Stone is probably most famous for their Arrogant Bastard Ale, which claims to pack so much hoppy bitterness that only the worthy connosieur will appreciate it. Aside from the aggressive marketing, though, Stone is well known for their prolific collaboration series. Since 2008, they’ve been teaming up with a unique mix of people, professionals and homebrewers alike, to create inventive limited-edition beers.
The most recent addition is Suede Imperial Porter, the fourth member of this year’s collection. Contributors this time are Megan O’Leary Parisi from the new D.C. brewery Bluejacket and Tonya Cornett from Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company. Given that we have a cultural tendency to discount women’s appreciation of and contribution to beer making – ad campaigns with tired gender stereotypes, sexist beer labels, and patronizing female-oriented offerings – it’s nice to see that this one comes from two successful female brewers.
Appearance: Deep brown black with a big but quickly dissipating head.
Aroma: The honey is most apparent here, where it’s sweet but subtle. There are also some dark malts in the nose, but they’re not as rich or fragrant as you’d expect from an imperial porter.
Taste: It’s billed as a “sturdy yet velvety base of imperial porter” brewed with avocado honey, calendula flowers, and jasmine. The honey comes through well -- it’s a bit sweet, but well balanced against the dark and roasty malts. The jasmine adds a very slight floral note to the hop bitterness at the back of the mouth, and though we don’t know what calendula flowers are, we couldn’t taste any hint of them. The hop presence and sweet honey notes are more forward as the beer warms without as much of a residual bitterness, but there’s no similar increase in the floral aspect.
Mouthfeel: Lighter than expected given the name, but still moderately smooth and rich with a low carbonation.
Overall: It’s not as layered or smooth as expected, but still very solid. The floral aspects aren’t intended to be a huge component of the flavor, but it seems like they could have been a bit more significant without dominating the other aspects of the beer. What was most significant was how well the alcohol was hidden -- even at 9.6% ABV, it was difficult to detect an alcohol presence beneath the sweet honey and slightly floral bitterness.