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Atwater VJ Black | Atwater Brewery

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Atwater VJ BlackAtwater VJ Black

Brewed by:
Atwater Brewery
Michigan, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by DrDemento456 on 04-09-2011

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Reviews: 68 | Ratings: 215
Photo of chefdaddy18042
4.62/5  rDev +20.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Oh yeah! Finally an RIS that has the vanilla side of the category. I really enjoyed this brew. Little booziness, lots of vanilla present that completely hits the tongue and matches great with the dark malt flavorings. Had the 2010 batch with I felt was far superior to the 2011 batch. I would say let this one age one year before cracking, the vanilla takes a step back and comes into harmony with the roasted malts that create a beautiful beverage. Definitely case worthy!

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Photo of PorterLambic
4.57/5  rDev +19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours pitch black with a substantial mocha colored head. Retention is decent and dissipation is a bit noisy but lacing is good.
Smell is great. Roasted malt, molasses, graham cracker, baking chocolate/cocoa, alcohol-soaked oak and some dark fruits. Phenomenal balance. I swear I smell oreos.
Taste is amazing. Semisweet chocolate, molasses, toasted graham crackers, malt, dark fruits and light hops to balance.
Medium-full body, light effervescence. Alcohol presence but nowhere near what you would expect for 11%. Smooth with a slight coating of the tongue and palate. A slight astringency in the finish. This is a very, very good beer. I could drink several of these easily.

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Photo of MI_gal616
4.56/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The VJ black is Atwater's Vanilla Java Porter made into an Imperial Stout (more, more, more of everything).

This poured like a beauty into the glass. Small, tan head with great legs on a super robust dark brown, almost black beer.

The smell is what blew me away. Like vanilla extract, super sweet. Normally not what i'd be looking for in a beer, but it smelled so good!

The flavor was rich with roasted coffee, smooth roasted malts, and not nearly as sweet as the nose would suggest. In fact, there was a rather pleasant hop bitterness in the aftertaste that was not present in the initial flavor.

The mouthfeel was medium to full body. Definitely more robust than I expected after reading some reviews of this beer and having a rather watery Vanilla Java Porter earlier this year.

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Photo of Lordhelmit
4.54/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Great beer. Pours dark not quite black more like a very dark very deep mahogany. Persistent head/lacing. Smell was strong but describing it is a bit tough. I always struggle with the nose. Smells good, sweet, pretty much like a Hershey's bar melted inside a vanilla coffee.. Taste is wow. Hits your tongue quite aggressively! Immediately get a dark chocolate flavor that kind of spreads from your tongue to the rest of your mouth and finishes with the same caramel/chocolate taste but with a good bit of bitterness left in your mouth. The bitterness is perfect. What a great balance. This is a great brew,

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Photo of wrightst
4.53/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had sevaral of Atwater beers, and most seem to target the medium range. This one aims for the smaller, center of the target, which of course, is more rewarding.

It pours very dark brown, nearly black with a tan head. As appealing as that is, surprisingly, I did not drink in the appearance.

The smell was a strong presence of vanilla, which really surprised me, as I was expecting what the label told me to expect, a Russian Imperial Stout. It lead me to do some digging and right here, two reviews down from mine, is the answer - it's a vanilla porter, repurposed as a RIS. If you'd asked me ahead of time, I'd have said two things: I don't think it will work, and try it anyway. I love brewers that will go out on a limb like this.

The flavor was similar, but the vanilla was much less intense. Common for beers with vanilla. The taste was much more in line with an imperial stout, but the vanilla continues to linger. This is one of those high gravity beers (11%) that does not taste it. A feature I like.

It is robust in mouthfeel, but not as hearty as some imperial stouts, and not close to say, triple abbeys or double bocks.

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Photo of B0bD0bbselbock
4.5/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle poured into tumbler pint glass.

A- Deep, dark black with elements of brownish with an amber tinge (under light). Pretty high opacity, and a nice, brownish, two-finger head that receded to about 1/4 finger with medium lacing.

S- Sweet, roasted malty goodness, smelling somewhat like roasted marshmallows and vanilla with a hint of coffee. Kinda reminds of a good chocolate donut, in some sense. I also detect something like sweet, dry roasted peanuts.

T- Wow! The aroma of this beer seems to match up quite a bit in the flavor profile. Its pleasantly sweet, with a bold body of roasted, maybe toasted malts, and a nice chocolaty flavor, with hints of vanilla bean. The alcohol is beautifully hidden.

M- A near full-bodied mouthfeel that i find smooth and silky. Seems to be a bit mildly carbonated.

This one I would highly recommend to those who enjoy the darker side of beers. Being a huge fan of imperial stouts, this one pleases my palate on many levels. Truly a delicious representation of a great style of beer that i tend to enjoy year round, tho Michigan's winter season makes this an even warmer welcome. I found the flavors exciting and deep, captivating even, and the aroma very inviting, sort of flirting with my olfactory senses, which, of course, i went for home base. Very surprisingly, I found this very high 11% ABV so well hidden, that i could easily drink two in a row before i blissfully melt into my chair. I'd like to pair this one side by side with the Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, as they seem like they'd become fast friends. Atwater brewery has truly impressed my brain with this one, and I further convinced that Michigan has some of the greatest breweries in one state. Cheers!

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Photo of Knapp85
4.42/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

VJ Black pours out as a rich semi thick looking black color with a brown colored head that leave a light lacing. The smell of this beer is a very nice. There a really good chocolate aroma with a light mix of roasted malts and vanilla. It smell like it could be extremely tasty. The aroma gives a really good idea of what the taste is. It's got the flavors of some milk chocolate and vanilla. There is some wooden flavors in there and a dry roasted aftertaste. The mouthfeel is ultra smooth and very drinkable. The 11% abv is no where to be found. It's a very impressive beer!

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Photo of donkeyrunner
4.35/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Black beer, lumpy mocha colored head. Glass bottom retention casts a large, lacey net.

Smells more like candy than beer: vanilla, black licorice whip, and moist brownie mix.

Tastes like a chocolate, chocolate chip cookie with vanilla and licorice mixed in. A good, soft chocolate chocolate chip cookie too, not one of those half-stale ones that people bring as an after church snack. Extremely sweet, I could see this being a polarizing beer like ST Creme Brulee. Body is a bit thin,not terribly so, but not big stout worthy.

I'd like a little more roast to balance out the sweetness but a fine sippin' dessert beer just the same.

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Photo of martyl1000
4.33/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brown-black with a thin off-white head. Not much lacing on the glass of my snifter.

The aroma is surprisingly bright and biscuity, without the bigger aromas of the style. Really more like a much smaller beer, like a mildly spiced winter warmer in the nose, with sweet malt and no alcohol.

Speaking of alcohol, it's hard to believe this is 11% abv. There's hardly a trace of it in the mouth. The other flavors of the style are also very quiet: unsweetened coco, burnt coffee, vanilla.

Surprisingly thin mouthfeel, yet with an overall creaminess that creates a mysterious sensation--a richness born of something other than mouthfeel.

While it's not what I look for in the style, I will remember this for guests who want to drink with the big boys but who are overwhelmed by true big beers.

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Photo of DannyDan
4.28/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours out a black hue with a tan head that has nice retention and really good lacing on the glass. The beer has a pleasant chocolate and vanilla aroma with hints of cola and coffee. The taste consists of coffee, vanilla and sweet malts along with some chocolate and a hint of hops at the end of the drink. A very smooth and creamy mouthfeel that makes this a pleasure to drink.
This is one of the best beers I have had from Atwater Block Brewery and is worthy of comparison to Old Rasputin and Siberian Nights. Great job Atwater.

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Photo of VncentLIFE
4.22/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks Kyle!

Pours black with an off white head.

Smell is so sweet. Chocolate milk comes to mind, where your mom wants to skimp on the Hershey's syrup. no bitterness to speak of.

The taste is soooo sweet. Super loaded with chocolate, kind of like Choklat. light body, but thats from all the chocolate. I actually really like this, since its in the realm of Choklat and Blackout Stout.

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Photo of WesWes
4.19/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a pitch black color with a towering tan head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is great! It has a rich, chocolatey scent that's warm and dessert-like. The taste is much the same. It has a smooth roasted and chocolate malt flavor. The sweet chocolate taste is intoxicating. It goes down easy with just a touch of alcohol warmth. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a very drinkable beer even at 11% abv.. This beer could really sneak up on you.

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Photo of Roman5150
4.19/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bottle into tulip glass

appearance: black with white foamy head 1 finger thick

smell: maybe i'm crazy but I get a huge hint of powdered hot cocoa packets, not quite espresso or coffee but very similar. also some milk chocolate and earthy, resiny hops in the mix.

taste: dark chocolate and espresso forward. heavy on the roasted malt, follows the nose and has a hint of bitter hot cocoa. very unique chocolatey taste.

mouthfeel: not too carbonated, sort of thin body

overall: A very good coffee forward stout, and my favorite beer from Atwater, and otherwise average brewery that i've tried so hard to like. This is their best offering, had side by side with 6-month old Expedition Stout, and while it was inferior it stood it's ground in flavor complexity and drinkabilty. This is a well balanced beer, a little on the bitter side for a stout, but highly drinkable.

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Photo of buschbeer
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 fl. oz. bottle
Served in a snifter
March 2012 is notched in the label.

A - It pours black with less than an inch of tan head.

S - I smell some roasted malt and dark chocolate.

T - On my first taste I immediately thought "chocolaty." It has a real nice dark chocolate flavor along with some roasted malt.

M - Full

O - I haven't thought much of Atwater Block beers. This one has me rethinking them. This beer is delicious. I love the dark chocolate characteristics.

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Photo of d_rek
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottled poured into a pint glass

A - Pours a deep, oily black that light doesn't penetrate and leaves about 1 1/2 fingers of bubbly, frothy foam. Head maintains it's integrity for a goodly amount of time, leaving some solid lacing.

S - A creamy sweetness and also getting some dark chocolate and berry notes. Smelling very fine right now.

T - Unexpectedly sweet compared to other Imperial Stouts i've had - but not in a bad way! A cola-like sweetness complemented by malts and touches of dark chocolate. A slight heat can be felt as air hits the mouth after you swallow but does nothing to give away it's high ABV (11%).

M - Oily with a heavy carbonation that gives the brew a lighter body than most imperial stouts.

O - A very enjoyable Imperial Stout that defies the 'motor oil' characteristics i've come to expect of most imperial stouts. Also uncharacteristically sweet, which may turn some people off, but I find it rather refreshing.

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Photo of hopflyer
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours deep dark brown with reddish highlights on edges. Light tan head about 1 finger.

Smell is bakers vanilla and some coffee. Some roasted malt.

Taste follows with nice smooth vanilla mixed with black coffee. Not much in roasted or charred wood flavor but not needed here. A little bitterness on the back end.

Feel is creamy enhanced by the vanilla. Medium body and low to medium carbonation. Bitterness lingers a little.

A really good, smooth, and creamy stout. Feel is a bit thin for an RIS. Abv not noticeable at all.

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Photo of sinstaineddemon
4.14/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - running out of ways to describe the typical IRS black color, but this is it. Motor oil black with half a finger of tan head that doesn't fade away

S - roasted malts lay the expected base for this stout, layered above that are magnificent bourbon, chocolate, and slight coffee aromas

T - the taste is as layered and complex, chocolate is big and bold with some follow-up from coffee and bourbon, some lactic sweetness that is kind of creamy giving it a milk stout like flavor, then the rich malts return for a velvety finish

M&D - smooth and thick, more flavor than I expected, a pleasant surprise, love stouts with more than two flavor elements, nice brew!

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.1/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep dark black body with a tan head filling my chalice above the rim of the glass, dwindles slowly leaving chunky sporadic lacing. Aroma has deep vanilla semi oaked barrel notes with hints of coffee and dark chocolate. Flavor has a sharp acidic dark chocolate infused coffee, almost like it has a slightly sour mash amongst hints of oak aging (my guess is oak chips), with some vanilla bourbon hints going on. Really not bad it's just a mix of tart dark chocolate, harsh roasted coffee notes, and a bit of artificial vanilla bourbon oak notes. Much like an Rock Bottom nitro Vanilla Bourbon stout I've had in the past. I can't believe this beer is packing 11% alcohol, extremely well hidden and a bit dangerous. Mouthfeel is medium bodied not cloying in anyway a bit of the bitter dark roasts leaves behind some welcoming dryness to the upfront sweet vanilla java presence. Overall impression is wow, not bad well crafted one of the first Atwater Block brews I've been impressed with on any level. Nothing diabetes sickeningly sweet about it just a well balanced well hidden imperial version of thier Vanilla Java Stout.

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Photo of neenerzig
4.1/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A friend of mine and I spent a few hours at this brewery about 2 weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon when we went to Detroit to see Motorhead and Anthrax play. A guy sitting next to me was inquiring as to whether or not the brewery had any bottled beers he could buy to go. They only had this one available, and also they apparently only sold beer to go by the case. Not sure why that is or if it is a state law, etc. The guy made the purchase and was complaining a bit that he had to buy so much. So I asked if he'd want to sell any to me. So he sold one of the six packs in the case to me, which had four of them, for $7.00. I thought that was quite an excellent deal especially considering the fact that there is no way I'd pay such a bargain price for a 6 pack of 11% ABV stout at any retail outlet here in Ohio. poured out of a 12 oz bottle into one of my tulip glasses, this beer pours a very dark brown, almost black color and a creamy looking tan, light brown head that is about an inch thick when first poured that eventually settles to a nice thick ring lining the inside of the glass along with a nice, thick surface layer of foam. Pretty good lacing too. Aromas of roasted caramel malts, roasted coffee, and a nice hint of vanilla are nicely present. Flavors of roasted malt caramel sweetness upfront that gives way to roasted coffee bitterness along with sweet hints of chocolate and vanilla that is all rounded out with a bit of earthy hop bitterness. An excellent flavor profile here and the different flavors blend together and compliment each other quite nicely. No single flavor dominates either. It gets better too as the beer warms a bit. Has a crisp, smooth, slightly prickly, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. I feel the mouthfeel is a bit thin for an imperial stout though, as this feels more like a porter or a sweet/milk stout, etc. Perhaps the lighter body is good this reason being that it is still about 75 degrees and sunny here in Cleveland right now. A pretty good beer all around and worth a try.


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Photo of ciachef1212
4.09/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- I was very surprised the head retention his beer had for 11%.

S- Has an average RIS aromas but thing really amazing.

T- This is where this beer shines. Flavors of sweet espresso and vanilla. It has a great balance between sweetness and bitterness.

M- It is very thick but very very drinkable for 11% ABV.

O- This is a really good beer. I wish there was more to speak of in the smell but the taste is spot on.


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Photo of Bung
4.08/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. Pretty much a black pour with a layer of light tan head. Retained fairly well.

Aroma, has roast malt, some earthyness and light chocolate. A bit subdued.

Taste is much more assertive. Very nice blend of roast malt, dark chocolate, vanilla. Some peat or something earthy in there also. Cocoa and lighter coffee accent the drier finish. Lingers nicely.

Enough carbonation to keep it interesting. I wouldn't quite call it creamy. Maybe a little thin body wise, but maybe that helps the drinkability. This was pretty easy to put down for 11%.

Wasn't expecting much since I haven't cared for the other Atwater brews I've had. I was pleasantly surprised. Best I've had from these folks for sure.

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Photo of templar316
4.06/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a dark cola with ruby highlights. The head is here and gone. A great vanilla character, with echos of dates, pumpkin and cola on the nose. A pronounced vanilla sweetness hides the ABV, it finishes with bitter cocolate and cola. It finishes smooth and easy to drink. I could have another...

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Photo of tempest
4.05/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I found a bottle at Abe's Cold Beer, the label is notched for Feb 2010. This stout is so smooth, I had not idea it was stronger than seven or eight percent. There's a huge, dry cocoa flavor with a toasty sugar cookie taste in the background and a roasty molasses edge. It's not the richest RIS, but it's a great chocolate-like beer (reminds me of Rogue's chocolate stout) that's not too heavy.

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Photo of DaveBar
4.03/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Purchased at Champagne's as a 6pk of 12oz bottles for around the $15.00 mark or so from memory. Served at 10deg C in a tulip glass

A- Opened with a mighty POP poured a huge airy head that lasts forever and a day. Very dark brown colour

S- Lots of heat. Licorice, molasses.

T- Chocolate, malty. Some coffee. This one was aged nearly a year before I opened it so it seems all has blended together. Not bad but not great. Coco get chalky at the end.

M- Extremely carbonated for a stout.

O- Very good brew. Not great but very good. The only heat off this brew is on the nose as it's not in the flavor so be careful.

Food Pairing

This rather good brew went very well with........ Slow roasted pork. I put some season all, garlic powder and onion powder then 250deg covered for 7-8hrs. I enjoyed potato pancakes with it this time.


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Photo of jktedder12
4.03/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle, rich black in color with slight chocolate brown coloring at the head and base of glass. Quarter inch head with moderate lacing lingered for a few minutes. Smells extremely sweet, milk chocolaty with some roasted malts. Taste- also strong milk chocolate with a sight bitter aftertaste. Alcohol taste present in the flavor. Mouthfeel is slightly smoother/lighter for a stout. Overall, excellent imperial stout. Very enjoyable.

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Atwater VJ Black from Atwater Brewery
3.82 out of 5 based on 215 ratings.
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