Avery – Mephistopheles’ Stout

avery.jpgWhoa! I guarantee that’s the first thing you’ll say if you try this beer. It’s an unapologetically gigantic American Style Imperial Stout which boasts tons of flavor and a huge malt profile – dense, with a choco-fruity character and a freakish 16% abv. Yea, it’s all that. I’ve tried some ‘Imperial’ stouts recently that really weren’t all they’re cracked up to be (cough, Fort Collins) and are essentially overblown one-dimensional efforts. The Mephistopheles, while it may be overly ambitious, is actually really interesting. It entertained me, to be honest. I felt like every sip revealed something new – and more subtle – about the flavor. It starts with a dominant sweetness, with a nod toward molasses, brown sugar, toffee and fruit. Oh, and alcohol. Did I mention that this was a 16 percent beer? I think I did, but I just drank a 16 percent beer so I can’t remember. The carbonation is relatively low, but that’s ok because you’ll never miss it with everything else that’s going on. The mouthfeel is where this beer is really a standout. It’s smooth, creamy and as thick as if it had come off a nitro tap. Very impressive for a beer straight out of a bottle. As it warms, the sweetness gives way to a more roasted texture with a nut-flavored coffee aftertaste – pleasant. If there is one downfall to the brew is that you probably shouldn’t have more than one. It’s not exactly a beer you can burn through and crack open another. In fact, mine took a solid 45 minutes to finish, so carve out some time on your schedule for this one. Overall, however, this beer is great. Sure, you can point to the overpowering flavors, abv, boldness, or whatever to pick it apart, but c’mon, beers like this are fun. It’s not for the faint of heart and you’ll probably need to be a true stout lover to really ‘get it’ , but if you fall into that category you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Another great effort from Avery.

Cheers, ~G

4_25.png score 4.25

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Fort Collins Brewery – Double Chocolate Stout

fcdcs.jpegI love a Chocolate Stout, so a Double Chocolate Stout sounds absolutely, doubly delicious to me. I recently reviewed the Fort Collins ‘regular’ Chocolate Stout and was really excited to try the Imperial version of the brew. If you read the “That’s a lot of stout, man” post, you’ll remember that we thought the regular version was a little thin in body and the ‘chocolate’ was really more like a hint, at best. Maybe the Imperial version would be that rich and chocolaty brew that we were hoping for the first time around – or maybe not. The pour was promising, with a thick caramel head bubbling up to about three fingers and slowly fading to a small, but deliberate quarter inch. On the nose there was a little less umph than I anticipated, but coffee notes dominated and there was a hint of earthy malt and a touch of sweetness. The first taste, however, was like being hit with a stiff coffee uppercut. Bitter, oily coffee was almost all that I tasted from start to finish, with very little else to speak of. There was a hint of alcohol, but not an overpowering amount, while the most notable exemption from the overall flavor was, um, chocolate. I thought that was the point. Maybe it’s just me, but if the name of your beer has the words ‘double’ and ‘chocolate’ in it, there should be at least a hint of some incarnation of chocolate in there somewhere, right? Basically, if the name were Double Coffee Stout it would be perfect, because that’s what it is. If you’re a fan of dark, espresso-like coffee stouts then definitely pick up this beer – you’ll love it. However, if you’re expecting something inline with a Young’s or Brooklyn Brewery double chocolate stout, don’t even bother. Overall, this beer is strikingly one-dimensional and honestly, a bit of a disappointment. Proceed with caution, and maybe a quart half and half… Cheers, ~G

3_25.png score 3.25

Left Hand – Imperial Stout

It’s winter, so I’m drinking big beers these days. Sometimes really big beers. I find myself drawn to anything with Imperial in the name, and when it’s describing a stout, all the better. Left Hand always seems to have their head in the game, so I thought I’d give the Imperial Stout a try to see how it stacks up against a few others I’ve tried recently – most notably the Shlafly’s Imperial Stout. Left Hand describes this beer as a Russian Imperial and the pour looks to fit that bill, as it’s super dark with a medium head after an aggressive pour. On the nose is chocolate at first, closely followed by a cookie dough type of sweetness with a hint of toffee and a touch of fruit. Smells creamy. The mouthfeel is generally lighter than I would have guessed, but highly flavorful and consistent with the nose; lots of chocolate, coffee, malt goodness and buttery cream. This would be good with dessert. The brewery claims that it uses a generous amount of hops to balance the brew, but I find the hop profile to be very subdued, and it’s fine that way. The alcohol burn, present all the way through, satisfies the bite portion of the beer and doesn’t color the more pleasant parts of the beers flavor. Overall, I’m impressed with the drinkability of this beer – especially for a 10.4 abv – and it’s perfect for the season no doubt. High points are the sweetness of the malt, like you’re drinking a beer float, while the low points would come for a thin mouthfeel for the style. Recommended for big stout lovers who may want to have more than one beer in a night. Cheers ~G

42.png – score 4

Bluegrass Beer Company – Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout

bbc_stout1.jpgThis beer may just win the longest name in history contest. I’ll have to check on that. What I know for sure is that BBC ages the stout for around 60 days in oak barrels from McLain & Kyne’s Jefferson’s Reserve bourbon. Cool idea, and it works. The nose has more than a subtle hint of bourbon and oak, but is mostly dominated by toasted oats, chocolate malt and vanilla bean. The head is a bit understated in thickness and longevity but is a nice caramel color, and fairly typical for a higher abv stout . It’s a flavorful beer and the bourbon barrel aging is smooth and balanced, providing a nice hand-off to the coffee-tinged malt which constitutes most of the overall flavor. My critiques are a slightly thin mouthfeel and medium-light body, as the bold bourbon notes and toasty aroma could support a heavier beer. The finish concludes like baker’s chocolate, but I’d like to feel a little more warming in an 8% beer. I’d compare the weight to a Guinness, but the flavor is easily twice that. The bourbon edge is quite good, and the toasty malt profile plus vanilla creaminess makes this beer a real pleasure to drink.

Cheers ~G

41.png score -4