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Atwater VJ Black | Atwater Brewery

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BA SCORE
86
very good
68 Reviews
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Atwater VJ BlackAtwater VJ Black
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Atwater Brewery
Michigan, United States
atwaterbeer.com

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
68
Ratings:
215
Avg:
3.82
pDev:
12.83%
 
 
Wants:
8
Gots:
32
For Trade:
0
User Reviews
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Reviews: 68 | Ratings: 215
Photo of Mitchster
2/5  rDev -47.6%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

$2.69 for a 12oz bottle @ BevCo. "Brewed with 6 different malts and Barley flakes and Magnum Hops", as well as presumably vanilla and coffee. OG=21d Plato, 24 IBU's and 11% ABV. Label notched for March 2012.

Clear, near black, forming a small light tan head with poor retention and sparse lacing, mild carbonation. The aroma opens with fresh vanilla, sour milk, and carob with some leafy green hops in the mix. The mouthfeel is REALLY thin for an 11% beer. I don't buy this AT ALL and would be very interested in analyzing this. I'm a homebrewer and have had hundreds of 11% ABV beers and this is definitely not one. Judging by other reviews, I'm not the only one to notice this. The taste opens with green leafy hops followed by leather and burnt wood. Very herbal with an odd sourness I don't get any coffee, just burnt malts, vanilla, sour and green leaves. Hrmm. Bitterness is moderate, with a burnt astringency as well.

Not digging this at all. Completely out of balance, sour, grassy and weird tasting. This is definitely not an Imperial Stout. Do not recommend this mess of a beer. Awful.

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Photo of ThickNStout
2.23/5  rDev -41.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12oz botlle from Beer Baron (Detroit, MI). 3.69. Bottled 03/2012. Served in a Red Brick snifter.

Pour deep brown with ruddy hues around the edges. Less than a quarter finger pale tan head that fades quickly and leaves very little in the way of lacing.

Aromas of roast malts, dark chocolate and cocoa powder.

Tastes of hot chocolate powder, burnt cheap coffee, sugar and grape cough syrup. The alcohol is pretty well hidden but I don't much care for what it is hiding behind.

Medium thin feel with sharp carbonation. Long artificial cocoa finish.

Between this and their Coffee Vanilla Porter, I'll gave to concede that Atwater's head brewer and I have strongly different tastes. I'm fairly sure that I'm getting only cheap adjuncts and no barley, hops or yeast. Where's the beer? Pass on this one.

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Photo of n2185
3.06/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Pours black with half a finger of tan head that vanishes completely with no lacing.

S: Roasted malts with lots of sweet chocolates, licorice, and raisiny dark fruit aromas. There are some slight smokey notes toward the finish.

T: Light roasted malt flavors up front followed by a strong licorice and dark fruit flavor. The finish is sweet and charred tasting.

M: Thick body with lowish carbonation, this beer is not as creamy as I'd like.

O: An alright stout, overall, though a bit too sweet and licorice-y for me.

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Photo of EricCioe
3.08/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

This pours a nice almost black that has some highlights at the edges, with a big two finger chunky head that leaves lace on the way down. On the nose it's similar to the regular Vanilla Java Porter that I just had, with the addition of some chocolate to sit over the vanilla and even further above the coffee. In the mouth there is again the mixture of bitter chocolate, bitter roasted coffee, and vanilla extract rather than beans. I'm not getting much in the way of toasted or chocolate malts, a recurring theme with Atwater for me so far. The body is the lightest I've had for such a high ABV stout, and this is probably the culprit for me not liking this beer or any of Atwater's as much as I might.

Everything I've had by them so far has a Diet Coke body and a medium at best finish. Vanilla Java Porter was okay for me, but definitely on the thin side. I was expecting this one to rectify those problems and it didn't. If this brewery ever stops skimping on the malt bill, they might have something. Until then, it's just watery versions of brews that have some potential.

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Photo of mactrail
3.09/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Yipes! huge dark chocolate and vanilla. Near black in the tall tulip. Modest foam with some decent lacing along the glass.

Brewery says it's based on their Vanilla-Java Porter, which would explain everything. Full of malt but not too sweet. Charred flavors dominate. Sugar cookie taste along with a deep flavor of French roast coffee. Bitter as sin after the sweet ice cream flavors. Raspy and harsh.

One has to ask, "why?" Personally I think vanilla is not a good beer additive, though it's quite beery if you can get over the taste. From the 12 oz bottle.

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Photo of biglite351
3.11/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - A bit of red around the edges with a creamy light tan head.

S - Fruit, malt with a touch of prune or raisin... but something a little bit off.

T - Smokey prune, chocolate and malts. A touch of caramel in the finish.

M - Creamy body but no real tingle or action.

O - Nothing bad about it but nothing that would make it a top pick either.

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Photo of Dr_Bahmbay13
3.25/5  rDev -14.9%

I am really struggling on how this is an Imperial stout?I don't know though ? might change my rating but its seems kinda thin for a Impe. alcohol well hidden. Mouth feel is not there either, maybe its me like i said. It just does not have that full to medium full mouth feel which to me is all about the Impe. Now don't get me wrong it taste good but it just feels watery in the taste? as it warms you pull out the java and vanilla . To me this is just there Vj porter with kicked up abv. which is fine but imho this not Imperial stout but imperial porter!

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Photo of Stevedore
3.3/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle, about 1 year old. Poured into a snifter 9/27/2014.

A- Dark brown body, half finger light brown head that settles quickly. Not much carb.

S- Burnt malt, dark chocolate, a little vanilla, a bit of brown sugar. A little bit of oxidized sherry. Overall smells quite a bit less intense than fresh.

F- Chocolate, cocoa, coffee, roast malt, small bit of brown sugar and oxidized dark fruit sweetness. Very straightforward RIS.

M- Medium body, on the thinner side for a RIS. Low carbonation, sticky. Not bad, still a sipper after a year in the bottle.

O- Decent RIS, nothing to clamor over. Age didn't do this any favors, so I would recommend trying this fresh.

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Photo of Sammy
3.33/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Opaque black with little head. A little roasty and boozy aroma, with a spot of vanilla. Somewhat thin for the style,perhaps the oiliness gives my tongue this impression, not so well integrated. Bitter chocolate and some vanilla, bourbon, coconut. A sipper, not so drinkable.
Ken's bottle.

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Photo of mvanaskie13
3.36/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Poured into sam adams custom glass: color is black, head is tan, 1/2 inch thick, lacing on the glass.

Smell is vanilla, over done and not pleasant for a beer of this type.

Taste is vanilla forward, chocolate malt and chocolate syrup. Hides the abv well, but it does not taste that great, malt backbone is not definitive, maybe some roast.

Mouthfeel is very dry on the finish, surprising its not sweeter for its size, but again i dont like this beer for its style.

Overall an odd beer for this style, too much vanilla to try and cover its strength, chocolate flavor is intense as well. I like it when the stronger stouts let the flavors fly and give you a big roast or hop experience, this seems out of place.

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Photo of warnerry
3.41/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled March 2011

A - Pours pith black with two fingers of light brown head. Head had good retention, and leaves some decent lacing.

S - Huge vanilla aroma, which seems to mask the other aromas initially. Eventually, aromas of chocolate, cola, molasses and some roasted malt come through.

T - Taste follows the smell pretty closely, with a lot of sweetness and vanilla, followed by some chocolate, faint roasted malts that become more prominent on this finish.

M - Mouthfeel is a bit thin for the style, and somewhat watery, though there is some creaminess to it. Sweet throughout, but it dries out a bit on the finish, which has a subtle bitterness.

O - Not a standout, and the sweetness and strong vanilla will not be for everyone, but this was pretty enjoyable overall. With all the available options for an RIS, I can't see buying this again. Did not get any booziness out of this, which was a pleasant surprise.

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Photo of Cannibalgasm
3.42/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.25

Poured from a 12oz. bottle.

A: Pours nearly opaque black with two fingers a creamy frothing head. Retains very well and leaves some very nice lacing.

S: Aromas of roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and a hint of brown sugar.

T: Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, roasted malts, caramel, brown sugar, and a slight hint of pine like hops. Finishes with some bitterness. Very little alcohol presence considering the ABV.

M: Very light in body for an imperial stout, with a moderately high amount of carbonation. Creamy and smooth goes down way to easy for an imperial stout. This is much closer to a porter in feel and is quite disappointing. There is little to no alcohol presence making this dangerous. If I was served it not knowing what it was I would think it closer to like a 6% ABV not the 11% it is.

O: An interesting brew to say the least. It poured beautifully and has some nice flavors too it but the feel and lack of depth is really disappointing. Overall I'm not sure how I feel about this one. I guess it would be perfect if your looking for a nice tasting easy drinker that will f*** you up after a few.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
3.43/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours jet black with a tan head. In the aroma, coffee and a roasted malt. In the taste, coffee and a roasted malt that runs sweet to dry. A small bite and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a dry coffee in the aftertaste. Nice coffee and hides the 11% nicely.

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Photo of jondeelee
3.48/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

VJ Black opens with a whiff of yeasty dough and malt, much like rising bread, which clears away and opens into a deeper, darker series of aromas that include heavy kola nut and caramel, a distinct almost Dr. Pepper-like spice and sugar blend, and more subtle layers of tobacco, anise, and black malt. For an Imperial Stout, the nose is heavily sweet and spicy, overflowing with molasses and brown sugar, pepper, and an almost smoky nutmeg or allspice spike. The aromas are certainly intriguing, but do bear more than a passing resemblance to a soft drink or a sugary root beer, and thus throw the nose off. It’s only the subtle dark ash and anise undertones that reveal the beer’s stout base, and these can be easily lost.

On the tongue, the beer continues to bear a good resemblance to a soft drink or root beer, with sugary spice flavors predominant, backed by dark ashy notes. Kola nut, sarsaparilla, cane sugar, vanilla, and a near-burnt allspice seem to make up most of the spice profile, and when joined with brown sugar and molasses, create a very non-Imperial-Stout-like flavor profile. One has to dig a bit deep to find coffee, ash, and black malt—but again, these can be easily lost. So sweet is the beer that it actually becomes almost sucralose (i.e. Splenda)-like around the edges, leaving a strange super-sweet rim that doesn’t quite mesh with the ash and coffee. The aftertaste is more of the same, though a touch more ash and coffee come through, the entire profile lingering on the tongue (along with the sucralose bite) for a long time. Mouthfeel is a slightly watery medium-light, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is definitely one of the more strange Imperial Stouts on the market, and one where the flavors don’t quite seem to mesh well together and provide a nice balance. On a good note, the beer’s 11% ABV is very nicely hidden beneath these flavors, detectable only late in the aftertaste as the vapors rise from the tongue. But the beer itself feels like it’s suffering from an identity crisis, not quite sure what direction it needs to go in.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.49/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Oneinchaway for sharing this at his tasting.

Pours a clear orange-brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of roasted malt, cocoa, and sugar aromas. Taste is much the same with vanilla and chocolate syrup flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with an interesting chocolate syrup quality in the taste.

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Photo of cvm4
3.53/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours black with a creamy 1 finger head. Minimal lacing.

S - Malt and coffee dominates for me.

T - Vanilla, brown sugar, dark chocolate. All sweet elements.

M - Lighter body than most imperial stouts I've tried. High carbonation.

O - It's not bad if you enjoy sweeter stouts that don't coat your mouth.

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Photo of lurpy1
3.55/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Atwater Block sure is proud of their Vanilla Java concept. Swing a dead cat and you'll hit a bar selling VJ Porter. At the same time it's damn near impossible to find another Atwater beer on tap. Here's the problem: VJ Porter is, in my opinion, pretty bad and poorly composed.So when the VJ concept shows up on tap as a stout at Dusty's, it is against my better judgement that I order a sample, and then snifter full, after not being put off by the sample. Man vs. Atwater's VJ Stuff, take two.

The pour is a nice deep black, bottomless in the snifter. Not much head. As with the porter, a very good smelling beer. Frappucino or vanilla ice cream come to mind. There is a little bit more coffee and malt in the stout. It may smell a touch better.

Somehow, the 3 competing flavors, vanilla, coffee, and stout, come together a bit more in this beer than they did in the porter. But the vanilla is still both dominant and problematic. It still tastes cheap and extracty. I would think a brewery this committed to vanilla beer would be resolved to take vanilla beer to the next level, probably through high-end vanilla beans. Atwater Block does not seem to be going in that direction.

OK, mouthfeel, and here is where I really question Atwater's chops as a brewery. This was ridiculously thin for a RIS. If Atwater had called it a stout, I'd be OK with it. But no. Check the website: "A huge Imperial Stout". Not sure the guys really know what a RIS is.

I still have a huge question mark regarding the artistry and craftsmanship of this brewery, but I did like this beer. I would drink it again, although due to the overarching vanilla sweetness, a one-per-night quota would be strictly enforced.

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Photo of DrJay
3.58/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Black with thin, ruby edges and a short cap of sticky, tan/brown foam. Decent head retention with fine, spotty lacing. Tons of caramel in the aroma, buttery toffee, vanilla, a bit of chocolate and faint roasted malts. Nice texture -- medium plus bodied with lowish, fine carbonation, creamy, well hidden alcohol and just a hint of astringency. Grassy bitterness didn't quite keep up with the malty sweetness, with more caramel and dry cocoa notes, light roast and hint of alcohol. Overall, an easy drinking beer for the abv.

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Photo of DrDemento456
3.61/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

"VJ Black Imperial Stout, an 11% abv monster, sure to help you lose the last of the winter chills. VJ stands for Vanilla Java, and this massive imperial stout is a stronger, hoppier, maltier version of the classic Vanilla Java Porter"

Since nobody has reviewed it yet I guess I feel obligated to put in in.

A - Surprised in getting a solid two fingers of dark tan head. Pillow like and bountiful. The liquid itself is dark, just the way I like it. Lacing is pretty solid seems to be hugging the glass pretty well.

S - Kind of a one trick pony with mostly chocolate on the nose and moderate coffee. A slight bourbon booze tone is in the mix but not too in your face just faint in the background.

Letting this one warm up a while, at least till the head settles.

T - huh I get a weird sourness that I can't quite figure out takes the whole front of the beer, then a quick rush of chocolate and coffee quickly fall off the cliff of flavor. It does have a very slight sweetness to it with somewhat creamy tones but I can't get over the sour beginning. Maybe from the bourbon aging? After a while the sourness does get less noticeable leaving more of a roasted coffee finish but I can't say that I like it overall.

M - The best part of this beer is the ABV is completely invisible. I must say it drinks like a 6% medium bodied stout.

Overall it's just another mediocre beer that I was tricked into trying by a craft beer salesman and a guy with no taste. I did enjoy it in some time and kind of wish they just made a RIS instead of using the Java Stout as a base since it had tones of that mediocre beer. Worth trying if you like a beer with no body, a slight sour note, and a high octane ABV.

Might just be the best beer I had from them though so that is saying something

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Photo of CaptDavyJones
3.65/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a dark mahogany brown color from a 12 oz bottle.
Almost pitch black in the glass, with some light penetration. Becomes more and more translucent with every sip. For a RIS with 11% ABV I was expecting more darkness in the color.
One finger off-white head that dissipated fairly quickly.
Aroma is of chocolate malt balls with hints of coffee. One dimensional aroma to be honest.
Taste is likewise, there is a blast of coffee upfront that basically stays till the end. Hints of bitterness towards the finish. Slightly dry finish to this RIS. Pretty much a one-dimensional RIS when it comes to taste too.
Mouthfeel is a tad watery, which is not something I expected in a RIS. Makes me wonder if aging would add more to the character of this beer.
Overall, this is a decent RIS. Not sure if I would recommend this.

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Photo of Tone
3.66/5  rDev -4.2%

Pours a clear, dark brown color. 3/2 inch head of a tan color. Great retention and great lacing. Smells of alcohol, sweet malt, roasted malt, yeast, hint of chocolate, hops, and pine. Mouth feel is sharp and crisp, with an average carbonation level. Fits the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. Tastes of sweet malt, hint of roasted malt, slight yeast, slight caramel malt, slight hops, hint of pine, and a hint of nut. Overall, great appearance, good aroma, body, and blend.

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Photo of Gryphon69
3.67/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle
bottled on 1-13

A- pours a deep brown near black, very light tan head that faded quite fast, but leaves a slight ring around the glass.

S- Smell is dark fruit sweet right up front, followed by equal amounts of vanilla sweet, some chocolate.

T- Follows the nose pretty close, very sweet up front like a sweet porter, finish is sweet as well. The alcohol is hidden very, very well.

M- medium body, certain slickness with mild carbonation.

O- To me this don't follow inline with a RIS, but more like some of porters on the sweet side ive had, still not a bad beer just misleading. Like above the 11% Is very well hidden and barely noticeable. Decent beer overall. I did lower the the taste rating slightly due to the porter like charecters.

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Photo of woodychandler
3.68/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Ah, trials and tribulations of my bottle backlog! I recently bought a bottle of this, brought it home and then realized that I already had one held in abeyance.

From the bottle: "Beer Is good. Enjoy responsibly."; "Single Batch Series"; "[bottled] March 2012".

Two-year old RIS from my favorite hit-or-miss brewery?!? Hee hee. The pour proved that time has not hurt this bad boy. I got a finger of dense, deep-tan/moch colored head that sat there and defied me to move. Color was truth in advertising - Black (SRM = 44)! Black as night in the middle of the IO, black as my morning coffee, black as a witch's heart. Nose smelled of sugary dark chocolate. Yes, very roasty, but also a lot of residual sweetness. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full with a very nutty, dark chocolate flavor on the tongue. The nuttiness was unexpected, but it cut some of that pervasive charcoal/burnt/smokiness that I was also getting. It suddenly hit me - Nutella! I am not a proponent of this style, but this was striking my fancy, plus I am not a fan of style mavens, so what I like may not be for everyone. The finish was straddling semi-sweet and semi-dry and I am going to let my new bottle age somewhat before I bring it out of hiding.

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Photo of divineaudio
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

bottled march 2010. tulip.

a - name does not lie, this beer is black. gave me an inch or so of dense tan foam that hangs around for quite a while.

s - big vanilla and chocolate aromas. faint port or sherry, faint cola.

t - big dark chocolate flavors with a more subdued vanilla sweetness. faint black coffee notes and dark fruits. angry roasted bitterness comes in toward the end to let you know this beer is serious. gets a little astringent as it warms.

m - heavier side of medium with lighter carbonation. very smooth and creamy.

o - i had some of these fresh and remember them being unpleasantly sweet, but at a little under a year old, this bottle is drinking just fine. atwater beers are hit or miss for me, but this one is pretty good.

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Photo of gnemesis
3.73/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into chalice like glass on 04/10/2011.
Pours black topped with an off-white head with tan highlights. Good retention, and decent lace. Smells of chocolate and vanilla- i get a hint of tobacco and coffee. Taste is the same- reminds me of seafoam. Its good but not roasty at all- not how I like my imperial stouts. Medium body and low/medium carbonation. Good for Atwater but lacking the robust flavors that make for a good imperial stout.

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