Stone has rarely if ever disappointed me. So while I can’t say I feel disappointed with their Espresso Imperial Russian Stout I will say that there are some things I would have done differently. I’ll describe the beer as it is first like I always do. It pours a deep, thick black with a nice coffee-colored head that mostly dies down and lightens slightly after awhile. At 11 percent ABV, this is a monster of a beer and though the alcohol can’t really be tasted, other than a burny bite at the end of the sip, it can certainly be felt pretty quickly. This is a beer to savor for sure. Chugging or even taking large gulps is out of the question…unless you’re a crazy person. You’d probably miss most of the flavors too if you don’t linger on a sip. Speaking of that, there’s the prerequisite roasty maltiness that all good stouts must have. But since this is an imperial stout there’s some hop bitterness going on as well mid-palate. The espresso makes itself known in that somewhat astringent way I expected it too, being the dark, hardcore type of coffee it is. Alongside the coffee flavor itself there’s a nice bit of dark chocolate at the end. The main problem this beer has comes from all the sharp flavors at once. While each, coffee, hops and alcohol are fine on their own, the coupling of them is kind of too much. This beer needs a better balancing agent. I’m thinking either tone down the alcohol content just a hair or add some more Guinness-style creamy maltiness. Though being a hop lover, malty is perfectly acceptable to me if it’s in a stout and it’s not too sweet.