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Black Xantus | Humboldt Brewing Co.

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Black XantusBlack Xantus

Brewed by:
Humboldt Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Barrel aged for 6 months in combination of Bourbon, retired Firestone Union and wine barrels and Infused with fair-trade, organic coffee from local roaster Jobella.

Style: Imperial Java Stout IBUs: 50 Color: Black ABV: 11%

Added by ThreeWiseMen on 10-09-2009

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Reviews: 420 | Ratings: 1,319
Photo of htomsirveaux
4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle tried 10 Feb 2010.

Served in a 512 One snifter. Small dark brown head. Medium carbonation. Black and thick. Chocolate aroma, cocoa, some ethanol. A lot of vanilla upfront. Cocoa bttersweet chocolate and licorice throughout. Oaky finish. Chocolatey aftertaste. Ethanol is warming in the finish and aftertaste.

My score diverged from A's on this one...

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Photo of sweemzander
4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz. bottle split, poured into an imperial pint. No bottled date. Thanks to Beerwolf77 for yet another shared beer!

(A)- Pours a pitch black color that produced a good tan head that dissipated down to a light layer of bubbles.

(S)- A vanilla-like bourbon licorice smell with a good roasted profile behind that. The licorice is predominate but good.

(T)- A good roastedness with a big licorice profile in front of some bitter cocoa & molasses.

(M)- A good carbonation level & balance. A potent bitterness, but fits well with the roastedness & licorice profile. Becomes almost spicy/smoky with all the licorice in this from what I can tell.

(D)- A solid RIS. I am enjoying the licorice profile to this. A fitting character for the style. Rich, but not overly sweet like some of this style can be. Good stuff.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle split and poured into a Sierra Nevada imperial pint. 11% ABV, no date.

Thanks to Beerwolf77 for bringing this over last night for our increasingly epic tasting!

A - A dark but clear pour settles to a mainly black beer with a sliver of ruby-dark brown around the bottom of the glass. The beautiful tan head cascaded for moments which looked great but then it deflated to a thin foamy layer with some lace in moments as well.

S - This is the first beer I've ever smelled that honest-to-god smelled instantly like black licorice. So awesome! A touch of bourbon comes across the nose but settles behind a roasted malt and chocolate aroma. Good nose with a small touch of vanilla in there too as it warms.

T - Massively roasted malts with lots of molasses and black licorice. A nice kiss of bourbon comes across the flavor with as small touch of grassy hops on the finish. The beer isn't labeled as barrel aged but it has a little bit to it in flavor and aroma that seem like it is, at least in part.

M - Full-bodied and rich but still some how a bit thin in the mouthfeel. Bold, smooth finish with a warm alcohol finish but it's still got a great mouthfeel. It could use a little bit of work in this area to fix that thin feel to it.

D - Still, despite the alcohol, it's a great beer with fair drinkability for what it is. Not overwhelming in the least though. It's a solid imperial stout I'd be interested in seeing age further.

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Photo of david18
4.35/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was sure this was a Russian Imperial Stout and not an American Imperial Stout. The label only said Imperial Stout. It had an excellent dark roasty aroma and flavor while being a little lighter on hops than a typical American Imperial. Very dark color, great roast aroma and flavor. Light carbonation (color and intensity). Mouthfeel was good.

I also enjoyed blending this beer with pale ales and ipas. I would have again.

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Photo of donkeyrunner
4.16/5  rDev +1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big beer weekend beer #4!

A gift from Mr. Kevin. He'll buy any beer with an animal on the label. It's true.

Pours brown, looks black. Had to force a thin, muddy head which soon left on its own accord. One fat lacey web.

Dark fruity esters greet my first whiff. Sweet caramel and cola--but the good, niche market small production kind of cola. Dark and brooding malt mixed with dark chocolate bar.

Taste immediately hits upon dopplebock-esque hearty caramel malt and dark vinous fruit before settling into soothing roast malts. Llicorice. Fairly viscous. Flavors are carried by lil' alcoholic wings despite being aged for a bit.

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Photo of zeff80
4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a two-finger, light brown head of thick, bubbly foam. It left thin soapy rings of lace.

S - It had a strong black licorice aroma with a good dose of roasted chocolate malt. There are some mild toffee and floral notes, too.

T - It tasted black licorice, bourbon, chocolate, rich roasted malt and touches of toffee. A nice blend of bitter and sweet flavors for a really great taste.

M - It was crisp and smooth with a dry finish. A medium-bodied ale with a well-hidden alcohol warmth.

D - This is a nice RIS. I hope they brew it again.

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Photo of emmasdad
3.7/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I was initially really looking forward to trying this one, but eventually my interest waned and the opportunity presented itself. Pours a nice, shiny black color, with a good amount of mocha colored foam on top. Aromas of freshly brewed coffee, chocolate, vanilla and a little bourbon. On the palate, I get a lot of roasted malts, along with the flavors mentioned above. A pretty nice effort to be sure, but nothing spectacular.

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Photo of hoplover82
4.7/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours pitch black with a small tan head that has great retention and ok lacing, but for the style, I'm impressed with the head retention.

The aroma was kinda bland at first, but as it warmed up a bit, it began to become very interesting and complex and wonderful. It began to be full of dark chocolate with light notes of earthy mint toffee. As it warms there also is a coffee note to compliment to dark chocolate. So nice and complex.

My favorite thing about this beer is the roundedness and smoothness of this beer. There is the flavor of the best dark chocolate and fresh roasted bright coffee. There also is a very pronounced toffee note in the flavor as apposed to the aroma. SO smooth.

HUGE silky mouthfeel with a sweet silky finish.

Very smooth and drinkable. I'm so glad that I had the oppertunity to try this. Thanks Jason! This was epic indeed.

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Photo of jasonjlewis
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

pours a nice initial head with good retention. dark brown in color.

smell is of wet tobacco with licorice and undertones of mint.

taste is of huge dark chocolate. wet tobacco comes through as well. undertones of mint come through as well. bitterness is moderately low. undertones of licorice come through as well. as the beer warms a toffee flavor comes throguh and the roastiness is exaggerated as a coffee flavor comes through

mouthfeel is silky and adds to the beer. the alcohol is rounded out. excellent beer

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Photo of Patrick999
4.42/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

The infamous Black Xantus, purchased sometime in 2009, really don't remember when, though. Poured into a snifter. Lazy head, probably too lazy to warrant a high score. Not quite black either.

Aroma is of whiskey, caramel, chocolate.

Tasty. A lot of coconut and vanilla. Straight down the middle bourbon barrel stout flavors. Not hot at all. I don't know the exact age here, but the ABV is a non-factor. Has to be an aged bottle, because the alcoholic heat other earlier BAs have described in their reviews just isn't here. Also, I find no trace of coffee whatsoever - it seems like the coconut-vanilla flavors are the biggest players at this time.

Thin near-flat feel that I always like. I wouldn't really want an 11% barrel stout to be so thick, full-bodied and burpy.

Masked ABV, thin-ish feel and good flavor makes for a very easy drinker per style, enough to earn it a 5, IMO. It's surprisingly easy to put down the bomber alone. I can't understand why this brew was so polarizing - it's just a solid, very-drinkable bourbon-barrel stout, IMO. Nothing more, nothing less. I'd think the vast majority of BAs would come to the conclusion that this is pretty good, at the very least. It's got really nice flavor. A damned good beer. Price would be my only complaint....but for a barreled RIS this tasty and accessible, I can't say I wouldn't buy it again as an indulgence.

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Photo of steve8robin
3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this one for while, glad to finally open it...

A: You're sitting in the brightest room in the world for 5 minutes and the lights go completely out. It's that dark. Medium off-white head that quickly disappates. Good.

S: Boozy dark fruit scents upfront. Deep dark chocolate in the middle with bitter hops on the backend. Good.

T: Caramel hops upfront with thick, creamy bourbon in the middle and slight watery fruit on the backend.

M: Decent amount of carbonation. Good.

D: After the bitter booze gets down it becomes much more enjoyable.

All in all, this was a decent brew. Not amazing, but definitely worth trying if you like some good bourbon flavor stouts. A decent blend of earthy hops and bourbon thickness.

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Photo of Bung
4.22/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. A solid enough black pour, very minimal tan head, very minimal. So not muc retention obviously and not a whole lot of lacing either.

Aroma is some roast malt and some sweet caramel, chocolate.

Taste is a bunch of malt, enhanced with the honey. Roast malt is there a plenty and comes forward nicely with some warming. Lots of caramel for stout accented with the milk like chocolate. Definetely a sweeter Imperial, but not to detriment.

Mouthfeel is pretty solid, more so than the appearance would lead to believe. On the thickest side of medium. Very viscous oily body. Not quite creamy but very coating. Abv catches up to you or me in a hurry, but is not really present at all.

Had this entire bottle unintentionally watching MSU get to the great eight and it did not disappoint. This probably belongs in the double stout category to compare properly.

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Photo of maximum12
4.45/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks for this bottle go out to cloudskipper, who sent me this in a wintertime trade in which he humiliated me with a small flock of scorchingly good extras. Glass raised to the west, & onwards we go!

Pours Vin Diesel-style Pitch Black. Light only turns vaguely brown if held close to the light, then only a millimeter around the edge. Smell is my kind of thing. The barrel & the malts appear to be working in beautiful unison.

Black Xantus has tempted me into three sips before I've even begun to dare an attempt at description. First one must note that it's one of the family of belly-warming beers, that I've felt all the way into my stomach, & will eventually reach the bottom of my feet & force me to remove my slippers. The balance here is a work of art. The vanilla, bourbon-esque qualities of the brew are in the front row, but now overpoweringly so, just first to ring the doorbell. Underneath, or alongside, is a slew of rich, dark malts. Present, but more faint, are vague dark fruits, a bare wisp of roast, & as a follow-up, a tang of dry dark chocolate. Fuckin' A, this is good.

Not only that, but I'm powering through my half of the bomber trying to tease out more tastes, & enjoying every sip. Interesting that the beer is coffee-infused, because I can scarcely detect it in the beer. Seems to have been subjugated by the barrel.

Excellent beer. Not sure why this divided the masses so much, it's just yummy. And forty-five bonus points for the cool mythical hummingbird on the label, too.

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Photo of 100floods
4.84/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

pitch back hue with half a finger... no, now no head but a faint mocha colored film lingering on top. sweet, black liquorish aromas, haven't smelt those in a stout in a while, yum! Some chocolate aromas as well. The combination is superb, some of the best aroma's to come from a stout in a while, for me at least.
Nice dark chocolate, roasted flavors. I think I mistook the liquorish for something else, but i feel like they are still lingering barely. coffee with a dash of milk comes to mind. The darker flavors come in second after the chocolate ones. Very easy on the carbonation, doesn't interrupt what else is going on. This beer is very comparable to Speeway Stout in execution. Nice full body, big flavors that come out smooth and not harsh. I let my bottle sit probably no more than 6 months. I don't know if I would age it longer. It's so good as it is right now.

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Photo of kirok1999
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a rich, dense black with a nice, fluffy light brown head with great retention. Rich coffee smell, lots of sweet cream and some milk chocolate.
Taste is nicely sweet and reflects the smell. Sweet coffee and cream with some mild hop bitterness to balance it out. Some chocolate lingers in the aftertaste, along with some bitterness. Feels dense and creamy. Really well made and a great sipper.

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Photo of mcallister
4.43/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Very dark nearing black and opaque. Small mocha head that fades quickly into a topper here and there.

Nose shows dark choclates with a roasty malt character. Unmalted barley, wood, whiskey, raisin, prune, other black fruits, light vanilla and dark breads.

Man what a nice stout we have here. Nothing overly dominating just very smooth and light bodied. So easy to drink for 11%. Whiskey, oak,Roasted barley with vanilla, dark chocolate, hints of coffee, hints of black fruits,nice hop bitterness. light caramel flavors as well. Heavy cream and more. Almost a sessionable impy stout.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Nanoslug for sending this my way. Served in a pint glass and shared with friends.

A - This is some of the darkest foam I've ever seen - a chocolate brown finger that dissipates to a light haze and thin ring. Not much in the way of lacing. The body is pitch black, with a glint of ruby transparency when held to the light.

S - This reminds me a little of BA BORIS, in that the whiskey character seems a little "bottom-shelf" and harsh. The spirit element is far more present than the barrel flavors, although when the beer warms there is a bit of coconut and vanilla. This is over top of a dark chocolate and roasted malt backbone.

T - Bitter roast coffee, whiskey, oak and vanilla, roasted barley and malt, sweet cocoa. Heavy tannic aftertaste. Taste like it smells, which comes with both pluses and minuses I suppose.

M - Thick, chewy, sticky, not much warmth. Lower end of the carbonation spectrum. Again, tannic finish with some residual stickiness.

D - It was a slow sipper, and it's not really a beer I'd want to tackle on my own. On the flip side, I'd certainly drink it again, although not at the original price of $17(!). Better than I expected based on the early reviews, but definitely not an elite barrel-aged stout. Worth checking out if you find it on sale somewhere.

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Photo of portia99
4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle received in trade with hoppymcgee. Thanks Greg! Poured into a Portsmouth goblet.

A -Pours black as night -very little light gets thru with a short off-whitehead and leaves behind a thick collar with no lacing on the glass.

S - A good amount of licorice, some light coffee aromas, some nice vanilla, some alcohol.

T - Licorice, coffee, dark roasted malts, some vanilla. Pretty complex overall. Some dark bitter chocolate on the finish.

M - Medium bodied, but thinner than I expected. Carbonation is medium and works well. Quite smooth and creamy. Very good.

D - Quite enjoyable...alcohol isn't noticeable, which is a bit scary...better than I expected. Definitely would like to have again.

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Photo of tpd975
3.97/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to corby112 for sharing this one on my trip to Philly.

A: Pours pitch black with a small khaki head. Little retention with no lace.

S: Aromas of roasted malt, chocolate, bourbon, oak, and light coffee.

T: Flavors of chocolate and coffee up front. Hints of vanilla and coconut. The barrel is there along with a bit of boozy burn in the finish.

M: On the fuller side of medium in body.

D: Pretty good overall.

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Photo of billshmeinke
4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle to Duvel glass.

Impenetrable blackness. One finger light khaki head which mellows to a collar of foam around the edge of the glass with a nice foam island on top of the beer. Some sticky lacing too.

Smell is roasted chocolate malts, chocolate cake, butter rum truffles, cocoa powder, very oaky. Hard to really pick up anything else in the smell. Though this has a pretty powerful bouquet.

Cocoa powder, and again I'm reminded of chocolate cake and butter rum truffles. There's definitely an oaky characteristic, and some bourbon and vanilla characteristics as well. Very sweet. A bit of alcohol. Nice light bitterness to it.

The mouthfeel is kind of powdery (I experienced this with Southern Tier's Choklat, so I want to attribute it to the ground coffee). It is very thick and full bodied. Very interesting.

For the alcohol content incredibly drinkable.

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Photo of bamadog
4.57/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Special thanks to kels for sharing this at a recent tasting in Williamsburg, VA. Poured from the bottle to a snifter, review is from notes taken on 2/25/2010.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown/near black with some mahagony highlights near the surface; no real head to speak of, just a thin tan film on the surface; body is opaque and there is some spotty tan lacing left on the sides of the glass.

Smell: Quite nice and potent -- strong roasty malts and syrupy semi-sweet chocolate coated berry and dark fruit scents (cherry?); definite whiff of alcohol.

Taste: Very nice! Definite roastines, but not really burnt -- more like a well-brewed espresso; a nice semi-sweet chocolate flavor combines with the dark cherry-like fruit/berry aspects; definite presence of alcohol, but it's very well blended and compliments the flavors as opposed to dominating or making it hard to drink.

Mouthfeel: Body is solid -- moderately thick and creamy; tons of sticky and thick coating left throughout the mouth; bit of gritiness left on the palate; slight drying action from the ABV and the stomach is left a litle warm; carbonation is low and smooth.

Drinkability: I could sip on this all night despite the high ABV. The flavors are amazing and I really dig the mouthfeel. Wish this was something that was accessible to me.

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Photo of Ghenna
4.26/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an extremely dark mahogany, with only the slightest tinge of red around the sides of the tulip glass. Got ~2 fingers of milk chocolate head that had so-so retention. Smells heavy of malts and caramel.
The first thing that struck me about the taste is the almost perfect coffee aftertaste. Otherwise it tastes of toasted malt and caramel.
This is an awesome beer. I'm not sure that it is quite worth the $15 my wife gave for it, but it is plenty good. In fact, I'd go as far as saying it is one of the better RIS I've ever had. A definite buy- especially if you can find it for less than $8

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Photo of gford217
3.7/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very dark brown, bordering on completely black but with some light passing through the edges. The head is a big, creamy tan cap that recedes slowly and leaves little lacing.

The aroma is an interesting mix of dark roasted malts, espresso, oak and bourbon. There is some vanilla sweetness as well.

The taste is big and has a few different things competing for dominance. There is a stronger vanilla and oak presence up front with the heavily roasted malts and coffee staying in the background. The alcohol is not only present but very prevalent in the finish. The barrel character, especially the wine I think, leaves the finish very dry.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied with strong carbonation and the combination of dry oak, toasted malts and alcohol make it a bit abrasive.

This is a decent beer with some interest things going on but I'm not sure it all blends together in the end. The competing flavors remain just that, competing, and limit the drinkability.

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Photo of Chambic
3.74/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

02.06.10 at City Beer

A: black, like cola with mocha head

S: like dessert, a mix of dark chocolate and ripe berries

T: similar to the smell, with some vanilla, and a chocolate/tobacco finish

M: low fizz, medium-bodied, and smooth

D: could have some more, but would probably pick something else

What happened? I really loved this beer when I first had it on draught at Toronado. This time around, not so much, though it was still good. Maybe I was disappointed because I remembered it to be fantastic.

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Photo of scootny
4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A super dark brew. If it aint black it's so close it doesn't matter. Tan head of decent proportions but not much lacing. Smell is gratifyingly rich and deep. Oak and bourbon, chocolate and coffee, vanilla and roasted malt. Fruitiness is a pleasant extra with cherries blanketing a dark molasses dipped stash of raisins. Bourbony alcohol scents here and there. Taste is very good with an excellent blend of the aforementioned players. A little brash and bourbon heavy at first. As it warms up the chocolate blossoms to round the barrel flavors out and give body to the taste. Alcohol is a warming presence but very well integrated. Finish is kind of long and sweet with cherries chocolate and bourbon with an earthy based hop kiss. Lingering notes of bourbon, oak and cherries. Feel is full and smooth with a velvety carbonation that helps in the chewing of this girthy one. A sipper for sure but quite easy to sip quickly on a cold night as the smooth warming character of this one draws you in. If you like smooth easy drinkin' bourbon and big chewy stouts this is a good place to be.

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Black Xantus from Humboldt Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 420 ratings.