November 2013 Archives

Avery - Mephistopheles (Cellared)

NCM_0255.JPGWinter has finally arrived in Michigan, and while I do love winter, it's hard to survive the transition to the snowy, stiff, frigid, and ever so brisk season without a robust stout or two. Last year I reviewed Avery Mephistopheles. It needed some time to allow the high alcohol content to move into the background. I had buried my last bottle in the deepest depths of my cellar to ensure it got the needed time to age. So much so, I had pretty much forgot all about it. Out of sight, out of mind. I had very high expectations last year and I was a bit let down when I ended up with roasted ethanol in a glass. I had expected something huge, something amazing, something that would blow me away. Well, it arrived.

Until I started cellaring ales I had no concept of how much something can improve in the bottle over nine months to year. Cellared for just under a year, this is exactly what I had expected a year ago. A world class ale, at the top of its class.

Initially a bold smokey charcoal, the flavor transitions to a sweet maltiness on the palate. Strong and rich, the vanilla, oak, bourbon, and dark fruits, all meld into a complex dark chocolate profile that leaves the tongue with a slight alcohol burn.

Initially I had assumed this was barrel aged. But honestly I don't see any evidence of that from what I have read. The hops have faded from being very noticeable a year ago to being sublimely in the background now. 

My initial thoughts are that this may be the greatest stout I have ever had, I felt the urge to go pull a Dark Horse BA Plead the 5th just to make sure. But given that this is a non-barrel aged stout that seems a bit unfair, but that's not why I didn't do it. You see the nuances of an ale this great are so important, that I would have to pull both a 2011 and 2012 BA Plead the 5th. As I recall the 2011 had a more pronounced nose. It's like winning or loosing a race by 1/100th of a second. I am just going to say this, if Mephistopheles is not barrel aged then it clearly holds the title of the best Imperial Stout in the world. Better than Dark Lord. The reason - the yeast. Dark Lord's yeast can't handle the gravity and gives up, leaving an extremely sweet syrupy ale, a killer one, but still too sweet. Mephistopheles has the Belgian yeast to back up the gravity.

In terms of overall greatest ale of all time - I would say that it ties with Dark Horse BA Plead the 5th, Bell's Black Note, and Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout - oh and Monster 29 from Dark Horse. Now I know I am being a bit prejudice putting Imperial Stouts over IPA's like Bell's Hopslam or Russian River Blind Pig. I am a hophead, I love IPA's, but hops just can't compete with dark malts. Mephistopheles has hops up the ying yang, but that is not what makes it. It is the rich caramelized sugars that make it what it is. To have such an amazing ale with no adjuncts or barrel aging is just crazy, either way it holds it's own in the top ales of all time in my book.

This ale, along with Firestone Walker Parabola, and Deschutes Abyss are something I will seek out and trade for in the future. One year ago I published my wishlist. It included a six of ales I wanted to add to my cellar, Mephistopheles was included and rightfully so.

Silent Night - Mother Earth Brewing

BZpN2VrIcAAvkAT.jpg large.jpgThanks to Adam I was able to drink a bottle of Silent Night from mother earth. While not the biggest, or darkest barrel aged Imperial Stout, it's very good. It has a nice rich oak character which comes through in the aroma as well as taste. Full bodied, sweet, rich, I like it. The barrel aging is apparent, it's about a year old and the coffee has pretty much faded but adds a nice dimension to the flavor profile.

Images of America - D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.

Malting.jpgI have spent a fair amount of time in Pennsylvania, and I have been a fan of Yuengling beer for many years. Thanks to Chanler at Arcadia Publishing I was able to review a copy of D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. It presents a history of Yuengling captured at moments in time. It is part of their Images of America series.

The author had an experience in July 1979, not uncommon to those that show up unannounced in the middle of the afternoon at a brewery. He and his family were greeted by the owner and given an hour long tour. As a result he became a lifelong fan of Yuengling brewery. He has put together quite a variegated selection of photos, tracing the history of Yuengling from the birth of its originator in 1806, to its current modern production facilities. From the book I learned a few interesting tidbits about the brewery that I never knew. They had their own malting plant, and the original brewery had (and still has) an extensive network of caves dug into the hillside which were used for lagering until the advent of modern refrigeration. As a side note it is worth noting that modern refrigeration was first marketed at, and used by breweries including Yuengling. Thanks to breweries leading the way we now have ice cream all year around - which brings me to another interesting part of the book.

Ice_Cream_Truck.jpgAs a method to survive prohibition Yuengling opened a full diary. They focused their marketing on ice cream. I have included a photo of one of their 1940's ice cream trucks. They continued to make ice cream until 1985. I have also included a photo of a wall in the caves constructed by the federal revenuers to ensure the caves where not used for illicit production during prohibition.

The book features extensive photos of brewery advertisements and memorabilia. There were several cool stories about the brewery in the book. If you are into cool turn of the century brewery photos, or a fan of Yuengling, I recommend you pick up a copy of D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. It's available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing


Workers.jpgNow if we could just get Yuengling distributed in Michigan we'd be all set. I would like to pick a few bottles of their porter. 

Images reprinted with permission from D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc, by Robert A. Musson, MD. Available from the publisher online at or by calling 888-313-2665.


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