Beer Review 0181: Southern Tier Jahva Imperial Stout

Southern Tier have been brewing beer in Lakewood, New York since 2002. Their goal is to get back to small batch brewing, and the beer we’re looking at today is part of their “Blackwater Series,” a grouping of high ABV (alcohol by volume) beers released in 22 ounce bomber size bottles. While not limited release beers, these bottles can be hard to find as the brews are released only one time per year.

Jahva is a 10.6% ABV Imperial Stout, brewed with Arabica coffee beans that are used to make Blue Mountain Coffee. If you’re like me and not a coffee drinker, Blue Mountain coffee is a Jamaican variety noted for its mild flavor and lack of bitterness. It is one of the most expensive and highly sought-after coffees in the world.

Release from the bottle gave a small and quickly diminishing head, atop a deep ruby colored beer, with ample light showing through around the edges. While not pitch black like most Imperial Stouts, this one is opaque, and the body appears to be clear with no particles or sediment. There was no lacing left behind as I sampled; with the high alcohol content on this beer, the small head and stingy lacing are to be expected.

Aromatically, this one foregoes the huge coffee presence one would expect for more of a dominant sweet caramel; there is some coffee there, but it is in the background. There’s also hints of chocolate and the whole thing is really sweet and roasted. There’s also a nice bit of dark fruit (plum and raisin), which was unexpected, and there’s a light hop presence in the form of some bitter grapefruit and general citrus.

This one is a surprise on the palate, hitting your mouth with a thin beer and blasting away with very sweet caramel. You’re thinking “uh-o, I don’t know about this…” — but as you swallow the drink, it opens up wide into a coffee bomb. And not bitter, black, acidic coffee like most Imperial Stouts offer; Jahva delivers sweet and creamy coffee, like you’ve added a cube or two of sugar and some creamer. There’s a slight bitterness but the finish sticks on a nice sweet coffee coupled with warm caramel. The alcohol on this beer is expertly hidden in taste, but it is present as you sip, warming the throat and the entire body by the time you get to the end of the bottle.

Alright, so Jahva isn’t really up to style for an Imperial Stout, in my opinion. But this is still a good beer with some great flavors, and you can’t deny how well the big alcohol is hidden. I’m thinking this would be a great introduction into Imperial Stouts for the novice, especially the drinker who likes augmented coffee or those fancy drinks at the Starbucks.

It definitely has a place in time, for sure… but this one speaks more on a Porter level to me than an Imperial Stout.

Southern Tier Jahva Imperial Stout, 86 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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