Avery Brewing Co.’s “Mephistopheles Stout”

February 11, 2014

Among the seemingly endless locations of historical note I was privileged enough to visit when I was in Germany was the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Little did I know that this early exposure to the literary master’s ancestral home would influence my decision on choosing a beer.

Goethe was less-inclined towards academia despite his abilities. He wasn’t a day-dreamer, per se, but he found himself more enamored with the creative forces of literature, acting and art. While visiting his family home in Frankfurt, I was able to read up on his life. Something in his approach to living resonated with me, I guess.

Goethe is best-known for his play Faust in which the main character is an ambitious young man yearning to learn everything there is to know. The devil makes a bet with God wagering that he can lure the Almighty’s favorite human away from his noble pursuits. He then travels to Earth and takes the form of a dog who follows Faust home. Once indoors, the demon reveals himself to Faust and promises him everything he should want out of life provided Faust trade his soul. What follows after that is love, coercion, condemnation, death, imprisonment, an acceptance of one’s fate and the intervention of Angels. File under “children’s bedtime stories.”

The devil in this story is based upon the German folklore demon Mephistopheles. Origins of Mephistopheles can go back to the ancient Hebrew and Greek where translations of the root words mean anything from “distributor of lies” to “anti-light.” Kind of like a cross between Rush Limbaugh and Marilyn Manson.

And here I am with a bottle of Avery Mephistopheles Imperial Stout sitting in front of me. I ruminate over its potentially dangerous contents, pondering what decisions it might convince me to make. Are the decisions my own or the suggestions of a manipulative, dark force? It is said that Mephistopheles isn’t truly evil but instead one who collects the souls of the already-condemned. That being said, is my constitution sturdy enough to brave the shadowy, winding path to come? Fortune or folly?

Or maybe I shouldn’t be so literal and just enjoy the h-e-double-hockey sticks out of this malevolent libation. Avery Mephistopheles is not for the faint of heart. As black as the darkest corners of Purgatory with a scorched earth head of minimal mahogany foam contrasting the body below it, Mephistopheles visually represents the absence of light. Bitter chocolate, espresso roast, caramelized brown sugar and dried fruit cloak a hint of the massive 15.4% alcohol content within. Sip cautiously and you’ll be transcendentally enlightened with notes of roasted barley, coffee, Sambuca, fudge and vanilla while the oily-slick body coats the palate with silky warmth.

Expensive and rare, you just might have to sell your soul for a bottle.