Atwater VJ Black - Atwater Brewery

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Atwater VJ BlackAtwater VJ Black

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very good

192 Ratings
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(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 192
Reviews: 66
rAvg: 3.87
pDev: 12.92%
Wants: 6
Gots: 29 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Atwater Brewery visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: DrDemento456 on 04-09-2011

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 192 | Reviews: 66
Reviews by Gryphon69:
Photo of Gryphon69
3.67/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle
bottled on 1-13

A- pours a deep brown near black, very light tan head that faded quite fast, but leaves a slight ring around the glass.

S- Smell is dark fruit sweet right up front, followed by equal amounts of vanilla sweet, some chocolate.

T- Follows the nose pretty close, very sweet up front like a sweet porter, finish is sweet as well. The alcohol is hidden very, very well.

M- medium body, certain slickness with mild carbonation.

O- To me this don't follow inline with a RIS, but more like some of porters on the sweet side ive had, still not a bad beer just misleading. Like above the 11% Is very well hidden and barely noticeable. Decent beer overall. I did lower the the taste rating slightly due to the porter like charecters.

More User Reviews:
Photo of buschbeer
4.15/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 fl. oz. bottle
Served in a snifter
March 2012 is notched in the label.

A - It pours black with less than an inch of tan head.

S - I smell some roasted malt and dark chocolate.

T - On my first taste I immediately thought "chocolaty." It has a real nice dark chocolate flavor along with some roasted malt.

M - Full

O - I haven't thought much of Atwater Block beers. This one has me rethinking them. This beer is delicious. I love the dark chocolate characteristics.

Photo of mvanaskie13
3.36/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Poured into sam adams custom glass: color is black, head is tan, 1/2 inch thick, lacing on the glass.

Smell is vanilla, over done and not pleasant for a beer of this type.

Taste is vanilla forward, chocolate malt and chocolate syrup. Hides the abv well, but it does not taste that great, malt backbone is not definitive, maybe some roast.

Mouthfeel is very dry on the finish, surprising its not sweeter for its size, but again i dont like this beer for its style.

Overall an odd beer for this style, too much vanilla to try and cover its strength, chocolate flavor is intense as well. I like it when the stronger stouts let the flavors fly and give you a big roast or hop experience, this seems out of place.

Photo of hopflyer
4.15/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours deep dark brown with reddish highlights on edges. Light tan head about 1 finger.

Smell is bakers vanilla and some coffee. Some roasted malt.

Taste follows with nice smooth vanilla mixed with black coffee. Not much in roasted or charred wood flavor but not needed here. A little bitterness on the back end.

Feel is creamy enhanced by the vanilla. Medium body and low to medium carbonation. Bitterness lingers a little.

A really good, smooth, and creamy stout. Feel is a bit thin for an RIS. Abv not noticeable at all.

Photo of warnerry
3.41/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled March 2011

A - Pours pith black with two fingers of light brown head. Head had good retention, and leaves some decent lacing.

S - Huge vanilla aroma, which seems to mask the other aromas initially. Eventually, aromas of chocolate, cola, molasses and some roasted malt come through.

T - Taste follows the smell pretty closely, with a lot of sweetness and vanilla, followed by some chocolate, faint roasted malts that become more prominent on this finish.

M - Mouthfeel is a bit thin for the style, and somewhat watery, though there is some creaminess to it. Sweet throughout, but it dries out a bit on the finish, which has a subtle bitterness.

O - Not a standout, and the sweetness and strong vanilla will not be for everyone, but this was pretty enjoyable overall. With all the available options for an RIS, I can't see buying this again. Did not get any booziness out of this, which was a pleasant surprise.

Photo of jondeelee
3.48/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

VJ Black opens with a whiff of yeasty dough and malt, much like rising bread, which clears away and opens into a deeper, darker series of aromas that include heavy kola nut and caramel, a distinct almost Dr. Pepper-like spice and sugar blend, and more subtle layers of tobacco, anise, and black malt. For an Imperial Stout, the nose is heavily sweet and spicy, overflowing with molasses and brown sugar, pepper, and an almost smoky nutmeg or allspice spike. The aromas are certainly intriguing, but do bear more than a passing resemblance to a soft drink or a sugary root beer, and thus throw the nose off. It’s only the subtle dark ash and anise undertones that reveal the beer’s stout base, and these can be easily lost.

On the tongue, the beer continues to bear a good resemblance to a soft drink or root beer, with sugary spice flavors predominant, backed by dark ashy notes. Kola nut, sarsaparilla, cane sugar, vanilla, and a near-burnt allspice seem to make up most of the spice profile, and when joined with brown sugar and molasses, create a very non-Imperial-Stout-like flavor profile. One has to dig a bit deep to find coffee, ash, and black malt—but again, these can be easily lost. So sweet is the beer that it actually becomes almost sucralose (i.e. Splenda)-like around the edges, leaving a strange super-sweet rim that doesn’t quite mesh with the ash and coffee. The aftertaste is more of the same, though a touch more ash and coffee come through, the entire profile lingering on the tongue (along with the sucralose bite) for a long time. Mouthfeel is a slightly watery medium-light, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is definitely one of the more strange Imperial Stouts on the market, and one where the flavors don’t quite seem to mesh well together and provide a nice balance. On a good note, the beer’s 11% ABV is very nicely hidden beneath these flavors, detectable only late in the aftertaste as the vapors rise from the tongue. But the beer itself feels like it’s suffering from an identity crisis, not quite sure what direction it needs to go in.

Photo of dogfishandi
3.88/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz. bottle at cellar temp poured into a snifter. FEB 2010 notched on the label, i take that to be the bottled on date, so about 1 1/2 years old. purchased as a single at beers of the world in rochester.

pours out opaque black with a big huge billowy tan foamy cap. very nice retention, thick sticky lace everywhere. i wouldnt really say a creamy head, but looks fantastic.

not the biggest aroma. i detect some nice rich brownie batter like chocolate and a bit of vanilla that smells nice. behind that theres a little roasted malt and maybe some coffee.

kind of sweeter milk chocolate vanilla, a little chocolate cake. similar to many milk stouts ive had. some roasted malt, but its definatly not one of the main players like in most impy stouts. finishes with a solid bitterness that lingers a bit.

the mouthfeel just doesnt deliver enough. kind of weak body for this style. after you take a sip, it just doesnt really feel like you drank an impy stout. hardly any alcohol detectable, which has its advantages. slightly chalky.

overall, a decent beer, worth a single, but i wouldnt strive to get this again. almost tastes a little artificial, has some flavors in common with mokah and choklat. way better than the beer this was based on, the vanilla java porter, but i want some more malt.

Photo of Pbody
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark smokey imperial stout with good depth, hints of chocolate and coffee. I don't typically buy from Atwater Brewery but this is a pretty well balanced imperial stout from their single batch series, also has a pretty nice kick to it at eleven percent. Would definitely recommend this beer in low doses lol.

Photo of WVbeergeek
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep dark black body with a tan head filling my chalice above the rim of the glass, dwindles slowly leaving chunky sporadic lacing. Aroma has deep vanilla semi oaked barrel notes with hints of coffee and dark chocolate. Flavor has a sharp acidic dark chocolate infused coffee, almost like it has a slightly sour mash amongst hints of oak aging (my guess is oak chips), with some vanilla bourbon hints going on. Really not bad it's just a mix of tart dark chocolate, harsh roasted coffee notes, and a bit of artificial vanilla bourbon oak notes. Much like an Rock Bottom nitro Vanilla Bourbon stout I've had in the past. I can't believe this beer is packing 11% alcohol, extremely well hidden and a bit dangerous. Mouthfeel is medium bodied not cloying in anyway a bit of the bitter dark roasts leaves behind some welcoming dryness to the upfront sweet vanilla java presence. Overall impression is wow, not bad well crafted one of the first Atwater Block brews I've been impressed with on any level. Nothing diabetes sickeningly sweet about it just a well balanced well hidden imperial version of thier Vanilla Java Stout.

Photo of Sammy
3.33/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Opaque black with little head. A little roasty and boozy aroma, with a spot of vanilla. Somewhat thin for the style,perhaps the oiliness gives my tongue this impression, not so well integrated. Bitter chocolate and some vanilla, bourbon, coconut. A sipper, not so drinkable.
Ken's bottle.

Photo of tempest
4.05/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I found a bottle at Abe's Cold Beer, the label is notched for Feb 2010. This stout is so smooth, I had not idea it was stronger than seven or eight percent. There's a huge, dry cocoa flavor with a toasty sugar cookie taste in the background and a roasty molasses edge. It's not the richest RIS, but it's a great chocolate-like beer (reminds me of Rogue's chocolate stout) that's not too heavy.

Photo of Bung
4.08/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. Pretty much a black pour with a layer of light tan head. Retained fairly well.

Aroma, has roast malt, some earthyness and light chocolate. A bit subdued.

Taste is much more assertive. Very nice blend of roast malt, dark chocolate, vanilla. Some peat or something earthy in there also. Cocoa and lighter coffee accent the drier finish. Lingers nicely.

Enough carbonation to keep it interesting. I wouldn't quite call it creamy. Maybe a little thin body wise, but maybe that helps the drinkability. This was pretty easy to put down for 11%.

Wasn't expecting much since I haven't cared for the other Atwater brews I've had. I was pleasantly surprised. Best I've had from these folks for sure.

Photo of n2185
3.06/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Pours black with half a finger of tan head that vanishes completely with no lacing.

S: Roasted malts with lots of sweet chocolates, licorice, and raisiny dark fruit aromas. There are some slight smokey notes toward the finish.

T: Light roasted malt flavors up front followed by a strong licorice and dark fruit flavor. The finish is sweet and charred tasting.

M: Thick body with lowish carbonation, this beer is not as creamy as I'd like.

O: An alright stout, overall, though a bit too sweet and licorice-y for me.

Photo of EgadBananas
3.98/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Big thanks to injuredreserve for the bottle to go!

A- Poured pretty much a solid black. Didn't look extremely thick, but it's pleasantly dank in the end. Head was a light brown, which left nice lace. Dissipated to a nice creamy film.

S- Aroma was nice and roasty, with plenty of chocolate and malt sweetness. Faint coffee and a tinge of dark, sweet fruits as well.

T- The taste was nice and chocolaty, really roasted, slightly candied (fruits), some coffee bitterness on the finish, with maybe a touch of woody hops.

M- The feel was creamy, though not full-bodied. Solid medium, slick, but smooth. Easy to ignore, but the most noticeable flaw.

D/O- Overall, a pleasantly surprising stout. Nice and flavorful. Alcohol was really no where, so the drinkability is very good. I'd call this a hidden gem for those who have this available to em, or stumble across it.

Photo of ThickNStout
2.23/5  rDev -42.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12oz botlle from Beer Baron (Detroit, MI). 3.69. Bottled 03/2012. Served in a Red Brick snifter.

Pour deep brown with ruddy hues around the edges. Less than a quarter finger pale tan head that fades quickly and leaves very little in the way of lacing.

Aromas of roast malts, dark chocolate and cocoa powder.

Tastes of hot chocolate powder, burnt cheap coffee, sugar and grape cough syrup. The alcohol is pretty well hidden but I don't much care for what it is hiding behind.

Medium thin feel with sharp carbonation. Long artificial cocoa finish.

Between this and their Coffee Vanilla Porter, I'll gave to concede that Atwater's head brewer and I have strongly different tastes. I'm fairly sure that I'm getting only cheap adjuncts and no barley, hops or yeast. Where's the beer? Pass on this one.

Photo of StoutHunter
3.83/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

I got a four pack of Atwater VJ Black a couple weeks ago for $10.99 at The Lager Mill. When I was at the store I was told this just came in, I am a fan of their Vanilla Java Porter, so of course I had to try the imperial version of that beer. No visible bottling date, I know it is a 2011 vintage. Poured from a brown 12oz bottle into a imperial pint glass.

A- I am not a big fan of the label, it looks plainer then the porter and it should be more extravagant looking, but the sky line of Detroit in the background looks ok. It poured a nice jet black color that had some ruby edges when held to the light. It had two and a half fingers worth of fluffy tan head that died down to a thick lumpy layer that stayed the rest of the time and left some nice lacing.

S- The aroma of this beer is about the same as the aroma of the Vanilla Java Porter, but the chocolate is more pronounced and the vanilla aroma is slightly toned down. For being 11% I can't detect hardly any booze in the aroma. Smells good and about the same as its little brother.

T- This is where this beer differs from the porter. The malts are roasty and semi sweet but not as robust as I was expecting. In the porter the coffee is the dominating flavor, but in this brew it is all about the dark and bitter chocolate, the coffee and vanilla take a back seat to the chocolate. It had the same slightly acidic finish as the porter and does an excellent job at hiding it's alcohol, there is no way I would have ever guessed this was 11%, it is so well hidden it's dangerous.

M- Smooth and medium bodied, it was a little thinner then it should be, the porter had the same problem and I was hoping they would fix it with this brew. It was the highest carbonated RIS I have ever had, but it worked well with the thinner then average body of this beer.

Overall this was a good beer and one of the best beers I have had from Atwater. The aroma of this beer was almost identical to the porter and it also shared some of the downfalls that the porter did like the lack of body. Where this beer shines is in it's drinkability, by far the most drinkable RIS I have ever had. I have no clue how the guys at Atwater managed to cram 11% alcohol in this brew, it amazes me because both this and the porter have the same amount of alcohol presence in the flavor and this beer is almost twice as strong. This beer can't hang with the big guns in it's style it's just not robust enough, but the flavors are still good and the drinkability is amazing. I am not sure if I will get another four pack since I don't know how this beer will age, but if you like RIS's you should give this one a try, the flavors and aromas won't blow your mind, but its great drinkability will. Good job Atwater with some tweaking this beer could be epic.

Update, had the 2013 release and it's the same, no changes, the original rating stays.

Photo of lurpy1
3.55/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Atwater Block sure is proud of their Vanilla Java concept. Swing a dead cat and you'll hit a bar selling VJ Porter. At the same time it's damn near impossible to find another Atwater beer on tap. Here's the problem: VJ Porter is, in my opinion, pretty bad and poorly composed.So when the VJ concept shows up on tap as a stout at Dusty's, it is against my better judgement that I order a sample, and then snifter full, after not being put off by the sample. Man vs. Atwater's VJ Stuff, take two.

The pour is a nice deep black, bottomless in the snifter. Not much head. As with the porter, a very good smelling beer. Frappucino or vanilla ice cream come to mind. There is a little bit more coffee and malt in the stout. It may smell a touch better.

Somehow, the 3 competing flavors, vanilla, coffee, and stout, come together a bit more in this beer than they did in the porter. But the vanilla is still both dominant and problematic. It still tastes cheap and extracty. I would think a brewery this committed to vanilla beer would be resolved to take vanilla beer to the next level, probably through high-end vanilla beans. Atwater Block does not seem to be going in that direction.

OK, mouthfeel, and here is where I really question Atwater's chops as a brewery. This was ridiculously thin for a RIS. If Atwater had called it a stout, I'd be OK with it. But no. Check the website: "A huge Imperial Stout". Not sure the guys really know what a RIS is.

I still have a huge question mark regarding the artistry and craftsmanship of this brewery, but I did like this beer. I would drink it again, although due to the overarching vanilla sweetness, a one-per-night quota would be strictly enforced.

Photo of DrDemento456
3.61/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

"VJ Black Imperial Stout, an 11% abv monster, sure to help you lose the last of the winter chills. VJ stands for Vanilla Java, and this massive imperial stout is a stronger, hoppier, maltier version of the classic Vanilla Java Porter"

Since nobody has reviewed it yet I guess I feel obligated to put in in.

A - Surprised in getting a solid two fingers of dark tan head. Pillow like and bountiful. The liquid itself is dark, just the way I like it. Lacing is pretty solid seems to be hugging the glass pretty well.

S - Kind of a one trick pony with mostly chocolate on the nose and moderate coffee. A slight bourbon booze tone is in the mix but not too in your face just faint in the background.

Letting this one warm up a while, at least till the head settles.

T - huh I get a weird sourness that I can't quite figure out takes the whole front of the beer, then a quick rush of chocolate and coffee quickly fall off the cliff of flavor. It does have a very slight sweetness to it with somewhat creamy tones but I can't get over the sour beginning. Maybe from the bourbon aging? After a while the sourness does get less noticeable leaving more of a roasted coffee finish but I can't say that I like it overall.

M - The best part of this beer is the ABV is completely invisible. I must say it drinks like a 6% medium bodied stout.

Overall it's just another mediocre beer that I was tricked into trying by a craft beer salesman and a guy with no taste. I did enjoy it in some time and kind of wish they just made a RIS instead of using the Java Stout as a base since it had tones of that mediocre beer. Worth trying if you like a beer with no body, a slight sour note, and a high octane ABV.

Might just be the best beer I had from them though so that is saying something

Photo of donkeyrunner
4.35/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Black beer, lumpy mocha colored head. Glass bottom retention casts a large, lacey net.

Smells more like candy than beer: vanilla, black licorice whip, and moist brownie mix.

Tastes like a chocolate, chocolate chip cookie with vanilla and licorice mixed in. A good, soft chocolate chocolate chip cookie too, not one of those half-stale ones that people bring as an after church snack. Extremely sweet, I could see this being a polarizing beer like ST Creme Brulee. Body is a bit thin,not terribly so, but not big stout worthy.

I'd like a little more roast to balance out the sweetness but a fine sippin' dessert beer just the same.

Photo of woodychandler
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Ah, trials and tribulations of my bottle backlog! I recently bought a bottle of this, brought it home and then realized that I already had one held in abeyance.

From the bottle: "Beer Is good. Enjoy responsibly."; "Single Batch Series"; "[bottled] March 2012".

Two-year old RIS from my favorite hit-or-miss brewery?!? Hee hee. The pour proved that time has not hurt this bad boy. I got a finger of dense, deep-tan/moch colored head that sat there and defied me to move. Color was truth in advertising - Black (SRM = 44)! Black as night in the middle of the IO, black as my morning coffee, black as a witch's heart. Nose smelled of sugary dark chocolate. Yes, very roasty, but also a lot of residual sweetness. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full with a very nutty, dark chocolate flavor on the tongue. The nuttiness was unexpected, but it cut some of that pervasive charcoal/burnt/smokiness that I was also getting. It suddenly hit me - Nutella! I am not a proponent of this style, but this was striking my fancy, plus I am not a fan of style mavens, so what I like may not be for everyone. The finish was straddling semi-sweet and semi-dry and I am going to let my new bottle age somewhat before I bring it out of hiding.

Photo of gnemesis
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into chalice like glass on 04/10/2011.
Pours black topped with an off-white head with tan highlights. Good retention, and decent lace. Smells of chocolate and vanilla- i get a hint of tobacco and coffee. Taste is the same- reminds me of seafoam. Its good but not roasty at all- not how I like my imperial stouts. Medium body and low/medium carbonation. Good for Atwater but lacking the robust flavors that make for a good imperial stout.

Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: bottle from [I think] Capone's, Norristown, PA

Poured into a goblet, seemingly dark brown-black appearance, though it was tough to get the full effect as I was outside and it was nighttime. A small but creamy brown head topped off the glass, displaying moderate retention and lacing. Aroma is expectedly malty, with big notes of vanilla, and traces of coffee and chocolate. Similarly in the taste, a big hit of sweet vanilla, a smooth blend of oaked bourbon, toffee, dark chocolate, roasty dark malts and coffee took the edge off the sweetness a bit, more so than in the non-imperialized Vanilla Java Porter. Body is full, mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, alcohol is felt more than tasted. Nice beer overall.

Photo of OWSLEY069
3.43/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours jet black with a tan head. In the aroma, coffee and a roasted malt. In the taste, coffee and a roasted malt that runs sweet to dry. A small bite and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a dry coffee in the aftertaste. Nice coffee and hides the 11% nicely.

Photo of 57md
3.91/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours solid black with only half a finger of head that quickly dissipated and left little lacing. Cherries are distinctly present in the nose. Taste is dominated by sweet chocolate and malt. Mild bitterness on the finish. This offering is quite tasty, but it lacks any hint of a roast profile (something that I see as a minimum standard for stouts).

Photo of martyl1000
4.33/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brown-black with a thin off-white head. Not much lacing on the glass of my snifter.

The aroma is surprisingly bright and biscuity, without the bigger aromas of the style. Really more like a much smaller beer, like a mildly spiced winter warmer in the nose, with sweet malt and no alcohol.

Speaking of alcohol, it's hard to believe this is 11% abv. There's hardly a trace of it in the mouth. The other flavors of the style are also very quiet: unsweetened coco, burnt coffee, vanilla.

Surprisingly thin mouthfeel, yet with an overall creaminess that creates a mysterious sensation--a richness born of something other than mouthfeel.

While it's not what I look for in the style, I will remember this for guests who want to drink with the big boys but who are overwhelmed by true big beers.

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Atwater VJ Black from Atwater Brewery
87 out of 100 based on 192 ratings.