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Atwater VJ Black - Atwater Brewery

Not Rated.
Atwater VJ BlackAtwater VJ Black

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very good

65 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 65
Hads: 194
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 7.57%
Wants: 6
Gots: 28 | FT: 0
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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 65 | Hads: 194
Photo of dbl_delta
3.81/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from undated bottle into pint glass. Low carbonation; thick, one-finger head. Deep ruby brown - almost but not quite "black".

Just a hint of initial sweetness. Vanilla, coffee, and malt combine with a medium mouthfeel to hide the alcohol nicely. A bitter aftertaste is noticeable but not objectionable.

This feels kind of wimpy for an Imperial Stout. The alcohol is certainly there, but I expect a much fuller mouthfeel. This is more of a porter on steroids.

All in all, it's OK but by far not my favorite for the style. (538 characters)

Photo of hopflyer
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
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. (533 characters)

Photo of Stevedore
3.3/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle, about 1 year old. Poured into a snifter 9/27/2014.

A- Dark brown body, half finger light brown head that settles quickly. Not much carb.

S- Burnt malt, dark chocolate, a little vanilla, a bit of brown sugar. A little bit of oxidized sherry. Overall smells quite a bit less intense than fresh.

F- Chocolate, cocoa, coffee, roast malt, small bit of brown sugar and oxidized dark fruit sweetness. Very straightforward RIS.

M- Medium body, on the thinner side for a RIS. Low carbonation, sticky. Not bad, still a sipper after a year in the bottle.

O- Decent RIS, nothing to clamor over. Age didn't do this any favors, so I would recommend trying this fresh. (673 characters)

Photo of Dr_Bahmbay13
3.25/5  rDev -15.1%

I am really struggling on how this is an Imperial stout?I don't know though ? might change my rating but its seems kinda thin for a Impe. alcohol well hidden. Mouth feel is not there either, maybe its me like i said. It just does not have that full to medium full mouth feel which to me is all about the Impe. Now don't get me wrong it taste good but it just feels watery in the taste? as it warms you pull out the java and vanilla . To me this is just there Vj porter with kicked up abv. which is fine but imho this not Imperial stout but imperial porter! (557 characters)

Photo of Tone
3.66/5  rDev -4.4%

Pours a clear, dark brown color. 3/2 inch head of a tan color. Great retention and great lacing. Smells of alcohol, sweet malt, roasted malt, yeast, hint of chocolate, hops, and pine. Mouth feel is sharp and crisp, with an average carbonation level. Fits the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. Tastes of sweet malt, hint of roasted malt, slight yeast, slight caramel malt, slight hops, hint of pine, and a hint of nut. Overall, great appearance, good aroma, body, and blend. (483 characters)

Photo of Lordhelmit
4.54/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Great beer. Pours dark not quite black more like a very dark very deep mahogany. Persistent head/lacing. Smell was strong but describing it is a bit tough. I always struggle with the nose. Smells good, sweet, pretty much like a Hershey's bar melted inside a vanilla coffee.. Taste is wow. Hits your tongue quite aggressively! Immediately get a dark chocolate flavor that kind of spreads from your tongue to the rest of your mouth and finishes with the same caramel/chocolate taste but with a good bit of bitterness left in your mouth. The bitterness is perfect. What a great balance. This is a great brew, (605 characters)

Photo of woodychandler
3.68/5  rDev -3.9%
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. (1,218 characters)

Photo of MikeWard
3.83/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. Bottled January 2014

fairly agressive pour led to a nice looking pint, jet black body with a small pale oatmeal head.

Lots of aroma here, coffee, some chocolate, heavily roasted malts

Very much coffee forward drink, roasted malts leave a bitter wash in the mouth. not finding the chocolate, or any real evidence of it being an 11.0abv

Mouth is a bit below medium. Bitterness remains for quite some time.

Overall, okay I guess. Enjoyed the first one of these a bit more, but upon reflection and more time taken with the second a few weeks later, this comes up just a bit short. Perhaps a bit more time on it would soften up the roasted almost to the point of burnt malts. (722 characters)

Photo of Pbody
3.78/5  rDev -1.3%
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. (307 characters)

Photo of buschbeer
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
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. (474 characters)

Photo of mvanaskie13
3.36/5  rDev -12.3%
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. (712 characters)

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.49/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Oneinchaway for sharing this at his tasting.

Pours a clear orange-brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of roasted malt, cocoa, and sugar aromas. Taste is much the same with vanilla and chocolate syrup flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with an interesting chocolate syrup quality in the taste. (591 characters)

Photo of Gryphon69
3.67/5  rDev -4.2%
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. (755 characters)

Photo of templar316
4.06/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a dark cola with ruby highlights. The head is here and gone. A great vanilla character, with echos of dates, pumpkin and cola on the nose. A pronounced vanilla sweetness hides the ABV, it finishes with bitter cocolate and cola. It finishes smooth and easy to drink. I could have another... (295 characters)

Photo of thecheapies
3.93/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Black is the name... black it is! Can't see through it at all. Nice cappuccino-like froth on top. Looks great.

Molasses, dark fruits, dark chocolate, a little licorice, light booze, chicory root, and musty roast grain. Has an obvious sweetness.

Nice bittersweet flavor of chocolate, black strap, raisin, and chicory coffee. Licorice is here, too. A tad too sweet, but there is salvation in a bitter earthy hop note that isn't that small. A lot going on here, and none of it as all that bad. Booze is very subtle and creeping. Body is pleasingly full, and the beer is not without a spicy carbonation that finishes with some cleansing as if too get the syrup off the tongue. Lightly tacky and coating. Goes down very smoothly.

Not your prototypical impy. Lacks in intensity and the sweetness is dialed up one notch too many. Qualifies as smooth and tasty. Nose ain't bad either. Atwater did a good job on VJ Black. (915 characters)

Photo of Stinkypuss
3.94/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Clear dark brown, off white creamy topping forms and recedes to a ring. Leaves
Smell: Chocolate and vanilla, some coffee.
Taste: Roasted malt, mild earthy hops with faint pine. Dusty cocoa and mild fusel alcohol. Mild bitterness, finishes with a good helping of coffee like roast. Strong vanilla overpowers faint citrus and pumpernickel bread notes.
Feel: Full bodied, well carbonated, balanced and graceful for its strength.
Overall: A good imperial stout from Atwater. (477 characters)

Photo of wrightst
4.53/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had sevaral of Atwater beers, and most seem to target the medium range. This one aims for the smaller, center of the target, which of course, is more rewarding.

It pours very dark brown, nearly black with a tan head. As appealing as that is, surprisingly, I did not drink in the appearance.

The smell was a strong presence of vanilla, which really surprised me, as I was expecting what the label told me to expect, a Russian Imperial Stout. It lead me to do some digging and right here, two reviews down from mine, is the answer - it's a vanilla porter, repurposed as a RIS. If you'd asked me ahead of time, I'd have said two things: I don't think it will work, and try it anyway. I love brewers that will go out on a limb like this.

The flavor was similar, but the vanilla was much less intense. Common for beers with vanilla. The taste was much more in line with an imperial stout, but the vanilla continues to linger. This is one of those high gravity beers (11%) that does not taste it. A feature I like.

It is robust in mouthfeel, but not as hearty as some imperial stouts, and not close to say, triple abbeys or double bocks. (1,140 characters)

Photo of Roman5150
4.19/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bottle into tulip glass

appearance: black with white foamy head 1 finger thick

smell: maybe i'm crazy but I get a huge hint of powdered hot cocoa packets, not quite espresso or coffee but very similar. also some milk chocolate and earthy, resiny hops in the mix.

taste: dark chocolate and espresso forward. heavy on the roasted malt, follows the nose and has a hint of bitter hot cocoa. very unique chocolatey taste.

mouthfeel: not too carbonated, sort of thin body

overall: A very good coffee forward stout, and my favorite beer from Atwater, and otherwise average brewery that i've tried so hard to like. This is their best offering, had side by side with 6-month old Expedition Stout, and while it was inferior it stood it's ground in flavor complexity and drinkabilty. This is a well balanced beer, a little on the bitter side for a stout, but highly drinkable. (870 characters)

Photo of MI_gal616
4.56/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The VJ black is Atwater's Vanilla Java Porter made into an Imperial Stout (more, more, more of everything).

This poured like a beauty into the glass. Small, tan head with great legs on a super robust dark brown, almost black beer.

The smell is what blew me away. Like vanilla extract, super sweet. Normally not what i'd be looking for in a beer, but it smelled so good!

The flavor was rich with roasted coffee, smooth roasted malts, and not nearly as sweet as the nose would suggest. In fact, there was a rather pleasant hop bitterness in the aftertaste that was not present in the initial flavor.

The mouthfeel was medium to full body. Definitely more robust than I expected after reading some reviews of this beer and having a rather watery Vanilla Java Porter earlier this year. (786 characters)

Photo of GRPunk
3.79/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I've heard of a ZJ, I guess it's time to see what this VJ is all about.

Bottle notched J 13, poured into a Duvel tulip.

A- A normal pour created a 1-finger, brown head that settles down to a thin film and leaves really nice webs about the glass. The body is a dark brown that suggests near black through the middle of a full glass.

S- There's an initial waft of dried or stewed fruits, mostly raisin. Lighter chocolate and coffee at first. Roasted, toasty grains become almost charred at points. The char and chocolate increases. Vanilla sneaks in much later with some warmth.

T- Complex. 1st sip had that initial rush of raisin followed by a significant dose of milk chocolate. Chocolate really seems to be the major player here. I'm good with that. An injection of vanilla compliments nicely and increases as I drink. Hopping is present, though difficult to describe.

M- Full bodied as expected at 11%. Kind of a sticky sweetness. Fairly creamy.

O- What an odd beer. Not bad. Different. Similarities to Vanilla Java Porter. Vanilla is a nice touch. I like the way it compliments the chocolate aspects. Aroma doesn't really match the flavor. Good sipper. Maybe not my "favorite" RIS, but not a bad beer. (1,210 characters)

Photo of martyl1000
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
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. (792 characters)

Photo of ThickNStout
2.23/5  rDev -41.8%
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. (806 characters)

Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev +4.4%
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. (719 characters)

Photo of RblWthACoz
4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Hey now. This may as well be labeled a chocolate stout as far as I'm concerned. The cocoa peeked through on the nose. But it really popped through when I took my first sip. Even though those tones keep it one dimensional, it still provides for a nice flavor ride. I'm still early in on this one, but it seems like the higher alcohol content may be starting to show a bit too much, so we'll have to see how that works out. Doesn't seem to be too much of an impedement at the moment though. For now, this seems like a nice enough stout. The alcohol is pretty high, and if it were lower on such a nice chocolate stout, this might be easier to drink (a lot more of). All of that aside, this is a pretty nice beer, I have to say. Especially considering that Atwater has never really impressed me that much with anything they've done. (828 characters)

Photo of sinstaineddemon
4.14/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - running out of ways to describe the typical IRS black color, but this is it. Motor oil black with half a finger of tan head that doesn't fade away

S - roasted malts lay the expected base for this stout, layered above that are magnificent bourbon, chocolate, and slight coffee aromas

T - the taste is as layered and complex, chocolate is big and bold with some follow-up from coffee and bourbon, some lactic sweetness that is kind of creamy giving it a milk stout like flavor, then the rich malts return for a velvety finish

M&D - smooth and thick, more flavor than I expected, a pleasant surprise, love stouts with more than two flavor elements, nice brew! (663 characters)

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Atwater VJ Black from Atwater Brewery
86 out of 100 based on 65 ratings.