Stone Cali-Belgique IPA/ Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Stone; not always known for subtlety. I’ll be honest, Cali-Belgique (6.9% abv) was one of those beers that had been on my list for a while. I don’t normally hanker after ludicrous US IPA’s; but ones with a little twist of something – be it a dash of fruit, perhaps, a different grain, or a sprinkle of Belgian yeast are the ones I’ll generally seek out.
So, what’s it like? Well, it pours a burnished gold, and the nose is – as you’d expect – wonderful. A veritable disco of Pear Drops, tinned pineapple, orange zest and lemon pith. There is a wild, (thyme?) yeasty note in there that brings a smile to your lips, but overall it’s got a fantastic nose. It’s one of those occasions where you get your nose wet, you know what I mean? Anyway, pull yourself away from the aroma and get sipping.
As you’d expect, the body is smooth, sugary and loaded with hard-candy bite. A wave of bitterness; surprisingly restrained for a beer of this kind – crashes in and wraps things up. Overall, I was surprised at how drinkable the whole package was; there’s nothing worse than struggling with a ‘big beer.’
…Which is what can happen with the Escondidian if you’re not careful. Weighing in at a hefty 10.8% abv – and feeling every little bit like it – it’s one for sharing, if you ask me. It did take a while for me to get through; but that’s not the fault of the beer. Brewed for Stone’s 15-year milestone, it’s a jet-black, tan-headed monster (the gargoyle certainly resides within) that has another interesting aroma; Pine, Mint, Coconut…not the citrus overload that I was expecting.
The mouthfeel is thick and tongue-coating, with a red-fruit, robustly woody tone being set. As the flavour dries out – as it does eventually – some cherry-skin, almond and the blackest of black chocolate appear. A zesty, lively Orange-Pith note keeps the requisite bitterness in hand, but it almost arrives too late. The beer is rich, thick and powerful. You’ve been warned.