Beer Review 0475: Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA

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It is with great sadness and heartbreak that I start off a beer review on this note, but sometimes life is hard. On August 24, Matthew Courtright, a brewer for Stone Brewing Co., died from complications after a forklift accident on the job. Mr. Courtright was just 27 years old, and not only was he living a dream working at Stone, he was an unabashed home brewer, taking time outside his hectic schedule with Stone to make home brew. Because he loved beer and he loved making beer.

Mr. Courtright worked for Stone in Escondido, California, but called Michigan his home. He worked at Liberty St. Brewing in Plymouth, Michigan before moving to Stone. Judging from his page on Instagram, he loved Stone and he loved Escondido and he certainly loved beer. But he also loved going back to Michigan and visiting his family and friends.

I personally did not know Mr. Courtright nor do I know any of his friends, nor do I know anyone that works at Stone, nor do I know anyone who was personally affected by his loss. But the passing of this young brewer makes me, as it should you, take pause and remember that there are real human beings behind the ales and lagers we love. Craft beer is made by people not very different than you or I, people who are after a great tasting experience that makes you take pause and think about the world, brings a little light to your day and smile to your face. It, like anything else in life, has its risks and rewards. And so it is to Matthew Courtright, Stone Brewing Co., and the craft beer community that we raise a pint of Stone’s 17th Anniversary ale — perhaps a beer that Mr. Courtright himself worked on.

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Stone Brewing Co., celebrating 17 years in the business, has released a very German influenced IPA to mark the occasion. Named Götterdämmerung, or “twilight of the gods,” the beer is a 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) IPA brewed with all German hops and pilsner malts. Hops used include Magnum, Herkules, Merkur, Opal, Emerald, Strisselspalt, German Hersbrucker, and Sterling. Cool names, eh? Stone consider this beer an unconventional tour of Deutschland by way of Southern California. Sounds just like a trip Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, co-founders of Stone, would want to take you on with one of their beers.

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The pour gave way to a perfectly golden colored beer that produced a small, bright white head. The foam was soapy and had some staying power atop a beer that was exceptionally clear, nearly sparkling. The body contained no particles or sediment, and lacing was outstanding, leaving behind solid, thin sheets of suds.

On the nose, instead of getting a big burst of hops, the aroma is quite subdued and showcases some lighter fruit hops. Big notes of peaches and blueberries mingle with some lemon peel and tropical fruits; the malt backing is grainy and sweet and not really there. As the beer warms, the hop aromas combine and are quite sweet for 102 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), reminding me of honey. I wouldn’t quite call the aroma dull as far as the scents you can pull out, but it’s dull in terms of how it doesn’t really grab your nose and make you pay attention.

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The taste starts out as inconspicuous, with a very mild peach and berry note — yes, the berries are unique, especially in a beer brewed without any type of fruit — but it quickly ramps up thanks to the 9.5% alcohol. In rushes some lemon peel before a crushing bitterness starts, along with some cracker malts. The bitterness is almost too much, skirting the edge of medicinal, but it rides a nice wave with the huge alcohol presence. The finish has the hoppiness of an Imperial IPA but the malt backing of a Pilsner, which only enhances the bitterness and alcohol.

The impression I was left from Götterdämmerung was one of a rough draft — it almost seems like Stone finished working on this brew halfway through. It’s not bad, by any means — it just feels unfinished. While the idea of a German IPA is unique and worthy of exploring, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if those pilsner malts were replaced with something more beefy. Stay far away if you don’t like boozy beer.

Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA, 85 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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