I poured a 22oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 3/28/13 and cost $7.99 ($0.36 per ounce).
Appearance: Ink-black body, completely opaque with no visible
carbonation bubbles. Pours to a small, brown, frothy head which mostly
dissipates but does leave some lacing on the glass.
Smell: Sweet nose of black grape, black licorice and chocolate syrup.
Has the same aroma most beers of the style tend to have. No coffee,
Taste: How many times have I said that a beer didn’t live up to its name
but still wound up being great anyway? Add Stone Espresso Imperial
Russian Stout to that list. I’ve had the regular Stone IRS many times,
and I was really excited to try this version brewed with espresso beans,
but rather disappointed that they seemed to be supporting characters
rather than the star of the show. Still, the base recipe is one of the
best of its kind, so there’s plenty worth appreciating.
I don’t know what is it is about beers of the style, but they seem to
have a prominent grape/vinous character to them. This beer is no
exception as the initial taste is akin or red or black grapes, but
without any sourness. Black licorice and chocolate syrup are also quite
strong in this palette, imparting a rich sweetness. Thankfully, it’s not
cloying due to the strong hoppy character that swings in at the apex of
the swig. Not dank or dry, but just a general bitterness (slightly
piney I suppose). The finish reverts to the opening delivery, but with a
subtle coffee flavor and additional bitter character. It’s nowhere near
as strong as some other coffee stouts I’ve had, which is a bit of a
bummer considering the brewery. Not that there’s anything to dislike
here since the base recipe is so good and the beer is so enjoyable as it
Drinkability: If you want truly experience an imperial stout, Stone
Espresso IRS is a perfect example. Thick, but with a soft body and
smooth texture, it’s literally comfortable to drink. The aftertaste is a
nice mixture of sweetness from the malts and slight bitterness from the
espresso, which prevent it from becoming cloying or drying. At 11% ABV
the alcohol is definitely a major player, imparting a gentle warmth on
the finish and creating for a full-bodied beer to say the least. I
actually was able to drink the entire bottle myself, though I wouldn’t
have minded splitting it with a friend (especially in colder months).