Beer Review: Stone Brewing Co. Imperial Russian Stout

How about a brief divergence from our whisky reviews! Let’s do a quick beer comparison and review of two recently released bottles from Stone Brewing Co. The two beers we have today are part of Stone’s Special Release Series, both from the 2015 collection,and both are Imperial Russian Stouts, however one is part of their “Odd Beers, Odd Years” series; this one is uniquely Chai-Tea spiced, bringing in some very interesting aromas and flavors.

Stone Brewing Co.Stone_Brewing_Co_Logo

Founded in 1996 in San Marcos, California, Stone Brewing Co. is the largest brewery in southern California and, as of 2014, it was the ninth largest craft brewery in the United States and fourteenth largest brewery overall, based on sales volume.

The brewery’s first beer was Stone Pale Ale, which the company considers to be its flagship ale. Most of their beers are characteristic of west-coast craft brews, meaning that they have a high hop content. Compared to the macro-produced lagers, many Stone brews feature abv percentages that ranges from 4.2% to 13%.

SStone_Brewing_yearroundtone Brewing is rated as a “world class brewery” by the two largest beer enthusiast websites, RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, and has been voted by the readers of Beer Advocate as the #1 “All Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth.”  (Wikipedia)

Stone offers a year-round selection, a series of Special Releases and Limited Releases, as well as the “Bastard Releases.” They also work on special projects, including some extensive collaboration efforts:

Starting in 2008, we released a new series of collaboration beers. The goal was to get three brewers from three different breweries to put their heads together and have some fun with no regard for boundaries. No restrictions on fitting a beer into a lineup, using familiar ingredients, conforming to preconceived beer styles, using tested procedures in the brewing process or even affordability. Each of these beers is the result of three brewers coming together and doing what they love.”

If you’re even in north San Diego County and are thinking about a visit, the brewery has a full-service bistro and store, and offers regular and private tours.

Now, on to the reviews!


2015 Classic Release Imperial Russian Stout2015_Stone_ImperialRussian_Stout

  • ALC/VOL: 10.6%
  • IBUS: 65

Appearance: The color is a deep dark black-brown with a  thick, creamy, tightly frothy head.

Nose: Sweetly nutty, boldly malty, bittersweet chocolate and espresso bean, a hint of cola.

Taste: Rich, bold and creamy on the tongue. The bittersweet chocolate and heavily roasted coffee flavors are most prominent. Dark roasted malt, with an almost tannic dryness. Great body!

Finish: Coffee, chocolate malt, bittersweet, bold with that subtly drying ending.




2015 Odd Years Release Chai-Spiced Imperial Russian Stout2015_Stone_ChaiSpice_ImperialRussionStout

  • ALC/VOL: 10.6%
  • IBUS: 65

Appearance: As you’d expect, since these are fundamentally the same beer, this one has the same deep, dark black-brown color and the rich foamy head.

Nose: Interesting nose, but not necessarily one that makes me think BEER! The spice notes immediately grab your attention: a touch of cinnamon, sweet spices, cardamom, ginger, along with touches of some black tea. There are some chocolate and roasted coffee notes, but they struggle for attention against the spice notes. Interesting and unique, to say the least!

Taste: The sweet spices carry through to the palate. It’s like a glass of delicate cinnamon-ginger chocolate and roasted espresso beans. As it warms, the roasted malt note picks up, but still the spices remain dominant.

Finish: softly bitter, spiced chocolate, with a sweet, delicately malty ending.Three-Star_Bar




Both of these beers have absolutely fantastic body on the tongue. They are both big and boldly flavored, dense and aromatic, and unquestionably high quality beers. There is a reason Stone is so highly praised!

The “Chai-Spiced” was intriguing and a very unique experiment, but I have to admit that it is not something I would want as a regular glass – in fact, trying it once was probably enough for me. The spice notes just take this one into a territory that doesn’t work all that well for me.

The “Classic Release”, on the other had, was right on the mark for me, presenting a glass that was just what an Imperial Stout should be, with its richly malty, chocolate and coffee flavors. For me, this is vastly superior to the Chai-Spiced version; it has better balance, is more cohesive and was, frankly, far more appealing.



Region: United States

Brewery: Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA

Type: Imperial Russian Stout

ABV: 10.6%

Price: $9.46 each / 22oz (Specs)

Availability: May still be available, with some searching

Sample Source: My own bottles

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