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I remember the early days of Stone Brewing Co.’s regime and the small street-fair type of celebrations that came with each passing year. Back then, those little get-togethers at their old San Marcos facility on Mata Way (currently home to Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey) seemed so big. That was before Stone started holding one of the most massive and much-anticipated annual beer festivals in the county on the sprawling green of CSU San Marcos campus.

Another tradition that’s gotten bigger with time is Stone's anniversary beer. With the exception of their 12th-anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, these brews are always forward on the palate. This year's entry is no different. An onyx brew with a creamy head that’s downright chantilly like, the beer looks like an imperial stout but brings all the hop Stone fans enjoy. In an homage to the city that houses Stone’s massive and soon-to-be expanded brewing facility, the celebratory brew, which comes in at 10.8% ABV and 100 IBUs (International Bittering Units), has been dubbed an Escondidian Imperial Black IPA.

The beer delivers bold, dark-cocoa notes on the front palette, much like a chocolate stout. After that, a combination of roasty warmth and floral hop contrast register simultaneously. It’s a two-pronged attack on the senses and quite enjoyable. Each sip ends with a black-licorice finish and a lingering hint of bitterness. It’s an impressive beer and available only for a limited time.

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