Lest PETA become concerned, despite the name and brand imagery the Stone Brewing Company makes it clear on the label that their new Imperial Mutt Brown Ale “does not actually contain any dogs.” The mutt moniker does fit, though, considering the beer is a mash up of two distinctly different styles. It may bear the name of one and not the other, but this brew brings together elements of a classic English brown and a German-style altbier.

Imperial Mutt Brown Ale is the second beer in Stone’s Spotlight Series, a year-long in-house brewing competition pitting teams of two from the brewery’s production crew in a fight for the right to have their recipe brewed and sold nationally. The 2014 winner was Sprocketbier, a black rye kölsch, which seemingly got the series off on the right foot since its purpose is to celebrate the creativity of craft brewing.

Stone Imperial Mutt Brown Ale bottle

As for the 2015 entry in the series, the recipe was concocted by brewing supervisor Drew Neldon and brewer Steve Via. They combine primarily German malt varieties with an English ale yeast and turbinado sugar to create what they refer to as a “hefty brown ale,” a style Via says he’s never really liked—until now, of course.

True to it’s name, Mutt Brown is a dark brown ale with aromas of bready malt, earthy undertones and a nutty character. These last two bits reminded me a lot of the aromas found in a traditional English nut brown ale, while the breadiness is a typical component of the aforementioned German albier.

Stone Imperial Mutt Brown Ale

In terms of flavor, an element of high cacao dark chocolate gets added to the mix, as does a hint of raw coffee grounds. However, despite the sugar addition, I don’t really get a lot of sweetness in this beer. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, especially if you enjoy a dry, bitter beer with plenty of malt complexity. All I’m saying is, at least to my taste, this wouldn’t be a beer I’d drink this beer if you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Back to that whole “hefty” thing, there’s no denying this Mutt is a bit more burly than your typical brown ale. It’s got a medium-full  body, a chewy palate and a fair amount of carbonation. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call it smooth, but it is easy to drink and there’s virtually no hint of the 9-percent ABV other than a subtle warmth that sneaks into the aftertaste.

Stone Imperial Mutt Brown Ale
BREWERY: Stone Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Escondido, Calif.
STYLE: Imperial brown ale
ABV: 9 percent
IBU: 45
PRICE: $9.99
RELEASE DATE: April 2015
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce bottles
For whatever reason, my impression of this beer differs quite a bit from the commercial description. Stone's tasting notes talk of something slightly sweet, with hints of molasses, fruit and licorice. As for me, I get a dry beer with a bready underbelly, backed by a strong chocolate bitterness and a shot of espresso. Truth be told, I enjoyed this beer a great deal. At the same time, while I'd certainly recommend trying it based on what I like about the beer, I'd approach it without expectation given that the brewery's description of this beer is in stark contrast to mine.
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