Beer Review 0518: Stone Ruination IPA (New 2013 Recipe)
We’re in agreement with Stone’s co-founder, Greg Koch: almost nothing should be so sacred that you won’t consider tweaks that result in improvements.
To be clear, this website has reviewed Stone Brewing Co. Ruination IPA before — back in July 2012, I awarded the beer, one of the first Imperial IPAs to ever be bottled and distributed in the United States, 93 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.
Until now, Ruination’s recipe has remained the same since it was first released in 2002. But after experimental batches were brewed at the Escondido, California brewery using two additional hop varieties and raising the ABV a half-percent, Stone decided they liked the new recipe better. So, the new recipe will be the current representation of Ruination, likely for the foreseeable future.
Two things changed about Ruination: the hop bill went from just Columbus and Centennial to Centennial, Chinook, and Magnum; and the ABV (alcohol by volume) jumped from 7.7% to 8.2%. Ruination still retains its 100+ IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating and Stone still calls this groundbreaking IPA a “liquid poem to the glory of the hop.” Let’s see what, if anything, has changed (for better or worse).
Pouring produced an average size, bright white, soapy head that sticks around. The beer is golden-orange in color; the body is slightly hazy but doesn’t have any particles or sediment floating around. Lacing is good, providing thin but solid sheets for about the first two inches of the drink, when it starts to become less consistent. Looks pretty much the same as before, perhaps just a bit hazier.
The nose is where I noticed the most change: gone is the pine note I often found prevalent in Ruination; amped up is the sweet tropical fruit aspect. There’s no shortage of hops here, which is to be expected — big, astringent notes of grapefruit and pineapple greet the nose, and while it’s sweet, you’re still pounded with a raw edge that lets you know this brew is going to be a big bitter bad boy. More subtle hop players included orange peel, lemon, lime, and just a tease of menthol. The light malt body plays into the sweetness, lending some caramel, and there is a small whiff of alcohol to round things out. I’d call the aroma deceptively sweet overall; I bumped the rating up one point here, because I really dig the tropical fruit scents.
On the taste, Ruination is initially quite sweet with sugar coated grapefruit and pineapple juice concentrate. But don’t be fooled: a wave of thick bitterness quickly washes over the tongue, prickling the taste buds with astringent high alpha acids — sweet grapefruit turns achingly bitter yet still juicy, and orange and lemon peel begin to show. Middle of the taste is a bit soft with an edge toward herbal, tea-like hops; the finish is a battle between caramel sweetness and heavily bitter grapefruit. The alcohol is completely hidden; I find Ruination to be medium-bodied, with a thin, foamy, and drying mouthfeel.
Has this beer changed much? In short, no, not really. I think the biggest difference is the aroma, which caters more to the sweet tooth than the IBU aficionado. I’m still at 93 points for this beer; even though I jumped the aroma score up, I bumped the drinkability/overall experience category down a point, and here’s why: I miss the piney kick in the taste. It’s just not there. We’ve traded pine for tropical fruits, which in my book kind of equates itself out. And that’s why I am choosing to rate the two versions the same.
The end result for Ruination is this: if you love hops, and feel challenged by a beer that rides the edge of bitterness to where it nearly turns overwhelming and medicinal, you’ll be in heaven. Whether it’s dominant pine or tropical fruit flavors. Cheers to Stone for having the gumption to change something when they feel strongly about it. (Other breweries, take note.)
Stone Ruination IPA (New 2013 Recipe), 93 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.