Atwater VJ Black - Atwater Brewery

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Atwater VJ BlackAtwater VJ Black

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BA SCORE
86
very good

65 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 65
Hads: 193
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 7.57%
Wants: 6
Gots: 29 | 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: 193
Photo of Sammy
3.33/5  rDev -13.1%
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. (289 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 Knapp85
4.42/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

VJ Black pours out as a rich semi thick looking black color with a brown colored head that leave a light lacing. The smell of this beer is a very nice. There a really good chocolate aroma with a light mix of roasted malts and vanilla. It smell like it could be extremely tasty. The aroma gives a really good idea of what the taste is. It's got the flavors of some milk chocolate and vanilla. There is some wooden flavors in there and a dry roasted aftertaste. The mouthfeel is ultra smooth and very drinkable. The 11% abv is no where to be found. It's a very impressive beer! (575 characters)

Photo of mactrail
3.09/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Yipes! huge dark chocolate and vanilla. Near black in the tall tulip. Modest foam with some decent lacing along the glass.

Brewery says it's based on their Vanilla-Java Porter, which would explain everything. Full of malt but not too sweet. Charred flavors dominate. Sugar cookie taste along with a deep flavor of French roast coffee. Bitter as sin after the sweet ice cream flavors. Raspy and harsh.

One has to ask, "why?" Personally I think vanilla is not a good beer additive, though it's quite beery if you can get over the taste. From the 12 oz bottle. (559 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 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 WVbeergeek
4.1/5  rDev +7%
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. (1,121 characters)

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

12 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled Feb 2012. Pours pitch black color with a nice 1 finger dense khaki head with great retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lasts. Some nice soapy lacing on the glass. Aromas of chocolate, vanilla, roasted malt, coffee, cola, earth, cream, dark fruit, and light smoke. Some nice aromas with good strength and balance. Taste of big milk chocolate, roasted malt, vanilla, cream, coffee, slight fruit, earth, and light smoke. Very small roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, cream, coffee, and roasted malt on the finish for a good bit. Big malty flavors with good balance; and no cloying sweetness. Medium carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very creamy, slick, and thick mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with hardly any warming present on the finish. Extremely smooth to sip on. Overall this is a damn nice and very unique imperial stout. A ton of chocolate flavors with good balance; and extremely smooth for being 11%. Really well done effort. (1,055 characters)

Photo of WesWes
4.19/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a pitch black color with a towering tan head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is great! It has a rich, chocolatey scent that's warm and dessert-like. The taste is much the same. It has a smooth roasted and chocolate malt flavor. The sweet chocolate taste is intoxicating. It goes down easy with just a touch of alcohol warmth. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a very drinkable beer even at 11% abv.. This beer could really sneak up on you. (510 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 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 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 tempest
4.05/5  rDev +5.7%
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. (393 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 DrJay
3.58/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Black with thin, ruby edges and a short cap of sticky, tan/brown foam. Decent head retention with fine, spotty lacing. Tons of caramel in the aroma, buttery toffee, vanilla, a bit of chocolate and faint roasted malts. Nice texture -- medium plus bodied with lowish, fine carbonation, creamy, well hidden alcohol and just a hint of astringency. Grassy bitterness didn't quite keep up with the malty sweetness, with more caramel and dry cocoa notes, light roast and hint of alcohol. Overall, an easy drinking beer for the abv. (524 characters)

Photo of Brad007
4.03/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Ooh, a fancy name. I think it would be better suited to a distilled product.

Blacker than black metal with a thin head. Yep. Looks like an imperial stout folks!

Cherry, cream and roasted coffee peek out in the nose. It's very mellow too.

There's certainly plenty of roasted malt with cocoa, vanilla and cream. Alcohol too, which isn't a welcome guest.

Body is lacking big time. Drinks more like a belgian dark than imperial stout. The only consolation is that it finishes clean.

Started out with promise but didn't quite deliver. Worth a try for the adventurous. (567 characters)

Photo of DrDemento456
3.61/5  rDev -5.7%
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 (1,776 characters)

Photo of OWSLEY069
3.43/5  rDev -10.4%
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. (254 characters)

Photo of warnerry
3.41/5  rDev -11%
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. (923 characters)

Photo of Bung
4.08/5  rDev +6.5%
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. (700 characters)

Photo of EgadBananas
3.98/5  rDev +3.9%
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. (870 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 StoutHunter
3.83/5  rDev 0%
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. (2,872 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 Mitchster
2/5  rDev -47.8%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

$2.69 for a 12oz bottle @ BevCo. "Brewed with 6 different malts and Barley flakes and Magnum Hops", as well as presumably vanilla and coffee. OG=21d Plato, 24 IBU's and 11% ABV. Label notched for March 2012.

Clear, near black, forming a small light tan head with poor retention and sparse lacing, mild carbonation. The aroma opens with fresh vanilla, sour milk, and carob with some leafy green hops in the mix. The mouthfeel is REALLY thin for an 11% beer. I don't buy this AT ALL and would be very interested in analyzing this. I'm a homebrewer and have had hundreds of 11% ABV beers and this is definitely not one. Judging by other reviews, I'm not the only one to notice this. The taste opens with green leafy hops followed by leather and burnt wood. Very herbal with an odd sourness I don't get any coffee, just burnt malts, vanilla, sour and green leaves. Hrmm. Bitterness is moderate, with a burnt astringency as well.

Not digging this at all. Completely out of balance, sour, grassy and weird tasting. This is definitely not an Imperial Stout. Do not recommend this mess of a beer. Awful. (1,097 characters)

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