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

Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean StoutBrewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean Stout
Write a Review
Beer Geek Stats: | Print Shelf Talker
American Imperial Stout
Ranked #485
Ranked #2,058
4.24 | pDev: 5.66%
Central Waters Brewing Co.
Wisconsin, United States
Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean StoutBrewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean Stout
Notes: The latest beer off of our pilot system - a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Vanilla Bean Stout! This is a new stout recipe that we aged for 1 1/2 years in bourbon barrels and added vanilla beans.
Reviews: 43 | Ratings: 157 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of csheridan
4.11/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

The pour is thick, sits almost black in the glass, with a thin head. Smell is roasted malt and bourbon, a hint of vanilla, but not much in the smell. The vanilla comes through a bit more in the taste, along with the bourbon and roasted malt, slight alcohol burn from the bourbon, but not too strong. Really thick and creamy feel, this is a great one for sitting around a fire on a cool evening outside.

 402 characters

Photo of Franziskaner
4.15/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Black in color with minimal light penetration. There’s a tiny wisp of beige covering a quarter of the top. The aroma is of bourbon, vanilla, and dark malt. I’m tasting vanilla, bourbon, and dark malt. The mouth is thick, chewy, and boozy.

 246 characters

Photo of SierraNevallagash
4.19/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle - courtesy of The-Adjunct-Hippie (thanks!!) - poured into a short stem at room temperature.

Pours a mahogany reddish brown, sitting midnight black in the glass. A vigorous pour yields two fingers of tan head, which quickly and loudly fizz out to a thin cap that never fully disappears. The beer seems to be a touch thin (it's also single-digit ABV), and interestingly, if help to a strong light, the beer is quite ruby, and remarkably clear in the thinner spots. Quite a bit of visible effervescence for the style.

Nose: As soon as I cracked this, I could smell it from several feet away. Diving in nose-first, Vanilla Bean Stout produces a ton of bourbon barrel on the nose. Very classic BBA imperial stout aroma. Vanilla bean can be subtle, but as a big fan of vanilla bean BA stouts, I can definitely spot it in here. Aromas of rich roasted malt, dark chocolate, vanilla bean, bourbon-soaked charred American oak, caramel, a little bit of dark fruit, and the faintest hint of marshmallow fluff. A rare and welcome note in BA stouts - almost always from vanilla bean. It isn't the deepest, most complex BA stout, but it's mature, handsome, and inviting, with no aromatic flaws at all.

Palate: This beer greets the palate with some very robust dark roast. Blackened malts leading into baker's cocoa, dark roast espresso grounds (not coffee that has been made - the flavour of dry grounds), vanilla, burned toffee, and something I can only describe as umami. It isn't soy sauce, so don't even go there. It's a slightly savoury note, presumably from either heavy roast, or super wet barrels - likely the latter. The bourbon barrel is very present here, and while the bourbon isn't hard to find, I find that the barrel itself particularly sticks out. That dry charred oak. At first, I would say in terms of BA stout sweetness, this one starts off at a 5 or 6 of 10, but after that char comes in and does it's thing, by the time the finish rolls around, it's down to about a 3 of 10, and ultimately finishes dry and roasty, with a bit of vanilla still lingering. It isn't a bitter stout, and while roasty, it never turns acrid or ashen. Somewhat clean finish for the style.

Mouthfeel/Body: I don't get the reviews that say this is a thin beer. It isn't 2018 BCBS or Parabola, but for less than 10% ABV, I'm actually surprised how full-bodied and heavy it is. It's slick, fairly viscous, with a little bit of chew. Not thin at all, unless your standard is pure maple syrup. Not a lot of effervescence, but it isn't at all flat. A bit sticky, as it shoukd be, particularly around the lips.

Overall: This is just a very good barrel aged stout, simple as that. It's quite roasty, but it has the sweetness to back that up, which is important (to me). The addition of vanilla bean really adds an extra layer of nuance, which I find benefits the beer. The body is spot on, especially for the ABV, it's super full of flavour...especially for the ABV, and because of that lower ABV, there's no struggle to drink it over the course of a few hours - fighting down the last sips even though you like it. Can't speak for value, as I don't know the pricing, but it's a great beer, and if it's somewhat reasonably priced, then that would really be something. Regardless, it's an enjoyable BA stout for when you don't want to make a production of opening a special bottle, but you still want to thoroughly enjoy it.

 3,417 characters

Photo of Lingenbrau
4.21/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Big thanks to Joe for this bottle. Anything from Central Waters is extremely welcomed.

Pours pitch black, and I'm noticing the need to heavy my hand as it's coming out pretty flat. Snapping like cola, it manages to produce a very thin tanned foam that disappears in a moment. Needless to say, no lacing.

Not much vanilla on the nose, but plenty of chocolate, oak, and booze. You can argue some molasses or brown sugar, but if say this is a pretty straight forward (and inviting) aroma.

Flavor is actually quite a bit nutty. Like chocolate covered almonds, dusted in some holiday spices, then laid to rest in a barrel of booze. Very nice.

A bit thin, zero carbonation, well balanced and smooth. The burn is light and welcomed on this cold afternoon. Has a bit of a spicy tingle to it too. Also welcomed.

I've used "welcomed" more times in this review than I've ever used it before. You're welcome.


 921 characters

Photo of q33jeff
4.18/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


Bottle top tulip glass.

Jet black. Healthy beige head. Very Good retention.
Lots of vanilla in the nose.
Chocolate notes come with the vanilla and roasty malt and barrel character mellow this out nicely.


 226 characters

Photo of GreesyFizeek
3.99/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

This one pours a fairly dark black color, with a small head, and not much lacing.

This smells like boozy vanilla, oak, bourbon, dark chocolate, and tobacco.

Like most CW stouts, this run a touch thin, but the flavor is just about right. There's a moderate amount of vanilla here, with some bitter oak and dark chocolate, and a touch of sweet bourbon. There's some bitter hops in here, almost comes off like dark tobacco type flavors along with the barrel and stout base.

This is medium bodied, a touch thin on the finish, and pretty creamy. It's not very boozy at all.

This isn't my favorite of their barrel series, but it's still certainly worth a look.

 658 characters

Photo of Pray_For_Mojo
4.26/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: thin when poured; very similar to coffee in body and color. A bit thin for the style. Wonderfully bright - odd for the style. Dark ruby highlights, as if a mix of wine and coffee. Very little head with the thinnest collar. Legs when swirled, syrupy almost.

Aroma: I hate to say it, but generic bourbon BA stout. There's nothing wrong with the aroma - very well done - but there is not standout characteristics. Semi-sweet chocolate and vanilla. I can't determine if the vanilla is from the actual vanilla addition or from the bourbon and oak.

Flavor: vanilla and bourbon headline as you'd expect. The bourbon threatens to become overpowering and hot, but stops abruptly and mellows.

Mouthfeel: light-heavy, much heavier than suggested by its appearance.

Overall: well executed, but again, generic. This beer has all you'd expect, and no standout flaws, but there are no standout flavors. No "wow".

 914 characters

Photo of mngermanshepherd
4.08/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark black coffee colour. Head goes away rather quickly, leaves a small ring. Taste is vanilla and coffee bean, leaves an espresso/chocolate coffee taste that lingers. Some carbonation.

 193 characters

Photo of Bshaw22
4.07/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

pours thick black with a little white head. I don't get a ton of vanilla on the noise. A little chocolate malt and touch of vanilla.
Flavor is roasty, bourbon, dark fruits up front and then vanilla on the finish. The finish is very nice.
MF is pretty thin which I like.
Pretty good beer.

 292 characters

Photo of zeff80
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle purchased in July 2018. Poured out an opaque, jet-black color with a small, tan head of foam. It smelled of vanilla beans, chocolate, oak and bourbon. Sweet chocolate, toffee and toasty caramel with vanilla and a balanced booziness.

 239 characters

Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle
Smokestack snifter
2019 vintage

Dark chocolate brown-black with a finger of almond head.

Aroma of deep, wet bourbon barrel and caramel, with hints of fig and creamy vanilla.

Hot bourbon barrel meets the tongue, with slight piney bitterness and dark chocolate. Vanilla bean follows, with hints of hot caramel and roasted malts.

Feel is hot and boozy, with a nice chest burn of alcohol. Drying and warming, with roastiness to complete the picture. Heavy bodied, semi creamy, moderate carb.

Overall another stellar BA beer from Central Waters, I'd say it's the best out of all their BA stouts.

 612 characters

Photo of metter98
4.11/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

A: The beer is jet black in color. It poured with a thin collar of light tan bubbles on the surface
S: Light to moderate aromas of bourbon and vanilla beans are present in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of bourbon from the barrel aging along with strong notes of vanilla.
M: It feels a touch more than medium-bodied on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer drinks a lot easier compared to there beers in the style as it isn't very hazy and hides its alcohol very well.

Serving type: can

 516 characters

Photo of beerloserLI
3.9/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A pitch black oily color on the pour with a fast and almost non-existent white head. The nose is strong with chocolate malt and booze. Dense chocolate malt hits upfront on the first few sips. A rather smooth flow and finish. The barrel balances out very well and allows all the underlined flavors to be seen. Additional notes of cocoa powder, dark chocolate, brown sugar, tannin, and charred oak. The vanilla is there but I really wish it were a more pronounced. That's what I bought it for. A moderate/full body impression with very rich and slightly sticky/oily flavors. Each sip lingers over the palate for a good bit.

Overall, decent stuff. It's pretty straight forward and void of to many adjuncts. Just not my favorite vanilla stout.

 742 characters

Photo of MNAle
4.21/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Aroma is relatively strong: chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, and bourbon. 1/2 inch tan, thick, creamy-looking head, dropping fairly quickly to a bubbly cap and ridge.

Deep black appearance from the front, with dark ruby tinges with a back light.

Taste is dark malt chocolate with vanilla coming through prominently, but never becoming sweet. The bourbon is in the background, but very much there. Also getting a chocolate, somewhat bitter middle, remaining into the finish and aftertaste. Not much alcohol.

The body is reasonably substantial. Not the thickest stout, but hardly thin (as some claim - those claiming "thin" I guess have never tried an Irish dry stout).

Nicely balanced between the bourbon, vanilla, and the chocolate from the malts. Quite delicious. A great evening sipping beer.

 801 characters

Photo of VoodooBear
4.15/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Presentation: 12 oz. brown bottle with a "Vintage" year notched on the bottle. Served in a Rastal Harmony tumbler.

Appearance: The light tan, one finger head goes away fairly quickly and leaves behind a foam ring and a lot of thick lacing that covers the entire glass. it's a deep, pure black color.

Smell: It's a soft, sweet smell of milk chocolate, vanilla, green coffee beans and molasses.

Taste: It starts sweet with some caramel, milk chocolate, vanilla, dried fruit and molasses. As it goes down the darker, more bitter flavors show up. There's cocoa, black coffee, charred wood and roasted malt.

Mouthfeel: Robust, rich, oily and creamy with medium carbonation. It's not cloying at all.

Overall: A well balanced, surprisingly easy drinking bourbon barrel aged stout.

 778 characters

Photo of darktronica
4.38/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Very similar to the standard CW BBA Stout, but with some vanilla notes layered on top of it. In my mind, this very slightly improves the nose and very slightly detracts from the flavor profile on the palate. Big oak character from the extended time in the barrel, with the vanilla adding some marshmallow nougat notes. On some sips, I also get a very slight spearmint flavor that is a bit unexpected and odd. As with most of CW's BBA releases, I recommend letting it warm up a bit more than you might normally.

 510 characters

Photo of Strix
4.76/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pitch black, decent initial head that fades to nothing.

Smells of vanilla, brown sugar, bourbon

Brown sugar, vanilla, bourbon, caramel, cocoa. Yum!

Nice smooth mouthfeel, drinks bigger and boozier than it actually is.

Can't go wrong with CW's dark stuff as a nightcap.

 272 characters

Photo of rodbeermunch
4.46/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Got to have this at the source in Amherst, WI after a day of disc golf at Standing Rocks "up north". Wasn't expecting to play 33 holes, but hey, the arm held up after a few months on the shelf w tennis elbow.

Pours a black pour similar to the base barrel aged stout. Nice 1/2" tan head on it. Looks pretty. Also funny how the blonde ale is the same price as this at the brewery. Immediate nose impact of the vanilla bean on top of the bourbon aged stout. At the expense of the roasted malt notes, this one pumps vanilla bean hard, and the base beer itself pulled some vanilla scene out of the barrels themselves.

The taste is really easy going. I've always loved how they make a barrel aged stout that isn't double digit abv. I think the older Eclipse bottles and this were nice for not making a sludge based gigantic imperial stout body, they're big, but sensible, and allow all the other aspects of the barrel to shine moreso. The vanilla is huge and smoothing here. It's sweet, but not sugary. Bourbon, malt and vanilla all get in sync and lead to a relatively smooth, rich luxurious mouth feel and overall experience. $15 for a 4 pack of this is just awesome stuff.

 1,185 characters

Photo of dafla67
4.39/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours black. Aroma is wonderful with vanilla and bourbon as the strongest notes and some chocolate and roasted malts. Flavor is amazing again with the bourbon and vanilla as the most present with the chocolate, caramel and malts as minor players. My only criticism is that the feel is too thin for a stout like this. That said, overall an outstanding stout.

 357 characters

Photo of vette2006c5r
4.68/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean Stout pours black, with not much head. Big rich aroma, loads of bourbon and barrel. Flavor is rich, lots and lots and lots of bourbon, nice creamy vanilla, that isn't overpowering. Great body and feel, everything comes together. Overall, fantastic stout, great flavors, well constructed.

 319 characters

Photo of thebeers
4.14/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Plum-tinted dark brown with a fat finger of khaki-colored head. Pretty lacing.

Big chocolate malt and bourbon in the nose with a definite blast of vanilla lurking beneath.

The taste is similarly chocolatey, with strong bourbon with caramel notes, and of course, plenty of vanilla. It seems like the malt is roasty, and even nutty at times, but it gets overpowered by the boozy sweetness. The alcohol doesn’t try to hide itself. There is some almost piney bitterness in the finish that rides along with the burn though.

Smooth, creamy feel with enough slow-building carbonation.

At times it seems like a vanilla and caramel brownie, but the booze and bitterness interferes with that impression. Nice, complex-enough brew that’s fun to drink and easy on the eyes. The bitter aftertaste is what makes this stand out.

 831 characters

Photo of mrbelvebeer1
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours dark and a bit thin (which is typical for Central Waters BA stouts) with a bit of head. Roasty on the nose with nice vanilla permeating over the roast. Though thin, I have always been a fan of their BA stouts. There's a light roast flavor here, and the vanilla isn't overpowering like BCBVS. Super smooth finish, and the vanilla stays with you for a good bit after it goes down. Solid brew from Central Waters.

 416 characters

Photo of stortore
4.16/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle into a tulip snifter. Had 7/14/18.

Pours a dark cola color, opaque, with a one and a half inch head and some soapy cling. Aromas of vanilla, malt, chocolate, toffee, caramel, raisins, some bourbon. The flavor blasts off with the bourbon- and more as it warms, then vanilla, malt, caramel, chocolate, some oak. There’s a fair amount of alcohol. Smooth for the alcohol warming, a good full body, well carbonated.

The name says it all- you get lots of bourbon and vanilla. This is fairly straightforward, but really good aromas and flavors. Well worth a purchase at a terrific price point, best fully warmed. I actually thought this would be a little better, but have a few bottles aging, so we’ll see.

 729 characters

Photo of soze47
4.18/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very balanced beer - vanilla isn’t overly seeet, but there is some qualities of German chocolate cake when combined with stout malts and barrel. Nose is a bit hotter than the beer tastes - nice bitterness and the base beer’s fortitude really pop once it’s directly on the palette.

 286 characters

Photo of Ri0
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured 22oz bottle into chalice. Black as coal with a 1.5 finger tan colored head. Thin ring remains and lacing coats a portion of my glass. The aroma fills the air with a sweet chocolate, brownie like with hints of vanilla and wood. The flavor is semi sweet with notes of roasted malt, mocha, and chocolate brownie with some vanilla frosting. Some warming from the alcohol in the finish. Absolute joy to sip on. Rich and creamy with a thick mouthfeel. Decent amount of carbonation for a barrel aged beer. This was sublime and a nice dessert beer.

 547 characters

Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Bean Stout from Central Waters Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 157 ratings