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Czar Brew - Russian Imperial Stout Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels - Sprecher Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Czar Brew - Russian Imperial Stout Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels
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54 Reviews
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Reviews: 54
Hads: 143
Avg: 3.72
pDev: 14.25%
Wants: 9
Gots: 21 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Sprecher Brewing Company visit their website
Wisconsin, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: rallison on 08-05-2007

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (51) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 54 | Hads: 143
Photo of emerge077
3.11/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Opened this with a few friends, after picking it up in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it seemed that something had gone awry... definitely oxidized, and developing tart astringent flavors. No date on the label, i'm guessing it was last years batch. No sound when opened. Sprecher should cap these instead of using a swingtop, and wax that if they have to. I think a compromised seal may be the culprit here.

Pours a dark brown, and black in the glass. It doesn't really look thick or viscous, more like a porter almost. The tan foam was scant, dispersing into a frothy ring of bubbles, and a wispy skim across the dark surface.

Aroma had telltale soy and clay notes of oxidation creeping into the sweet vanilla notes of the bourbon barrel.

Sweet and sticky, some vanilla and tart cherry astringency. Fairly light bodied for a barrel-aged RIS. There was a moderate bourbon flavor, and a stout buried in there somewhere, but it was overshadowed by the cherry skin tartness.

No one could finish a glass, but I drank most of mine for the sake of this review.
Will re-review if I can find a vintage dated bottle.

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Photo of zeff80
4.12/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a brown, foamy and bubbly head. It left trails of soapy lace.

S - It smelled of bourbon, vanilla, oak and roasted malt. There was a slight floral aroma.

T - It tasted very sweet and even a little citrusy. The bourbon flavor was mild but present.

M - It was smooth and soft. A medium to full-bodied beer.

D - This is a very nice RIS. It has unique flavors.

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Photo of womencantsail
2.07/5  rDev -44.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Thanks? to Greg for sharing this...

A: The beer pours almost black in color with a finger of tan head.

S: When the first thing you smell is butter, you're rarely in for anything good. Lots of butter, a bit of roast and bourbon, a touch of vanilla, and some sourness. Not sure whether that's vinegar or just too much booze.

T: The flavor is much the same. Heavy on the butter with a more pronounced sourness and even more booze. Light bourbon and vanilla flavors with lots of roast and oak, some coffee is also there.

M: Medium bodied with very low carbonation.

O: This was a nice contribution to the dump bucket.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.66/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Dogfish Head shaped pint glass.

There was a "render unto Caesar" joke in my head for this at one point, but I doubt it would've turned out very well. Still, this brew pours a straight black-brown topped by a healthy tan foam. The nose comprises chocolate, roasted malts, oak, cheesy omelets, and molasses. I'm pretty sure that cheesy/eggy smell comes from the barrels, but have no way to prove it. Regardless, it doesn't do the beer any favors. The taste holds notes of roasted malts, oak, vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, light coffee, and a slight twinge of whiskey. The body is a hefty-ish medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a nearly chewy feel. Overall, a nearly solid big stout, but the slightly off smell and a body that's just a bit too light do not help the drinkability very much here.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black as the blackest black, under a creamy, smooth, slathering of cocoa-tanned topping. Classic RIS look.

Rich espresso notes in aroma, molasses, cocoa nibs, ...and the onset of sweet bourbon-y notes, ...more flavors reveal themselves, smoke, char, licorice, they keep coming.

And it's there in spades, on the tongue, full flavored, full-bodied, and surprisingly easy going down. Definite whiskey character now covers the palate, sweet vanilla tones coming in, along with the barrell feel.

Fills and coats the palate more, but not in a overly sticky, intrusive way. Nice, even, well-rounded, balanced, with the whiskey flavor always keeping pace. So tasty, and so easy drinking, with plenty of bourbon-ation trucking on down the line.

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Photo of jwc215
3.79/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours very dark brown with a thin tan head. Some trailing sticks.

The smell is of chocolate, coffee, oak/bourbon, anise.

The taste of sweet oak/bourbon mixes with chocolate, anise, and mild roasted coffee. Warming dryness in the warming finish.

It hits full-bodied, though carbonation is a bit sharp for the style. Alcohol lingers.

Overall, it's qa rich, enjoyable strong stout with a bourbon/oak character that is blended well. A nice "sipper"!

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Photo of weeare138
4.32/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Capone's...
Appears a dark brown, nearing black with a dark amber & ruby hue when held to the light. A small, light tan head slowly fades into a mild cap. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of oak, roasted nuts, vanilla, cocoa, bourbon, and ripe fruit.
Taste is of the aromas with the bourbon being somewhat subdued in the flavors with the dark fruit, brown sugar, and vanilla dominating.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, mild abv heat, and a bit chewy. Perhaps a tad thin in the finish but not bad, overall.
This faired much better than the bottle sample I had last year and opted not to rate.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.75/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks RJ
Poured a nice black with a light brown head Nose is quite nice, sweet and slightly chocolate.
Taste is nice with cocoa, light coffee, roasted malts with little bourbon.Mouthfeel is a little thin which is surprising as the taste is so rich. it also had a sour, skunked taste on the tail end of this beer. A good RIS but no Old Rasputin.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in a snifter)
A- This beer has a jet black body with a dark molasses tan head that fades to a thin ring pretty quickly.
S- There is a graham aroma with a softer dark roasted note and a softer oaky hint in the finish. As the beer warms the oaky note takes on hints of vanilla and leather.
T- This beer has a big black inky flavor that turns a bit vinous when warm. A soft oaky note in the finish turns more cola like as it warms with a chocolate note and a light boozy note.
M- This beer has a medium-light mouthfeel with a slight astringent hint from the dark roasted grains and a fizz the covers up most of the flavor that might linger.
D- Pretty average when cold but opens up a bit when it warms up. Still bigger flavors would have been nice but the alcohol content was very hidden.

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Photo of sweemzander
3.9/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A massive 1 Liter resealable pop top dipped in wax bottle poured into a snifter. Winter 2009 release printed on the label.

(A)- Pours a thick pitch black color that produced a great creamed coffee colored tan head with good retention. Lots of lacing left behind as it slowly dissipated.

(S)- A rich roasted profile with caramel and brown sugar with bits of molasses and chocolate.

(T)- Very similar to the smell. A new and bigger raisin character within the roasted profile. Bits of caramel and molasses.

(M)- A good carbonation level and balance. Has a good roasted profile and richness to it. A bit slick mouthfeel with a slight salty component coming through about 1/2 way into the bottle.

(D)- A good stout for sure. I am afraid that this is starting to show signs of going bad due to the signs of that salty soy sauce character, so I am glad I opened this when I did. A solid example of the style and enjoyable. They are still making this, so it is not retired as far as I know. I see the 2010 release in stores

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Photo of DrDemento456
4.28/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Taste of bourbon and chocolate and roast are very well mended together. Not very heavy bourbon flavor. I actually can't believe it's 11% since it drinks like it's around 9%. Found the single for around $5 which is pretty good if not great for a bourbon barrel Imperial Stout.

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Photo of jrallen34
4.57/5  rDev +22.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I drank this on tap into a snifter.

The beer is black with a light tan head that is gone quickly.

The aroma is very strong with bourbon that really just knocks you on yoru ass. There is also some light oak.

The taste is awesome. It is really sweet with tons of vanilla, makes you question where'd the bourbon though but I guess it shows itself as the vanilla. There is very light bourbon and oak at the end.

The feel is a little too light for a stout but this is incredibly drinkable.

Overall this is a great beer that really shows of its barrel aging unlike so many other BA beers.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.4/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1 Liter bottle (awesome label!) poured into an Imperial Pint. 11.0% ABV, 9126 hand-written in silver marker on the back.

Review number 500. Been saving this one for a good occasion!

A - It pours out like filthy motor oil, thick and black. No light shines through this behemoth! It cascades momentarily leaving a huge three-finger, dense, cream-like, dark tan head. Absolutely amazing retention with legs on the glass as well as a thick collar of lacing that resembles a mountain silhouette scene. Towards the bottom of the first glass lacing covered 90% of the glass.

S - The oaky nose is strong with a good bourbon punch to it and a rich vanilla and molasses syrupyness. Lots of warm alcohol but not solventy at all. The hops are totally absent as the malts take front and center. Dark roasted barley with chocolate too. Notes of dark fruits like raisin and plum are faintly present too. The aroma is incredibly rich and foreboding.

T - The taste falls short of the nose a bit providing a large helping of roasted malts, so roasted in fact, it gives it a cocoa-like feel with a giant bitterness that's largely overshadowed by strong oaky bourbon. Thankfully it's such a complex beer other flavors swirl around constantly in the background giving me other avenues to explore. A light touch of room-temperature black coffee lingers by a vanilla bean and molasses flavor while the dark fruit notes poke through with mild sweetness. The large oaky bourbon barrel flavor finishes out with a warm alcohol kick. Again, hops are absent giving the malts and their compatriots free roam. The flavor is huge and good, just not as well-blended as the aroma is.

M - It's immediately evident, based on the pour, it'll be as thick as syrup. And it is. Creamy and smooth as velvet, the texture is something to behold. That is, until that large chalky-bitter punch comes in. It doesn't ruin it but it does put it off a bit. The alcohol gives it a subtle warmth to the finish without a harsh, sharp flavor. Absolutely full-bodied and rich as can be.

D - It's one hellofa Russian Imperial Stout. Something I wouldn't mind constantly having on hand. It's drinkability is only lowered by the pesky cocoa-dry bitter thing going on an a bit overly bourbon flavor. I don't mind it for a glass, but for a while liter, which at this point is more than half-gone, it's getting a bit old. A great winter warming beer to sip your way through on a freezing January day or to share with a full-on beer lover. Make sure they like 'em strong and rich.

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Photo of jzeilinger
3.9/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served at room temp. Pours an opaque jet black color with a nice finger or two caramel colored head. You hold this thing to the light and there's nothing going through it, looks like motor oil. Would be best served in a snifter.

Smells of caramel, some toffee notes, vanilla, dark chocolate. This beer does nothing to hide the booze, it's up front and in your face, it smells pretty darn good. Has a little peppery note in the aroma.

The taste really mirrors its aroma. Nice blend of caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate, deep roasted malt, some black licorice, and a very slight touch of coffee bean. But it gets better, there's a huge amount of bourbon flavor in this beer, one of the "booziest" stouts I've had. Regarding the bourbon booze flavor in the Czar: I don't like to mention other brewers in a review but I would say this beer rivals and surpasses the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and I didn't think that was possible. It's definitely not shy, but in your face and has a very noticeable warming in the throat from the bourbon.

Mouthfeel is surpisingly thin for a massive beer like this and is very smooth. Drinkability is very good but unfortunately the body makes it fall flat on its face and lost points.

The bottle I had was massive - 1L. I'm not sure if this is how the brewer bottles this particular beer, or if I happened to find the man-size version. Definitely need to share with a friend or two unless you want to fall off your chair. I've never heard of the brewery, but I absolutely loved this beer. Definitely worth checking out, I'm going back to buy another bottle or two.

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Photo of tpd975
3.95/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed this one with a buddy along side of some wonderful smoked bourbon marinated ribs.

A: Nice black with a head that bubbles up to one finger and then fades quickly. The head fades to a nice solid ring and leaves very little lacing.

S: Sort of mild, expect a bit more to be honest. Tons of rich rousted malts. Sweet Bourbon, Molasses, and Chocolate can be noted.

T: Pretty nice, though the ribs were better than the beer. Hints of chocolate and coffee right up front. The bourbon oak flavor comes next which ends with a bit of sweet and smoke.

M: Medium to full bodied not quite chewy. Would have liked it a bit thicker to be honest.

D: Due to the size of the bottle this one is perfect to share.

Overall: This is a rather rare brew that I am glad came thru my local beer guy. I had been holding it back for quite sometime as I really wanted to share this one. When my buddy invited me over for bourbon marinated ribs, I just knew I had to bring this one along. Well let me say the ribs were to die for and the beer was a nice match. We really enjoyed this one before moving onto an Abyss to finish off the dinner. It really is a must try if you can fine it. For those who can not. Well it sucks to be you.

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Photo of mcallister
4/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very dark bordering on black but more of a charred wood color. Loose fluffy mocha head fades quickly into a light lace and resilient topping to the liquid.

Burnt woody aromas with hints of bourbon, coconut, dark chocolate, mollasses, blackberry, alcohol, vanilla, and currant. A lactose type aroma at the end of it all, almost a heavy cream type aroma.

Very creamy mouthfeel yet too thin. Great flavors of dark semi sweetened chocolate layered with rich vanilla. The oak and bourbon show through nicely but don't overpower. The "stout" seems like it could have held up a little better to the barrel aging or it may have been aged slightly too long. Very feminine and lacking depth. Black berry, currant, smokey meats, and an earthy feel. Yet just lacking depth. A very good beer but way overpriced.

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Photo of Crosling
3.02/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

1.0 L Bad Boy. Dark brown color with a small head with a very light tan shade to it. Nose is fairly dynamic and shows some toasted wood, coconut, vanilla, cocoa, roast, fruit, but also a little funk. Flavor doesn't match the complexity of the nose and lacks richness. Very light malts, with light hints of chocolate. Mainly dominated by the barrel, but unfortunately there is some unwelcome contamination with the brew. It's fairly sour and funked and doesn't pair well with the delicacies of a BBA IS.

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Photo of charlzm
3.74/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Opened and shared at Blue Palms, Hollywood, CA on 08/27/08. I picked up the bottle at Beverage Warehouse in January and have had it aging for 7 months at between 40 and 50 degrees fahrenheit.

Pours utterly black with no carbonation at all. Uh-oh...

Aroma is delicious bourbon with a hint of vanilla. Man, what a great aroma. I can sit and sniff this one all night without having to drink it.

Mouthfeel is smooth but very, very still.

Some sweet dark malts up front. More bourbon in the nose than in the mouth, but there's still a trace, along with a hint of wood. Not very bitter. At the end, a little alcohol burn as the spirit flavor becomes more prevalent. A dash of tannic wine winds things up.

A bit light flavored for a RIS, but that could have been more forgivable had there been any carbonation at all to help things along.

Thanks to everyone who helped me drink this beer: I couldn't have finished it alone.

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Photo of JDV
2.12/5  rDev -43%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

bottle courtesy of Beerlando
1 L bottle shared with 5 others. Pours black with a light tan head. Smell is sweet with lots of fake vanilla extract coming through, and wet cardboard more so than roasty malt. A touch of bourbon but not a very great nose. Taste was worse, and had notes of Soy sauce, was quite tart, thin and drying, and not at all like a bourbon barrel imperial stout. I'd stay far, far away from this.

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Photo of schoolboy
3.77/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This was a huge brew that got better with every degree of warmth and every sip. Consider drinking it at 60 degrees F. I also was thinking the whole time that maybe it should age for six months, but I'm not sure it would get a lot better.

It looks black like it should, with a weak brown fuzz head of fine bubbles. The aroma is a boozy and sweet.

The taste is syrupy and slightly hoppy. It gets much better warm. The aftertaste is quite boozy.

This made for a nice strong New Years Eve drink that was followed by stronger and hoppier stuff. Nice pairing with other large beers.

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Photo of crossovert
3.35/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

650ml brow twist-off gold waxed bottle. 2009 vintage. The label proclaims "Lager". Talk about the most bizarre packaging, Sprecher might want to fire whoever is doing this.

It pours a dense black with a foamy tan head. The head recedes rather quickly and leaves some mild lacing.

The smell is thick with bourbon, super thick with it. It is big and sweet with notes of caramel and vanilla and underneath that chocolatey, roasty stout.

The flavor is big and bourbonny. It is roasty and alcoholic. It has a tanginess to it that is hard to pinpoint, like very sweet raisins, perhaps an infection.

It was great until I tasted it, I am pretty sure something sneaked its way into he barrels.

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Photo of Cylinsier
3.79/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12 oz. bottle

Pours jet black with a tan ring of carbonation for a head.

Smells of licorice, dark chocolate, figs, and oak.

Molasses and licorice up front followed by oak and a hint of cinnamon.

Full body with stinging carbonation on the roof of the mouth.

Beautiful presentation, nice aroma and body. Flavor is nuanced and threatens to be a bit too cloying. Overall a very good rich stout that may turn off some people due to the overripe sweetness in the flavor.

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Photo of magictrokini
3.91/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1 L bottle. Pours black with a big cascading tan head. Aroma of chocolate malt, smoke, bourbon, leather, oak, and caramel. A shockingly thinnish mouthfeel for an Imperial. Taste is nice; good bittersweet chocolate and coffee flavors with a strong, but not overwhelming bourbon sourness. Some vanilla, caramel, oak, and earthy flavors that pop out at different times. Overall, I really enjoyed this beer.

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Photo of augustgarage
4.42/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Reading over the reviews, it seems this is an entirely different beast on-tap than it is in the bottle. The pour I'm reviewing was served in a snifter at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood.

Opaque seal brown body with a dense finger of tan cream. Good retention (especially for the ABV), almost like a layer of chocolate milkshake floating atop a massive espresso shot. Full sheets of lacing and rivulets of legs.

Clearly there is no attempt to disguise the full barrel aged notes. Heavy and complex mix of vanilla, coconut, and tobacco immediately suggestive of bourbon or even rye whiskey. Molasses, prunes, dark chocolate, and burnt sugar join the barrel notes to form an intoxicating whole. There is a touch of pepper from the alcohol when you bring the glass closer to the nose. Impeccable really...

The flavor profile carries over everything from the aroma and adds a low roast malt element; this is joined by faint hop notes to balance the ensuing sweetness which lingers into the finish along with rich licorice, molasses, and chocolate. Another subtle wave of wood smoke, pepper, toast, and maybe coffee appears long after the rest of the flavor has dissipated. Very well done - while lacking the singular alchemy of Firestone 13, it is otherwise more akin to that superlative blend than it is to most examples of RIS (even those that are likewise barrel aged).

Full bodied and chewy, but well carbonated. Mild astringency and notable warming.

A little sweet overall, and some might find the barrel notes to be obstructive rather than a key feature...very good as a dessert beer.

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Photo of Lemke10
4.15/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I bought a single 22oz. bottle from Woodman's in Janesville, WI for $11.89 in Summer 2011.

Pours a pitch black color with a thick foamy head that last a long time. Scents of coffee, carmel, cocoa, and bourbon fume from my glass. The taste is hard to describe as it is thick, creamy, and smooth. Quite robust and yet the flavors go quite well together. Some spices and burnt sugar are also obvious. Certainly a well made, tasty beer but the value is really lacking. for half the price you can get a beer that taste just as good as this one. So while this beer is good, it's not of the best value for your dollar.

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Czar Brew - Russian Imperial Stout Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels from Sprecher Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 54 ratings.