12/18/16: Stone Brewing's Xocoveza

3:28 PM

So, I've seen some really good things about this beer. Hell, I've seen some really good things about Stone Brewing, too. But, for whatever reason, I've never had them.

Well, all of that changes today. I've had a doozy of a day, and I need some chocolatey, spicy goodness to perk me up. Is Xocoveza up to the challenge?

If you take the time to read through Stone's history, you'll see that Stone's story is that of beer geek success--founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner really got to know each other through a one-weekend beer appreciation course. What started out as over-a-beer discussions quickly blossomed into nothing short of a craft beer empire: Stone controls their own distribution and even has a place to brew its beers in Berlin (Germany!). Not only have they been lauded for their beer, Stone has also won awards for its environmentally friendly techniques. Check out their About page for more information.

Xocoveza, much like the brewery that makes it, has also been lauded with praise. In fact, according to the stout's official page, that praise (also called "fan demand") is why it's a yearly offering instead of just a one-off curiosity. This 8.1% ABV beer wunderkind features cocoa, coffee, vanilla, peppers, nutmeg, cinnamon, and milk sugar (the first six of these are present in both the bouquet and taste). As an added bonus, the flavor is supposed to evolve as you let the beer sit! Sounds like a good thing to me.

At first inhale of the stout's aroma, I get the peppers and cinnamon immediately, but layered beneath it I'm finding the coffee and chocolate (with a boost of sweetness from the milk sugar). However, as the beer opens up I'm getting more coffee and peppers than anything else. My guess is that the bouquet is too spicy for Purrl, who gave it a quick whiff before completely ignoring the bottle I was thrusting into her face.

I've never tasted anything like Xocoveza and, true to its description, it's evolving as I drink. My first swig was coffee-forward. The second focused on the cocoa. The third showcased a combination of cinnamon and vanilla. But, no matter how much time I allow to elapse between stints of imbibing, I still get a peppery finish. The pasillas don't add heat to the stout, just an intriguing flavor that contributes to the brew's authenticity. (After writing edit: The peppers do leave a teeny bit of a burning sensation on the tip of my tongue.)

The stout is pretty smooth. Not quite silky smooth (there is a bit of carbonation lingering around), but definitely along the lines of what you'd expect from from a stout.

Xocoveza reminds me of the first time I had horchata. It was at Michelle's parents' house. Michelle herself has never been a big beer fan (much to my chagrin), but her dad's pretty much all about the stuff. Him, me, her sister, and her mom decided to do an at-home beer tasting. Someone bought a variety pack of beer and we did blind flights. One of these was a horchata flavored beer and it was awful. But after our flights we actually had some horchata and it was great. Almost as good as the beer I'm drinking right now.

Xocoveza isn't what I think of when I envision a Christmas beer. But that's okay because it's a beer in its own class. Rich, coffee-y, chocolaty, and peppery, I cannot recommend it enough; there's a reason fans clamored so much to have it be a yearly affair. I'm giving it a 9.5/10. Do yourself a favor and go out and drink some of it.

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