May 21, 2013

Stone Brewing Espresso Imperial Russian Stout

I’m a big fan of what Stone Brewing has done with their Russian Imperial Stout. I’ve enjoyed it fresh and after several years of rest. It always brings the flavors I expect time and time again. That sort of changed two years ago with the introduction of the odd-year one-offs and the Belgo Anise version of the beer. While it was good, it didn’t live up to what I had become used to encountering with the brewery’s standard IRS.

And now we have the latest odd-year release of this big stout. But this time the brewery does not disappoint. Using espresso beans from San Diego’s Ryan Bros. Coffee, Stone has crafted a beer that I think rivals, if not surpasses, the original in terms of flavor.

The success here lies in the fact that the overall appeal of the IRS hasn’t been altered by the use of a completely different yeast strain. In accentuating the beer’s already roasty character with the addition of espresso, the brewery has simply built upon an already great tasting beer instead of attempting to change it in any fashion. And I am all for it. This beer is excellent.


This 11% ABV brew pours black and viscous with a dark brown head that fell slowly to a full ring.


Rich, dark coffee fills the nose immediately with backing roast malt, touch of licorice and a subtle chocolate presence.


I love the “standard” flavor that the baseline IRS brings to the table, but the espresso presence within this beer’s dark depths puts it over the top. Dark roast coffee, strong malt, earth, hint of licorice and chocolate fill the mouth from start to finish as the full-bodied brew slides smoothly over the tongue. An already great tasting beer now tastes just that much better.


As stated, the Belgo Anise version of this beer was good, but didn’t satisfy like Stone’s traditional IRS does annually. Well, if they were to break this espresso-infused version out of the odd-year release and make it a year-round offering, it just might supplant the original as my go to stout from the company. It’s just that good.

Rating: 4.5/5

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