4AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
I like coffee and I like stouts, but ironically, coffee stouts don’t tend to impress me that much. Mostly because they tend to be too much coffee and not enough stout, and I wind up with a dry, bitter beer. But in the case of Southern Tier Jah-va, the opposite is true. This is an imperial stout that tastes like an imperial stout with the addition of coffee. It also has rich, sweet flavors to balance out the bitterness, as well as the smooth drinkability of something lighter than its statistics would indicate.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 22oz bomber into a seidel mug (because it’s shaped like a coffee mug). This beer pours to an extremely dark brown color with hints of blood red and forms a fairly small, tan, soapy head. Unfortunately, there isn’t much retention or lacing. The aroma is strong with black licorice, dark chocolate and deeply roasted coffee. It’s clear from the decantation this is going to be a bold beer.
I always like surprises and originality when it comes to beer, and Southern Tier Jah-va is a good example of why. Up front I get black licorice, red grape and toffee - I’ve never experienced these flavors in one beer before. Also, they combine for a rich and sweet palate, but nothing too sweet. It’s not until the finish that the coffee flavor kicks in, and I do mean KICK. It’s akin to taking a swig of a Russian imperial stout and immediately chasing it with an iced coffee - quite a flavor combination, eh?
As I drink on I notice the beer tastes more and more like a stout with hints of coffee rather than a "coffee stout" proper. There’s definitely a bittersweet chocolate or cocoa flavor to be find here, combined with an anise-like spice and syrup richness. The coffee flavor never makes itself known until the finish and never becomes drying or salty like many other coffee stouts.
I often find people mistakenly label a beer, especially a stout, as "thick" when the viscosity is the same as a typical fizzy yellow brew. However, I did find Jah-va to be noticeably thick and sticky. Interestingly enough, it’s also a bit more carbonated than an imperial stout tends to be, which creates for an interesting mouthfeel. The beer coats the mouth with flavor, but the carbonation seems to scrub the palate clean, leaving a mildly bitter and pleasant aftertaste.
I can’t think of any brewery that is better at obscuring their alcohol content than Southern Tier (not even Dogfish Head). For a beer that weighs in at 11% ABV, you would think it’s only half that potency considering how smooth it is and the fact there is no taste or sensation of alcohol anywhere. Not that I would recommend drinking an entire 22oz bomber by yourself since the booze will catch up to you eventually, but at least the drinking process is easy.
There’s a lot to like about Southern Tier Jah-va, especially if you have a taste for imperial stouts. I think it probably could use a bit more coffee flavor, but as it stands it’s very impressive for what it is. This is a great dessert beer, and for $5-$8 for a 22oz bomber, it makes a great after-dinner treat for an appreciator of stouts.