Beer Review 0042: Stone IPA

Stone Brewing Co. is one hell of an outfit.

That’s the only way to start off talking about a company that brews most of its beers to explode your palate and take no prisoners with no apologies. And they have a gargoyle as their mascot, which serves to ward off modern day evil spirits like chemical preservatives, additives, and adjuncts.

Stone Brewing traces roots back to 1989, when founders Steve Wagner and Greg Koch first met in a music rehearsal space in Los Angeles. Koch opened the space, while Wagner’s band was among the first tenants. The two soon discovered they had matching tastes in beer and brewing principles, that is to say using natural ingredients only, which led to a correspondence period of three years where the two men kept touch with conversations of what else — beer, and it was eventually decided that they had to open a brewery.

They found some investors, got a place, and on July 26, 1996, the first beer was tapped.

The current facility is in Escondido, California, and Stone has plans to expand to Europe; they also announced local expansion plans back in May for a future farm, company store, bistro & gardens, a hotel and a new production facility!

I feel somewhat bad that I’m not reviewing one of their sassier beers, such as Arrogant Bastard, but to give you some idea of the attitude behind Stone Brewing, they actually have their own “proper names” page, which I love! (and I have tried not to use any improper names…)

Stone IPA is all about the hops. The description says “highly hopped and high in alcohol.” The beer comes in at 6.9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is dry hopped, so if you didn’t get enough hops, there’s even more hops. Some effort at balance was made with a “medium malt character,” but that’s followed with another dose of “over the top hops.” Stone IPA registers 77 IBU (International Bittering Units).

The pour shows a beautiful beer, golden orange with a bright, bubbly, and frothy white head that is large and lingers. The body of the liquid is hazy and cloudy, and there’s particles and sediment floating around; it’s in between light and heavy as some chunks are sizable, some aren’t. The lacing was fair, clinging to the glass after each sip but disappeared fast.

With all those hops, you’d expect your nose to explode from a hop bomb, right? Well, get ready, because that’s what we have here. A bright orange note takes the stage, backed up by a general citrus and strong lemon. This transitions to show some pine and flowers and in the faint, faint background, a grainy malt note. This is a very complex show of hops in the aroma, and there’s even a smidgen of peach floating around. I scored the aromatics for Stone IPA a perfect 15 points — it was lovely.

The flavors were a (wee) bit disappointing considering all that was going on to the nose. A large amount of grapefruit up front with some orange, followed by some resinous pine and a bitter finish that warms palate and body with an alcohol kick. The beer has a light soapy aftertaste and is drying. It’s crispy and the bitterness is sharp, which is a feeling that lasts quite a while and gets more bitter as it develops. The disappointment comes in the fact that the flavors were a lot less complex than the aromas. They just didn’t linger on the palate long enough. This one is more about feel versus taste, I think. It’s bitter that you can feel, if you know what I mean…still, a good drink.

If you love hoppy beers, you’ll adore this one. It’s aggressive and one can tell by using all senses that great care was taken in the brewing process using high quality ingredients. It’s very apparent that someone put some love into this drink. Outstanding.

Stone IPA, 91 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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