Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout
Central Waters Brewing Co.

Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel StoutBrewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout
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Stout - American Imperial
Ranked #325
Ranked #1,101
4.27 | pDev: 8.43%
Central Waters Brewing Co.
Wisconsin, United States
Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel StoutBrewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout
Notes: American-style stout aged for 1 year in used 12 year bourbon barrels.

The brewery's most highly sought after beer, this imperial stout is aged to perfection in oak bourbon barrels. Look for this tasty teat to contain hints of bourbon and vanilla with roasted overtones that is [sic] sure to please any connoisseur's palate. Serve at cellar temperature from a snifter glass and enjoy this expression of out passion for brewing.
Reviews: 781 | Ratings: 2,787 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by bluejacket74:
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bluejacket74 from Ohio

4.24/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 ounce bottle, 2019 vintage, thanks to Brutaltruth for this one! Served in a snifter, the beer pours dark brown/black with about an inch tan head. Head retention is good and there's a decent amount of lacing. Aroma is nice, the brew smells like bourbon, vanilla, molasses, roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate and dark fruit. Taste is similar to the aroma, but there's also the addition of some oak and earthy flavors too. Good amount of barrel character in both the aroma and taste. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's slick and has a moderate amount of carbonation. I thought this was a good overall brew, wouldn't mind having this again in the future!

Apr 10, 2020
More User Reviews:
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CHickman from New York

4.75/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Vintage 2014: Pours pitch black opaque color with a thick foamy 2-3 finger dark tan head that faded slowly, had a ton of bubbles in it and left great spider web foamy lacing coating the sides.

Smells of bourbon up front, with deep woody oak notes, cocoa powder, burnt malt, charred wood, dark chocolate, roasted grains, molasses, some light vanilla and a boozy sweetness. The wood and barrel accents are very influential and earthy and mix well with the chocolate and booze sweetness. This is very complex but minimal in that the main characteristics are the entire aroma with variations of the nose slightly changing with each whiff.

Taste is delicious, with a lovely combo much like the nose with dark chocolate, roasted grains, molasses, deep woody oak notes, bourbon, cocoa powder, toffee, burnt malt, charred wood, vanilla, a boozy sweetness and chocolate milk or chocolate syrup which makes it smooth like a milk stout and not an imperial bourbon barrel aged bad boy. Super smooth and very similar to Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout in many ways, but not as strong with less heat and more oaky notes. The wood almost tastes like cedar chips, and the booze is evident but not hot or abrasive – damn good stuff.

Mouthfeel is very smooth, creamy or velvety depending on the sip, with a medium to heavy chewy viscous body and feel that leads to a sweet bourbon infused aftertaste that has a slight bitterness and traces of coffee grinds. As stated above it’s very similar to Goose Island BCBS, but like it’s younger brother that may not have the bad ass reputation but is better looking; this brew is not as strong as BCBS and has more oaky and earthy/peat moss notes, but it’s an outstanding imperial stout in its own right and one I will seek out as well as highly recommend.

11/9/2016-Cracked open a 2015 bottle and it looked just as good with a nice thick tan head that lasted a long time and dissipated very slowly, leaving very good spotty lacing. Nose is oaky with strong bourbon, vanilla, toffee, dark chocolate, roasted grains, molasses, and then some earthy and fruity notes. Nice blend of barrel and malt, with char and bourbon leading to a fine barrel aged stout finish.

Taste is more woody and earthy than I recall with a combo of charred wood, dark chocolate, bourbon, roasted grains, molasses, smoky oak notes, cocoa powder, burnt malt, vanilla, a boozy sweetness and burnt coffee grinds. It's very smooth and again on the thin side like a milk stout but with more oak present, charred wood, faint piney notes and mild booze. Roasty and more influenced by the bourbon and vanilla, this aged 2015 was very enjoyable.

Feb 21, 2015
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woemad from Washington

4.41/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle of the 2015 vintage, received courtesy of the generosity of @Ri0. With this one down, his boxed beer tour of the upper Midwest is down to three.

Poured into an Iron Goat snifter, this looks a coal-black color until held up to light, when the faintest mahoganyish edges can be seen. There was a modest, tan colored head that quickly receded to a bubbly foam collar.

Rich, woodsy, vanilla aroma from the barrel aging dominate the nose, initially. As it warms, there are notes of chocolate, toffee, coffee, leather, and a tiny bit of dark fruit aroma.

When this hits the taste buds, I’m reminded of the nickname of Mel Tormé. It’s rich, velvety and decadent tasting. The bourbon barrel aspects are better balanced with the other elements I noted above in the aroma. In particular, a chocolaty flavor jumps up about midway through. It doesn’t drown out the other aspects I noted there, but it’s “large and in charge.” The finish is slightly dry.

Big, full body to this, to no one’s surprise. The mouthfeel is rich, velvety and creamy.

1PM was perhaps not the greatest time to have this. It would have been better after a rich meal, as it’s practically a dessert all on it’s own, yet it’s not cloyingly sweet. This is a great beer. I’d love to have access to this regularly, and be able to set some down and see what a little aging does to it. Thanks, Ri0!

May 15, 2016
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DabblinWiscCraft from Wisconsin

4.45/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I picked this one up at the local Trig's grocery store. Taken from the fridge, allowed to stand for a while, and poured from the 12 oz bottle into a Samuel Smith pint glass. The bottled on date reads 3/17/14 (13 months ago).

L: Pours a coffee black with a substantial two inch khaki head that really stays put. After about five minutes, there's still about a half-inch of frothy head and lots of lacing.

S: Sweet caramel and vanilla, more subtle black licorice, and an undertone of whiskey oak in the bouquet. It's got a nice aroma, though it isn't particularly strong.

T: Very sweet at the front: lots of vanilla and caramel coming through with some subtle roasted malt. The black licorice is right on their heels, and this flavor runs up against some great bourbon notes into the finish. There's clean alcohol that emerges with the licorice/bourbon, and this sticks around into the aftertaste, where you really get the sense of sipping a whiskey. The individual tastes are assertive, but they all work very nicely together.

F: Creamy, though lacking much discernible carbonation. This one is a bit more watery than I was expecting, though it's far from feeling water-down on the palate. I like that it leaves the mouth fairly cleanly: there's no syrupy residue left around, though the flavors linger for a good long while.

O: This is another fine offering from the folks at Central Waters, who really seem to understand how to barrel a beer. I'd definitely like to see how this one tastes after being cellared for a while. A word of caution, though: if you're not a fan of sweeter stouts, this one is probably not for you. I find that the sweetness works very well to hide some of the clean alcohol flavor and also accentuate the bourbon notes. If you make it to Wisconsin, I would highly recommend seeking this one out.

May 03, 2015
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Brolo75 from California

4.3/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 ounce bottle poured into a Belgian style tulip glass

A: Not very dark for a barrel aged imperial stout, lots of ruby on the edges, pretty clear when being poured into the glass, nice creamy tan head that faded, got some lacing.

A: Big bourbon upfront, very big, after this a strange drop on the aroma. Didn't' get much else. Some coffee roasted notes, not much alcohol.

T: Big bourbon, some coffee roasted bitterness, some alcohol burn on the end, but the bourbon seems unbalanced with the other flavors.

M: Medium mouthfeel, lots of carbonation, not alcohol burn.

O: Starts out really big, lots of bourbon, some stout aromas and flavors but the beer kind of drops off at the end, doesn't blend well. I think they need to bump up the ABV, maybe that will help balance the beer with the bourbon, but not bad at all, would definitely purchase, seems a little raw compared to other BA imperial stouts, but really good, definitely worth a try and I would put this in top 10 of my own personal BA stouts.

Jan 08, 2015
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getatmeimevil from Wisconsin

4.46/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Absolutely loved this BBA stout, everything I was expecting from BCBS came through in this. All the things I wanted to have a punch did and all the things I wanted to be subtle were.

Jan 01, 2015
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MichaelNeelsen from Wisconsin

4.51/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Drank 2013 release after aging for one year.

L: Thick, egg-white head that maintains at 1/4-finger width around the glass. Dark red tinted black. Pours like silk with a delightfully bouncy swish.

S: Sweet, sweet bourbon. Rich warmth. Subtle chocolate. Brown sugar. Cream. Almost a hint of rum or other sugary liquor.

T: Bourbon is the predominant flavor with a creamy dark chocolate finish. Roasted flavor lingers after sip. Bourbon cake, or rum cake. A definite creamy, milky lactose presence.

F: Bouncy, pillowy in the best way. Creamy. Silky, but not thin at all. Substantial.

O: One of my favorite stouts. Rivals BCS, but resembles a world-class upgrade of Dragon's Milk.

Jan 04, 2015
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Cannibalgasm from Minnesota

4.34/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12oz. bottle.

A: Pours a completely opaque black with one finger of creamy beige head. Retains very well and leaves behind some beautiful lacing.

S: Aromas of dark roasted malts, chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, and charred oak bombard the nostrils. Then you get notes of roasted nuts, raisins, caramel, molasses, coconut, leather, and tobacco. As it warms the flavors continue to come alive and hazelnut, and fudge aromas mix with slight earthy notes to provide a truly fantastic aroma. The bourbon is prevalent throughout providing a nice booziness that is very inviting.

T: Chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, bourbon, roasted nuts, caramel, and a charred oak flavors initially, then you get some coconut, molasses, dark berries, raisins, coffee, brown sugar, and figs. Finishes earthy and pleasantly boozy.

M: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Smooth and slightly creamy it has some thickness to it and some pleasantly noticeable alcohol warmth. A great sipper on this winter night.

O: An absolutely fantastic BBA Imperial stout. Honestly I don't understand how there brewer's reserve series isn't more recognized and appreciated. In the stout you find ever thing you could hope for and it can truly hang with the hyped up big boys of the style. I love this beer and always make sure to stock up with it and it's counterparts as they are truly world class brews. I would recommend seeking this out and enjoy it as I do, and come on people it's time to show Central Waters the love they deserve, they are one of the top under the radar breweries in my opinion.

Dec 21, 2015
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joe1510 from Illinois

4.41/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz Bottle
$10.99 4-Pack
4 Seasons Liquors - Morris, IL

2015 Bottling

Central Water's Bourbon Barrel Stout pours as it should, menacingly black. No light escapes this body, it seems to darken the room as a matter of fact. The mocha foam is easy to rise, growing to a finger in height on the pour and settling comfortably at a thin crown while leaving silky sheet lacing down the glass. Each drink leaves behind pure silk lacing.

The nose is decadent, but not with sweet notes like other stouts. It's a moderately roasty base beer with rich cashew and macadamia nut. There's even some walnut pith. Slight boozy alcohol presence with caramel, vanilla and coconut from the barrel. It's complex with layer after layer of delicious barrel aged stout-i-ness. Each inhale unfolds the layers in different progression. Good.

As complex and deep as the nose, the flavor profile trumps it. The barley is moderately roasted and a ripe, dark berry maceration joins the fray. The nuttiness comes through in spades. I always think of macademia nuts as being almost creamy and richly decadent. This beer mimics that. A cashew richness as well. The barrel brings caramel, vanilla, coconut, and cotton candy in the order of intensity, most to least. A clean, boozy, somewhat brandy-like alcohol brings up the rear. This is a really great beer!

The body sits squarely between moderate and heavy on the scale. While the carbonation adds a touch of frothiness. It gets the beer moving so the alcohol present doesn't linger but it lingers long enough to give the idea that you're dealing with something not to be taken lightly. With that said, this beer drinks incredibly easy, dangerously easy.

This beer was once great. Central Waters had some infection issues a while back that hampered my purchases over the last handful of years. They're back to their old quality. The barrel aging is expertly executed, done to enhance an already good beer. The flavors pulled from the aging and blending are spectacular. The dense nuttiness, the coconut, the huge vanilla. The carbonation and mouthfeel are near perfect. This is good beer.

Dec 24, 2015
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Scott17Taylor from Iowa

4.38/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Light barrel aged stout with layers of chocolate, dark fruit and vanilla. The barrel is pronounced, but doesn't dominate the base beer like many BA beers do. The mouthfeel was a little thin, but I'm not hating it. It's a very good beer.

Jan 11, 2017
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arlo19 from Kentucky

4.32/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Local Option in Chicago. Compared this side by side with BCBBS.

Aroma is great, chocolate and bourbon. Taste is good and oaky but some fusel off flavor in aftertaste. Mouthfeel is good. Overall very solid, would like to try more from this brewery.

Jun 18, 2015
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ukwildcat1995 from Florida

3.65/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The look is dark with minimal head upon pouring. Minimal lacing as well.

The smell is the faintest of bourbons. Almost not there.

The taste follows the smell. I'm not getting any bourbon flavor and there is a substantial alcohol burn on the end.

Not much there in the feel. Almost like water.

Overall, I just am not a fan. And bourbon barrel aged stouts are my go to. I see all the other reviews, so maybe this is a bad bottle? I don't know. This just is a big miss for me.

Jun 05, 2016
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EMH73 from New York

4.3/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a dark brown, almost black with a thin head that dissipated quickly and left very little lacing. Smells of bourbon, molasses, chocolate, vanilla and malts. Taste follows the nose, with additional notes of dark fruits and a hint of char. Medium bodied, minimal carbonation, rather thin mouth feel based on my expectations for the style.

Apr 23, 2017
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don1481 from Wisconsin

4.3/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 Vintage. 12 oz bottle poured into my trusty pint glass.

Appearance: Pours nearly pitch-black with a khaki tan head. Based on other reviews, I expected the head to dissipate quickly, but it's lingering a bit longer than expected.

Smell: Smells of caramel, chocolate, vanilla and - obviously - bourbon flow out of this one. A little sweeter smelling than the BCBS i recently reviewed. If this tastes anywhere near as good as it smells... I'm in for a good time!

Taste: Hmm. Pretty freaking good. A little boozier than the BCBS, a little more in-your-face with the flavors. Definite vanilla and chocolate aspects poke through. Not as complex as the BCBS, but the flavors still play very well with one another.

Mouthfeel: Definitely a warming, almost hot, mouthfeel. That said, it's quite... soft and smooth at the same time. Doesn't linger too strongly in the mouth.

Overall: Very delicious. Very drinkable. I'm gonna stash at least 2 of the bottles in my cellar and see what happens as it ages. Very excited to see where this goes - got another bottle of BCBS stashed alongside this, so I can do a direct comparison.

Jan 10, 2014
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richj1970 from Alabama

4.24/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 12 oz bottle into snifter. 2014 vintage.

A: Pours ink black but has amazingly clarity for a stout. One finger light tan head that settled to a thing ring around the edge and leaving some stringy lacing. A slight oily sheen to the surface.

S: Big bourbon mixed with slight coffee, caramel, and roasted malts.

T: Mostly bourbon up front. Some faint coffee flavors, and a dark fruity quality. A fair amount of warming alcohol at the end.

M: Full bodied tending towards a bit thin but not expected from BA stout. Finish is smooth, and very easy drinking.

O: Very nice stout especially if you enjoy bourbon forward beers. I would be very interested to get another of these to age for a while.

Jan 12, 2015
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BuckeyeNation from Iowa

4.38/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

'Blindfolded at night' black with red and gold autumn leaves edges when a light source is at hand. The huge, initially cascading, head is the color of brown sugar and is, visually at least, just as dense. When it finally deflates to a mounded lump of cream, a virtually unbroken sheet of thick lace is seen on the upper reaches of the glass. An outstanding look.

The nose is merely good. There's a bargeload of dark chocolate and a whiff of crushed coffee beans. Also apparent, naturally, is a booziness that isn't immediately recognizable as bourbon. It has a vanilla-like character, but none of the other aromas that I usually associate with my favorite liquor. A fine point perhaps, but a crucial one in a beer with 'Bourbon Barrel' in its name.

This is outstanding beer with a massive amount of flavor that sends my taste buds happily reeling. The malt backbone is massive in size and heavily roasted in character. As in the nose, bittersweet chocolate is the focal point, with both bitter and sweet applied with equal force. Thick, black joe refuses to be slighted and is nearly the equal of chocolate on the palate.

For whatever reason, the (considerable) liquor flavor is now obviously bourbon in origin. It's a little on the raw side, but I approve of its no-holds-barred nature. I'm having trouble thinking of another bourbon barrel stout that contains this much bourbon. Those barrels must have been especially absorbent and then leaky in turn.

It's hard to say whether any hops are present given the dominance of malt and alcohol, but I think I can appreciate a citric bite in there somewhere. Warming brings about even greater flavor intensity and even greater melding. The bourbon still seems less than perfectly integrated, but I'm willing to cut it some slack since I love both stout and bourbon.

The mouthfeel strikes a perfect balance and is as silky smooth as it is viscous. It's closer to full than to medium and is perfectly matched to the larger-than-life flavor while still allowing the beer to retain drinkability. Bigger would not necessarily equal better in this case.

Central Waters Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout is as big as its name. If you like both stouts and bourbon whiskey, then you'll love this beer. I really hope this isn't a one-off (since changed to 'winter release'), because I'd hate to think this is the only bottle I'll ever have the opportunity to drink. A huge thank you to Skidz for an incredible beer.

Oct 10, 2005
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DannoP from Minnesota

4.57/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Central Waters never let's down with barrel aged beers! These guys have been doing if for over 15 years and it really pays off! This is my go to beer all winter! Great nose of bourbon - not too heavy - subtle sweetness and bourbon present! Love it!

Dec 12, 2015
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Sabtos from Ohio

4.21/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The pour is cola reddish-brown but surprisingly fills to shiny black, accumulating a lumpy, fuzzy light tan head that clings in slight ridges.

Smell exhibits plenty of spicy bourbon and charred oak with chocolate roasted malt, roasted peanuts, wafer and vanilla. It's a very pleasant and solid aroma that fills the nose without too much heat, capped off by a hint of licorice.

Taste is vanilla and cake batter right up front, but that's quickly hit with a splash of spiced bourbon and waxy, nutty oak. Flavors of cocoa and toasted dark malt support the middle, as bourbon comes back out on the swallow with a heated exhale.

The moderate to full body has a soft froth that delicately dissipates to a perfectly semi-dry, soft yet tingly finish, warming the gut.

This is a sleeper hit behind all the flavored variations Central Waters does. I'm glad I finally got to try the OG, as it's easily my favorite of theirs.

May 14, 2018
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GreatStoutman from Texas

4.36/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2016 bottle

Excellent bourbon barrel stout, with all the right wood and bourbon flavors. The vanilla dominates the nose and taste, but rather light roasty flavors. My only complaint is that its carbed up and the feel is a little off for this style, but its still excellent.

Dec 02, 2016
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dolomite128 from Massachusetts

4.3/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 Vintage - Poured into a Night Shift Tulip / Snifter

Decent head about 1/4" and light tan with whispy dark swirls. Disappears to a small ring of light bubbles within a few minutes.

Aromas of brown sugar and oak barrel. Some light / matured vanilla / bourbon notes.

Tastes are considerably more subdued than one would expect from the nose. Flavors of rich chocolate dominate with hints of light bourbon. Carbonation / fizz keeps this from being cloying. Nice balance of flavors but the bourbon plays a back seat to the chocolate and long oaky finish.

Mouth feel is a bit thinner than most BA stout bodies, at 9.5% this definitely could use a bigger presence.

Overall a solid and very well balanced stout. If heavy chocolate and oak barrel are your thing, this is worth the effort to locate. Would have benefited from a bit more body and less carbonation.

Jun 03, 2015
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Bartleby91 from Wisconsin

4.44/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage poured into a snifter.

Appearance is black with a mahogany hue around the edges of the glass. Still has a good amount of carbonation. Nice lacing along with alcohol legs lingering.

The aroma is bourbon, dark fruits, chocolate, vanilla, oak, coffee and roast malts.

The taste is dark fruit, bourbon, vanilla, oak, chocolate, roast malt and a bit of coffee.

The palate is medium plus with lingering bourbon spice and chocolate malt sweetness. Nice and smooth from aging.

Overall this is an excellent barrel aged stout from one of the best breweries in Wisconsin.

Nov 27, 2016
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Holderness from Massachusetts

4/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2019 vintage

L -- Pours a surprisingly light shade of black, almost a deep brown. Scant half finger of tan head produced with aerated pour. Minimal retention or lacing
S -- Chocolate cake, dried dark fruit, herbal hop, bourbon, oak, vanilla
T -- Dark chocolate, oak, bourbon, hint of char,
F -- Big mouthfeel, medium carb. Has the perfect amount of sweetness and a nice drying astringency on the tail end


Mar 12, 2020
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Derek from Canada (BC)

4.55/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Black with a hint of deep mohogany, tan head, some retention, nice lace.

S: The aroma is light, but very pleasant, like a freshly baked cake (brown sugar, vanilla), sherry, with underlying mocha, molases and wood.

T: Vanilla, coffee, demerara sugar, dark chocolate, slight dark fruit and roasted nut. Good bitterness; alcohol is dry and slightly warming.

M: The well-attenuated, moderate to full body is smooth, with some roasted acidity and a dry finish. Carbonation is on the lighter side of moderate.

D: Very enticing.

Aug 21, 2007
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spycow from Illinois

4/5  rDev -6.3%

Mar 09, 2013
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warmlager from Minnesota

4.25/5  rDev -0.5%

Jul 25, 2014
Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout from Central Waters Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 2787 ratings