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Stone strikes gold again

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Stone’s Imperial Black IPA combines the best of both worlds.

For New Year's Eve, I headed over to the home of a beer-loving buddy of mine who promised me some exciting new brews to celebrate the new year. We started the night wiwth a Stone product, which, for me, is always a good sign that the rest of the day is going to be very, very good. I love Stone -- it's my absolute favorite brewery, always adventurous, always looking forward.

Even more pleasant than starting my New Year's Eve with a Stone was the fact this was a Stone product I had not previously tried: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA.

Before I launch into a review of this product, let me just say I had the pleasure of tasting a world-class black IPA recently at the Brew's Best festival at Lake Las Vegas -- Uinta Dubhe, easily one of the finest beers I have ever tasted. It was the absolute perfect blending of an IPA and an imperial Russian stout, with neither beer overwhelming the other. So to say I was excited about a similar product from Stone is a massive understatement.

To begin with, this is a distinctly different product from the Uinta. It's a great blend, but in this case you definitely get strong hints of both a strong IPA and an even stronger imperial stout. The coffee flavor is definitely front and center, with notes of chocolate and a slightly fruity aroma from the hops. The first thing you taste is the stout, a burnt-coffee taste that coats your entire mouth with a high-alcohol goodness. The hoppiness of the IPA comes after, slightly meldling with the stout flavor.

Here's the best part -- I was able to enjoy this beer over most of the afternoon. With its 10.8 percent ABV, this comes damn close to a meal. I found myself coming back for small sips throughout the day, never tiring of the overpowering alcohol kick or the strong flavors.

Uinta definitely nailed the combination of IPA and imperial stout with Dubhe, but Stone has established its own niche in the market with a unique blend all its own. If you've never tried a imperial black IPA before, start with Uinta and work your way up to Stone. I can't wait to see who tries the formula next.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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