Winter 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.