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Rating Two New Stone Brewing Co. Collaborations

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With its gargoyle logos and its cocky slogans and beer names, not to mention its intensely bitter IPAs, Stone Brewing Co. -- which celebrated its 15th anniversary Tuesday -- may try to maintain a bad-ass image. But a couple of new collaborations coming out this summer show that they're really big softies under that gruff exterior, and have no problem playing nicely with others.

Jason Fields & Kevin Sheppard/Tröegs/Stone Cherry Chocolate Stout is a tweaked version of the winning entry to this year's Stone March Madness Homebrew Competition and AHA Rally. Homebrewers Jason Fields and Kevin Sheppard worked with Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele and Tröegs Brewing Co. head brewer John Trogner on a stout that incorporated dark-roasted malts, Callebaut chocolate liquor, vanilla beans and 9,000 pounds of dark cherries.

Baird/Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA is a departure from the West Coast IPA style Stone is known for, using the earthier Japanese-originated Sorachi Ace hop along with Pacifica, Crystal, Warrior and Aramis varieties. All proceeds from the beer will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society to help with earthquake and tsunami recovery.

Stone regional sales manager Jason Armstrong tweeted yesterday that the Japanese Green Tea IPA is approved in Texas and should be on shelves in late August, but will be "extremely limited." I emailed to find out a bit more, and he replied that his best guess was they'd be available at "Central Market, Whole Foods, Mr. G's, S&K and a few bars to name a few." No drafts yet. The brewers produced 2,966 cases, to be precise. No word yet on when the Cherry Chocolate Stout reaches Texas, though Texas is on the list to receive some of the 2,448 cases produced. Each beer will be available in single 12-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $2.49 to $3.49.

Lucky for me, Stone Brewing Co. sent along a bottle of each.

Jason Fields & Kevin Sheppard/Tröegs/Stone Cherry Chocolate Stout

Appearance: Pitch black with a frothy dark tan head. 10/10
Nose: Cherry and roasted malt dominate, with chocolate and vanilla also noticeable but not as strong as I'd like. 8/10
Taste: A very nice blend of the cherry, chocolate and vanilla flavors, all mingling nicely with the roasty stout base. The cherry is most noticeable in the nose but also shows up on the finish. It's not as sweet as expected for something that smells like a sundae in a bottle. I poured some into a separate glass with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream for a stout float and it was lovely -- the sweetness of the ice cream really brought out the cherry flavor. That's how I'd enjoy it next time if I can find another bottle. 35/40
Body: On the heavy side of medium, but not as thick and creamy as expected given the coloring and thick head. But ideal for summer drinking. 8/10
Finish: Good blend of dark-chocolate and espresso-bean bitterness and cherry flavor. 9/10
Style/Originality: The cherry, vanilla and chocolate really help turn what probably would have been a pretty decent if not noteworthy stout into something special. 9/10
Party Factor: Mine was free, but this 7.3 percent ABV retails for $2.49 to $3.49 per 12-ounce bottle. At the low end of the price range (which, let's admit, we're unlikely to see in Texas) that gives it a factor of 2.93, rounding to 3, while the higher price tag gives it a factor of 2.09, rounding to 2.
Total: 82

Baird/Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA
Appearance: Hazy orange-golden color with a thin white head. 10/10
Nose: The herbal green tea is surprisingly noticeable for something so subtle and delicate, though the earthy, fruity and citrusy blend of hops is the strongest scent. 10/10
Taste: Outstanding. This is a great IPA, and the tea is a really nice complement to the big spicy hop kick. It's bright, floral, earthy and fruity, and the high ABV is all but unnoticeable. 38/40
Body: Light to medium with prickly carbonation. 10/10
Finish: Crisp and clean with a long lingering bitterness with just a hint of the sweetness expected from a big double IPA. 10/10
Style/Originality: This manages to be refined and elegant, yet bold and strong, with the subtle green tea flavor not at all cowed by the assertive hops or sweet maltiness. Very well done. 10/10
Party Factor: Mine was free, but this 9.2 percent ABV retails for $2.49 to $3.49 per 12-ounce bottle. At the lower price (again, good luck with that) it has a factor of 3.69, rounding to 4, while the higher tag gives it a factor of 2.63, rounding to 3.
Total: 92

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