky brunch brand stout
Graphic courtesy of John A. Paradiso

So much to say and so little space. To make the iconic imperial stout—Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout (KBBS)—Toppling Goliath takes the best of their barrel room and squeezes every last good drop into this yearly coveted release.

The original debuted in 2012, with only six people showing up for the release. 🙀 Can you believe it? We couldn’t. Because after a mere few years, thousands from around the world started lining up for KBBS—eventually ranking as the top-rated beer in the world on BeerAdvocate and consistently as the best on RateBeer and winning gold at the U.S. Open Beer Championship in 2021.

If you check Untappd’s list, you’ll find the 2016 Silver Wax version rated as number one and the OG in the number four spot, with the 2018 and 2020 iterations peeking in later on down the line.

No doubt, this is one of the best imperial stouts out there.

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Beer : Barrel : Time – Side Project Brewing

St. Louis, MO

side project beer barrel time rye 2022 stout imperial stout
Photography courtesy of Side Project Brewing

Side Project Founder Cory King loves brewing stouts. So once a year, the Missouri-based brewery pays homage to the barrel-aged stout through its series Beer : Barrel : Time—three things they believe each stout needs.

Instead of adding adjuncts, King and his team use those three things mentioned above to tease out any flavors—chocolate, coffee, vanilla, etc.—choosing blends from, to date, twenty-two different imperial stouts hanging out in various thoughtfully chosen barrels.

Each year stacks barrels like a Mark McGwire baseball card lists stats.

Which is probably why, when you look at Untappd’s All-Time Highest-Rated list, you find many variations of this imperial stout.

The 2020 version of BBT ranks highest with a 4.76 rating, followed by 2018, 2019, and 2021—all inside the top ten. Plus, the new Van Winkle 2023 and 2022 variants also pop up.

For Beer : Barrel : Time 2020, Side Project’s blend of stout recipes included:

O.W.K. recipe aged in Willett Bourbon barrels for 15 months
O.W.K. recipe aged in Eagle Rare Bourbon barrels for 32 months
And O.W.K. recipe aged in Weller 12 Bourbon barrels for 24 months
Derivation Blend #2 recipe aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels for 36 months
Vibes recipe aged in Knob Creek Bourbon barrels for 28 months

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Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2010) – Goose Island Beer Co.

Chicago, IL

goose island beer co rare bourbon county brand stout 2010 imperial stout
Photography courtesy of Yuki T | Untappd

Give respect where respect is due. For the ones who started it all, Goose Island Beer Co. rightfully nabs a few different slots on this list.

Bourbon County Brand Stout changed beer forever. And although the release has seen its ups and downs—infections in 2015 and withheld variants in 2016, for many years, folks would line up on Black Friday for a chance to purchase bottles of the original and anywhere from one to five or more variants.

In 2010, Goose Island’s Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout aged for two years in twenty-three-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels.

At the time, Goose Island touted they’d never make the beer again. They did, in 2015, but with twenty-three-year-old Heaven Hill barrels (which you’ll find later on down the line of this all-time list).

Still, this one ranks highest out of all the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout beers on Untappd’s list with a 4.73 rating.

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Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (2014) – Goose Island Beer Co.

Chicago, IL

goose island beer co proprietors bourbon county stout 2014 imperial stout
Photography courtesy of Goose Island Beer Co.

Goose Island brewed Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout to “show our immense gratitude to our neighbors here in Chicago—the loyal and adventurous fans whose support helped bring Bourbon County Brand Stout to towering new heights,” writes Goose Island in the beer’s Untappd description.

In 2014, Goose Island aged this boozy 13.2% ABV imperial stout in rye barrels with Cassia bark, cocoa nibs, panela—unrefined whole cane sugar—and coconut water.

You’ll also find the 2013 iteration further down in the rankings.

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Blessed – Anchorage Brewing Company

Anchorage, AK

anchorage blessed release tavour
Photography courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Blessed, an aged imperial stout brewed with Madagascar vanilla beans and thousands of pounds of coconut, blends a one-year aged and three-year aged beer from a mixture of Willet and Woodford Reserve Double Oak Barrels. Brewed with actual toasted coconut and vanilla, Blessed marked the first time Anchorage Brewing Co. Founder and Brewer Gabe Fletcher ever put adjuncts in his beer.

“I’ve been pondering brewing adjunct beers for a while, but just couldn’t figure out a way to get the large amount of ingredients I wanted into the beer,” says Fletcher in a previous article for Hop Culture. “After plenty of research and advice, Fletcher finally found a solution. He ended up purchasing his own infuser.

“It’s a 10-barrel tank that has screens on the bottom and all these racking arms in it. You can essentially purge the thing with CO2, fill the [tank] with coconut and X adjunct, and recirculate it. You press it out and keep doing that until you get the flavor you’re looking for,” says Fletcher.

Bingo! Huge flavor.

Fletcher first discovered the idea of the infuser from none other than his good friend Cory King, owner and brewer of the aforementioned Side Project Brewing in St. Louis, MO.

“I can’t say how much toasted coconut [I used], but let’s just say it was hundreds and hundreds of pounds,” says Fletcher.

Additionally, Anchorage spent $36,000 on Madagascar vanilla beans to complement the tropical fruit. “There are no fake ingredients in this beer. Everything is real,” says Fletcher.

This beer tastes like German chocolate cake—decadent chocolate, oozing caramel, and tons of toasted coconut.

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DM (Blend #1) – Side Project Brewing

St. Louis, MO

side project brewing dm (blend #1) imperial stout
Photography courtesy of Beerizer

This won’t be the last beer you see from Side Project on this list. The brewery just knows how to make fantastic imperial and barrel-aged stouts. More than that, the respect shown to the science and art of stout-making is unparalleled.

DM (Blend #1) is just another example of the perfect execution of technique and time.

Brewed with WeldWerks (stewards and masters of stouts in their own right. Have you heard of Medianoche!?), DM falls into the category of rye imperial stout, according to Side Project.

A higher hopping rate to accommodate the load of rye gives this stout a bit more of a snap and bite. But when paired with a four-time infusion of toasted and raw coconut, finished with Mexican vanilla beans, and aged for twenty-eight to twenty-four months in Weller twelve-year and Rittenhouse Rye barrels, this beer smooths out the ruffles very nicely.

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Double Barrel Assassin – Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

Decorah, IA

toppling goliath double barrel assassin best beers 2021
Photography courtesy of John A. Paradiso

Another brewery with multiple beers on this list, Toppling Goliath put Double Barrel Assassin in bourbon barrels for over a year followed by apple brandy barrels. Hence the “double barrel,” we’re hypothesizing.

This beer impressed us so much during its release two years ago that we named it to our list of“The 21 Best Beers We Drank in 2021.”

As our then Hop Culture influencer Roman Estareja (@theyoungcraftenthusiast) wrote, “The subtle apple brandy meshed with Toppling Goliath’s world-renowned mouthfeel and viscosity to make this an absolute winner. It has an incredible depth of flavor, chewiness, and, of course, balance.”

He continued, “This beer checks all the boxes, leaving little to be desired. You surely won’t be disappointed if you can get your hands on a bottle. Just make sure to share it in good company.”

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O.W.K. (2018)- Side Project Brewing

St. Louis, MO

side project brewing o.w.k. imperial stout 2018
Photography courtesy of Side Project Brewing

Side Project founder Cory King created O.W.K. to celebrate his son, Owen King. The beer sat in a fifteen-year-old Willett Family Estate Bourbon barrel for fifteen months before resting on Ugandan Vanilla Beans. This was a once-in-a-lifetime beer.

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Fundamental Observation (2016) – Bottle Logic Brewing

Anaheim, CA

bottle logic brewing fundamental observation 2016 imperial stout
Photography courtesy of The Full Pint

A brewery we haven’t seen yet on this list! But we’re not surprised that Bottle Logic brewed something so epic that it counts in Untappd’s all-time highest-rated imperial stouts.

With Fundamental Observation, Bottle Logic ages the imperial stout with Madagascar vanilla beans in Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, and Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels.

Sort of a basic study of how vanilla and barrels interact, Fundamental Observation is a wondrous discovery in these two things.

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Good Morning – Tree House Brewing Company

Charlton, MA

At one point in 2016, Good Morning ranked as the number-one beer in the world on BeerAdvocate. For a while now, this 8.4% ABV imperial stout has also been one of the top on Untappd, with a 4.69 rating.

Tree House brews this beer with Maxwell Road Maple Grade A Dark Amber Maple syrup for a midnight black imperial stout that drinks like a mocha float or richly lathered chocolate chip pancakes.

Tree House describes the beer as “chocolate-covered maple candy,” “chocolate cake,” and “fresh-roasted coffee.”

Consider this an indulgent treat of a beer from a brewery better known for smashing hazies and IPAs.

We’ll drink to that!

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