Beer Review 0395: Dark Horse Plead The 5th Imperial Stout


One of the beers I’m most often asked to review comes from Dark Horse Brewing Company (Marshall, Michigan) and comes out as part of a Holiday Stout Series the brewery releases each winter. The fifth and final release, Plead The 5th, is an Imperial Stout that once only came in 750 ml bottles, but now comes in four-packs.

Information about the history of Dark Horse is a little hard to find on the Internet; it appears to me that all their beers are unfiltered. They have a brewery and attached taproom, which houses over 3,200 mugs of patrons who have joined their “mug club,” which entitles members to a special mug and larger pour of beer when visiting the establishment. Earlier this year, the website RateBeer ranked Dark Horse 29th on the Best Brewers in the World list.

Plead The 5th is a limited release; my bottle shop only got a case of this beer. Dark Horse’s Holiday Stout Series features five beers, all stouts, released once per month starting in October. My area only recently started to get Dark Horse beers — I didn’t know Plead The 5th was part of a series until I looked up information. Hopefully, when winter comes around again, I can take a look at the other four brews. Plead The 5th comes in at 11% ABV (alcohol by volume), so this will be one beer and done for most, or a pleasant (hopefully) nightcap.


The pour on Plead The 5th tells the exact same story as every Dark Horse beer I’ve had thus far: at first, it issues a sparse, almost non-existent head, dark tan in color, and quickly diminishing. The color is dark black and opaque. Swirl the bottle and stir all the goodies up, and you get a beer that suddenly has a large head, lasting, and chock full of chunky particles and sediment. I’ve had my share of beers that are unfiltered, and I have no problem with sediment, but this is a bit much — my glass looked like it had a sand pit at the bottom of it, and I didn’t even get all of the sludge out, as evidenced by this photo:


Lacing was good, leaving behind flimsy tan sheets. But seriously: Dark Horse, you might want to invest in some sort of filtering system. Their Falconer’s Flight Crooked Tree IPA (79 points) had so much sediment that after two washes, my glass was still dirty. Not a fan of that. At. All.

The nose was a touch subdued for an Imperial Stout, but still pretty good; lots of malt, as expected. Tons of dark chocolate, coffee, sweet caramel, and a general roast. There’s some hops at play here, too; grapefruit especially, and a nice punch of vanilla despite this brew not being barrel aged. As it warms, a bit of toasted marshmallow comes out.


On the taste, creamy dark chocolate and dark fruits kick things off, mingling and mixing between cherries and raisins. There’s roasted black coffee, with a dash of bitter hops that guide this into a finish of layered dark and milk chocolate, coffee, mild bitterness, and a touch of cloying sweetness. At 11% ABV, it’s not noticed in taste but it does warm the body. This is a full-throttle drink, with a thick, foamy mouthfeel.

Without a doubt, Plead The 5th is a really nice beer with an easy drinkability and awesome flavors. But that sediment makes me dock some points off, and I don’t mind floaties in my beer. When it’s a chunky spill, it gets to be too much. You could say it’s my fault for aggravating it, but I just had to. While this is a tasty beer, I don’t see what all the fuss is about, honestly.

Dark Horse Plead The 5th Imperial Stout, 87 points. Price: $8.99 US for a four pack.



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