Monday, August 24, 2009

Drinking Stone IPA

My friend left me a few beers to sample after our brewing session last week. I felt that the least I could do is share my experience of them. I had a quiet afternoon reading in the garden as the girls played with my wife in the front yard. The time was precious, but the afternoon was a little warmer than ideal.

One of the bottles was Stone IPA. Most Constant Readers know I have been softening my stance on the IPA (India Pale Ale) recently, finding that I do not mind drinking hoppy beers as much as I thought. I still have problems with anything labeled with the Imperial or Double moniker, though.

The India Pale Ale (IPA) style originated as an export beer for the then British Colony, India in the 19th century. The beer was made extra strong (other beers when talking about export strength they mean made more strong to withstand exporting) and additional hops were added. Hops serve as a preservative and the additional alcohol content allowed the beer to age rather than spoil on the long hot voyage via sailing ships around the Horn of Africa. Today the IPA has been adopted and adapted by a number of American craft breweries and excellent examples of the style can be had in most areas of the country.

Stone Brewing Company, out of San Diego, is known for their aggressive beers including Arrogant Bastard Ale, Ruination, and Stone IPA. I have tried all three, and have learned to just keep my mouth shut when someone waxes how they are great beers. They probably are, but the Arrogant Bastard (Imperial Russian Stout) and Ruination (Double IPA) are a little too rough and tumble for me, so I know better than to order one for myself. Stone's IPA are these guys' little brother, being a little brother myself, I can relate to it.

Anyway, upon opening and pouring Stone IPA into my standard beer glass, it hits you before you get it up to your nose....fresh hop aroma. Lots and Lots of high quality hops in this sucker. If there is an aspect of hops I like the best, it is the aroma and this IPA does not disappoint. It smells grassy, musty, like early morning in the meadow. Please excuse my descriptive language, it is the bullshit of beer tasting that chaps my posterior, too.

The bottle is also noteworthy as well. It is unusual to see an American producer with painted on labels (it is common to see in Canada). I think that this treatment is beautiful, but it is a pain in the ass for homebrewers as the label will never wash off. The label is green and white with a big ugly gargoyle (Stone's trademark, and in this case, ugly is cool) on it bordered by barley and hops.

The 12oz beer sits in my glass with a small head, perhaps 1/2 inch and some room to spare (pint sized glass). The head is an off white and a thin foam (not dense) that begins dissipating rather quickly. It does leave a nice lace foam on the glass wall as you drink it down, which is a nice effect. The color is a deep gold or light copper, which is lighter than a lot of IPA's, which probably indicates less darker crystal malt than most.

I can only taste hops with a little background bitterness. It is not to say that this beer isn't bitter, but the fresh hop aroma and flavor makes the bitterness take a back seat. The beer is medium bodied but has no malt flavor and a hint of alcohol warmth as you go along. The hops are grassy at first taste and become slightly citrusy as the glass warms.

This is a hoppy beer, but I find it smooth and drinkable. I am not sure I would call it a beginner's IPA, but would any IPA fit that bill? I likely enjoy it as the hop flavor/aroma outweighs the bitterness. Listed as 6.9% ABV (Alcohol by Volume), it is something I should have only one (pint) or two (bottles) of at a time. It ruins your taste of any other beer. It would be good, I think, with a seafood dish perhaps where the flavor of seafood is more prominent (fishy?)....don't quote me, as I am no expert on food and beer pairing. It could be that I was hungry when I drank it.

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