I'm not too proud to admit that I have, on occasion, purchased items for consumption or use for reasons wholly unrelated to their quality or price. A whimsical name, a clever logo or tag line, or an opportune endorsement by someone on the cusp of fame who is not yet a celebrity are all sufficient reasons for me to say, "I'll have some of that, please."
Such is the case with Howe Sound Brewing's Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout, which I came across at Sherbrooke last weekend. As if the world's most metal-looking beer label wasn't enough, it was also listed as a staff pick. Being a fan of both Imperial Russian Stouts and licorice, it was futile to resist its allure, so I wasted absolutely no effort in trying. Apropos of nothing, I also happen to think it is a grievous oversight that there is no Warhammer 40,000 model called an Imperial Megadestroyer.
Megadestroyer clocks in at an respectable 10% abv, and pours out a dark, rich brown that makes Guinness seem, well, almost pale in comparison. It generates a thick, foamy head of chocolates brown foam that lingers for a fair while, almost daring you to finish your glass before it ephemerizes into nothingness.
Unlike a lot of flavoured stouts and porters, where the starring element shows up in the finish or even the aftertaste (as it does with Alley Kat's Neapolean), the licorice in Megadestroyer is discernible before the liquid even touches your lips, the scent serving as a herald of medieval yore, announcing what is to follow with all due flourish and fanfare. With such a strong presence in the nose, I was concerned the licorice might entirely overpower the stout; I love licorice, but the last thing I wanted was the sensation of drinking a bag of black Twizzlers.
I needn't have worried; the aromatic licorice root and star anise are blended with the stout's bitterness and the sweetness engendered by the high alcohol content to balance each other perfectly, and while the licorice taste is not subtle, it doesn't overshadow the innate qualities of the stout itself.
That being said, if you are not a fan of black licorice (you pitiable devils), I feel confident in saying that this Russian Imperial Stout is not for you. For the rest of us though, this offering is far from a stunt beer, and reflects a bold and creative offering from one of Canada's premier craft brewers. I fully intend to pick up another bottle or two of this to share (it took three sittings for me to do in the 1 litre bottle myself, as Audrey's love of licorice was insufficient motivation to get her to even try a sip of Megadestroyer), and will lament when stocks of this special edition eventually run out.