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 warnerry
3.41/5  rDev -10.5%
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 donkeyrunner
4.35/5  rDev +14.2%
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 ciachef1212
4.09/5  rDev +7.3%
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 tempest
4.05/5  rDev +6.3%
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 dogfishandi
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz. bottle at cellar temp poured into a snifter. FEB 2010 notched on the label, i take that to be the bottled on date, so about 1 1/2 years old. purchased as a single at beers of the world in rochester.

pours out opaque black with a big huge billowy tan foamy cap. very nice retention, thick sticky lace everywhere. i wouldnt really say a creamy head, but looks fantastic.

not the biggest aroma. i detect some nice rich brownie batter like chocolate and a bit of vanilla that smells nice. behind that theres a little roasted malt and maybe some coffee.

kind of sweeter milk chocolate vanilla, a little chocolate cake. similar to many milk stouts ive had. some roasted malt, but its definatly not one of the main players like in most impy stouts. finishes with a solid bitterness that lingers a bit.

the mouthfeel just doesnt deliver enough. kind of weak body for this style. after you take a sip, it just doesnt really feel like you drank an impy stout. hardly any alcohol detectable, which has its advantages. slightly chalky.

overall, a decent beer, worth a single, but i wouldnt strive to get this again. almost tastes a little artificial, has some flavors in common with mokah and choklat. way better than the beer this was based on, the vanilla java porter, but i want some more malt.

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Photo of Sammy
3.33/5  rDev -12.6%
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 soulfly1492
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aroma: Chocolate, barley, toffee, alcohol, bready, some esters and hops.

Appearance: Pour pitch black, of course. One-finger, very dark head. Decent lacing and impressive retention.

Flavor: Sweet chocolate, grainy (barley & oats), coffee. I'm having a hard time detecting any hops whatsoever. Very slight bitter in the aftertaste, but nothing identifiable.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, almost chewy. Nice and oily. Alcohol tingles the tongue. Slight carbonation.

Overall: Nice sweet/grainy taste. Lacking in balance due to the trace amount of bitter elements. I hate to say this, but it's too drinkable for an Imperial Stout. Could have been much more bold.

Note: I could not ignore that this brew smelled and tasted of spent gunpowder. Definitely reminded me of a morning at the sporting clays range. It wasn't really a bad thing, but it was just very curious.

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Photo of PorterLambic
4.57/5  rDev +19.9%
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 WesWes
4.19/5  rDev +10%
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 DrJay
3.58/5  rDev -6%
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 Bung
4.08/5  rDev +7.1%
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 biglite351
3.11/5  rDev -18.4%
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 Knapp85
4.42/5  rDev +16%
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 EgadBananas
3.98/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Big thanks to injuredreserve for the bottle to go!

A- Poured pretty much a solid black. Didn't look extremely thick, but it's pleasantly dank in the end. Head was a light brown, which left nice lace. Dissipated to a nice creamy film.

S- Aroma was nice and roasty, with plenty of chocolate and malt sweetness. Faint coffee and a tinge of dark, sweet fruits as well.

T- The taste was nice and chocolaty, really roasted, slightly candied (fruits), some coffee bitterness on the finish, with maybe a touch of woody hops.

M- The feel was creamy, though not full-bodied. Solid medium, slick, but smooth. Easy to ignore, but the most noticeable flaw.

D/O- Overall, a pleasantly surprising stout. Nice and flavorful. Alcohol was really no where, so the drinkability is very good. I'd call this a hidden gem for those who have this available to em, or stumble across it.

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Photo of StoutHunter
3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

I got a four pack of Atwater VJ Black a couple weeks ago for $10.99 at The Lager Mill. When I was at the store I was told this just came in, I am a fan of their Vanilla Java Porter, so of course I had to try the imperial version of that beer. No visible bottling date, I know it is a 2011 vintage. Poured from a brown 12oz bottle into a imperial pint glass.

A- I am not a big fan of the label, it looks plainer then the porter and it should be more extravagant looking, but the sky line of Detroit in the background looks ok. It poured a nice jet black color that had some ruby edges when held to the light. It had two and a half fingers worth of fluffy tan head that died down to a thick lumpy layer that stayed the rest of the time and left some nice lacing.

S- The aroma of this beer is about the same as the aroma of the Vanilla Java Porter, but the chocolate is more pronounced and the vanilla aroma is slightly toned down. For being 11% I can't detect hardly any booze in the aroma. Smells good and about the same as its little brother.

T- This is where this beer differs from the porter. The malts are roasty and semi sweet but not as robust as I was expecting. In the porter the coffee is the dominating flavor, but in this brew it is all about the dark and bitter chocolate, the coffee and vanilla take a back seat to the chocolate. It had the same slightly acidic finish as the porter and does an excellent job at hiding it's alcohol, there is no way I would have ever guessed this was 11%, it is so well hidden it's dangerous.

M- Smooth and medium bodied, it was a little thinner then it should be, the porter had the same problem and I was hoping they would fix it with this brew. It was the highest carbonated RIS I have ever had, but it worked well with the thinner then average body of this beer.

Overall this was a good beer and one of the best beers I have had from Atwater. The aroma of this beer was almost identical to the porter and it also shared some of the downfalls that the porter did like the lack of body. Where this beer shines is in it's drinkability, by far the most drinkable RIS I have ever had. I have no clue how the guys at Atwater managed to cram 11% alcohol in this brew, it amazes me because both this and the porter have the same amount of alcohol presence in the flavor and this beer is almost twice as strong. This beer can't hang with the big guns in it's style it's just not robust enough, but the flavors are still good and the drinkability is amazing. I am not sure if I will get another four pack since I don't know how this beer will age, but if you like RIS's you should give this one a try, the flavors and aromas won't blow your mind, but its great drinkability will. Good job Atwater with some tweaking this beer could be epic.

Update, had the 2013 release and it's the same, no changes, the original rating stays.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
3.43/5  rDev -10%
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 EricCioe
3.08/5  rDev -19.2%
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 B0bD0bbselbock
4.5/5  rDev +18.1%
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 gnemesis
3.73/5  rDev -2.1%
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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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.1/5  rDev +7.6%
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 DrDemento456
3.61/5  rDev -5.2%
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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Atwater VJ Black from Atwater Brewery
3.81 out of 5 based on 219 ratings.
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