We were less than impressed with Stone's brewpub, but that's not to say Stone's actual products aren't great. I am personally a fan of their odd-year imperial Russian stouts (IRS for short), which basically are their regular releases with an added flavor. This year Stone has gone with coffee beans, and the result is something special.
And when I say special, I really do mean special. Short bus kind of special even.
It pours jet black with one of the darker heads I have ever seen. Really, the tan is so dark it approaches black.
Give it a good whiff, and you'll pick up strong scents, stronger than most IRSs. The espresso hits you right on the nose, accompanied by a more standard molasses you often get from a regular IRS. Put your nose way into the beer, and you'll find chocolate and just a hint of vanilla.
There are no surprises in the flavor; the nose has given it all away. Like the Speedway Stout, the coffee comes off as something you'd get from a good espresso drink; not a burned note to be found. The chocolate might jump just slightly ahead of the expected sweetness, and the flavors of vanilla makes itself better known as the beer warms up. (I'd recommend drinking this at a temperature just a bit warmer than the standard IRS-suggested 55°.)
Flavor-wise there is a lot of depth here, with a good, full body to boot. It's not velvet-y, but certainly smooth.
There might be some who won't love the Espresso Imperial Russian Stout. Terrorists, mostly, but also those who are more into more pure IRSs. Either way, give this beer a shot. It is special, and ranks highly on my list of what I've tried in '13.