Atwater releases its first-ever barrel-aged imperial stout, BA VJ Black
Atwater Brewing on Thursday released its first-ever barrel-aged imperial stout, one based at least in part on its longtime stalwart porter.
The new brew, “Barrel-Aged VJ Black,” is a deliciously chewy stout filled, as its name implies, with notes of bourbon, oak, vanilla and, to a lesser extent, coffee.
The beer is a derivative of Atwater's Vanilla Java Porter, but aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels to create a bold, somewhat boozy full-bodied beer. It was produced, aged and packaged in Atwater's Detroit brewery, making it one of the only barrel aged beers produced entirely in Detroit.
“What we’ve found is it’s amazing the oak flavor and the oak essence you get in the first sip,” said Mark Rieth, owner of Detroit-based Atwater Brewing. “It’s very complex. You’ll have a little bit of the coffee and vanilla notes as you drink through it…but you’re not going to get the true vanilla coffee forward” flavors of the more-familiar Vanilla Java Porter.
The ABV is one factor. Barrel-Aged VJ Black weighs in at 11 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), a stark contrast to VJP’s 4.5 percent.
“Plus being aged on the wood and oak. That’s going to overpower, and so the coffee and vanilla notes are going to be much more subtle,” he said. “We put a lot of effort and a lot of pride in this new stout. We gave our brewers license to experiment."
Thursday’s release party at Atwater Brewing, on Jos. Campau in Detroit, coincided with releases at the company’s other brewpubs in Grosse Point Park and Grand Rapids, and about 20 other top-tier Atwater Brewing bar accounts around the state. Hop Cat Detroit was allowed a special release last week.
But it’s limited. Rieth said the 20 bars each received a single sixth-barrel, so draft supplies will be limited and “when they’re gone, they’re gone.” Four-packs of bottles slipped into some retailers in recent days and were expected to reach wider release late this week and into next.
And Rieth’s not resting. The 2019 release of Barrel-Aged VJ Black is already aging in barrels at the back of the Detroit brewpub, along with another group of barrels steeping the next big barrel-aged release, a variant on Atwater’s Imperial Voodoovator Doppelbock.
"We're best known for our approachable lagers and ales, however, these barrel aged products showcase our brewing expertise and offer unique, innovative and fresh products in a growing craft beer niche," Rieth said.