High Desert Imperial Stout | Sweetwater Tavern & Brewery

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High Desert Imperial StoutHigh Desert Imperial Stout
29 Ratings
High Desert Imperial StoutHigh Desert Imperial Stout

Brewed by:
Sweetwater Tavern & Brewery
Virginia, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.80%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-14-2003

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Ratings: 29 |  Reviews: 22
Photo of Tlock
4.39/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Exeggutor
4.24/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Boone757
3.99/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of Fusion7777
4.21/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of PhilHeinricke
2.16/5  rDev -47.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.5

Not My Cup of Tea

I poured it out. Precious had a medical appointment so I threw a growler in the back of the car and asked her to stop by Sweetwaters to get me something. On their website they had a beer named after Denzel Washington: Black Stallion IPA. I'm a fan of Densel's. But when Precious got there, they didn't have it so she got this. I'm not a big fan of stouts. In the past I would have liked to drink this no matter how bad it tastes just for the alcohol content to so I could get stoned to the bejesus, but at this moment I really don't want to sacrifice taste.

It pours out not quite as thick as cough syrup but in that neighborhood. It's dark brown and syrupy. It has a taste and smell of chocolate and coffee. I do not like coffee which is why I was turned off by this. It also had a syrupy feel. I drank a glass, but I threw the rest away.

From reading the review I understand that a lot of people like this. That's great. I like Sweetwater, and I am happy if their products are successful. But this beer just wasn't for me.

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Photo of jmdrpi
3.17/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

On draft

Almost black, very dark brown, a thin tan head. Chocolate and coffee aroma. Taste is a bit acidic, odd oxidized aftertaste for a fresh draft beer. Much too thin for an imperial stout.

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Photo of brians52
4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of cjgiant
4/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of fire34fighter
4.46/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the centerville one. VERY chocolately. Probably one of the most pronounced chocolate flavors that I've had. Overall a delicious beer and very drinkable. I might go get my growler filled with it since I liked it so much!! Definitely worth trying if you go to the restaurant.

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Photo of rjholcomb
4.5/5  rDev +10%

Photo of stakem
3.68/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Kegatron for sharing this 2-liter growler with me. Poured into a snifter, this brew appears black in color with a finger of tan froth. A swirl revives the cap and produces some spotty lacing on the glass. Brown clarity to ruby is seen when held to the light.

The smell includes some raisony alcohol sweetness mixed with some citrus and mineral inclusion. A bit of burnt molasses and toffee are noted accenting the dark fruity quality of the nose. The taste is raisons, chocolate, bitter roasted grain, citrus, minerals and molasses. There is a solvent inclusion of alcohol that breaks things up a bit.

This is a medium bodied brew with a modest amount of carbonation. The 10.5% is fairly well integrated until it warms up. Heath mentioned this growler not holding up as well as he remembered having it. I don't doubt that but found this to be a decent offering regardless.

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Photo of nkersten
4.21/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Alex for bringing this flagon to our growlerfest part one/ufc showdown/showtunes night. Poured into lost abbey tumbler, pitch black with decent sized mocha head, good lacing and some good retention for a high abv beer. Smell is very interesting... Favoring the much more heavily roasted malts, nutty, slightly burnt, tar, a bit on the chemical side, but not in a bad way. Very unique. Taste is nutty and very bitter, hop forward with lots of dark roasted patent and chocolate malts, sweet coffee and a bit of dark sweet fruits in the finish. Medium to heavy body and a medium light carbonation. This is one imperial stout that drinks much more like an American stout. A very good beer, very drinkable for nearly 11%.

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Photo of AgentZero
4.28/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Ugly growler which looks like you would use it to transport toxic waste provide by Alex at our UFC/Showtunes Dance-off.

A - Black beer with a brown head that rose a tad over two fingers in my Stone RIS glass. Good retention, great lacing, no agrument with the looks on this one.

S - Roasted malts, chocolate, molasses, caramel, really just a nice blend of what you would want in a big stout like this.

T - Taste is sufficiently roasty to balance out a rich chocolate flavor. It's quite surprsing how good this one turned out, and I drink a fair bit of the growler.

M - Full bodied, low carbonation, quite filling.

D - Great beer, would have again, solid drinker at 10.8%.

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Photo of Sean9689
4.28/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Growler, thanks to Alex for this one. Shared at our UFC tasting.

A - Pours black, two fingers-worth of a beautiful mocha head, great lacing along the sides of the glass, and wonderful retention after the initial pour. A really nice-looking RIS, to say the least.

S - Sweet milk chocolate, buttery richness, roasted nuts.

T - Really nice roast and milk chocolate, really buttery rich, nice nutty flavor as well. Really nice mix of rich bitterness and sweetness.

M - Full bodied, rich and smooth, creamy finish.

D - A wonderful RIS that really surprised me. I had two pours of this one because I enjoyed it so much. This beats a ton of other East Coast hyped stouts by a long mile. Get this one!

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Photo of jrallen34
4.11/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Awesome flagon brought by Alex, poured into a perfect pint glass... This is a great looking beer! A dark black body, only the lightest hint of dark brown on the edges in the light. The head is a surprisingly light shade of tan for the body but there is tons of it and it looks great. Creamy and full, a great cap and lacing... The aroma is quite interesting but not my favorite part of the beer, its unique but confusing. Huge cocoa and nut notes that somehow come off to me as fresh green dry hops, reminds me of a fresh Night Stalker. I also get some chocolate, molasses, and weed. Has me interpreting new things, really great... The taste is really roasty cocoa, its bitter but also reminds of being dry hopped. Additional notes of grass and chocolate covered Brazil nuts... The mouthfeel is tannic and sticky, full bodied, long lasting smooth finish.

A really interesting stout that will expand your flavor notions of a stout. High recommendation.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.21/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Firstly - I think the Sweetwater Taverns need to be rolled into one listing (a la Iron Hill), as this is extremely confusing. In any case, thanks to kevinv for sending a growler of this my way. Big flagon-style (like in the picture) poured into a Heady Topper glass.

A - I've never seen so much gunsmoke when opening a growler - it literally just kept coming. Pours with a huge dark tan foam that features superb retention and lacing. The body is a pitch black, with maybe the slightest hint of brown at the fringes of the glass. Just a great looking beer.

S - Nutty, dark rye bread, cocoa, toasted grains, light molasses, and dark fruits.

T - Taste has a nice mix of roast bitterness and cocoa sweetness. There's a hint of complementary oxidation, as well as some light floral hop character in the finish.

M - Smooth medium body, light residual stickiness, and a bit of residual tannic roasted grain character in the finish. Alcohol is shockingly well-hidden.

D - This was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expected much from a Virginia beer, although I suppose I should have been tipped off by Kegatron's review that this was going to be a treat. We killed this growler no problem. Would gladly have this one again, and would to try the barrel-aged verison.

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Photo of gford217
4.1/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Growler shared at the Brick Store poured into a snifter.

Pours dark, dark brown that looks black in a glass with hints of mahogany around the edges. The head is small, dense and lingers for a while before leaving a collar and minimal lacing. Smell is big on dark chocolate and roasted malts. Dark fruit and alcohol are present as well. The taste also has some dark chocolate and roasted coffee on top of a big sweet malt base. The finish has a big toasted malt taste that lingers in the aftertaste with a definite alcohol burn. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth with minimal carbonation. I enjoyed this beer and it is a pretty drinkable impy stout despite the big roasty profile. Recommended.

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Photo of HopDerek
3.34/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to Kegatron for grabbing a growler for me to try.

Pours a nice thick black color with 1 inch of creamy tan head, good retention and great lacing. Smells of coffee and burnt malt with just a touch of dark chocolate, seemed like I really had to struggle to pick up the scent though. Tastes of smoke, coffee, dark fruits, and dark chocolate with a prominent finish of burnt marshmallow and soy sauce. Medium in body and smooth, hides most of the alcohol quite well. Not one of my favorite RISs as it tasted a little too burnt for me but I wouldn't mind trying it again to see if it's any different on tap.

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Photo of Kegatron
4.58/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Centreville, VA location. Served in a standard pint glass, just like everything else.

Pours a pitch black (except for the smallest bit of garnet highlights towards the very bottom)with a finger width of creamy burnt tan head that settles down into a beautfiful creamy retention that leaves a huge latticework of lace and nice sticky brown residue. Deep aroma of roasted malts, sweet chocolate, dark fruits, and just a touch of heat.

The taste profile is Wowzas! Just full and rich with thick chocolate sweetness, zippy coffee notes, dark fruit tartness. Residual sweetness melds into a finish of roasted malt bitterness mixed with hop bitterness and just a smidge of alcohol. The mouthfeel is full bodied, creamy and smooth. Alcohol is present but adds extra beef to the overall experience and is much more restrained than that found in the 07 edition.

This is just a great local Imperial Stout and it's pleasure to have one of such power and complexity, yet still quite smooth and drinkable, less than 2 hours away. I just wish that I could get it more often than the short time that it's released every winter.

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Photo of jdmorgan
3.78/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had this beer on tap at the SWT in Merrifield, VA. It poured a rich and deep black with a one-finger brown head.

The aroma was strong of roasted malt and hops as well as a sweet alcohol aroma. The taste had a thick roasted body and alcohol booziness that hits hard. It had subtle flavors of chocolate, coffee, and a bit of sweetness (maybe cherry?). This subtle sweet taste may have also been brought on by the alcohol content, which blended fairly well despite being so robust. The hop profile was, well, stout, and had a lively floral taste to it. Consistency was most-definately thick and carbonation was low/medium.

True to style, this was a heavy and rich beer that was very enjoyable. I couldn't see drinking more than a few of these, but it is still worth a try. Recommended to those who appreciate a rich beer, and not recommended to those who like lighter beers.

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Photo of Rastacouere
4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Impressive lacing scatters around the glass, the body is opaque, almost black, the head of perfectly regular small bubbles. Heavy chocolate density in that one, desserty and almost oatmealish. It is quite sweet and with a most appealing fruitiness reminiscent of grapes and dates. Marshmallowy and smoky thick malts leave a brown sugar impression that is virtually erased by the still abundant herbal hops, disturbing the cigary roastiness a bit. Velvety palate, limited carbonation. Good flavours, this must have been quite hoppy back in the days. Kudos to you Jeff!

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Photo of meathookjones
4.92/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sampled from a growler bought at the Brewpub. I can’t believe I haven’t really reviewed this until now since its been a favorite since I first had it. Pitch black body with a tall dark brown head. Sticky rings of lace with a strong standing head. Huge roasty malts with a nice backing of dark chocolate. Some coffee with a nice hoppiness bringing it all together. Flavor starts with a big bitter sweet dark chocolate with roasted malts in full force. Great hop presence adds a nice layer to the malty richness of this brew. Nice bitterness and light notes of coffee. Bitter hoppy roasty finish rounds out this awesome brew. Rich, creamy and thick mouthfeel. Excellent drinkability for the size of this. The growler went away with ease and I could have drunk more if I had it. Too bad this is not a staple beer at Sweetwater I would go there all the time if that was the case.

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Photo of ChrisBowers
3.9/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is one big, bold beer. Pours nearly black from the growler with a tan head. Aroma is quite hoppy, really surprising. Taste is very bold. Tons of chocolate, dark fruit, plums, and coffee. Hoppy finish. Lots of alcohol present as well. It confuses me why they release this in the summer and not the winter as I'd imagine I'd enjoy it a lot more on a nice cold evening. Its a very nice imperial, but a little too much for the summer. Its drinkability is limited by the alcohol and sweetness.

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Photo of CRJMellor
4.38/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown, almost black. Big puffy tan head that could almost hold a nickel up.
Aroma has some vinous qualities, dark citrus fruit notes and a strong chocolate note that rapidly rises as the beer warms.
Coffee-like bittering towards the back, not sure if roasted malt or hop driven.
Flavor is very rich, complex, almost a meal in the mouth. Dark chocolate, coffee notes with a plum/prune/date hint going. Residual bitterness of roasted malts and resiny hops don't let the sweetness run away.
Mouthfeel is almost molasses like chewy. Very full-bodied, rich and sweet on the palate yet still well-balanced and dry roasted at the same time.
Drinkability is enormously high. If i had any roo in my luggage I would have bought as many growlers as they would have let me. Amazing recipe and brew, hats off to the brewer for this gem.

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Photo of ppoitras
4.18/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Swing-top growler provided via trade by meathookjones. Thanks for the opportunity.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, a 5/8" brown head formed over the opaque dark brown/black brew. Foamy head hangs on, and leaves very nice, heavy lacing. Aroma is sweet chocolate malts, with a slight coffee tinge. Taste also exhibits a nice mingling of coffee and chocolate malts. Mouthfeel and drinkability are both excellent and extremely approachable for the style. Worth the visit when in the NoVA/DC area.

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High Desert Imperial Stout from Sweetwater Tavern & Brewery
Beer rating: 4.09 out of 5 with 29 ratings