Vibrant Forest x Emperor’s “Yub Nub” Black Barley Wine

Name: Yub Nub
Brewers: Vibrant Forest Brewery, Emperor’s Brewery (United Kingdom)
Style: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer (Base Style: English Barleywine)
ABV: 12.7%
Review Year: 2021

Vibrant Forest Brewery teamed up with Damian Doherty of Emperor’s Brewery in 2020 for Yub Nub, a “Black Barley Wine” brewed with cacao nibs and dark malts. Geek fact: “Yub Nub!” is Ewokese for “Hooray!” or “Freedom!” Coatee-cha tu yub nub!


This beer is being evaluated as a Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer (30A) with the English Barleywine (17D) as the base style in the context of the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The most current version of the guidelines can be found on the BJCP website.


Opaque amber brown with a brown head; visible yeast sediments. The aroma is composed of prominent caramel, fruity esters (plum, fig), dark chocolate, and even a subtle note of blueberry. As it settled, more of the toasty aroma surfaced alongside hints of tarragon and licorice. Medium-full-bodied, medium-low carbonation with a chewy, velvety mouthfeel sans any alcohol heat. The general flavor is intense and showcased a complex malt-forward profile with fruity esters. Specifically, assertive flavors of dark chocolate, cacao nibs, dark fruit (plum), and toffee were noted upfront, with bitterness and residual sweetness levels both at a notch above moderate. Subtle oxidized and indistinct woody hop qualities were noted in the background; the former is not unusual for these kinds of beers. The aftertaste lingered long with low alcohol and bitter dark chocolate notes.


Ee chee wa maa! Yub Nub is a showcase of what cacao nibs can contribute to a rich, complex, and malt-forward barleywine. While bitterness was perceived as moderately strong, we think this beer lacks the typical American or New World hop characteristics and intensity found in American Barleywines. We also noticed that this beer has more pronounced fruity esters relative to its American counterparts.

However, Yub Nub deviates from a standard English Barleywine with the noted chocolate aroma and flavor. Dark malts are documented to be incorporated with “great restraint” in brewing classic English Barleywines if used at all.  Thus, the detected dark chocolate and cacao characteristics, in our opinion, were most likely imparted by the actual cacao nibs and the additional dark malts used. These attributes, together with the dark/ dried fruit esters, seemed to have taken the complexity of this sipper a notch higher. Interestingly, despite clocking in at 12.7% ABV, this barleywine is relatively smooth and drinkable, with the alcohol only making its presence known faintly in the aftertaste. It has been a year since this was released, so age could be a factor as well.

Considering everything else, Yub Nub, to us, is an excellent beer. Enjoy this with a slice of decadent chocolate or caramel cake on the side while watching the celebration on Endor.



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