Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Jacob McKean

Back in May, a certain craft beer focused comic strip predicted that Stone’s 15th Anniversary Ale would be “something hoppy.” Well, that turned out to be half true. The beer is both hoppy AND black.

The name is Stone Brewing President & co-founder Steve Wagner’s chuckling jab at those looking to lay territorial claim to the Black IPA style.

“There’s this small faction of people that seems to think it can call Black IPAs ‘Cascadian Dark Ales,’ historical accuracy be damned,” Wagner explains. “So, we thought we’d lightheartedly lay claim to our own style, dubbing it ‘Escondidian,’ both as an homage to our hometown of Escondido, CA and as a gentle ribbing to those Black IPA fans worshipping a false Cascadian idol.”

Fortunately, the contents of the bottle more than back up the coded smack talk. This is one beast of a beer. Yes, it is hoppy. Very hoppy. Bittered with Columbus hops, with a late Citra addition, followed by prodigious dry-hopping with Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Jade hops from New Zealand, the beer boasts a fragrant and complex hop aroma.

And yes, it is black. As black as the inside of a locked-up fermentor. What does it taste like, you ask? Let’s let Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele do the talking:


Pours thick, opaque and black with a deep brown head of foam. Resinous, piney hops hit first on the aromatics, followed by healthy doses of roasted malt flavors, including coffee, anise and cocoa. The multi-layered aroma profile presents a challenge: is this an Imperial IPA, or is this an Imperial Stout?

Tasting answers the question, it’s an Imperial Black IPA, with intense herbal and piney hops and a great balance of roasted malt flavors. The beer is full bodied, with a touch of alcohol heat, and the hops are upfront all the way through the palate, finishing with an intense bitter linger. The roasted malt comes through more like cocoa in the taste, and balances fantastically with the hops and the alcohol on the aftertaste.

Overall impression:  Our 15th Anniversary marks another year for Stone Brewing Co. and we were encouraged to brew a beer fitting such an auspicious milestone. So we went all out, and brewed one of our darkest, hoppiest and most colossal beers we’ve ever brewed. We also used the opportunity to add copious amounts of Citra hops in the brewhouse, with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Jade in the dry-hop…marking the first time we’ve ever really used these wonderful hops. We do recommend drinking this beer as fresh as possible, but those inclined to age their beers will probably not be disappointed, as the intense roast malt flavors will enhance the aging potential of this beer, even as the fresh hop character fades over time. If you do decide to age, we strongly suggest not to do it with just one bottle tucked away in the back of your closet for some undetermined amount of time, but rather with a few bottles, properly cellared (55 degrees F, or below), and a predetermined “open, and enjoy the progression” series of dates not more than six months apart (three month intervals are suggested for this particular beer). That way, you can enjoy and appreciate the cellaring process in addition to the beer itself.

Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial IPA
22oz bottles, on draft, and a limited number of 3L bottles.
Vital stats: 10.8% abv, 100 IBUs
Malt Bill: Pale Malt, Cara-Bohemian, Carafa III Special, and Chocolate Malt
Hops Bill: Columbus (bittering), Citra (flavor/aroma). Dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Jade.
Availability: Starting August 15th in all states Stone is distributed, except NH