Big Swede
Valkyrie Brewing

Big SwedeBig Swede
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Stout - Russian Imperial
Ranked #784
Ranked #18,814
3.89 | pDev: 10.54%
Valkyrie Brewing
Wisconsin, United States
Very Good
Big SwedeBig Swede
Reviews: 91 | Ratings: 115 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by TheLongBeachBum:
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TheLongBeachBum from California

4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: Just like the picture in the BA database, a thick golden foil completely wraps the crown cap and the entire neck of this 22ounce brown glass bottle. The top of the foil has a red round sticker with the words ‘Something Special from Wisconsin’. The main (and only) label has a nice shiny metallic gold background with black text. A Viking Longboat rides the froth atop a large Mug. Listed as ‘Big Swede’ and described as a ‘Swedish Style Imperial Stout’. No strength or freshness date listed. I noted that this is somewhat confusingly labeled as Cask-Conditioned, I assume this means prior to bottling?!? However, as the sediment (which it recommends you leave IN the bottle) this really leads me to believe that Viking mean the Big Swede is unfiltered and merely allowed to age in a wooden cask, prior to bottling. I assume that this is therefore ‘Cask Aged’ and bottled “sur lees”, hence really ‘Bottle-Conditioned’.

Appearance: Thick black pour, oooh just how I like it. Upon closure examination, and with a strong light, the body is a very dark brown color, like a deeply polished dark teak-mahogany sideboard. It oozes danger as the nicotine stained brown head easily forms from the partial pour into my half pint glass. The head is a solid ½” offering at first but it fades at a reasonable pace to leave a nice ring like caged lacing and a thin collar like neck that stays throughout, but which occasionally breaks to expose a tar like black surface. A quick swirl reinstates the head. Superb carbonation, which has a nitro look to it at times.

Nose: Broodingly Baltic. Dark malts with a slight vinous twist that warns of alcohol. Roasted malts, dark cooking chocolate, you know the really bitter stuff. Some plums, figs dates and a light caramel toffee odor as it warms. Delicate hints of Port soaked Plums that I sometimes got the chance to try at the homes of posh people at Xmas. Nice nose.

Taste: Thick roasted malts carpet the introduction and allow the dark chocolate sponge cake middle to smoothly enter. Some plums and figs with a date like sweetness in the back third linger with warming but soothing alcohols. This has a very nice Imperial Stout feel and taste profile, albeit with a vinous thread that runs through it start to finish but which never becomes over bearing.

Mouthfeel: Starts with an incredibly smooth creamy mouthfeel, which has some coffee and bitter chocolate traits. The feel is soon altered as the vinous alcohols take over in the back end leaving a somewhat warming feel in the mouth on the swallow. Lingering warmth in the gullet.

Drinkability: Rather easily imbibed, and even though I do not know the strength of this, I believe that its Drinkability belies it strength – maybe I should limit myself to the one Bomber of this tonight and leave the bottle of Berserk Barleywine for later in the week.

Overall: I am not that up on styles, but this certainly has a Baltic influence to it, the creamy bitterness, roasted malts and vinous traits are nicely placed and add power to an already Big beer. Very nice indeed!! Certainly worth seeking out.

A massive Bjorn Borg “Aye am Kumming vrom Sveedan, Thhhaaank-ahhew” to Minnesota’s finest ABBA lover, Sir Big of the Blond Hair and Blue Eyed Huge, for this Swedish-Wisconsin Imperial Stout. As the Swedes would say, “Tack Joe”.

Jun 03, 2004
More User Reviews:
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Skidz from Wisconsin

3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours out dark brown and sits almost entirely black in the glass with a small fluffy/creamy tan head.

SMells of brown sugar, chocolate and coffee, primarily. Light alcoholic presence and some fruity esters, strangely to be found, apples.

Bitter up front, roasty. A mild and tangy sourness comes out. Caramel sweetness and brown sugar blended with chocolate and espresso with a coffee-like bitterness. Finish is lighter than expected and mildly bitter, but with lingering sweetness.

Smooth, rich and silky all over. Big, full body with light carbonation. An easy stout to drink, but I've got to try aging this one, as it seems a bit "young" to me.

Nov 17, 2004
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Rastacouere from Canada (QC)

4.25/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Almost black, deep coffee coloured, weird lacing punctuates the light brown head. Highly fruity nose, a different impy. Mango and orange.. a fruit salad as well as pure fudge, thick and coffeeish, toffee, coffee liqueur, now this makes one think of a good dessert. Original melon and mellow malts abound in mouth. Little to no hops taste, soft roastiness. Rather hard to describe, but feels like a nice change of pace. Moderately high carbonation, medium bodied, Belgian fruitiness. Good!

Sep 13, 2005
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iron78 from Wisconsin

3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Is as black as i've seen a beer. Didn't get any head, just a few bubbles. That might go with the aroma, alcohol. Strong alcohol smell with a touch of roasted burnt coffee.
Firt thing I taste is more alcohol. Once I get past that I get some raisin, or date or fig, some sort of dried fruit soaked in rum. Just a touch of coffee flavor, kind of a coffee liquor.
A bit watery feeling. Maybe low carbination hurts the feel.
While not ideal, overall is an enjoyable strong stout.

Apr 21, 2006
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BuckeyeNation from Iowa

4.47/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Impenetrable mahogany with a glimmer of reddish gold along the bottom edge of the glass. In spite of an increasingly elevated pour, the mocha colored cap only reached a height of a slim one finger. It's hanging in there reasonably well, but doesn't look the type to leave any lace. At only 8%, the beer shouldn't be this head and lace deficient. It's still a good looking stout.

The nose is great because it's powerful and because it's multi-faceted. The primary aromas are roasted barley, bittersweet chocolate and coffee. The thing that makes it different is a bourbon-like, charred oak, vanilla esteriness. I'm pretty sure Big Swede isn't aged in bourbon barrels, but it might as well be.

I'm not sure that Russian Imperial Stout is the correct style. And I have no idea what Swedish Style Imperial Stout even means. When compared to the heavy hitters, this one comes up a bit short on brute strength and mouthfeel. Not to worry because it more than makes up for it by being stupendously delicious.

I've had a lot of big stouts, but I don't know that I've ever had one that tastes quite like Big Swede. There's more than usual happening on the taste buds, all of it good. For starters, sweet, sour and bitter are exceptionally well-balanced. All are present and all contribute something of value at differents points along the flavor arc. As is often the case, sweet dominates early, sour occupies the middle and bitter cleans up at the end.

I would have bet that Viking ages this sucker in bourbon barrels. Every one of the usual suspects are present: brown sugar, vanilla (especially), a light oaky char, even a little smoke. I'm alternating between trying to break it down during one mouthful and simply enjoying it the next. I know one thing, I wish I had the big bottle rather than this woefully inadequate twelve ouncer.

I've changed my mind about the mouthfeel. Even though it isn't as massive and as thickly chewy as I might like, it's as silky smooth as any beer in recent memory. I have no problem with the carbonation being on the low end if it results in a mouthfeel this luxurious.

Nothing that I've had from Viking prepared me for the incredible beer... that is now gone from my glass. It's easily the finest thing these guys have ever created. I'm compiling a list of what to look for the next time I venture up to Madison. Big Swede has just been added, given a few exclamation points and circled. Outstanding!

Feb 04, 2007
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Mdog from Minnesota

3.53/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black, almost no head at all.

Smell: Some chocolate, and maybe a little banana?

Taste: Starts sweet and roasty, then dark chocolate bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium, not as heavy as a lot of imp. stouts.

Drinkability: Pretty good stuff.

This is a pretty good beer from Viking. It's not as amped up as other imperial stouts but has more there than a regular stout. One of their better offerings.

Jan 06, 2007
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Beertracker from Oklahoma

3.68/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Viking's Big Swede is best served at warm cellar (50-55°F) temperatures from a brandy snifter or pear shaped stemmed glass. The Big Swede pours up with a small, tightly bubbled khaki head that's barely sustanable over a rather opaque dark brown body. The initial aroma is seemingly marred by a vegetal (DMS) presence with some oxidation (papery/sherry notes), but as it warms in hand this dissipates and becomes more complex with rich, fruity esters (black currant, elderberry), but has an herbal (licorice root, vanilla bean) overtone with a dominate sweet, dark malt roastiness (coffee/mocha). Alcohol warmth is well masked. The initial characater is a bit odd, but definitely malt oriented with lots of sweet mochachino & some sugary (muscavado/treacle) notes with some of dark fruitiness and complexity from the yeast. The finish is a bit sharp and abbreviated, but remains malty nontheless. This medium-full bodied ale is lightly carbonated, creamy, and warming. The Big Swede is quintessentially more of a Baltic Porter than a Russian Imperial Stout. Viking's Big Swede is a welcomed friend on a cold winter's night.

CHEERS! Beertracker

Taster's Note: *Special thanks to hoppymeal for the bottle!

Jan 22, 2008
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DaPeculierDane from Wisconsin

3.77/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Coffee colored with very little head. Booze and fruit. (Mango and snazberries mostly). Porty. Lots of booze. Pretty solid. Burnt toffee. Syrupy. Plums and figs. Dark barley malts. Great buzz. Mouthfeel could use a little…more. So syrupy but kinda flat. plums and raisons too. Yummy. Good price. Viking is earning a solid reputation with me.

Nov 18, 2005
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walleye from Michigan

3.71/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

thanks to sully (from the other site) at the kuhnhenn gathering on 6/10. from the bottle, poured dark like coke, with smal off white head that didn’t last very long. aroma, coffee, dark cherries, roasted malts, and a nice touch of apples and hints of alcohol. flavor a bit on the weak side, nothing like the aroma, coffee, malts sweet fruits.

Aug 17, 2005
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skybluewater from Minnesota

4.12/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark brownish-black color with ruby highlights. Smells of port and chocolate (I love the smell of Impys!) Taste is quite vinous, with a roasty edge and some chocolate as well. Mouthfeel is a bit thin, and while the taste is good, it isn't as good as the exemplars of the style. Alcohol is well-hidden.

Nevertheless, this is a nice brew, and at $3 for a 22-oz bomber, a great value. I'll definitely buy again, once in a while.

Mar 13, 2005
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rhoadsrage from Illinois

4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in a dimple mug)

A- This beer has a jet black body with a transparent thin film of yellowish-beige head that moves to a thicker ring around the edges. There are tiny bubbles stuck to the side of the glass but that is the only sign of carbonation.

S- The smell of roasted black malt has a slight fruity raspberry hint and a soft vinous note to it.

T- The big black roasted malt flavor has an inky quality about it with a tad bit of tartness to it a vinous note as it warms. The finish is a soft chalky taste with a inky bitterness and a faint mint quality about it.

M- This beer has a medium-full mouthfeel with a slippery texture and no alcohol heat noticed. There is a slight astringency from black roasted grain that lingers a bit after the finish.

D- This is my first Swedish style Imperial Stout and it was nice. The big inky black beer was smooth but didn't have much depth of flavor.

Oct 29, 2008
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orbitalr0x from Illinois

3.82/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours into my tulip black with dark brown edges and just a wisp of light tan head that quickly fades to a ring around the top. Aromas of somewhat sweet dark malts along with nice chocolate and molasses undertones. Caramel and some dark fruity accents as well. Mellow overall but still nice.

First sip brings smooth semi-sweet dark malts upfront with chocolate, toffee, molasses and dark fruit flavors weaving in and out. Flows down with some bitter accents and a clean finish. No alcohol to be found even though I don't know what the abv is.

Mouthfeel is smooth, creamy and rich without being too heavy. Goes down easy. Pretty nice imperial stout here...nothing groundbreaking but tasty. Would pick this one up again next time I'm in Wisco.

Jun 27, 2009
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elricorico from Canada (AB)

4.07/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Black in the glass, opaque. One finger of tan head that leaves a bit of lacing as it goes.

The smell had me very excited. Sweet chocolate cake with a rum tinged chocolate icing. The notable alcohol in the aroma was pleasing to the nose.

The taste was good, but didn't quite live up to the smell. Milky coffee, caramel sweetness, bitter chocolate and an alcohol heat.

The body wasn't quite as full as I expected, but the carbonation was adequate and the overall effect was pleasant. An all around good example of the style, thanks to orrshow for sharing the bottle.

Jan 23, 2008
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CharlesDarwin from Rhode Island

3.72/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Originally reviewed April 9, 2005. Bottle at the Gitchee Gumee Brewfest 2005. A syrupy dark brown pour, with a diminished off-white head. The waft of this beer is of acorns, but that quality morphs into a more even buttery nuttyness, like pecans in the flavor profile, joining up with some savory toasted notes and some unexplainable things here. It finishes up with a sweet honey and almond kiss. This is very good, but different from the current Imperial Stout production pattern.

Aug 07, 2006
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KarlHungus from Minnesota

4.06/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This brew pours an opaque black color. The head is a quarter inch in height and tan in color. The aroma is creamy and butter with some very faint chocolate, and is rather boring for an Imperial Stout. It isn't bad but there is so much more that could be going on that it is disappointing. The taste is a whole lot better than the aroma. It fills your mouth with chocolate and cream, and leaves a nice warming alcohol feel in your throat. The mouthfeel is perfect. It is full bodied with low carbonation, and oh so smooth. I do believe that this is one of the smoothest beers I have had out of a bottle. Overall, this brew would have achieved greatness is not for its average aroma. Still, I do recommend it, and will certainly drink it again.

Feb 05, 2006
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SaCkErZ9 from South Carolina

3.72/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to unclejedi for this one.

Served from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass. Pitch black with absolutely no highlights or light penetration of any kind. A very small and faint, beige colored head forms. It is wispy and rades rapidly. No lacing.

Aroma is very sweet. Chocolate malts, molasses, plums, figs, any other dark fruit out there, a touch of vanilla, licorice.

A little on the sweet side. Alcoholic as well. Sticky, fruity. This one is quite boozy. Mostly chocolate malts, minimal coffee, more dark fruit. Dried plums really seem to be he overwhleming flavor here. And did I mention the alcohol?

A bit thin. Finishes rather dry, almost bone dry. Fruity aftertaste and a burning heat from the alcohol.

I wouldnt go so far as to say this one is a solvent-like beer, but the abv really shows. I dont mind it too much. 12oz is certainly enough of this one. The heat and alcohol feel make this low on th drinkability scale. Certainly a sipper.

Oct 07, 2008
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blackie from Oregon

4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

appearance: Upon pouring, a low mocha colored head is produced and soon recedes. The beer is nearly black in color.

smell: Milk and dark roasted chocolate malts upfront followed immediately by a metallic tinge. Moderately sweet with a slight, sweet lactose aroma. Moderate, herbal hop aroma.

mouthfeel: The carbonation is a low medium, and the body on the lighter side of the heavy range.

taste: Roasted malts upfront give flavors of dark chocolate. A touch of lactose. Moderately sweet with a decent amount of hop flavor and moderate bitterness. The finish is only slightly dry. Not as roasty and deep as I usually prefer.

drinkability: not a problem...ABV (whatever it is) well hidden and a good example of the style

bottle picked up during my last trip to Madison for the GTotMW

Oct 26, 2006
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gregy55902 from Minnesota

3.45/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Aug 03, 2015
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emerge077 from Illinois

4.28/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown that becomes an opaque black in the snifter. Last bit is swirled and added, resulting in a couple fingers of chocolaty foam.

First whiff is of banana, a hint of smoke, and roasted malt. This later subsides, producing a boozy note. Started out big and appealing though.

Taste is really exceptional. Chocolaty, rich smoky malt, and that banana note hangs out in the background. Second time drinking this (1/2008), there's a juicy fresh plum note that is upfront. Dry finish, with mild bittersweet chocolate, char, and dry tobacco leaf. Smooth on the palate, silky mouthfeel. It has a fullness about it, but isn't heavy or cloying. My guess on the ABV is 7-8%.

Well done!

Jan 14, 2007
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fisherman34 from Canada (MB)

3.85/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled sample. Very dark brown in colour... almost black. Aromas of citrus hops, soy, chocolate and coffee. Strong and sweet malty flavor, with notes of berry fruit, coffee, chocolate, prune. Minimal carbonation. It could use some more time to even out, but this is still nice to drink now.

Jul 04, 2005
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dirtylou from New York

4.12/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

7/27/06 Update: this was 2nd in line during the Imperial/Double Stout night with expatsteve and Golden2wenty1. My overall analysis remains pretty similar and would have resulted in approximately a 4 overall.

12oz single, Riley's, $1.99

appearance: poured into a snifter...motor oil, very dark mahogany...absolutely no head or lacing which was sort of odd...very dark and full body

smell: very rich, dark roasted malt, super creamy, big chocolate aromas, coffee grounds. appears very well balanced from the nose

taste: This is pretty darn tasty...super silky smooth, sweet dark chocolate, very creamy, roasted malt, dark roast coffee, slight bitterness in the aftertaste, alcohol presence felt, licorice, light hopping noticeable...Its not a thick RIS but its very good

mouthfeel: a little on the thin side but delightfully creamy and smooth, bitterness and booze found in the aftertaste

drinkability: high

Jul 24, 2006
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badbeer from Iowa

4.03/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours out black, but more dark brown around the edges. Light tan colored head that slowly dissipates leaving some spotty lacing. Light cocoa aromas with coffee hidden even more, there is a definate creamy vanilla aroma as well. Taste doesn't overpower the palate, but isn't skimpy either. It starts out with a light cocoa flavor paired with some vanilla, leading you to a small amount of earthy hops, before turning into a long roasty finish. Taste gets better as it warms, and the finish is the best part of each drink. Creamy and smooth with low carbonation, lighter side of full bodied. Overall this is one pretty good beer, and one that is better than my ratings show. To be honest, this is one that I'll be picking up quite often, I really enjoyed it.

Jan 05, 2007
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Golden2wenty1 from Wisconsin

4.17/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a 22 oz. bomber at Riley's here in Madison. My second Viking brew, I rather enjoyed their gender-bending Whole Stein porter.

Pours RIS black with some ruby highlights and a smallish tan head and a little spotty lacing. Smell is, whoa there....alcohol, and fruits, some roasty malts. Taste is also much fruitier than I would have guessed. Similar to the Sam Smith Taddy Porter I had the other night, taste was dominated by an apple cidery flavor, with highlights of roasted malt and bittering hops. Leaves a burnt coffee taste on the tongue that isn't really present in the taste. Mouthfeel is smooth, not to thick or thin, and carbonation is rather high, nice on a hot summer evening. The alcohol is strong on the nose, noticible on the palate, but not overpowering. Overall another solid brew from Viking.

Aug 05, 2005
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tempest from New York

2.69/5  rDev -30.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I seemed to have a pleasant memory of the last time I tried the Big Swede. My current bottle doesn't match those expectations, however. The aroma is a mix of vegetables and Jell-o chocolate pudding. The flavor follows with a hint of roasted grains and smooth milk chocolate, but mostly ugly veggies flavors. I don't think this bottle has an excuse or anything. I picked it up as a single from a fridge at the Blue Max - same place I got the last bottle. I can at least say the alcohol is well-hidden, bravo. I can't drink the whole bottle of this, though.

Jan 04, 2008
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nlmartin from Ohio

4.38/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A giant thanks to jeffkrenner who sent this beer as part of BC-2. The beer was served at room temperature in a Imperial Nonic.

Appearance: The beer pours with a black hole blackness. The head of the beer is about 1 finger high. The head is a the color of lightly creamed coffee. Rings of lacing remain behind on my glass.

Smell: The beer has a very pleasing combination of chocolate, dark cocoa, light coffee, vaguely mineral and vanilla.

Taste: The beer presents the palate with a blend of dark semi sweet cafe vanilla mocha. The taste then goes slightly herbal and slightly mineral flavor. Then the beer explodes into a very deep chared roasting. If you dont like chared and deeply roasted avoid this beer.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: This beer is just shy of a heavy body. The beer has a very low carbonation. The flavors are long lasting and very much chared. I found this beer hard to put down. If I come across this beer again I will definately buy it.

Jan 11, 2007
Big Swede from Valkyrie Brewing
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 115 ratings