Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Czar Brew - Russian Imperial Stout Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels | Sprecher Brewing Company

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
57 Reviews
no score
Send samples

Brewed by:
Sprecher Brewing Company
Wisconsin, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by rallison on 08-05-2007

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 57 | Ratings: 152
Photo of beckje01
1.86/5  rDev -50.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

From notes:

Pours a black beer with a decent brown head. There is some action in there but not a lot. The nose is very similar to their other BA beers in this series just the barrel is coming through is what I've decided at this point so it feels like there isn't anything to back up the bourbon notes. The flavor is just all barrel just as you would think from the nose. Really seems like dirty watery bad bourbon. This can't be a good RIS it can't stand up to the barrel at all.

 481 characters

Photo of womencantsail
2.07/5  rDev -44.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Thanks? to Greg for sharing this...

A: The beer pours almost black in color with a finger of tan head.

S: When the first thing you smell is butter, you're rarely in for anything good. Lots of butter, a bit of roast and bourbon, a touch of vanilla, and some sourness. Not sure whether that's vinegar or just too much booze.

T: The flavor is much the same. Heavy on the butter with a more pronounced sourness and even more booze. Light bourbon and vanilla flavors with lots of roast and oak, some coffee is also there.

M: Medium bodied with very low carbonation.

O: This was a nice contribution to the dump bucket.

 617 characters

Photo of JDV
2.12/5  rDev -43.2%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

bottle courtesy of Beerlando
1 L bottle shared with 5 others. Pours black with a light tan head. Smell is sweet with lots of fake vanilla extract coming through, and wet cardboard more so than roasty malt. A touch of bourbon but not a very great nose. Taste was worse, and had notes of Soy sauce, was quite tart, thin and drying, and not at all like a bourbon barrel imperial stout. I'd stay far, far away from this.

 416 characters

Photo of don1481
2.25/5  rDev -39.7%

Appearance: Pours a jet black with a cocoa colored head that retains for a bit. Leaves a small amount of lacing on the side.

Smell: big nose with a variety of vanilla, bourbon, coffee smells.

Taste: ...and here is where this falls apart. Such a thin, watered down taste. Where are all the delicious bits from the nose?? Beyond disappointed.

Mouthfeel: for something that tastes this thin it leaves a surprisingly thick feeling.

Overall: so tempted to drain pour this. Something does not add up here.

 504 characters

Photo of oakbluff
2.38/5  rDev -36.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

One litre swing top bottle- been hanging onto this big boy for a couple of years. Thought it was time to crack it. Pours out the usual muddy dark, minimal head. Nose- mostly dark fruits coming through, some vanilla. Taste- again stewed fruits. Very minimal roast or barrel characteristics, except for a slight sour tang. One dimensional, thin bodied, and just not a good beer at all. Disapointing considering the price point. Fail.

 431 characters

Photo of BeerZack
2.83/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Thanks to JDV for sharing this big swing-top.

Pretty black in color, with dark brown edges. Thin head leaves decent lace.

Smells of caramel, marzipan, make it seem more like an aged barleywine than an Imperial stout. Some alcohol smell.

Sweet, almost cloying, yet sour, soy vinegar, some cardboardiness.

Tastes like it could have been a bad bottle, maybe just stored improperly, but it seems pretty oxidized and thin.

 421 characters

Photo of camil1mj
2.88/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bought this past Spring while I was in Madison, WI. Poured at cellar temp into my Founders snifter.

A: Deep, dark, brown. Foamy, 1 finger thin head. Minimal lacing.

S: Sweet and roasty with a faint alcoholic finish.

T: Immediate sugary sweetness nose followed by some roasted malt that leads to some bourbon undertones. The sweetness dominates the overall taste of this one.

M: Very thin for the style. Medium carbonation.

O: One of the weaker BA stouts I have had. Too thin and too sweet.

 494 characters

Photo of travloh
2.96/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from bomber to snifter. This is only the 2nd RIS I have ever had. The 1st one I enjoyed very much.

Pours a motor oil black with a tan head that looks almost like you could make a sand castle out of it.

The first smell is coffee, then a roasted, smokey odor. I also get a sour essence coming through.

This stuff is questionable, there is a sour tone that comes through. Leaves a bitter coffee aftertaste. Halfway through the glass I have to confess, I wish it were gone. Just not very good, period. I can taste the bourbon influence, as this stuff is aged in bourbon barrels. Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD. The thought of a beer sitting in some warehouse in a skanky old Jack Daniels cast-off is not appealing.

I'm not buying this again, and i am so glad I tried the other brand of RIS before this one, because the chances are good this would have turned me off to the whole style.

 906 characters

Photo of Crosling
3.02/5  rDev -19%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

1.0 L Bad Boy. Dark brown color with a small head with a very light tan shade to it. Nose is fairly dynamic and shows some toasted wood, coconut, vanilla, cocoa, roast, fruit, but also a little funk. Flavor doesn't match the complexity of the nose and lacks richness. Very light malts, with light hints of chocolate. Mainly dominated by the barrel, but unfortunately there is some unwelcome contamination with the brew. It's fairly sour and funked and doesn't pair well with the delicacies of a BBA IS.

 502 characters

Photo of emerge077
3.11/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Opened this with a few friends, after picking it up in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it seemed that something had gone awry... definitely oxidized, and developing tart astringent flavors. No date on the label, i'm guessing it was last years batch. No sound when opened. Sprecher should cap these instead of using a swingtop, and wax that if they have to. I think a compromised seal may be the culprit here.

Pours a dark brown, and black in the glass. It doesn't really look thick or viscous, more like a porter almost. The tan foam was scant, dispersing into a frothy ring of bubbles, and a wispy skim across the dark surface.

Aroma had telltale soy and clay notes of oxidation creeping into the sweet vanilla notes of the bourbon barrel.

Sweet and sticky, some vanilla and tart cherry astringency. Fairly light bodied for a barrel-aged RIS. There was a moderate bourbon flavor, and a stout buried in there somewhere, but it was overshadowed by the cherry skin tartness.

No one could finish a glass, but I drank most of mine for the sake of this review.
Will re-review if I can find a vintage dated bottle.

 1,125 characters

Photo of KFBR392
3.15/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pour with a light to medium bodied thickness. Could see the dark brown color on the pour but was black once accumulated in the glass. Light brown head formed on the pour which subsided and was non existent while drinking.

Smell: A lot of bright coffee aromas and some chalky malt. Hops burst through and seem to throw off many of the darker accents. The sweetness just blankets over many of the more interesting accents here.

Taste: I kind of expected the flavor to be erratic but this had many more traditional BA stout accents then I expected. Bubbly hop front with a good bitter bite. The front and beginning of the body are the best parts of this brew. Coffee, milk chocolate, light vanilla and caramel, and some average bourbon accents. There seems to be some disconnect between the flavors here. The finish is confused, some chalky bourbon and malt which gets lost. There are some accents here which want to finish strong, but bizarrely just fade away into a watery finish.

Mouthfeel: For an RIS, probably on the light side for mouth feel. The palette seems to beg for more. Does not drench the palette like the elite RIS's do.

Overall: Comes off overall pretty average, slightly forgettable. Not something I would get again, but not something that should be avoided.

 1,292 characters

Photo of crossovert
3.35/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

650ml brow twist-off gold waxed bottle. 2009 vintage. The label proclaims "Lager". Talk about the most bizarre packaging, Sprecher might want to fire whoever is doing this.

It pours a dense black with a foamy tan head. The head recedes rather quickly and leaves some mild lacing.

The smell is thick with bourbon, super thick with it. It is big and sweet with notes of caramel and vanilla and underneath that chocolatey, roasty stout.

The flavor is big and bourbonny. It is roasty and alcoholic. It has a tanginess to it that is hard to pinpoint, like very sweet raisins, perhaps an infection.

It was great until I tasted it, I am pretty sure something sneaked its way into he barrels.

 688 characters

Photo of nsmartell
3.58/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I enjoyed this beer from the comfort of my own living room.

Appearance: Pours black in color with a fluffy brown head that disappears quickly but laces well.

Smell: Bourbon and sweet chocolate.

Taste: Mocha, sweet malts, bread and chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Thin to medium bodied. Was expecting more. Smooth and creamy.

Drinkability: Easy drink. Would definitely seek out again if they make more.

 396 characters

Photo of watermelon
3.59/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle purchased at Peabodys in Boone NC poured into a pint glass.

A: Inky black with no transparency dark khaki head with medium lacing.

S: Bourbon and chocolate dominate the nose.

T: Bourbon, chocolate and licorice

M: I can feel the malts on my tongue, fair amount of carbonation, very little burn from the booze.

O: This was the first BA imperial stout that Ive had. Its my third bomber of this and probably the last one I'll buy. I used this as "practice beer" before venturing onto more coveted examples of the style. I was able to pick this bomber up for 5 bucks which makes it an outstanding deal I would be disappointed however if I payed $15 for this bottle. I would say that if you're well versed in the style then you wont be blown away by this, however if your new to the bigger beers then this would be a great one to start off on, as its tasty yet not overly complex. I have a feeling that this is quite old(probably a year or maybe more) so I wouldn't mind trying this fresh.

 1,004 characters

Photo of TMoney2591
3.66/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Dogfish Head shaped pint glass.

There was a "render unto Caesar" joke in my head for this at one point, but I doubt it would've turned out very well. Still, this brew pours a straight black-brown topped by a healthy tan foam. The nose comprises chocolate, roasted malts, oak, cheesy omelets, and molasses. I'm pretty sure that cheesy/eggy smell comes from the barrels, but have no way to prove it. Regardless, it doesn't do the beer any favors. The taste holds notes of roasted malts, oak, vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, light coffee, and a slight twinge of whiskey. The body is a hefty-ish medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a nearly chewy feel. Overall, a nearly solid big stout, but the slightly off smell and a body that's just a bit too light do not help the drinkability very much here.

 819 characters

Photo of charlzm
3.74/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Opened and shared at Blue Palms, Hollywood, CA on 08/27/08. I picked up the bottle at Beverage Warehouse in January and have had it aging for 7 months at between 40 and 50 degrees fahrenheit.

Pours utterly black with no carbonation at all. Uh-oh...

Aroma is delicious bourbon with a hint of vanilla. Man, what a great aroma. I can sit and sniff this one all night without having to drink it.

Mouthfeel is smooth but very, very still.

Some sweet dark malts up front. More bourbon in the nose than in the mouth, but there's still a trace, along with a hint of wood. Not very bitter. At the end, a little alcohol burn as the spirit flavor becomes more prevalent. A dash of tannic wine winds things up.

A bit light flavored for a RIS, but that could have been more forgivable had there been any carbonation at all to help things along.

Thanks to everyone who helped me drink this beer: I couldn't have finished it alone.

 923 characters

Photo of barleywinefiend
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks RJ
Poured a nice black with a light brown head Nose is quite nice, sweet and slightly chocolate.
Taste is nice with cocoa, light coffee, roasted malts with little bourbon.Mouthfeel is a little thin which is surprising as the taste is so rich. it also had a sour, skunked taste on the tail end of this beer. A good RIS but no Old Rasputin.

 346 characters

Photo of schoolboy
3.77/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This was a huge brew that got better with every degree of warmth and every sip. Consider drinking it at 60 degrees F. I also was thinking the whole time that maybe it should age for six months, but I'm not sure it would get a lot better.

It looks black like it should, with a weak brown fuzz head of fine bubbles. The aroma is a boozy and sweet.

The taste is syrupy and slightly hoppy. It gets much better warm. The aftertaste is quite boozy.

This made for a nice strong New Years Eve drink that was followed by stronger and hoppier stuff. Nice pairing with other large beers.

 581 characters

Photo of BedetheVenerable
3.77/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Impressive/beautiful/classy 1L flip-top, waxed brown bottle; regal label, with no date but "9245" hand printed on the back

Appearance: BLACK, opaque beer with a nice tan brown cap with pretty nice retention.

Smell: Really interesting notes of burnt toasted marshmallows, rich vanilla extract, burnt caramel, dark chocolate, a hint of booze, toasted walnut syrup, and recently-doused-campfire.

Taste: Wow...bourbony...there's lots of sweet vanilla bourbon here, toasted wood, dark brandied fruit, just a hint of roast and some charred oak on the finish. Not unpleasant, but not nearly as deep or complex as suggested by the aromas. I'm getting a touch of burnt caramel as this warms. WARMING brew.

Mouthfeel: A bit thin for the style/11% abv

Drinkability: Medium-high

Conclusion: Thanks much to Jimmy for picking this up for me at the Sprecher brewery; we enjoyed this with some dense chocolate cake for the wife's birthday and it was pretty darn tasty. The aromas are fantastic, the flavors are pretty good, the feel's a bit of a letdown. At nearly $20 a bottle, I might not buy another one of these, but then again I might. If I did, however, I'd let it sit for a good long time (2-3 years) before cracking it open to see if I could get any more complexity out of it once the booze calmed down a bit.

 1,321 characters

Photo of jwc215
3.79/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours very dark brown with a thin tan head. Some trailing sticks.

The smell is of chocolate, coffee, oak/bourbon, anise.

The taste of sweet oak/bourbon mixes with chocolate, anise, and mild roasted coffee. Warming dryness in the warming finish.

It hits full-bodied, though carbonation is a bit sharp for the style. Alcohol lingers.

Overall, it's qa rich, enjoyable strong stout with a bourbon/oak character that is blended well. A nice "sipper"!

 449 characters

Photo of Cylinsier
3.79/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12 oz. bottle

Pours jet black with a tan ring of carbonation for a head.

Smells of licorice, dark chocolate, figs, and oak.

Molasses and licorice up front followed by oak and a hint of cinnamon.

Full body with stinging carbonation on the roof of the mouth.

Beautiful presentation, nice aroma and body. Flavor is nuanced and threatens to be a bit too cloying. Overall a very good rich stout that may turn off some people due to the overripe sweetness in the flavor.

 477 characters

Photo of ZebulonXZogg
3.83/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This pours a thick, oily black and not a bubble in the glass.
Aroma has just enough bourbon to let you know it spent time in a barrel. Plums, raisin and smoke make their presence known. Flavor is dark fruit with just a hint of booze. The label says 11.9% ABV, they sure fooled me.

 280 characters

Photo of sweemzander
3.9/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A massive 1 Liter resealable pop top dipped in wax bottle poured into a snifter. Winter 2009 release printed on the label.

(A)- Pours a thick pitch black color that produced a great creamed coffee colored tan head with good retention. Lots of lacing left behind as it slowly dissipated.

(S)- A rich roasted profile with caramel and brown sugar with bits of molasses and chocolate.

(T)- Very similar to the smell. A new and bigger raisin character within the roasted profile. Bits of caramel and molasses.

(M)- A good carbonation level and balance. Has a good roasted profile and richness to it. A bit slick mouthfeel with a slight salty component coming through about 1/2 way into the bottle.

(D)- A good stout for sure. I am afraid that this is starting to show signs of going bad due to the signs of that salty soy sauce character, so I am glad I opened this when I did. A solid example of the style and enjoyable. They are still making this, so it is not retired as far as I know. I see the 2010 release in stores

 1,026 characters

Photo of jzeilinger
3.9/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served at room temp. Pours an opaque jet black color with a nice finger or two caramel colored head. You hold this thing to the light and there's nothing going through it, looks like motor oil. Would be best served in a snifter.

Smells of caramel, some toffee notes, vanilla, dark chocolate. This beer does nothing to hide the booze, it's up front and in your face, it smells pretty darn good. Has a little peppery note in the aroma.

The taste really mirrors its aroma. Nice blend of caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate, deep roasted malt, some black licorice, and a very slight touch of coffee bean. But it gets better, there's a huge amount of bourbon flavor in this beer, one of the "booziest" stouts I've had. Regarding the bourbon booze flavor in the Czar: I don't like to mention other brewers in a review but I would say this beer rivals and surpasses the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and I didn't think that was possible. It's definitely not shy, but in your face and has a very noticeable warming in the throat from the bourbon.

Mouthfeel is surpisingly thin for a massive beer like this and is very smooth. Drinkability is very good but unfortunately the body makes it fall flat on its face and lost points.

The bottle I had was massive - 1L. I'm not sure if this is how the brewer bottles this particular beer, or if I happened to find the man-size version. Definitely need to share with a friend or two unless you want to fall off your chair. I've never heard of the brewery, but I absolutely loved this beer. Definitely worth checking out, I'm going back to buy another bottle or two.

 1,605 characters

Photo of mjpolzin
3.9/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I had this beer deep into a long night of drinking with some good friends so I should probably go back and drink this again when I am a little more coherent but I was really impressed with this Russian Imperial! My favorite thing was the taste; it had all of the great characteristics that I expect in an IS. It had the chocolate/fruity/caramel/liquorice/malty taste that I love in this type of beer plus a little extra kick which I suppose was from the bourbon barrels. Additionally, I have had some bourbon barrel stouts that I don't care for as the bourbon is too strong but this seemed to be just the right amount.

EDIT-Once I had this beer this past summer, I bought another bottle and put it away for Christmas Eve 2011. That night finally came and I just got done polishing off the entire 22 oz bottle while watching "Its A Wonderful Life". Most of things I said about this beer last summer are still true but here are a few new observations-
1. The smell/taste of bourbon were very strong at first but mellowed as I drank the beer. I probably got used to it after it was overwhelming at first.
2. I had a few drinks every once in awhile that were a little watery but overall, I thought the beer was pretty thick and syrupy.
3. At first the high abv hit me hard but I must have paced myself pretty good because by the time I was done, I wasn't wasted or anything.

 1,371 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Czar Brew - Russian Imperial Stout Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels from Sprecher Brewing Company
3.73 out of 5 based on 152 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer FestĀ® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • 10 Years of BeerAdvocate Magazine

    We're celebrating 10 years of BA mag with $10 print subscriptions for US residents!