STYLE: Milk / Sweet Stout
4.7 / 5.0
Look: 4.5 | Smell: 4.75 | Taste: 5.0 | Feel: 4.5 | Overall: 4.7
Brewery at a glance: Years ago, I was lured into Stone’s aggressive marketing when I first tried Arrogant Bastard Ale. I went from drinking beers that eased me into beer drinking to something that declared I wasn’t worthy. It seemed like a challenge and I accepted. I sought out a lot of the big Stone beers at the time such as Sublimely Self-Righteous, Levitation, Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and their Russian Imperial Stout. This was way back in 2005-2007 when I got into craft beer and I remember proudly saving each of the empty bottles I consumed and would often re-read the amazing labels that kept me coming back to the brewery. Then the craft beer seen hit full force and I stopped buying Stone beers and moved onto a multitude of other breweries.
However, just recently, Stone has won me back and I’m discovering that they have always been a solid brewery who still produces some of the best beer on the market. Whether it be their Enjoy By / After IPAs, Stochasticity, Vertical Epic, or Collaborative series, Stone puts out some truly unique stuff among their seasonals and flagships. Aside from Xocoveza, Stone recently won me over with their excellent Americano Stout (which I weirdly forgot to check-in on Untappd), Pataskala Red X IPA, and Points Unknown and proved to me that they still know how to make solid beer even after 20 years of brewing.
If you haven’t drank a beer brewed by Stone in awhile, I strongly suggest going back to Arrogant Bastard and tell me it doesn’t hold up. This brewery knows what it is doing and almost always makes a solid product. The question is: Are you worthy?
Look: Xocoveza pours a dark black with coppery colored head. It appears to be a rather still brew with little carbonation but it foam sticks the glass and leaves an brown orange color residue. I poured this one in a Spiegelau Stout Glass which makes the beer appear as though it were a press release photo from the company that makes this glassware. In short, this brew is the poster child of what a stout should look like and makes the anticipation to try it all the more enticing. I’ve always been a little bit in love with Stone’s labels.
This one sports the big devil logo that is used for most of Stone’s products and its painted label is blue and white on the glass. What I’ve always loved about Stone’s labels are the long form descriptions of their beer on the back of their bottles. Because I want you to be able to read the amazing description Stone prepared for this brew, I’ve recreated it in its entirety below:
“There’s nothing like making a beer so beloved people feel compelled to campaign for its return. So in the spirit of the holiday season, we are very pleased to give our fans the number one item on their wish lists. That, as illustrated by the avalanche of social media requests, is Stone Xocoveza Mocha Stout, an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. First brewed in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe was named the winner of our annual homebrewing competition, this beer is layered with smooth roastiness, chocolate, and a touch of spice. This creamy, semisweet milk stout has gone from initially being a one-time offering to a yearly tradition thanks entirely to you. Happy holidays from all of us to all of you…and feel free to continue enjoying it long into the winter month, as this gem will age beautifully and is is definitely not exclusive to the holidays!”
So let’s take a moment here and simply appreciate that. How many other breweries would listen to their drinkers, re-brew a fan favorite, and make it an annual release mostly because of a social media uproar? For me, I can finally let out a sigh of relief because, quite honestly, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to drink this brew after its limited release last year. So anyway…let’s move on.
Smell: On first whiff, I get strong elements of cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate that settles into a final finish of subtle hot peppers. The bottle advertises these as ingredients in the beer and, with this many adjuncts, I would find it hard to believe that all of them could be present on the nose. But after a few sniffs, I continue to get the beautiful collection of complex smells and could feel myself start to salivate at the thought of Xocoveza’s sweetness. For the record, there are few beers that have made me almost shake with anticipation as I take notes about their smell. Xocoveza holds the honor of being of those few beers that had me feeling like I was rushing through my note taking in order to take a sip. As the beer warmed and the glass was a little less full, the smell seemed to roll itself into strong scents of dark chocolate, honey, and cinnamon.
Taste: I waited an entire year for this. One whole year of wanting more of the few sips I had on December 31, 2014 in order to rule out whether my taste buds were already destroyed by the night’s festivities. It was my favorite beer I had that New Years and I’ve looked patiently for bottle to appear ever since. But did it deliver? Oh my god, yes. This beer delivers. Strong notes of hot peppers hit the pallet at first which are curbed by subtle hints of cinnamon. It continues by settling for a prolonged period of time of rich, sweet, dark chocolate before finishing on notes of nutmeg, vanilla, and even, dare I say it, hazelnut.
The taste creeps into the nose, most likely due to the use of hot peppers, and reminds of the drinker of its cinnamon and nutmeg. Xocoveza’s sweetness comes in the form of lactose sugar which give the stout a nice roasty, sweetened coffee like flavor that provides the adjuncts a solid backbone. There are few beers that I would be willing to give a perfect score on the taste front but Xocoveza is an easy 5 out of 5. I’m almost reluctant to give such a high review but I’ve tried so many stouts over the years and this one continued to impress me with every sip. It is truly a unique experience and makes me hopeful that I won’t have to wait nearly as long to try this beer again.
Feel: Even though this brew should be heavy due to its style, it is surprisingly light. It has an incredibly long taste profile that is helped by its very light carbonation that provides it a viscous-like thickness that dries quickly and leaves you the offerings of its complex flavors. Once first sipped, the brew’s taste stays around, finishes dry, and allows you to further dissect the unique mix of flavors held within.
Overall: I’m simply blown away. Easily one of the best beers I’ve had in quite a long time and makes me want to give Stone more of my money in the near future. Some may be put off by the use of both cinnamon and hot peppers but I’m here to tell you that the use of both complements the style so well.
In most beers that advertise cinnamon, I’m usually put off by how dry it makes the brew and how the cinnamon completely overtakes any subtle element that the beer has to offer. Xocoveza’s use of cinnamon is light by comparison and adds this nice drying complexity that lets it other flavors shine. The use of peppers is a strange complement to the chocolate but, for those that are a fan of Mexican hot chocolate, you will know that the addition of the slight heat brings out some of the more subtle characteristics of the rich chocolate flavor.
The only real complaint I have about the brew is its rather high asking price. I snagged a six pack for $19.99 at my local liquor store and winced when I handed the cashier my card. However, after my first beer in the sixer, I’m now totally willing to go back and buy another six pack before I have to wait another year before I can get this again. As the bottle suggested, I have decided that I will be letting two of the six bottles I have age for at least six months or a year so that I can do a side-by-side comparison of the two brews when it is released again.
If I could recommend one beer on that I’ve tried on this blog, this one would be it. Seriously, do not miss this one if it is still available where you live.
Have you had this brew? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.