If you’re pondering what to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, consider an unconventional candidate: homebrewers. These unsung heroes of craft brewing often come across flavors larger brewers don’t dare go near. Luckily their creations occasionally trickle out to the larger craft community. Case in point, San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker won Stone Brewing’s annual homebrew competition a little more than five years ago with an unusual spin on a seasonal stout with pasilla peppers, coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon. As a prize, Stone collaborated with Cervecería Insurgente to make his recipe a reality as a limited release. Shortly after, it became an annual icon: Xocoveza, an imperial mocha stout inspired by Mexican hot chocolate.
Xocoveza is the kind of beer that makes you believe in love at first sight. It’s so dark brown it might as well be black, with a healthy, hazelnutty foam head that lingers a bit after this stout enters a pint glass.
I’d support Xocoveza taking over for egg nog in the default December drink department.”
If such a thing as carbonated pepper exists, I swear I caught a whiff of it immediately upon pouring. That sensation begs you to swiftly get that first sniff, where chocolate and pasilla peppers immediately meet your nose. Add just a touch of cinnamon—the beer’s advertised coffee and vanilla must merely exist to balance—and this qualifies as one of the most alluring, aromatic beers you’ll find.
Stone has managed to capture hot chocolate in a beer—the pasilla pepper certainly comes across instantly, while the chocolate flavor is that dryer, bitter baking variety. Add in the vanilla notes, and Stone almost makes you think you have a milk stout in hand (though ultimately this stout isn’t quite as frothy). Ultimately, Xocoveza’s mouthfeel and aftertaste are closer to a hot chocolate than an imperial stout.
Imagine your ideal blend of hot chocolate and imperial stout. Xocoveza delivers with deep, rich flavor without losing the bitterness of its core beer style. Five years after its debut, it’s easy to see why Stone’s winter seasonal has become a user-review darling (hovering around 100 on Beer Advocate and Ratebeer). In fact, it’s such a winter staple, I’d support Xocoveza taking over for egg nog in the default December drink department.