This review is the second 9.3% ABV Stone offering in a row, and this is the Collective Distortion IPA, an Imperial IPA brewed with elderberries and coriander. It’s not just a touch of elderberries and coriander either, their presence is pronounced. The nose is heavily scented with elderberry and citrus. The coriander is a strong note in the middle along with honey and licorice, and the finish brings back the elderberry and heavy grapefruit. This is a sticky, full bodied, full flavor beer. The flavor is unique and strong and I like it, but i don’t love it.
I give it a 4 out of 5.
It is October 31st, 2014, and so on this night traditionally dominated by fancy dress and confections, I find the time has come to enjoy my bomber of Stone’s Enjoy By 10.31.14 IPA. The “Enjoy By” series is an occasionally brewed Imperial IPA meant to be consumed fresh, thus the prominent date in the title. It, like any Stone IPA is massively hoppy and staggeringly good. The nose is packed with heavy citrus and pine. The middle laced with lemon, grapefruit, pine, and just a hint of grass and brown sugar. The finish is bitter and piney and gives the beer a profile that is reminiscent of Stone’s ultimate hop-bomb, Ruination. The body is fairly heavy and the alcohol is a hefty 9.4% ABV, but it’s actually quite subtle, buried under the intensity of the fresh hops. Another top-notch offering from Stone, and you should look for an Enjoy By if you like massively hoppy west-coast IPAs.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
Since yesterday was IPA Day, I decided to celebrate it last night with the biggest, baddest IPA around. Stone’s RuinTen is an “extreme” version of their already insane Runation IPA which is an Imperial IPA designed to “ruin your palate” with over-the-top intensely bitter hops. So yeah, an extreme version of that. True to its billing, this is a big version of Ruination. I wouldn’t say that it’s any more bitter, however. It generally has the same flavor profile and intensity, but with a heavier body and more alcohol. They’ve cranked up the quantity of ingredients to get here, of course, but if any of it shows through, it’s a bit more citrus sweetness from heavy orange and grapefruit notes in the middle and finish than any additional bitterness. So overall there is a ton of pine, and a ton of grapefruit and orange, both bitter and sweet. The body is heavy, and the alcohol level is a relatively high 10.8% ABV. This is still a big, over-the-top bitter west-coast style Imperial IPA like Ruination, but if anything it’s slightly more well rounded and an excellent, excellent beer.
I give it a 4.9 out of 5.
Trust the Canadians to come up with an excellent pun for the name of an Imperial IPA of the American style. In this case, it’s the Canadians of Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company of British Columbia. The nose has faint citrus and pine, and is predominantly malty, reminding me of maple syrup. The middle packs a bitter punch of citrus rind and pine. The strong bitterness is reminiscent of Stone’s Ruination or Green Flash’s Palate Wrecker. The finish is well rounded citrus flavors with some sweet grapefruit and orange to temper the bitterness. The body is medium to heavy and the alcohol is 8.0% ABV which is about what you’d expect for a big Imperial IPA. This is a big, tasty, bitter beer, and more proof that the Canadians know how to brew a beer properly.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.
Maximus by Lagunitas is, as they say, “a bigger, badder version of our favorite style.” That means a super-hoppy IPA, and it’s really more of an Imperial IPA. It’s west-coast-ish, but there isn’t a ton of pine…Just a bit in the finish. The head is sticky and heavy, and dissipates moderately quickly. The nose has grapefruit and honeysuckle. The middle has big sweet grapefruit and orange notes, fighting some bitter burnt toast and herbs. The finish has the aforementioned bit of pine and more sweet orange. The sweet and bitter notes in this beer aren’t so much balanced as they are both simply strongly present. The flavors are all fine and nice, but the strength of the different flavors, and their lack of cohesion means that this isn’t going to be a session beer. Not that the the alcohol level (8.2% ABV) would allow it to be a session beer in any case. I like it, but I don’t love it.
I give it 3.9 out of 5.
A slam it’s called, and a slam it is. Stone Brewing Co. from San Diego, California is the brainchild behind the Stochasticity Project and its inaugural beer, Grapefruit Slam IPA, and that isn’t terribly surprising because this beer is crazy. Stone’s known for their bitter west coast style IPAs, sometimes taken to extremes in beers like Ruination, and one thing west-coast style IPAs are known for is a large helping of grapefruit flavors. So, the fine folks at Stone though something along these lines: “Hey, what would happen if we took a big west-coast IPA, and added about a trillion metric tons of grapefruit zest to it?” The answer, as you might suspect, is Grapefruit Slam IPA. They don’t specify exactly how much grapefruit zest they add…Just that it’s a lot. The bottle is non-specific in its note that added is “an immense dosing of grapefruit peel.” Now on to the specifics. The coloration is a bright golden amber, slightly cloudy. The head is dense and sticky. The nose smells like a bag of grapefruits dragged through pine resin. The middle is bitter, the grapefruit rinds ensure that, but this is not a one note beer. All the typical imperial west-coast IPA flavors are here. Not only the bitterness of the rind, but tons of sweet grapefruit sugars reminding me of a Texas ruby red, as well as a bit of pine that’s fairly muted, not by its absence but by the sheer volume of the other flavors at play here. The pine comes more to the fore in a very dry finish, along with plenty of additional grapefruit rind and some warming alcohol. The body is medium-heavy and the alcohol is a big but manageable 8.2% ABV. If you’re not a fan of bitter IPAs, you’re not going to like this beer, I can promise you. I, however, do, and I have a particularly fondness for grapefruit, and I think that it’s absolutely fantastic. Crazy, perhaps, and out of mainstream for certain, but wonderful.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Palate Wrecker is a big West Coast style IPA that was originally brewed for Hamilton’s Tavern and has clearly been influenced by Stone’s Ruination. (So called because it “ruins” your palate.) It’s an Imperial IPA, so big on flavor, body, and alcohol. The head is creamy and the nose has a ton of grapefruit, grass, and some pine. The middle is heavy and sits on your tongue, imparting flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and honey. The finish explodes with pine, a bit of grapefruit rind, and some booziness from the alcohol. (9.5% ABV) This may be the purest Imperial variant of the West Coast style IPA that I’ve had, and for all the marketing around the 100+ IBU score for this beer, it isn’t anywhere near as strongly and ruinously bitter as Ruination is. I love the west coast style and to me, this is a truly outstanding beer.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
duganA is an American Double (or Imperial) IPA released annually in September by the Avery Brewing Company of Boulder, Colorado. It’s in the more traditional style of American IPAs without the heavy pine of the west-coast IPAs. The nose is super citrusy, with lots of grapefruit and lemon. The middle has some lemon rind, some spiciness, and is quite buttery, which lends well to Avery’s food pairing suggestion, which is to match this ale with creamy, cheesy dishes. The finish has a bit of vanilla, more butter, and is quite dry. The body is medium to heavy and the ABV is a reasonable 8.5%. This is a good effort by Avery and overall it’s quite decent, but there’s too much butter in here for me.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5.
2xRye by New York’s Southern Tier Brewing Company is an autumn seasonal Double Rye India Pale Ale. Decoded, that’s an Imperial IPA made with rye. Now, I love IPAs, and I love Imperial IPAs, and I love rye-based ales, so this was bound to appeal, and it doesn’t disappoint. The nose is citrusy and floral. It has a medium to heavy body that is thick on the tongue. The middle is bursting with orange and pine. The rye becomes clearly evident in the finish, along with lemon and huge amounts of pine. This is a relatively big beer at 8.1% ABV, but there’s really not any booziness to speak of. It’s just a big, rich, flavorful Double IPA with loads of rye. Very, very good, this one.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Since my last review was of Lagunitas’ A Little Sumptin’ Sumptin’ Ale, it’s only fair that this review is of her limited release big sister: A Little Sumptin’ Wild Ale. This is like an Imperial Belgian Wheat IPA, if that makes any sense. Wheat malt, Trappist yeast (for the Belgian flavors) and massively malted and hopped for big bitter flavor and a relatively big 8.8% ABV. The big hops mean that the mildness of the wheat malt is fairly well overpowered and lost. There’s some sugary undertones in the middle that taste a bit like rice, and I think those may be all that’s left of the wheat in this brew. Other than that, this is a nice solid double IPA. A has a lot of orange, some pine, and the aforementioned sugar. The Belgian yeast also gives it a bit of apricot in the middle, and a nice ripe fruity nose. A very good beer.
I give it a 4.4 out of 5.