what: Stone Brewing’s Xocoveza Imperial Stout 

ABV:8.1 percent

cost:about $15.99 for a six-pack

where:major retailers

This is another interesting beer from the brewers at Stone, supposedly inspired by Mexican hot chocolate. The base is an imperial stout with the addition of an array of adjuncts — cocoa, coffee, peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and lactose. All of these ingredients are skillfully balanced in Xocoveza so that each one has a place in the extensive flavor profile of this strong beer. The initial and very brief impression is sweetish high alcohol, but that fades quickly as the cinnamon and nutmeg take over, and then coffee, chocolate and vanilla flavors tag along with a big finish of mildly spicy hot peppers. 

This beer is similar to Westbrook Brewing’s very popular Mexican Cake. Both are tasty collages of spices — and that is my problem with them. All of the flavor elements are from the added ingredients, with little or no flavor from malt, hops or anything reminiscent of beer. The first time I tasted Mexican Cake years ago, I mistakenly thought it was a bad batch of beer that had been loaded with spices to make it saleable. Mexican Cake and Xocoveza both use beer as a bland vehicle for delivering a cocktail of adjunct flavors and alcohol. Candidly, that troubles me. Cheers! — Gerald Jowers

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