I brewed up an Imperial Licorice Stout back in January and have been unable to keep myself from having a handful of both the straight version and the other which I put on Jagermeister soaked oak.
Today I'm doing a review of the straight version you can see pictured above.
Appearance- Very dark and opaque except in the thinnest parts of this very small glass where it is exceedingly clear. There is a little oily head to begin with which fades quickly leaving only bubbles. I'm not sure what is killing the head, licorice root is supposed to help it, but perhaps the "Brewer's Licorice" I added contains compounds that hurt it.
Smell- Right off the bat comes a rush of roasted malt goodness with coffee character followed by a sweet chocolate and fruit character with just a light touch of licorice in the mix and a refreshing light hop (woody, piney) taste and bitterness. Overall the flavor could be stronger but has a nice balance.
Taste- The taste is not very "stout-y" and comes off as sweet dark caramel, dark fruits and a light spicy licorice flavor which seems to come from both the licorice itself and the alcohol, which is vaguely noticeable.
Mouthfeel- Comes off as syrupy with low carbonation, not what I was going for as it doesn't feel creamy. I think this beer would have benefited from the use of more priming sugar but as is drinks a bit like a barleywine.
Overall/Drinkability- This beer is something I haven't quite figured out after several bottles of each variety. On the one hand the licorice is noticeable but restrained but on the other hand the roasted malts seem far back in the mix with the sweetness, licorice and alcohol all making more of a presence. This one comes off a bit like a dark barleywine with the sweet and alcohol balancing act but is surprisingly lacking in the roasted character needed for stouts. One of the key reasons for that is the use of American roasted barley which is roasted to a much lower extent than the English variety typically found in stouts. All around this might be a dangerous drinker as the flavors lend well to each other and it goes down quite easily despite the approximately 8.5% abv. I hope it holds up for quite some time and I hope to write a review of the oaked version soon.