Big Bear Black Stout | Bear Republic Brewing Co.

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Big Bear Black StoutBig Bear Black Stout
2,437 Ratings
Big Bear Black StoutBig Bear Black Stout

Brewed by:
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: American Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.10%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Big Bear is a big, black, stout you can really sink your teeth into. The bold, roasty, caramel malt flavor is balanced by Centennial and Cascade hops.

2009 California State Fair – 2nd GOLD
2009 LA International Beer Competition – GOLD
2007 Great American Beer Festival® American-Style Stout – SILVER
2002 World Beer Cup - GOLD

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,437 |  Reviews: 1,154
Reviews by cvm4:
Photo of cvm4
3.83/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours pretty black but didn't seem like a thick beer upon pour. One finger khaki head and a little bit of lacing.

S - Roasted malts, coffee and light brown sugar.

T - Very bitter dark chocolate, straight coffee (no cream), roasted malts and a light helping of molasses.

M - A bit thin but it's pretty smooth.

O - A good stout that falls in line with the "no frills" of other stouts out there. Seems like this one would deliver time & time again no matter what.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of biboergosum
3.93/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle - I've oft come across this brew in my wanderings, but never pulled the trigger on it, for one reason or another. Now, of course, it plops right down into my lap (courtesy of my fave local bottleshop).

This beer pours a solid black abyss, with subtle basal amber edges, and four fingers of puffy, rocky, and chunky brown head, which leaves some thickly splattered op-art lace around the glass as it lazily sinks out of sight.

It smells of bittersweet chocolate, bready and doughy caramel malt, some free-range roast, cafe-au-lait, a hint of Scandahoovian licorice, real vanilla, a mixed tropical fruitiness, and leafy, piney, and slightly perfumed floral hops. The taste is lightly toasted, bready and sugary caramel/toffee malt, lush medium cocoa, well-creamed coffee, vanilla cookies, muddled dark orchard fruit (very berry-forward), black licorice, and some down-low earthy, leafy, and piney green hoppiness.

The carbonation is quite understated in its punch-clock frothiness, the body a solid middleweight, mostly smooth (just a bit of that as yet masked booziness showing up to mildly ill applause), and somewhat creamy. It finishes well off-dry, the lingering caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and milky notes ensuring that outcome.

Overall, I'm certain that this was the shit, bee's knees, boss, whatever, back when it had fewer throne-usurping competitors out there, but now it ranks as merely really good, instead of existing among those elite ranks that big-ass American stouts can attain in these current Halcyon days.

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Photo of ExtraStout
4.8/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured out of a bomber. Big thick tannish head that settles a bit but has great retention and great lacing. This beer is opaque black.

Big caramel aromas, slight toffee, some dark roasted coffee and some smokey malt. I couldnt keep my nose out of the glass, this beer just smells so damned good!

Incredibley smooth sweet toffee and caramel blended with bitter chocolate and a slightly spiced hop character to balance the heavy malt out to near perfect.

Nice moutfeel that really coats your taste buds with flavor. The drinkability of this beer is very good. So tastey that you just want to keep drinking it and you could because the 8.1 is nowhere to be found...until it creeps up on you.

This is an exceptional beer and I cant wait to pick up some more.

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Photo of Jason
4.65/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22oz brown bomber, no freshness date but the 8.1% should keep it fine on the shelf for a while.

Appearance: The light brown foamy tan head looks appetizing, as black as you can get in colour … what else would you expect from a big stout.

Smell: Fragrant aroma of unsweetened dark chocolate and mild espresso … hint of molasses as well. Dark berries and a hidden alcohol are there to boot.

Taste & Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy … and a kick of crispness at that. Layered complex burnt character lingers right under the strong arm of maltiness. The fresh hoppiness drops a thick blanket of bitterness and oily hop flavour. Touch of yeast with black currant in the back with a subdued alcohol.

Notes: Where the hell is the 8.1% abv? So deceiving and very drinkable, very well put together. I’d say I would make this a session beer but I would not last too long …

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Photo of Immortale25
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a Dogfish traditional oversized snifter. No freshness date.

A- Pours a mostly opaque black color with a 1/4 inch tan head that retains a bit before becoming a thin ring around the edge of the glass and a half sheet of sheer surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing leaves small clots behind

S- Dark roasted malt with a pronounced earthy hop presence. Also a bit of booze fume.

T- Dark roasted malt brings some caramel sweetness and a bit of char to the table. Somewhat high level of hop bitterness for the style but it reacts well with the roastiness. Alcohol is concealed rather well.

M- A bit sharp and moderately viscous. Medium carbonation and a full body.

O- A hop-forward but well-balanced stout.

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Photo of cbenson
4.49/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Look: As dark as they come. Looks exactly like iridescent black paint. The head is tan and fairly dense with long retention.
Smell: Intense even for a stout. Chocolate, caramel, licorice, oak, alcohol. It kind of smells like rum.
Taste: Tons of chocolate with notes of licorice, toffee candy, and espresso. The malts are doughy. Alcohol is very noticeable.
Feel: I expected it to feel thick and dull but it was surprisingly full-bodied and prickly like grape soda. Perfect balance.
Overall: Typically I don't enjoy beers that can't mask their alcohol well but something about the combo of chocolate, hearty malts, and the yeast make this beer amazing. I only wish it were on the lighter side for being a desert beer. I feel like I'm drinking a whole cake.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.68/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I frankly had no idea this was an RIS when I grabbed it out of the to-go cooler at the local neighborhood bar where I go to play trivia. I was just astounded that they had a Bear Republic beer and in a bomber, vice a sixer, no less! I had set it aside awaiting the right moment and when my trivia partner bailed for tonight, I decided to do some bottle drinking at home. I am going to put some of this aside to blend with Sam. Smith's Organic Raspberry Ale later.

From the bottle: "Big Bear, as the name implies, is a hefty black stout. This stout boasts a rich, caramel sweetness lavished by a robust deep roasted heartiness you can really sink your teeth into ..."; "Brew Master Notes - Drink responsibly. Don't get mauled. Be on the lookout for other rare species of fine specialty ales from the Bear Republic. CHEERS!"; "COME VISIT US at our pub & brewery".

I poured a dense finger of deep-tan head with good retention on this humid late afternoon in early June. They got the species right in that this Bear was Black! I have written in ink that was less black than this beer. It disallowed light penetration in the same way that a black hole sucks up light. If I ever found myself inside this beer, I would be utterly lost. The nose smelled of this morning's coffee, commingled with piney hops. Now, if you think that I am kidding about the roasty coffee aroma, please note that I am a retired US Navy sailor and I take my coffee like I once took my women - hot and black! You have to spoon my coffee out of the pot because it is so thick that it won't pour. I once spilled some over the side and the Coast Guard thought it was another Exxon Valdez. You get the idea. Mouthfeel was medium, but not as full as might have expected from this bear. Lots of coffee and dark chocolate on the tongue initially, but slowly, out of the darkness came the piney hops and just a tad bit of caramel sweetness as advertised. Shit, the f**kin' thing's mauling me, just as they warned me about! More of that confounded truth in advertising. Now, it's sinking its teeth into me! OMFG, I just wanted to drink a bear, I mean, beer, not die. Finish was smoky, chocolaty, roasty and I was finished. Warming, the finish took on a fudge-like aspect, both in terms of taste and mouthfeel. Dang, this was real good and I think they still have some over at my local. Definitely worth revisiting, especially if I bring a rifle and re-read Faulkner's "The Bear" ahead of time. You got me on this go-'round, you ursine sonnuva beechnut tree, but things will be different the next time we meet!

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Photo of depotmashman
4/5  rDev -3.1%

Very good ......

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Photo of Zebulan
4.07/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz into a Belgian beer glass.

L: Nice dark black pour with tan head. Head disappears rather quickly.
S: Unremarkable smell. Faint sweet smell; faint chocolate or caramel smell.
T: Roasted malts and caramel taste. Just a little warm and boozy but not offensive at all.
F: Smooth feel. Warm in the mouth. Balanced all around.
O: Really nice and solid American stout. Great example of a classic stout. Would recommend you try it if classic stouts are your thing.

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Photo of Gajo74
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a jet black color with a mocha head. This eventually dissipates into a thin ring of lace.
I'm drawn in by the sweet and cocoa crispier like aroma. Very pleasant, warm and inviting.
In the flavor, there is sweetness; dark fruit, alcohol, nutty and, most prominently, cocoa. There is also a nice hops presence in the finish that is bittersweet. Moderately full and velvety in the mouthfeel. Nice alcohol warming without being boozy.
This is a real quality stout by a great brewery.

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Photo of Reema
4.71/5  rDev +14%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Serving type: 12 oz bottle into a shaker pint

Pours extremely dark brown (essentially black) with mocha colored suds. Smells of dark chocolate, coffee grounds, slight vegetal hoppiness, and a pleasant caramel toffee scent. Taste reflects the smell perfectly. Dark chocolate, stronger coffee flavors, stronger hops bite and flavor, along with a nice caramel toffee flavor. Initial dark chocolate and coffee flavors flow into a hops vegetal flavor which finalize with a pleasant caramel malty sweetness. The feel is thick with moderate carbonation. Works well with the heavier flavors. Overall this is a good stout with a strangely pleasant hops flavor and bitterness that really work well. It's darn good!

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Photo of unclekeith
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bomber in a Teku

L: Jet black with a thin beige head - quickly dissipating to a tiny collar
S: Roast malt, caramel, chocolate
T: Follows the nose
M: Creamy, a tad thinner than expected
O: Great roasted stout, nice sweetness, wish this was readily available in Alaska

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Photo of tillmac62
4.38/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours pitch black. Quite outstanding head volume, world class lacing and retention.

Outstanding nose of semi-sweet dark chocolate, roast, caramel, vanilla hints and a light berry like note.

Light full body that is extremely smooth with a solid creaminess. World class carbonation with just the right carbonation / body balance. The middle provides a nice effervescent burst that trails into a finely bubbled prickly finish.

The flavor profile is world class. Balance is near perfect for this stout that brings a nice pine middle bitterness that compliments the roast. It begins with a mild roast character that has just enough bite. Caramel provides a higher level of sweetness than most stouts and shines after the middle as the chocolate influence maximizes. You don't taste the alcohol, but it makes its presence in the very dry lingering finish and with a bit of heat.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep, impenetrable mahogany. I do see dark caramel highlights at the margins though, so it isn't a complete and total ambient light sucker. The expansive, thickly creamy head of golden cocoa brown falls infinitesimally slowly and resembles a large scoop of coffee ice cream left to melt in the midday sun.

A tremendous stout nose with power to spare. While sweet dark chocolate is dominant, this is no one-trick pony. Next in line would have to be citric hops (thank you Bear Republic), then brown sugar, then molasses, and finally, coffee. That is pretty much my ideal stout lineup, in exactly that order.

BBBS is good beer, as I was pretty sure it would be. One caveat: if you're not fond of hoppy stouts, this one may not be to your liking. I am and it is. It's even more hopalicious than the nose let on. In fact, I never thought I'd say this, but it's too hoppy relative to the actual stout flavor. I like hops in my dark beer (I like them on a train, I like them on a plane, I like them in Big Bear, I like them anywhere), but I don't like them to overwhelm the business at hand, which is... heavily roasted malt, chocolate, molasses and all that other stouty stuff.

Chocolate malt is still holding down the fort, but the ramparts have taken heavy damage from the humulus lupulus barrage. It's also impressively sweet, as befits a beer to which both brown sugar and molasses have been added. This really is delicious stuff even though its balance is just a tad askew. The finish is long and roastyhoppy with sweet just winning out over bitter. The mouthfeel is a notch shy of full with an impressive smooth silkiness.

Big Bear Black is great beer, but would benefit from being more classically stout-like. Even I need a break from overwhelming hops once in a while. As hard as it is to believe, sometimes I just wanna be 'mauled by malt', to paraphrase the BR website. Can't decide between a hop monster IPA and a darkly chocolatey double stout? Bear Republic has placed both in one bomber for your convenience and your drinking pleasure.

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Photo of cjgiant
4.34/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

On tap:
Dark bar, so body looks black; even holding to back light I get nothing. The head, in a regular shaker pseudo-pint never leaves. Curtains of lacing; swirls don't remove the curtains, but do produce a classic "lace" pattern.

Nose is roasted malt, pure and simple. It leans a little chocolatey, but only in impression. A light charred wood bitterness accentuates this claim.

Pretty damn smooth beer, this one. If i didn't know better, I'd think it's possible this was on nitro. Not too heavy, though probably just past medium. Muted carbonation that sometimes comes with a thicker feeling beer leads to this silky smooth feel.

Taste is just classic stout. This is a beer I'd expect from breweries like this and AleSmith and Schlafly. Roasted malt producing cocoa maltiness and charred bitterness. I'm sure there are hops, but to me they help that roastiness shine (maybe a light classic citrus-pine as it warms).

Just a thoroughly enjoyable beer if you like the classic version of the style. A must try to see where you stand, IMO.

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Photo of oberon
4.6/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep dark black with a mocha colored creamy head,big hop presence in the aroma for the style zesty and nutty with a little moch a coffee thrown in very nice.Wow where to begin on the flavors in this bad boy very creamy feel in the mouth, drier than expected some unsweetened chocolate and nutty earthiness with a background of zesty,spicey hop.Alot going on and way to easy to drink for the alc% every flavor u could want in a beer with a smooth creamy mouthfeel,just awesome.

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Photo of Popsinc
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very nice looking pour with a rich bronze head. The nose is lightly roasted . Great taste of dark chocolate, roasted malt and hints of vanilla bean. Smooth coffee notes with nice hoppiness showing its face on the finish. A very rich, smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Excellent stout.

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

Appearance – Black as a black bear with a monster, dark tan head that pitted slowly and laced my glass.

Smell – Amazing balance to the nose of this stout. The dark, roasted, burnt malt aroma is there along with a significant hoppy balance. Add to this the terrific molasses, dark maple, and cane sugar. To top things off, the dark, ripe fruits (mostly Bing cherries, tobacco, apricots, and browned bananas) add a level of complexity that is beyond reproach. There’s also a nice woody/sherry compliment.

Taste – The sherry and wood come out more in the taste but, incredibly, all of the aspects of the nose are here as well. This is a wonderfully balanced stout that doesn’t rely on one, good, strong flavor. You could drink this with anything from fish, roast beef, tenderloin, Caesar salad (there’s a nice bitterness in here that would go great with salads), or buzzard meat.

Mouthfeel – Creamy and smooth yet quite refreshing from the hop profile. This is a mouthful indeed.

Drinkability – Most 4.0+ stouts that I’ve rated have one thing in common: They should be drank by themselves, alone to save the flavors. This here is your “all purpose” stout, perfect for any occasion.

Comments – I would have had to pretend to like it anyway since skyhand was sitting next to me and wouldn’t shut up about how great it is, so it was a real bonus that I liked it so much.

Update – I partake of this regularly but thought it would be fun to age a bottle for a year, so I popped an ’05 vintage in June 2006 just for the hell of it.

The alcohol and sharp sugars come out much bigger after a year in the cellar. I especially enjoyed the malty tang that almost seemed reminiscent of a barrel-aged stout. This beer is great as is or layed down for a year.

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Photo of aszatk01
4/5  rDev -3.1%

Photo of DaPeculierDane
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown, near black with a generous tan froth. Strongly hopped aroma. Light an fruity. Coffee flowing over Cascades. Tastes slightly sour like powdered cherry drink mix. Lemony with a healthy dose of java, chocolate, brown sugar, and caramel. Light to medium body (for style). Very hoppy yet extremely drinkable. Not very typical for an RIS but quite nice none-the-less.

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Photo of t2grogan
3.5/5  rDev -15.3%

Photo of hopsleeroy
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Black stout with little light coming through and 2 inch head that disppeared quickly.
S-Very chocolate smell, some roast malt smell, not picking up a lot of fruit, mild vanilla. Just OK aroma.
T-Roast grain, chocolate, some earthy wood flavors mixed in and a little bit smoky. There was a chalky taste that was not totally pleasurable on the backside. Pleny of hops in this one balancing out the sweet. Hope came thorugh as it warmed and it became more complex.
M-Very creamy with good carbonation
D-Dangerously drinkable. It gets better as it warms and begins to change the flavor making me want to drink more.

Fine beet-very enjoyable.

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Photo of tbryan5
4.65/5  rDev +12.6%

Photo of LSUExplorer03
3.92/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Appearance was chocolaty, dark brown with light brown

S - Smell was rich with a sweet character apparent. Nothing too
overwhelming or aromatic, however.

T - Taste was above average. I got some chocolate, along with
some smoky hints up front with strong malts in the back.
Not too much hop balance.

M - Medium to thick body

D - Drinkability was above average. I picked up a little of an
"alcoholy" taste, and for only being 8.1%, this was a bit of a

Overall, the beer was good and I would definitely buy another; however, for the ratings this beer has received, I was a little disappointed.

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Photo of Dmann
4.7/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is an exceptional stout! It poured a very very dark brown with a small brownish head that soon settled into a creamy layer of foam leaving slight lace down my glass. The smell was great with a great roasted maltiness and hints of carmel. The flavor was stunning and sweeter than I was expecting, but it all worked wonderfully. The roasted malt flavor created a great semi-sweet flavor and there was a slight smokiness in the finnish that really topped it off. The mouthfeel was smoothe and creamy and there was absoloutly no hint of the %8.10 abv. Another winner from Bear Republic!

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Big Bear Black Stout from Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.13 out of 5 with 2,437 ratings