Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Black Xantus - Humboldt Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Black XantusBlack Xantus

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
92
outstanding

412 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 412
Hads: 1,295
Avg: 4.12
pDev: 18.69%
Wants: 125
Gots: 370 | FT: 30
Brewed by:
Humboldt Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout | 11.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: ThreeWiseMen on 10-09-2009

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%
View: Beers (6) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 412 | Hads: 1,295
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

 515 characters

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.

 1,379 characters

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.

 722 characters

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.

 862 characters

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.

 1,512 characters

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.

 873 characters

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.

 397 characters

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.

 584 characters

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.

 1,295 characters

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.

 705 characters

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.

 419 characters

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.

 866 characters

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.

 1,312 characters

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

 595 characters

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.

 974 characters

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.

 506 characters

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.

 1,085 characters

Photo of cpetrone84
4.35/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-dark brown colored liquid, almost black, allowing some red hues shine through, a tan colored head that is bubbly and thin, it dissipates a little quickly leaving almost no lace.

S-the nose is fair in strength, it brings a good bit of bourbon in the nose, some molasses, a touch of dark chocolate and vanilla, some nice oakiness all make up the nose.

T-the taste is well blended bringing some roasted malts up front, some molasses and dark chocolate accompany that, the oaky bourbon comes in next, a touch of vanilla, there is a light malt sweetness towards the back brining just the right amount of balance to this brew.

M-smooth and thick, this has a great big body, low carbonation, it is chewy and falls down the throat

D-this stout is great, it doesn't say anything about barrel aging but it definintely seems to have been aged in bourbon barrels. Fantastic RIS, I really love this beer!

 897 characters

Photo of jampics2
3.63/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A 22oz bottle, think I got this in a trade with CPFerris, thanks Chad!

Opened up to enjoy while doing some home improvement projects on a Sunday afternoon. This bottle took me a while to finish!

Pours a deep black with brown edges and a fluffy tan head. Looks great in my New Belgium snifter!

Smell is intense - Bourbon is obvious, then a bunch of interesting other scents...dark raisins or plums, a huge oak scent from the wood, chocolate, some vanilla. This doesn't smell sweet or malty as much as just a HUGE barrel presence.

Taste is much sweeter than the nose indicated. Toffee and caramel impressions from the malt, chocolate, wood, bourbon, and raisins. Huge alcohol bite. This is hot hot hot. Big bourbon peak - interesting that there are a couple different flavor sweeps that make up the whole ride, but this is way too hot and huge right now to be super tasty and enjoyable.

Mouthfeel is where this falls apart. Alcohol makes this burn - the astringency takes away from the joy of the different tastes. Thin and not substantial. Maybe the barrels were too wet?

Drinkability was OK, but this is just not coming together as it warms. Not a cohesive beer, I'd almsot like to see if some age treats this well, but nothing I see myself drinking again when there are many superior barrel aged stouts in my cellar.

 1,323 characters

Photo of Night
4.54/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours rich black with glimmers of burgundy and crimson. Head is medium-large, solid, with a creamy top layer and a bubbly under layer. Lacing is minimal; small islands form and die down quickly. Aroma is strong, spicy, warm, and dry thanks to lots of booze. Slight earthiness washed in lots of dark fruit, brown sugar, pralines, and hints of bourbon. Not overpowering, but delicious smelling. Very distant notes of cool vanilla. Mouthfeel is silky, juicy, and smooth with a refined spicy tingle at the end. Flavor is immediately vanilla creme and bourbon with a nicely mellowed undertone of charcoal. Dark cookie-like malts and dark fruits follow. Anonymous sappy hops provide a fair amount of bitterness. Roasted pepper sort of spice and plantiness. Lots of boozy warmth and some sappy, herbal, almost medicinal hops in the finish; aftertaste is bittersweet chocolate and quiet fruity yeast flavors mingled with a savory, puckering tartness.

 942 characters

Photo of GbVDave
4.32/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into two St. Bernardus goblets. Thanks to HeatherAnn for the assist. Extra special thanks to Errantnight for this from our big trade!

Bottled 10/6/09

A: Pours a pure, pitch black with a light khaki colored head on top. The head is quite bubbly/frothy with some sticky lace left in it's wake.

S: Excellent aromas of dark chocolate, licorice, coffee liquor, brown sugar and/or molassas, and booze drowned dark fruit.

T: See above with a decent whallop of espresso.

M: Rather sweet and bitter with a sizable alcohol burn.

D: Pretty good, actually. Alcohol is VERY apparent.

 602 characters

Photo of Wasatch
4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz. Bomber

Poured into a chalice a nice black color, nice carbonation, nice little fizzy tan head, with some minimal sticky lacing. The nose is very nice, malty, with lots of chocolate/toffee, vanilla, licorice, and caramel. The taste is sweet, malty, with a very nice chocolate/toffee note, nice touch of vanilla, and licorice/caramel. Medium body, a very nice sipper, smooth, ABV hidden pretty nicely. Very drinkable, WOW! this brew surprised me from this brewery, LOL Glad they did it.

 491 characters

Photo of raverjames
4.32/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle purchase at my local organic food store. I knew nothing about the beer and just bought it because I had never seen it before. I was surprised to see this was an oak aged ale with coffee.
A: Black with a small tan head. Head retention is so-so.

S: I get hints of vanilla and gingerbread. There is some molasses in there as well.

T: Chocolate and vanilla. There may be some coffee in there, but the oak really seems to hide it. Then again, I am not sure how old this bottle was.

M: Slightly boozy and bitter. I would back off the bittering hops, or age it a bit longer.

D: Despite the bitterness, it was easy to drink. This may be due to my love of oak aged beers, but I had no issue downing a pint. Overall, this was a very pleasant drinking experience.

 765 characters

Photo of Lunch
4.32/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served from a 22oz. bottle acquired in a trade from thegonzz (Thanks man!) into my Cigar City snifter at cellar temperature.

A: Pours rather thick and viscous dark brown that is almost black. A one finger mocha colored head with decent retention leaving a bit of sticky lacing and some legs.

S: Quite aromatic with tones of bourbon, coffee, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, toffee, roasted malt, and perhaps a bit burnt sugar.

T: Mirrors the nose exactly leaving layers of chocolate, coffee, espresso, roasted malt, toffee, burnt sugar, and caramel of the palate wrapped in a coating of sweet bourbon. I greatly enjoyed this flavor profile.

M:Medium-bodied (for the style) with creamy, low carbonation and just a slight trace of the 11% abv. Could be a bit thicker, but nice.

D: For an 11% RIS this has good drinkability.

Overall this was another wonderful bourbon barrel aged RIS and one that deserves a bt more praise, than it has seen. I will be seeking this one out again and seeing what some age does to it. Recommended.

 1,031 characters

Photo of glid02
4.22/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from a friend.

Pours one shade from black with dark brown highlights and a one-finger tan head. The head recedes into a thin layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of vanilla and a combination of dark and milk chocolate mostly, with underlying roasted malt aromas. As the beer warms hints of whiskey and butterscotch waft out.

Tastes similar to how it smells. A malt profile that definitely is on the sweeter side - hints of roastiness are present but take a backseat to smooth chocolate flavors along with good amounts of vanilla. Midway through the sip hints of whiskey enter into things before fading out into a sweet ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with moderate carbonation.

Drinkability was very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have another.

Overall this wasn't quite as odd as I was expecting after seeing the all-over opinions of this beer. Not in the upper tier of RIS's but certainly above average. Worth a shot.

 978 characters

Black Xantus from Humboldt Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 412 ratings.