Winter has arrived and shelves are stocked with winter warming goodness. ‘Tis the season, and all that, to feast and drink beers that warm the taste buds as well as the heart. Part of the fun is picking out the ales that will see me through the shivery evenings of winter. This year I started with STONE BREWING’s seasonal release, Xocoveza. Stone releases a different Xocoveza stout every year. This year’s recipe is an imperial stout imbued with the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate. I’ve never personally had a Mexican hot chocolate, so I couldn’t tell you if Stone hit the mark, but if it tastes anything like the Xocoveza, perhaps I’ve been missing out.
Imperial stouts are such a perfect winter drink. The dark roasted flavors and warming alcohol that come with the elevated ABV impart a bit of that comfort and joy we’re all seeking this time of year. And because stouts are such a great medium for those comfort-food flavors (like chocolate, peanut butter, and yes, Mexican hot chocolate), they can double as a wonderful dessert that you can sip while cozying up in front of the fireplace. And the Xocoveza is definitely that kind of beer. I even paired mine with some Christmas cookies and it worked amazingly well!
The Xocoveza pours as black as coffee with mocha-colored foam. Aromas of dark roasted coffee mingle with pronounced notes of smoky pepper, followed by hints of chocolate and nutmeg. How good does this sound already?! This is before you even take the first sip. With a full-bodied and almost creamy mouthfeel, the Xocoveza’s flavors actually do emulate a good cup of spicy cocoa. The dark roasted malts and a pleasant bitterness flow into flavors of dark chocolate mixed with spicy hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. As the beer warms and the carbonation tapers off, the beer becomes even more pleasantly complex, with the spicy hints becoming more accentuated and an alcohol warming peeking through (of course, you should never drink a cold stout if you want to experience the full glory of a good imperial stout).
Stone’s Xocoveza is such a deliciously perfect winter ale—it should definitely be in your line-up until spring break. So, get cozy with the ones you love and let the Xocoveza and holiday cheer flow. Happy Holidays! —J.A.
Great 90+ Point Wines | The Best of Current Releases ~ Dec. 2017