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Joshua Norton Imperial Stout | The Tap Brewing Company

very good
68 Reviews
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Joshua Norton Imperial StoutJoshua Norton Imperial Stout

Brewed by:
The Tap Brewing Company
Massachusetts, United States | website

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.10%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
You love stouts. Or you love colonial swords and this color scheme. We add just a touch of smoked malt for another layer in an already intensely deep and roasty brew. As far as the name goes: Joshua Norton was the self-proclaimed emperor of the United States in 1859. He was crazy and probably fun to talk to -- like us.

Added by WanderingFool on 11-02-2008

User Reviews
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Reviews: 68 | Ratings: 123
Photo of brentk56
3.9/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours with a rocky beige head; big bubbles hang over the fudge colored liquid; sticky dots and dashes of lacing

Smell: Chocolate, ashy and slightly smoky

Taste: Chocolate and burnt toast forward; earthy hops in the middle and a dry finish

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation; rather thin for the style

Overall: I picked this up in a 2013 trade so the bottle is at least two years old; not sure why so many are complaining that this is not a true RIS as the bottle says that it is an Imperial Stout (perhaps earlier versions were labeled differently); still as an American Double Stout it comes up a little bit short in both the mouthfeel and the boldness of its flavors

Thanks, Prost76, for the opportunity

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.59/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled in date of November 2010, poured from a 22oz bottle into an imperial pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep dark brown color, with a thin light brown head that fades quickly and leaves a thin lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains chocolate, dark fruit, licorice, roasted malts and a very faint touch of hops.

T: The taste starts sweet with flavors of dark chocolate, licorice and dark fruits. Then a hearty but not too heavy roasted malt character comes in. Then there’s an odd bite that seems to come from alcohol, hops and something else that I can’t place, possibly related to the beer’s age. The balance isn’t quite there either. The after-taste is bitter-sweet.

M: Crisp and a little smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is dry and slightly sticky.

O: A little tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, good kick, decent representation of style, there are definitely better choices within the style.

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Photo of Dope
3.94/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottled October 2011 so 2 years old.

A: Pours a nice pitch black with a tall, dense and frothy medium brown head. Head fades out slowly with moderate little touches of lacing. Decent retention though.

S: A little smoke and char backed up with a little sweet chocolate. Not bad.

T: Hmph. Nice balance of smoky char, milk chocolate and even a little coffee. Sweet milk chocolate in the middle. Coffee really shows up in the finish with a little bittersweet chocolate. Lingering smoky aftertaste.

M: Medium-heavy, smooth.

O: Time seems to have been nice to this one. Pretty mellow flavors but well well integrated and superbly balanced. Just a scootch too much smoke for me but I'm smoke-adverse in general. Most people would probably call it a perfect balance.

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Photo of yourefragile
3.54/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

22 oz bottle, label notched N/11.

Pours a thin dark cola mocha with a bunch of suspended garbage in the liquid. Thin, bubbly khaki head with good retention and minimal lace. Roasty nose, dark fruit, slight rubbing alcohol, berry, bittersweet coffee. Soft milky body, low carbonation, dry roast finish. Flavors have smoothed out, starts bittersweet, slightly fruity before a sneaky hot finish with char and roast. Getting boring with age it seems.

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Photo of Daktyls
4.02/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Pours a pitch black color with a minimal mocha head that dissipates to a small patch in the middle of the glass, a fine ring of bubbles surrounds the outside of the glass.

S: Typical of Imperial Stouts, dark roasted malts, chocolate, notes of coffee and dark fruits, some toffee and a slight amount of toasted maltiness.

T: Much like the nose, dark roasted malts, dark fruits (a little bit of fig and date) with chocolate and a nice finish of coffee.

M: Slick but flavorful, a lot going on here. Light amount of carbonation, well suited for the style.

O: Delicious. Definitely worth a buy again. A very drinkable beer.

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Photo of deltatauhobbit
4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark brown almost black color with a thin bubbly tan head, fades and leaves no lacing, not very viscous for a RIS.

Smell has a huge amount of roasted coffee aroma, roasted malt also a big contributor, other thn that its fairly two note but that coffee is surprising.

Taste starts out with a coffee bitterness which adds a depth of flavor, roasted malt is a solid backing, unfortunately the body is severely lacking, the body is much too thin to pass as an imperial stout with carbonation too high as well, fortunately it drinks like a regular stout with the alcohol very well hidden, I would guess this to be closer to 5% than 9.1%.

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Photo of steve8robin
4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this bottle at a local beer store and was intrigued. Let's give it a go. 22oz bottle...

A: Super black with a small 1/2 inch mocha colored head that fades quickly to small bubbles atop the brew. Good.

S: Smells of vanilla and molasses upfront blended with a minor dark raisin fruit. Some smokiness on the back. Good.

T: A creamy mild vanilla which slowly gives way to a mild roastiness and a minor hop. A slight metallic taste on the back which tastes like its from the hop selection. Ends on a mild smoky roast. Good.

M: Thick body with a medium carbonation. A mild roasty finish. Good.

O: All in all, this is a decent brew. A good stout if you're looking for something local and easy to get for a decent stout. Not really worth hunting down if you don't have access though.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.26/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle is notched 2010
Pours a solid black with a smallish creamy mocha head that sticks around for a while and leaves some spotty lace. Smells of ash and roast and a bit of caramel; not very inviting in the aroma dept. The flavor is roasty, smokey and again a bit ashy. There's a bit of earthy hop flavor and a hint of burnt sugar and caramel in there as well. Medium body with a light level of carbonation and an earthy ashy mouthfeel. Seems like this could use a little sweetness to offset all the roast and smoke. This is OK as is, but there are better stouts out there.

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Photo of jmerloni
3.12/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - purple/black in coloration. Medium beige head that is uncommitted toward any retention or lacing,

S - Tootsie Roll Chocolate, hops, molasses malt.

T - Unpleasant chocolate laced with a girl. There's nothing good here.

M - Thick but over carbonated and boring.

D - Wouldn't get this again. In fact, this it's so poor that I wouldn't get anything from Haverhill Brewing Co. again.

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Photo of Treebs
3.58/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. bottle served in a CBS snifter. Bottled in November of 2010. I got this an extra a long time ago and it just worked its way to the back of the cellar. Uncovered it during my recent move and thought I'd bust it open. Thanks for the extra Mike(gushue3)!

A: Pours a dark black color with a dark khaki head forming on the pour. The head recedes to some bubbly whisps around the collar.

S: Dark chocolate malts with some dark fruit flavors as well. Some sugar glazed prunes with a little toasted oat sweetness.

T: Definite oxidation present. Some light cardboard with some toasted grains. The finish is dark chocolate malts, prunes and some light toasted grains.

M: Medium bodied with a medium low carbonation level. Very smooth and the alcohol is well hidden.

O: For being almost two years old it wasn't bad, but it was a touch oxidized. Definitely held up though for being a tad under 10%. Solid dark chocolate and dark fruit flavors.

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Photo of greenengineer
4.1/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle into my Pretty Things pint glass. Served refrigerator temperature, which is probably too cold for this beer.
A - Inky black, very little head. Lacings persist.
S - bitter, burnt chocolate smell. Hints of black pepper. Very 'stouty'.
T - somewhat bitter burnt chocolate or coffee taste upfront. Malty flavor persists.
M - alcohol and carbonation tingle the tongue. A little sticky
O - 4's across the board. Nice Imperial Stout. Not my favorite beer style, but good execution of the style. Extra point for local.

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Photo of scottfrie
4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into 25oz snifter. Bottled 11/2010. Can’t remember who gave me this one, but thanks!

A: Pours black with a finger of dense dark brown head that faded into a thin collar leaving a few spots of lace down the glass.
S: Roasted scents are strong alongside a hint of vanilla and toasted coconut. Chocolate is pretty strong as well. Smells good.
T: Again, very roasted like the nose. Flavors of smoke, caramel, toasted malts, and dark grains mix well with semisweet notes of dark chocolate and fudge. I get a hint of toasted marshmallow in the aftertaste.
M: Pretty thick body, but it could be thicker. The mouthfeel just a tad thin as well. Slick all around, the carbonation is low and even. Very drinkable overall.
O: A very enjoyable stout. No one flavor aspect dominated, and this was very drinking. I’d drink this again.

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Photo of Khazadum
3.53/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Creamy head develops well, easily. Laces relatively easy, good stickiness. Chocolate colored head. Deep dark body, crimson lacing.

S- Deep burnt acrid grain. Sharp, astringent. Pork on the back end, roasty but also meaty. Smoky actually, less roasty. Bit of sweetness, a generic cardboard malty nature as well.

T- Bit of a light roasty body, some bits of burnt grain here and there. Tiny back end of... anise? Ugh. Hate that, but can't fault a brewer from incorporating it somehow. Finishes lightly hopped. A gentle bitterness that is earthen, well placed and tasty.

M- Smooth, creamy, silky, milky, chalky, gently carbonated. Lingering flavors, light alcohol presence around the edges make this feel like a six percent versus what it really is.

Not bad, not great. Just a simple RIS.

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Photo of TheDudeRules
2.07/5  rDev -47.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

Poured into my Hangar 24 snifter.

Dark pour. I don't feel like it is quite black. No head, zero lacing.

Molasses, black licorice and brownie fudge emit from my glass.

Thin beer. Way too thiin for an imperial stout. This is more like a porter. Bitter taste. Medicinal like. Aftertaste is what an old shoe smells like . This is awful.

My magic eight ball says this beer will quench the drain's thirst.

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Photo of angusblackheart
4.5/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown, medium head, good lacing.

This beer smells like winter to me. Tree bark, pine, cold earth. Roasty coffee. Fire smoke.

The roasty smoky qualities make it into the taste, but a molasses sweetness balances out the dark and bitter edges.

Great beer for a great price!!

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Photo of Jeffo
3.54/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Doops brought this one out for a random Tuesday beer night. Thanks for sharing man!

From a bomber into a snifter
Bottled in November 2010

APPERANCE: A transparent brown pour yields a two finger, medium-thicker looking, light mocha colored head with great retention. Head slowly fades to a good wisp and ring leaving sticky lacing down the sides. Black body and no carbonation evident. Only a ring remains until the end but leaves no lacing. A thicker pour would have given this a higher score.

SMELL: Roasted and smoky malts, dark chocolate and sweet molasses. Floral hops still there and a touch of dark fruits. Nice, bolder nose.

TASTE: Roasted and smoky malts with sweet caramel and molasses up front. Smoke and lots of bitter baker’s chocolate at the swallow. Big, persistent aftertaste is bitter-sweet with dark chocolate, molasses notes and some nice smoky qualities as well. Pretty good stuff overall.

PALATE: Medium body and medium carbonation. Slightly light on the palate, semi-creamy as well, goes down fine and finishes slightly sticky on the palate.

OVERALL: Pretty good stuff for sure. The look was a little thin, unfortunately, but the rest of the brew was up to snuff. An enjoyable brew that’s worth checking out. Thanks again for sharing Doops. Recommended.

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Photo of doopiedoopiedoo
3.2/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A 22 oz bottle of this was brought to me by Steve when he came over from MA. Shared with Jeffo after we decided low abv stouts weren't cutting it for a Thursdaynight.

Not the blackest, nor the thickest of stouts I've seen. Coca Cola comes to mind especially after hearing the lively carbonation. Came with a minimal tan head that went away quickly. Move on nothing special to see here.

Smells are of roasted dark malts and chocolate and a hint of hops. Nothing huge but still pleasant on the nose.

Taste is iniatially bland and things aren't really happening untill after the swallow. There is chocolate, there is some sweetnes and there is a nice bitterness after the swallow. Sit, sip and enjoy.

A rather light to medium body witha dry finish. A bit too light for my liking.

Nothing mindblowing. The strong suit of this one are the pleasant bitter flavors that linger for a while after the swallow. Would I seek this out to have again. No. Would I drink another glass? Sure...

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Photo of mmmbeer
3.53/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

From a 22 oz. bomber, courtesy of Andy at the brewery. Brewed with 2-row, wheat, chocolate, smoked and cara-munich malts; hopped with Cascade and Newport; cellared three months at the brewery and bottled November 2010. Pours pretty much black, with a finger of fine mocha head that retains a small collar and leaves decent lacing. Smells sweet and resinous, with notes of chocolate, toffee, dark berries and stone fruits, cherries, plums, coffee?, a dash of smoke, and piney/citric hops. On the palate it's heavily roasted/burnt malts, dark roast coffee, bitter malts and hops, a little sweetness and some notes of citrus. It has a moderate overall bitterness, but it starts sharply and lingers. Hints of ethanol. The body is somewhat light for the style, chalky and drying, with low carbonation and a medium to long finish. Almost tastes more like a big American stout, but it becomes more "imperial" as it warms. It is cleanly-fermented, with well-hidden alcohol and is very roasty, but still easy to drink. Definitely worth a try and a big thanks to Andy for the sample.

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Photo of mynie
3.68/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Received in a trade this past winter. I cellared it properly, since I got a cellar now instead of a closet.

Pours opaque but nonetheless reddish. Odd but appealing.

Smells and tastes like incidental smoke. More like smokiness than like smoke. If you think it's impossible for an actual thing to be more like an adjective than a noun, then you should judge the smokiness of this beer.

Aside from that--it's aged okay, I guess, but not as good as a RIS should, especially after less than a year. The malt's grown a wee bit sour, and while that's not unpleasant, it feels like there should be something more firm in there to back it up--some coffee or bourbon, vanilla, or alcohol. For an imperial, this is pretty bland.

Still, this is a drinkable tasty, drinkable beer with a decent amount of stuff going on. I just wish they'd have done more with it.

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Photo of stakem
3.97/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from notes taken back in March. This brew appears a very dark brown color with a thin tan rope of head that lies around the outside edge of the glass. Even with a light swirl, there is seemingly no retention to the cap.

The smell of this brew initially is primarily raisins with quite a bit of sweetness to the nose with a smoked quality and chocolate notes across the back. Overall not a bad smelling brew but a little more fruity than I like for the style.

The taste is kilned grains imparting a smoked chocolate malt flavor with light raisin to dark fruity sweetness. There is a light citrus hop quality across the back to balance things out. A lingering aftertaste of roasted grain quality is met with almost a medicinal and spicy alcohol note.

This is a medium bodied brew with a smooth feel and light amount of carbonation. It is easy drinking but with a somewhat medicinal kick and more fruity flavors than I like in the style. Overall not bad though, it's worth a try.

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Photo of Duhast500
4.1/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22oz. bottle into a stemmed Dogfish Head glass.

The color is a dark black with no highlights and two fingers foamy, pillowy brownish head that leaves some lacing on the glass.

The smell is roasty like a porter but has some dark chocolate aroma with some dryness that reminds me also of bakers chocolate.

The taste is filled with a roasted malt flavor that is in each corner of this beer. Some dark fruits are hiding in the middle with a slight smoky flavor and even some slight bitterness toward the end make for some nice bold flavor.

The feel of this beer is pretty deep with a medium to heavy feel on the palette. There really seems to be a lot to this beer but it does not over power the senses. It has a drinkable feel that was quite smooth and went down well.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.58/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes.

Very smokey, I'll say that much. Pours a very dark brown color nearing black with a bit of a light mocha head. The nose carries quite a bit of smoke with some roast and a bit of mild citrus. Pretty strong roast and hints of chocolate. The flavor has roast, smoke, chocolate, and also a bit of brown sugar. Smoke and roast dominate. Medium body. The smoke places well here, leaving a nice ashy feeling. Pretty drinkable; I'd have this again.

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Photo of busterthecat
3.4/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into Oversized tulip stout glass.

A- Pours a very dark soft brown that sits almost black in glass. A dense mocha head forms but fades rather quickly. Not much lacing.

S- Dark roasted malts, coffee, cocoa, some slight soft notes. Medium robustness. Nice.

T- Tangy & sweet chocolate and roasted notes upfront. Some bitterness. Good but average.

M- Medium strength body. Perhaps a tad watery. Soft, light on palate. I wanted more depth.

O- No alc, very east to put a bomber down. I wanted more from this RIS. A good buy for the price ~$6.

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Photo of number1bum
3.36/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque black color with a pretty quickly rising three fingers of tan head. Head is somewhat bubbly, keeping a pretty good lace, not super full but not bad. Nice webbing on the sides as well.

Smell is on the weak side, with some roasted malt and a chocolate/caramel sweetness. I get a touch of smoke and anise as well. It's not a very robust nose for an imperial stout at all, though.

Taste is more flavorful than the nose let on, but it still feels a bit thin and somewhat lacking. Roasted malt is rather modest for an imperial stout, while the sweet malts have more character. It's chocolaty with caramel like the nose was, plus a bit of brown sugar. There is some earthy and leafy hop flavor in the finish, plus hints of smoke and black licorice. There are some interesting components here, but it's weak and a touch thin.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied but as I've mentioned before feels too thin for an imperial stout. It could use more body and it could stand to be creamier; it's very clean, too clean really, in the finish.

This is a very average imperial stout in my opinion. Just doesn't deliver enough flavor or character and doesn't stand up to the many very good beers of this style. It does come at a reasonable price ($5.99 for a bomber), but with that pricetag comes a sacrifice in flavor. A pretty mediocre beer at the end of the day.

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Photo of Knapp85
2.96/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Wasn't much of an Imperial Stout to me. It wasn't thick enough and the flavors weren't strong enough. Those are two things that really make an Imperial Stout what it should be. Everything else about the beer is good. Color and aromas are nice. It's just those first two big things that hinder this brew.

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Joshua Norton Imperial Stout from The Tap Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 68 ratings.