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The Beer Circle » American Black Ale, Beer, Stone Brewing Co. » Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

With their 15th Anniversary beer, Stone makes the argument that Escondidians do it better. Tossing aside the common ‘Cascadian’ part of the Dark Ale title, Greg Koch instead prefers to represent the region where Stone is located. Head Brewmaster Mitch Steele describes it as such: “Intense herbal and piney hops are followed by roasted malt notes redolent of coffee, anise, and cocoa, all coming together to form one of the darkest, hoppiest and most colossal beers we’ve ever brewed.”

Let’s see how it lives up to that description!

Stone Brewing Co. 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Pours a midnight black with a bit of dark chocolate brown creeping in around the edges. Completely opaque with no hint of any activity within the glass. A huge, 3-finger head begins forming slowly at first, but then quickly gains steam before finally ending in a mushroom-shaped cloud, with a multitude of small bubbles giving it some additional creaminess. Some pretty nice retention and when it's gone, it leaves a little circular cap of foam in the middle of the glass. Great lacing as well, draping the sides with thick slabs of foam.
My first smell is full of hops and almost only hops. It is much more bright and vibrant than I was expecting given the style and color, but it is also quite refreshing. A decent amount of citrus, but for the most part the hops are mainly giving off wet, sticky pine resin. I don't think I've ever had a Black IPA that was as fresh as this and imparts so much hop presence. In fact, I'm getting very little malt in the form of roast, and just a touch of chocolate that belays the hops. Is that brown sugar as well?
After the impressive nose, I have myself pumped for the taste. I'm going to say right away that it is definitely a few notches lower than the aroma. In fact, at first, I wasn't a fan at all. It was too muddled, too frantic and didn't have any personality to it. It jumped from malt to hop and back again constantly and didn't allow the palate to get a firm grip on it. It does, however, settle down a bit as it rests. When it's a bit colder, the malts steal the show, bringing bold roast, rich cocoa, and again, I'm getting that sweet brown sugar characteristic from the nose. The hops start coming through in the mid-palate, here in the form of more earthy, spicy hops rather than the pine sap in the aroma. It's kind of a two-headed monster in that regard; I would've loved for the pine to continue in the taste, but I feel that these more gritty, earthy hops complement the malts and roast. The grapefruit and pine do resurge late, but even when it warms, it still doesn't seem to be entirely cohesive, unfortunately.
Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with high carbonation. The finish is doubly bitter, both because of the roast and the hops, and it's a bit on the drier side. The head lends it some creaminess.Drinkability is moderate. I can't say I wasn't expecting a bit more from this, especially after the amazing appearance and nose. But it definitely does have a unique flavor that is worth experiencing. Thankfully as it warms it does come together more succinctly, so if you have this, plan on drinking it over an extended session.
I got this for around $7.99 a bottle, which isn't necessarily bad for a beer as big as this, but this flavors are just a bit too muddled for my liking. Stone has cheaper options that are in my opinion are more of a value than this, and they aren't limited either!
Stone is always a neat brewery to watch out for since they always seem to pump more and more hops into their Anniversary and limited beer. The nose on this is top-notch, but for me the taste is a let down.

Beer Stats
Style: American Black Ale
Serving: Bottle
Size: 22oz
ABV: 10.80%
BA Score: 93
RB Score: 99

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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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