Welcome to BeerAdvocate!

Looking to talk, rate or trade beer? Join today by creating your free account.

Dismiss Notice
Curious about recent updates to the site and app? Check the Announcements forum for updates.
Dismiss Notice
Love Belgian Beer?

Join us Sep 17 in Portland, Maine for Return of the Belgian Beer Fest, featuring hundreds of authentic Belgian beers and Belgian-inspired offerings.

Tickets + more: beeradvocate.com/belgian

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

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
84
good
56 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sprecher Brewing Company
Wisconsin, United States | website

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
56
Ratings:
149
Avg:
3.72
pDev:
23.39%
 
 
Wants:
13
Gots:
24
For Trade:
2
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 56 | Ratings: 149
Photo of Vdubb86
4.22/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Sam Adam's Perfect Pint Glass

Thanks to TMoney 2591 for allowing me to have some of this gigantic bottle.

This beer looks a nice black stout color, with a beige foam on the surface. The smell is pretty damn good. There is a strong caramel and malt aroma with this beer. There is a nice oak flavor with this beer that I truly enjoy. The light chocolate flavor mixed in with all of that is pretty damn good. The mouthfeel is decently smooth, the time that this has had on it has worked well for it. The drinkability for this beer is fairly high. I really truly enjoyed this beer.

 591 characters

Photo of emerge077
3.11/5  rDev -16.4%
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 feloniousmonk
4/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black as the blackest black, under a creamy, smooth, slathering of cocoa-tanned topping. Classic RIS look.

Rich espresso notes in aroma, molasses, cocoa nibs, ...and the onset of sweet bourbon-y notes, ...more flavors reveal themselves, smoke, char, licorice, they keep coming.

And it's there in spades, on the tongue, full flavored, full-bodied, and surprisingly easy going down. Definite whiskey character now covers the palate, sweet vanilla tones coming in, along with the barrell feel.

Fills and coats the palate more, but not in a overly sticky, intrusive way. Nice, even, well-rounded, balanced, with the whiskey flavor always keeping pace. So tasty, and so easy drinking, with plenty of bourbon-ation trucking on down the line.

 740 characters

Photo of sweemzander
3.9/5  rDev +4.8%
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 vacax
4.42/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

One liter flip top bottle poured into a tulip. Spring 2007 batch.

Color is black, touch of light visible along edge of glass, small but tight beading and good retention on the light brown head. Nose has black treacle, bourbon, vanilla, light oxidation, and maple.

Flavor is rich with caramel, roasted malt, coffee beans, oxidation, leather, and the finish hits with brownies and bourbon. Deep flavors complemented by a bit of oxidation and quite drinkable for something so strong and robust. Body is full, but perhaps not as much as the flavor hints at. Carbonation is clearly forced but sticks to an appropriate lowish to moderate level. This drink is a nice treat, hope this one comes out again.

 700 characters

Photo of jzeilinger
3.9/5  rDev +4.8%
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 BedetheVenerable
3.77/5  rDev +1.3%
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 rhoadsrage
4/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in a snifter)
A- This beer has a jet black body with a dark molasses tan head that fades to a thin ring pretty quickly.
S- There is a graham aroma with a softer dark roasted note and a softer oaky hint in the finish. As the beer warms the oaky note takes on hints of vanilla and leather.
T- This beer has a big black inky flavor that turns a bit vinous when warm. A soft oaky note in the finish turns more cola like as it warms with a chocolate note and a light boozy note.
M- This beer has a medium-light mouthfeel with a slight astringent hint from the dark roasted grains and a fizz the covers up most of the flavor that might linger.
D- Pretty average when cold but opens up a bit when it warms up. Still bigger flavors would have been nice but the alcohol content was very hidden.

 798 characters

Photo of augustgarage
4.42/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Reading over the reviews, it seems this is an entirely different beast on-tap than it is in the bottle. The pour I'm reviewing was served in a snifter at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood.

Opaque seal brown body with a dense finger of tan cream. Good retention (especially for the ABV), almost like a layer of chocolate milkshake floating atop a massive espresso shot. Full sheets of lacing and rivulets of legs.

Clearly there is no attempt to disguise the full barrel aged notes. Heavy and complex mix of vanilla, coconut, and tobacco immediately suggestive of bourbon or even rye whiskey. Molasses, prunes, dark chocolate, and burnt sugar join the barrel notes to form an intoxicating whole. There is a touch of pepper from the alcohol when you bring the glass closer to the nose. Impeccable really...

The flavor profile carries over everything from the aroma and adds a low roast malt element; this is joined by faint hop notes to balance the ensuing sweetness which lingers into the finish along with rich licorice, molasses, and chocolate. Another subtle wave of wood smoke, pepper, toast, and maybe coffee appears long after the rest of the flavor has dissipated. Very well done - while lacking the singular alchemy of Firestone 13, it is otherwise more akin to that superlative blend than it is to most examples of RIS (even those that are likewise barrel aged).

Full bodied and chewy, but well carbonated. Mild astringency and notable warming.

A little sweet overall, and some might find the barrel notes to be obstructive rather than a key feature...very good as a dessert beer.

 1,594 characters

Photo of jrallen34
4.57/5  rDev +22.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I drank this on tap into a snifter.

The beer is black with a light tan head that is gone quickly.

The aroma is very strong with bourbon that really just knocks you on yoru ass. There is also some light oak.

The taste is awesome. It is really sweet with tons of vanilla, makes you question where'd the bourbon though but I guess it shows itself as the vanilla. There is very light bourbon and oak at the end.

The feel is a little too light for a stout but this is incredibly drinkable.

Overall this is a great beer that really shows of its barrel aging unlike so many other BA beers.

 598 characters

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.4/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1 Liter bottle (awesome label!) poured into an Imperial Pint. 11.0% ABV, 9126 hand-written in silver marker on the back.

Review number 500. Been saving this one for a good occasion!

A - It pours out like filthy motor oil, thick and black. No light shines through this behemoth! It cascades momentarily leaving a huge three-finger, dense, cream-like, dark tan head. Absolutely amazing retention with legs on the glass as well as a thick collar of lacing that resembles a mountain silhouette scene. Towards the bottom of the first glass lacing covered 90% of the glass.

S - The oaky nose is strong with a good bourbon punch to it and a rich vanilla and molasses syrupyness. Lots of warm alcohol but not solventy at all. The hops are totally absent as the malts take front and center. Dark roasted barley with chocolate too. Notes of dark fruits like raisin and plum are faintly present too. The aroma is incredibly rich and foreboding.

T - The taste falls short of the nose a bit providing a large helping of roasted malts, so roasted in fact, it gives it a cocoa-like feel with a giant bitterness that's largely overshadowed by strong oaky bourbon. Thankfully it's such a complex beer other flavors swirl around constantly in the background giving me other avenues to explore. A light touch of room-temperature black coffee lingers by a vanilla bean and molasses flavor while the dark fruit notes poke through with mild sweetness. The large oaky bourbon barrel flavor finishes out with a warm alcohol kick. Again, hops are absent giving the malts and their compatriots free roam. The flavor is huge and good, just not as well-blended as the aroma is.

M - It's immediately evident, based on the pour, it'll be as thick as syrup. And it is. Creamy and smooth as velvet, the texture is something to behold. That is, until that large chalky-bitter punch comes in. It doesn't ruin it but it does put it off a bit. The alcohol gives it a subtle warmth to the finish without a harsh, sharp flavor. Absolutely full-bodied and rich as can be.

D - It's one hellofa Russian Imperial Stout. Something I wouldn't mind constantly having on hand. It's drinkability is only lowered by the pesky cocoa-dry bitter thing going on an a bit overly bourbon flavor. I don't mind it for a glass, but for a while liter, which at this point is more than half-gone, it's getting a bit old. A great winter warming beer to sip your way through on a freezing January day or to share with a full-on beer lover. Make sure they like 'em strong and rich.

 2,525 characters

Photo of botham
4.3/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

liter growler poured into a snifter. pours pitch black with a single figer of rich tan head that lasts a minute or so and leaves a tan rim for the duration.

aroma is of roasted black malts and ok, with notes of chocolate, vanilla, a touch of coffee and a base of warming bourbon.

taste is more of the same with an ultra smooth profile and a touch of residual roasted malt. the roasted malts an oak aging are well done, with an ultra concentrated presence on the palate. the alcohol is well hidden, though it does show up a bit after some warming.

mouthfeel is wonderful. silky smooth and super mellow on the way down. the brew is mildly warming on the palate.

drinkability is decent. so rich, thick and flavorful with a smooth and warming presence on the palate. just what a good oak aged RIS should be. cheers!

 815 characters

Photo of oakbluff
2.38/5  rDev -36%
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 weeare138
4.32/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Capone's...
Appears a dark brown, nearing black with a dark amber & ruby hue when held to the light. A small, light tan head slowly fades into a mild cap. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of oak, roasted nuts, vanilla, cocoa, bourbon, and ripe fruit.
Taste is of the aromas with the bourbon being somewhat subdued in the flavors with the dark fruit, brown sugar, and vanilla dominating.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, mild abv heat, and a bit chewy. Perhaps a tad thin in the finish but not bad, overall.
This faired much better than the bottle sample I had last year and opted not to rate.

 628 characters

Photo of barleywinefiend
3.75/5  rDev +0.8%
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 sweetbrew82
4.15/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

1 liter into a snifter/ "bottled on date" Spring 2007

P: Deep leather brown from the bottle, completely opaque aside from the deep garnet highlights on the edges. 3 fingered walnut brown head is thick and creamy, kind of pillowy with decent retention.

A: Whew! Aroma exploded out of the bottle as soon as the swing top popped open. Bourbon-like alcohol, dark chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and some dark fruits.

T: Sweet start with a big, but not overpowering presence of Bourbon-flavored alcohol, deeply roasted - almost burnt - malts, molasses, and chocolate. Then, the Bourbon seems to fall back in the pecking order to allow lots of vanilla, smokey oak, and maple sap to make their presence felt. Bitter coffee & dark fruits stay subtle, but lend some complexity and depth to the profile. Pretty sweet throughout, and finishes with maple, chocolate, and vanilla for a long aftertaste.

M & D: Mouthfeel is a bit thinner than I expected, almost a tad watery. Still, it's medium-full, rich, and smooth. But I really wish it was more full, creamy, chewy, and syrupy for a stout this big. Drinkability is pretty good in my book. But then again, this is my favorite style.

Notes: While I didn't get the chance to try this fresh, I have to think that the 2 years of age on it has done this one some good. A very good Barrel-Aged Stout that features some good complexities, subtle nuances, and a nice alcohol punch to the brain. Very good!

 1,438 characters

Photo of zeff80
4.12/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a brown, foamy and bubbly head. It left trails of soapy lace.

S - It smelled of bourbon, vanilla, oak and roasted malt. There was a slight floral aroma.

T - It tasted very sweet and even a little citrusy. The bourbon flavor was mild but present.

M - It was smooth and soft. A medium to full-bodied beer.

D - This is a very nice RIS. It has unique flavors.

 406 characters

Photo of magictrokini
3.91/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1 L bottle. Pours black with a big cascading tan head. Aroma of chocolate malt, smoke, bourbon, leather, oak, and caramel. A shockingly thinnish mouthfeel for an Imperial. Taste is nice; good bittersweet chocolate and coffee flavors with a strong, but not overwhelming bourbon sourness. Some vanilla, caramel, oak, and earthy flavors that pop out at different times. Overall, I really enjoyed this beer.

 403 characters

Photo of nsmartell
3.58/5  rDev -3.8%
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 Pauly2X
4.15/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- One finger tan head, black.

S- Dried fruits, rich deep caramel with notes of roasted malts.

T- Deep, rich caramel deepened further by a subtle roast character that blends nicely with the bourbon oak character. Very malty with just enough hop pressence to keep it from being out of hand.

M- Smooth and rich just a little too fizzy.

D- For 11% this is good.

If you almost liked triple bock but thought it would be better if it was just toned down, try this.

 463 characters

Photo of beckje01
1.86/5  rDev -50%
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 charlzm
3.74/5  rDev +0.5%
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 Crosling
3.02/5  rDev -18.8%
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 travloh
2.96/5  rDev -20.4%
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 JDV
2.12/5  rDev -43%
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

firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Czar Brew - Russian Imperial Stout Aged In Oak Bourbon Barrels from Sprecher Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 56 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.
  • Return of the Belgian Beer Fest

    BeerAdvocate Brings its All-Belgian Fest to Portland, Maine on September 17, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.

    Learn More
  • Get the Mag

    Become a BeerAdvocate magazine print subscriber today.

    Subscribe