9th December: Stone Brewing, 15th Anniversary Escondidian. 10.8% ABV.
From: California, USA. Type: Bottle-conditioned Imperial Black IPA. Source: Systembolaget, Sweden
“Drink Fresh” it says on this beautifully screen-printed bottle. But the bottle is 2 fluid ounces over an imperial pint, and its imperial-strength contents are 8 percentage points over 10% ABV. It also says August 2011 and a best-before date that had zoomed past two months previously when I eventually opened it. Would the verdict be over the hill, over the top or over the moon?
I can’t say what it tasted like fresh out of the brewery, but age has not withered it beyond drinkability. There’s a treacly, aroma with a faint zestiness. Perhaps this was more pronounced in its youth. That grilled grapefruit and brown sugar is there too. We’ve seen it before. I was fresh when I drank it, at least.
This is an imperial black IPA: dense, concentrated. it feels rich and smooth, with a nice prickle of carbonation. It’s tastes almost like an aged Japanese whisky: slightly resinous like floor polish. It’s peppery spicy too, and this adds to the warmth in the mouth that lingers and lingers. Chocolate and sweet grapefruit fight to the finish.
2012 has been a year for dark beers to make a bit of a headway in the UK. Whatever you think of the oxymoronic name, have I believe, been a gateway drug for the Guinness-averse. If this beer, brewed to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Stone Brewing (from Escondido, California – hence the name) falls into that category for you, there may be no going back.