Atwater VJ Black | Atwater Brewery

very good
71 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 71 | Ratings: 219
Photo of GRPunk
3.79/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I've heard of a ZJ, I guess it's time to see what this VJ is all about.

Bottle notched J 13, poured into a Duvel tulip.

A- A normal pour created a 1-finger, brown head that settles down to a thin film and leaves really nice webs about the glass. The body is a dark brown that suggests near black through the middle of a full glass.

S- There's an initial waft of dried or stewed fruits, mostly raisin. Lighter chocolate and coffee at first. Roasted, toasty grains become almost charred at points. The char and chocolate increases. Vanilla sneaks in much later with some warmth.

T- Complex. 1st sip had that initial rush of raisin followed by a significant dose of milk chocolate. Chocolate really seems to be the major player here. I'm good with that. An injection of vanilla compliments nicely and increases as I drink. Hopping is present, though difficult to describe.

M- Full bodied as expected at 11%. Kind of a sticky sweetness. Fairly creamy.

O- What an odd beer. Not bad. Different. Similarities to Vanilla Java Porter. Vanilla is a nice touch. I like the way it compliments the chocolate aspects. Aroma doesn't really match the flavor. Good sipper. Maybe not my "favorite" RIS, but not a bad beer.

 1,210 characters

Photo of martyl1000
4.33/5  rDev +13.6%
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.

 792 characters

Photo of ThickNStout
2.23/5  rDev -41.5%
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.

 806 characters

Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: bottle from [I think] Capone's, Norristown, PA

Poured into a goblet, seemingly dark brown-black appearance, though it was tough to get the full effect as I was outside and it was nighttime. A small but creamy brown head topped off the glass, displaying moderate retention and lacing. Aroma is expectedly malty, with big notes of vanilla, and traces of coffee and chocolate. Similarly in the taste, a big hit of sweet vanilla, a smooth blend of oaked bourbon, toffee, dark chocolate, roasty dark malts and coffee took the edge off the sweetness a bit, more so than in the non-imperialized Vanilla Java Porter. Body is full, mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, alcohol is felt more than tasted. Nice beer overall.

 719 characters

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

Hey now. This may as well be labeled a chocolate stout as far as I'm concerned. The cocoa peeked through on the nose. But it really popped through when I took my first sip. Even though those tones keep it one dimensional, it still provides for a nice flavor ride. I'm still early in on this one, but it seems like the higher alcohol content may be starting to show a bit too much, so we'll have to see how that works out. Doesn't seem to be too much of an impedement at the moment though. For now, this seems like a nice enough stout. The alcohol is pretty high, and if it were lower on such a nice chocolate stout, this might be easier to drink (a lot more of). All of that aside, this is a pretty nice beer, I have to say. Especially considering that Atwater has never really impressed me that much with anything they've done.

 828 characters

Photo of sinstaineddemon
4.14/5  rDev +8.7%
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!

 663 characters

Photo of chefdaddy18042
4.62/5  rDev +21.3%
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!

 473 characters

Photo of n2185
3.06/5  rDev -19.7%
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.

 521 characters

Photo of Brad007
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Ooh, a fancy name. I think it would be better suited to a distilled product.

Blacker than black metal with a thin head. Yep. Looks like an imperial stout folks!

Cherry, cream and roasted coffee peek out in the nose. It's very mellow too.

There's certainly plenty of roasted malt with cocoa, vanilla and cream. Alcohol too, which isn't a welcome guest.

Body is lacking big time. Drinks more like a belgian dark than imperial stout. The only consolation is that it finishes clean.

Started out with promise but didn't quite deliver. Worth a try for the adventurous.

 567 characters

Photo of 57md
3.91/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours solid black with only half a finger of head that quickly dissipated and left little lacing. Cherries are distinctly present in the nose. Taste is dominated by sweet chocolate and malt. Mild bitterness on the finish. This offering is quite tasty, but it lacks any hint of a roast profile (something that I see as a minimum standard for stouts).

 349 characters

Photo of korguy123
3.97/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into snifter. Label is notched MAR12

A- Pitch black pour with hazelnut brown around the edges. Finger width, short lived off white head. Lacing is spotty.

S- Dark coffee, loads of char and leather, a touch of vanilla, brown sugar and licorice. Bitter dark chocolate.

T- Vanilla right up front, sweet brown sugar and black strap molasses. Dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee.

M- Medium to full bodied, creamy with a touch of carbonation. Alcohol is at a 0 with this. Well hidden.

O- I love vanilla in my beers, especially if it's done properly. Atwater Vanilla Java Porter is very good and this is just as good if not better.

 644 characters

Photo of mactrail
3.09/5  rDev -18.9%
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.

 559 characters

Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled Feb 2012. Pours pitch black color with a nice 1 finger dense khaki head with great retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lasts. Some nice soapy lacing on the glass. Aromas of chocolate, vanilla, roasted malt, coffee, cola, earth, cream, dark fruit, and light smoke. Some nice aromas with good strength and balance. Taste of big milk chocolate, roasted malt, vanilla, cream, coffee, slight fruit, earth, and light smoke. Very small roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, cream, coffee, and roasted malt on the finish for a good bit. Big malty flavors with good balance; and no cloying sweetness. Medium carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very creamy, slick, and thick mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with hardly any warming present on the finish. Extremely smooth to sip on. Overall this is a damn nice and very unique imperial stout. A ton of chocolate flavors with good balance; and extremely smooth for being 11%. Really well done effort.

 1,055 characters

Photo of jondeelee
3.48/5  rDev -8.7%
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.

 2,094 characters

Photo of cvm4
3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
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.

 311 characters

Photo of NoLeafClover44
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks, Bob! 12 oz. bottle poured into Weyerbacher cuvee glass. Bottled February 2012.

A - Pours black with a one finger cream colored head. Good retention and the lacing paints the entire glass a solid

S - Toasted oak, malt, nuttiness, black coffee.

T - Sweeter than the smell indicated. Some vanilla, roasted malt, espresso, and oats. The high alcohol content isn't at all apparent.

M - Creamy feel with mild carbonation. Sweet moist finish.

O - It was different from most RIS I have had. It was a bit sweeter and didn't have that charred or hoppy bite I associate with the style. It was very smooth and drinkable for an 11%er. I really enjoyed this beer and would get it again if I had access.

 704 characters

Photo of Mitchster
2/5  rDev -47.5%
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.

 1,097 characters

Photo of jktedder12
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
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.

 452 characters

Photo of lurpy1
3.55/5  rDev -6.8%
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.

 1,696 characters

Photo of CaptDavyJones
3.65/5  rDev -4.2%
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.

 821 characters

Photo of d_rek
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
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.

 946 characters

Photo of VncentLIFE
4.22/5  rDev +10.8%
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.

 387 characters

Photo of DannyDan
4.28/5  rDev +12.3%
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.

 529 characters

Photo of wifehatesthebike
3.93/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Feb 2012 bottle.

Appearance is black black black with a creamy head.

Smell is lactic, slightly hoppy and sweet.

Taste is whole milk, marshmallows, with a bitter toasty end. Very smooth. Taste is similar to a Left Hand Milk Stout on steroids.

Mouthfeel is excellent. Substantial, smooth, creamy and chewy.

Overall I think this beer is much better than some reviews from previous years. It is a bit strange in that the alcohol is no where to be found. Tastes like. 7% beer, not 11%. not the typical Imperial Stout.

 517 characters

Photo of divineaudio
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
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.

 749 characters

firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Atwater VJ Black from Atwater Brewery
3.81 out of 5 based on 219 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.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.