From The Cellar: Atwater VJ Black

In Cellared Beer Reviews by Ryan

Atwater says:

“A huge Imperial Stout based on our best seller. Thick, Black as Tar and Brewed with 6 different malts and Barley flakes and Magnum Hops. The rest is a secret.”

Atwater VJ Black
Russian Imperial Stout, 11% ABV

Sayeth the Guys:


¬†RYAN: I have had an up and down relationship with the inspiration for this beer, Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter. I was thoroughly disappointed at my first introduction to the VJP – which summarily exploded when I opened the bottle spewing beer everywhere. But my second go-round was much less dramatic and much tastier.

“The taste is similar to scooping up the last bit of vanilla ice cream from the bottom of your bowl.”

Needless to say I was jazzed to sample an imperial version of the porter in big, bold stout form.

Pouring charcoal black with a billowing tan head, the VJ Black gives off a huge nose of espresso and french vanilla coffee creamer. The aroma was far stronger than that of the porter. So far – this beer is as advertised. Slow, deliberate sips reveal a mix of vanilla bean, roasted coffee, dark chocolate and warm vanilla pudding flavors. The VJ Black finishes heavy on the vanilla with just a twinge of coffee on the finish. The vanilla isn’t overpowering but you certainly know it’s there.

The 11% ABV is hardly noticeable. In fact, this beer is surprisingly smooth and very easy drinking for a fresh Russian Imperial Stout.

While the VJ Black is bolder than its predecessor it isn’t a chore of an imperial stout; a good option to have on hand on those chilly winter nights when a Bell’s Expedition or Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout seems like too much work.


Atwater VJ Black

RYAN: Seeing as how this was a new release by Atwater last year, there was no real precedent for tossing it in to the cellar. So for the good of science, and because I had an extra bottle, I forgot about one for a year and recently cracked it opened to see how it had developed.

The robust vanilla aromas that enveloped this beer, when poured fresh, had faded away leaving an intriguing mix of peanut brittle, wintergreen and mocha in its wake. While missing from the nose, the vanilla stars on the palate. It is far more pronounced and a bit sharper than it was out of a fresh bottle.

Vanilla beans, peanut butter and creamy milk chocolate combine to make a beer reminiscent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard.

Smooth and thick, with a somewhat hefty body, the 11% ABV remains remarkably well-hidden.

Did a year in the cellar make this beer any better? Not really. It also didn’t do it any harm. Either way, the VJ Black remains one of my favorite Atwater offerings.

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About the Author



Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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