Brewing Company: Stone Brewing Company
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: Imperial Milk Stout
From the beer’s description on Stone Brewing’s Web site:
There’s nothing like making a beer so beloved that people feel compelled to campaign for its return. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, we are very pleased to give our fans the number one item on their wish lists. As illustrated by the avalanche of social media requests, that is Stone Xocoveza, an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. First brewed in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe won our annual homebrew competition, this imperial stout is layered with smooth roastiness, semisweet chocolate and a touch of spice. Thanks entirely to you, this creamy, mocha stout has gone from initially being a one-time offering to a yearly tradition. Happy holidays from all of us to all of you…and feel free to continue enjoying it long into the spring and summer, as this gem will age beautifully and is definitely not exclusive to the winter season!
Quick Take: A brewery known for hopped up ales brewing a stout warrants notice. When the beer is this delicious, well, it warrants more than just “notice.”
One of the giants in American Craft Brewing is Stone Brewing. If Sierra Nevada is the top of California Craft beer, then Stone is a pretty close second in terms of longevity, quality, and influence. Opened in 1996, the brewery is known for a range of hopped up IPAs and Arrogant Bastard, a beer strong enough to form its own “brewery within a brewery” known shockingly as “Arrogant Brewing.”
I’ve come to realize beers with more of a West Coast hop profile don’t always go well with my taste buds. I’m not going to rattle off the big name West Coast breweries who brew renowned beers that don’t work for me. That’s not what the Tap Takeover is about, in fact, the opposite of that. I’ve had a few from Stone and enjoyed the ones that fall in my style wheelhouse (a regular Milk Stout, Witbier, and Saison) so I was anxious to give Xocoveza a try. I like milk stouts, but that West Coast hope profile gave me a pause. On the other hand, the profile and ingredients were a very close match for the wonderful Mexican Morning Stout from Conclave Brewing. How could I not try this beer?
Once the glass is full, nothing appears to hint at the complex flavors. It looks like a beautiful, black stout. The head is a little off-white, with maybe a little bit of red giving it a color that’s slightly different from most stouts and the hint of, maybe, something special.
The aroma, though, the aroma gives the hints of the flavors to expect. Chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, even vanilla come through in a perfect balance of flavors. The lactose, which is what makes this a milk stout, adds a creaminess that helps to balance the spice from the cinnamon and later, the pepper. The end is when the peppers come through and combined with the cinnamon that still lingers, gives a nice tingly taste along the palette and even down in the belly as the beer settles.
Like many stouts, especially the higher ABV stouts, this one benefits from sitting in the glass and warming to room temperature. The tingling from the pepper and cinnamon are even more pronounced at this point and flavors explode together with more strength
Xocoveza is an outstanding, potent stout that is perfect for the cold months considering the spices infused in the beer. After homebrewer Chris Banker won the Stone competition in 2014, this beer became a seasonal release for Stone. Since I tried it this year, it will be a seasonal must buy for me.
Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.
A final aside, this was the first beer I had whose bottle was graced with the Independent Craft Beer Logo (below).