In calling its 15th anniversary beer an Escondidian Black IPA, Stone Brewing Co. took an intentional jab at the silly debate over what to call black and bitter beers; Cascadian Dark Ale or Black IPA. As it is the first Imperial version of this up-and-coming style (that I know of), I suppose it is within their rights to claim origins in Escondido.
It’s a big bruiser of a black and bitter beer. Weighing in at 10.8% ABV and 100 IBU. I have to say that my experience of this beer may have been tainted by the fact that I was really in the mood for a saison. This is not a saison. I let myself get talked into opening the bottle. With that in mind, here’s my notes:
Aroma: Immediate hit of big pine and citrus hops; grapefruits and tangerines. Underneath lies dusky roast and bitter coffee. Imperial stout-like with bold American hops.
Appearance: Opaque black. Full and long-lasting creamy tan head.
Flavor: Hops hit first on the tip of the tongue; a shockwave of bitterness, tangerines, and pine. Mid-palate the malt rushes in bringing bold coffee and bitter chocolate flavors. Sweetness fights with the bitterness and nearly wins. The finish leaves lingering blackstrap molasses and hop bitterness amplified by burnt roasted flavors. Throughout a mix of pith and pine, sweet tar and roast.
Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and a bit astringent. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: Is this a hoppy imperial stout or a sweet and strong black IPA? I don’t usually hang on styles, but if forced to choose I’d go with the former. It’s big. It’s thick. It’s boldly roasty and bitter. Only the extra-intense hop flavor and aroma tell me that this is something other than an RIS. While the coffee/chocolate/tangerine blend was pleasant, it slapped me around a bit more than I wanted.