Redux Review 0011: Stone Enjoy By 05.17.13 Imperial IPA
Stone’s Enjoy By IPA (Escondido, California) is brewed not to last. Showcasing the importance of bottle dating on IPAs, Stone brew this with a shelf life of 35 days; if any is remaining on the shelf past the enjoy by date, bottle shops are instructed to send it back to the distributor. But that simply doesn’t happen, because the beer is so good and people buy it up at a fast pace to enjoy NOW.
This beer does vary slightly by batch — for instance, the 04.01.13 batch produced more head, more lacing, and had more peaches on the nose than 05.17.13. Stone use whatever hops are in season at the time of the brew, which is why I wanted to review at least two different versions of this.
But a funny thing happened when I had several bottles of 04.01.13; I let one go a couple weeks beyond the expiration date and when I sampled it, I actually thought it was better than during the “enjoy by” period! Not that I was expecting it to be horrible by any means, but I did think I would see a significant drop in hop flavor and aroma. To the contrary; what was left was a well-rounded beer that had its rough edges polished.
So, my experiment with the 05.17.13 batch was to give it a full month after the enjoy by date. Here we are, exactly one month beyond the suggested consumption period, and we’re going to give it a redux look. I have stored this beer like all IPAs that are put away (if your tastes prefer them this way) should be: refrigerated.
My initial review:
Appearance: 13 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 34 of 35 points
Final Score: 96 points, or classic on my rating scale.
And now, same beer, but sixty-six days old instead of twenty:
The pour delivers a small head, soapy and lasting. The beer is a nice golden color, is translucent but has a hop hazy body that is free of particles and sediment. The appearance pretty much mirrors what this beer was a month ago, with one exception: the lacing is better, leaving behind patchy spiderweb suds down my glass as I sipped.
The nose is still incredibly hoppy; the peach notes have taken a major step forward, making this quite sweeter than before. The usual suspects of tropical fruits and grass are also here — these mix nicely and sort of ground each other, and give a base layer of grapefruit and pine. Malts seem to have dialed up a notch, too, issuing up more sweetness in the form of light caramel and some grainy straw. Still really nice but definitely not as pungent as before. I can tell a hop fade has happened.
Peaches. Lots of peaches. The taste starts with a load of sweet peaches, so sweet that it’s nearly like schnapps; it’s not cloying but you aren’t expecting that much sweetness out of this beer. But that quickly fades; the grassy/tropical fruit notes take over, which bring in ample bitterness in the middle of the mouth, along with a light alcohol presence. The bitterness allows the beer to finish more traditional, with notes of grapefruit and pine, and very little to no malt backing. The bitterness ramps up after the swallow, especially when you click your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Medium-bodied, Enjoy By 05.17.13 is also medium in mouthfeel, creamy but quite drying.
Do I like this beer better with a month of age? No, I don’t — three big things have happened here. There’s been significant hop fade, as in this beer is just doesn’t have the hop ‘pop’ it once did. The sweetness is also considerably higher, and believe it or not, the bitterness on the finish is more pronounced. But while the transition from moderately sweet to heavily bitter is interesting, the complexity of the hop flavors have been lost and what’s left is somewhat one-dimensional. I’m thinking the sweet spot for Enjoy By is within 14 days of the expiration date. That being said, this beer is still mighty, but be forewarned if you are just trying it… it’s not what it once was, by design.
Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 13 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 32 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 32 of 35 points
Stone Enjoy By 05.17.13 Imperial IPA, 91 points. Price: $7.49 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.