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: 71 | Ratings: 219
Photo of bushbeer75
3.52/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz brown bottle - Bottled on December 2015 [label marked D-15]

Atwater VJ Black Imperial Stout poured an opaque black hue and atop sat a 1/2" tan head. The head shrunk quickly to form a ring on my tulip glass. Only 'hit-and-miss' lacing was present. The nose is dominated by malt that smells burnt and roasted. Also, the scent of dark chocolate is noted. The taste follows the smell with the flavor of coffee and just a trace of vanilla. The hops seem to show up at the finish. Mouth feel is a little sticky, lower carbonation, and is only medium bodied for an RIS - it's on the thin side for the style.

Nothing bad about VJ Black. It is just not as full flavored as the better RIS's. Maybe this stout should be consumed fresh and not with time on its clock.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.63/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to my brother for hooking this one up. Russian Imperial Stout pours black as can be. Brown head, 1/3". Aroma of heavily roasted malt, adjunct free, mild dark fruit and alcohol.

Taste, hey this isn't overly bitter from the roast or hopping, nor does it reek of alcohol all the way around. Distinct chocolate malt, relatively dry finish. Dark fruit notes really stay hidden, thankfully. No overly thick or viscous. Body probably feels lighter given the relatively high carbonation levels going on. Good char super mild smoke quality in there.

This beer looks impressive, its mouth feel is good. Nothing adjunct wise going on. Solid for what it is.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
3.07/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Pours a brown cola color and forms a dark brown body in the snifter. Head retention is good, sticking at about 1 finger.

Aromas of roast malt, light licorice, sassafrass, molasses, and chocolate. Slight sourness.

The flavor profile IS tasty, but not something I look for in a Russian Imperial Stout. Not at all. It starts with roasted barley, some sour lactic acid bite, metal, and some faint cheese-injected chocolate.

The feel is thin as well. Almost like a porter. Dryness on the finish.

Overall, this is not at all what I could classify as a RIS. If I were brewing this, and it came out this way, I'd call it an English Porter. Thick it is not, rich it is not. It's just kind of a sorry mess. I dumped the rest.

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Photo of DaveBar
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
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 Cannibalgasm
3.42/5  rDev -10.2%
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 neenerzig
4.1/5  rDev +7.6%
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 dbl_delta
3.81/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from undated bottle into pint glass. Low carbonation; thick, one-finger head. Deep ruby brown - almost but not quite "black".

Just a hint of initial sweetness. Vanilla, coffee, and malt combine with a medium mouthfeel to hide the alcohol nicely. A bitter aftertaste is noticeable but not objectionable.

This feels kind of wimpy for an Imperial Stout. The alcohol is certainly there, but I expect a much fuller mouthfeel. This is more of a porter on steroids.

All in all, it's OK but by far not my favorite for the style.

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Photo of hopflyer
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
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 Stevedore
3.3/5  rDev -13.4%
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 Dr_Bahmbay13
3.25/5  rDev -14.7%

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 Tone
3.66/5  rDev -3.9%

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 Lordhelmit
4.54/5  rDev +19.2%
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 woodychandler
3.68/5  rDev -3.4%
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 MikeWard
3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. Bottled January 2014

fairly agressive pour led to a nice looking pint, jet black body with a small pale oatmeal head.

Lots of aroma here, coffee, some chocolate, heavily roasted malts

Very much coffee forward drink, roasted malts leave a bitter wash in the mouth. not finding the chocolate, or any real evidence of it being an 11.0abv

Mouth is a bit below medium. Bitterness remains for quite some time.

Overall, okay I guess. Enjoyed the first one of these a bit more, but upon reflection and more time taken with the second a few weeks later, this comes up just a bit short. Perhaps a bit more time on it would soften up the roasted almost to the point of burnt malts.

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Photo of Pbody
3.78/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark smokey imperial stout with good depth, hints of chocolate and coffee. I don't typically buy from Atwater Brewery but this is a pretty well balanced imperial stout from their single batch series, also has a pretty nice kick to it at eleven percent. Would definitely recommend this beer in low doses lol.

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Photo of buschbeer
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
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 mvanaskie13
3.36/5  rDev -11.8%
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 UCLABrewN84
3.49/5  rDev -8.4%
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 Gryphon69
3.67/5  rDev -3.7%
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 templar316
4.06/5  rDev +6.6%
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 thecheapies
3.93/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Black is the name... black it is! Can't see through it at all. Nice cappuccino-like froth on top. Looks great.

Molasses, dark fruits, dark chocolate, a little licorice, light booze, chicory root, and musty roast grain. Has an obvious sweetness.

Nice bittersweet flavor of chocolate, black strap, raisin, and chicory coffee. Licorice is here, too. A tad too sweet, but there is salvation in a bitter earthy hop note that isn't that small. A lot going on here, and none of it as all that bad. Booze is very subtle and creeping. Body is pleasingly full, and the beer is not without a spicy carbonation that finishes with some cleansing as if too get the syrup off the tongue. Lightly tacky and coating. Goes down very smoothly.

Not your prototypical impy. Lacks in intensity and the sweetness is dialed up one notch too many. Qualifies as smooth and tasty. Nose ain't bad either. Atwater did a good job on VJ Black.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
3.94/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Clear dark brown, off white creamy topping forms and recedes to a ring. Leaves
Smell: Chocolate and vanilla, some coffee.
Taste: Roasted malt, mild earthy hops with faint pine. Dusty cocoa and mild fusel alcohol. Mild bitterness, finishes with a good helping of coffee like roast. Strong vanilla overpowers faint citrus and pumpernickel bread notes.
Feel: Full bodied, well carbonated, balanced and graceful for its strength.
Overall: A good imperial stout from Atwater.

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Photo of wrightst
4.53/5  rDev +18.9%
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 Roman5150
4.19/5  rDev +10%
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 MI_gal616
4.56/5  rDev +19.7%
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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Atwater VJ Black from Atwater Brewery
3.81 out of 5 based on 219 ratings.
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