Session IPAs are one of the new hotness categories that are popping up everywhere, and Stone’s entry into this market is To Go IPA. In true Stone style, the cap decries light, easy-to-drink beer, so while it comes equipped with a session-style 4.5% ABV, it also has all the bold hop flavor we’ve come to expect from Stone. The nose is bright with loads of pine needles and grapefruit. The middle has pine resin, and grapefruit rind. The citrus in the finish morphs into lemon and there’s a little bit of grain that tastes like wheat. The body of this beer is light to medium as pretty much expected. This is a fun beer, but slightly incongruous, with the lighter body but the big, bold, bitter flavors. I liked it a lot, and it’s certainly different, but not really a lawnmower beer.
I give it a 4.2 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.
I suppose the name tells you all you need to know about the style. The interpretation is Stone standard, hop heavy and west coast. The nose is chocolaty and warm. The middle starts out the same, with some lovely milkiness and currant notes, then transitions to heavy bitter pine and coffee. The finish is roasted grain and fading coffee and anise. The body is quite heavy as you’d expect, and the alcohol level is equally stout at 10.6% ABV.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
Ruination IPA is another classic that I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to miss reviewing over these last few years. I’ve certainly drunk enough of it, one would have thought that I’d have managed to review it, but apparently not. Well, late is better than never, so here goes. Ruination IPA is an Imperial (or Double) IPA so named because it “ruins your palate.” And so it does. This is not a great beer to drink with a meal, because the intense bitterness will utterly overpower the flavors of any food you might be pairing it with. Even hot wings. Not regular hot wings, but the ones with names like “Fire” or “Inferno” or “Atomic.” Sure, you’ll still have the pain from the high concentration of Capsaicin, but you won’t be able to discern the flavor of the delivery device. It might have been a chicken wing, or pig’s foot, or the fist of a cop who’s shoved his pepper spray canister directly into your mouth. This beer will numb your taste buds like no other I’ve ever experienced. So does that mean it’s not good? No, by no means. In fact, it’s fantastic. This is the epitome of a West Coast Style Double IPA, bar none. This is the standard by which they should be measured. The nose is actually slightly sweet and floral. It reminds me of honeysuckle. The middle is bursting with citrus in the form of grapefruit and orange, the sugary sweet juice is there, but overpowered by the bitter rind. The finish is bready with hints of pine and a tiny bit of booziness. The body is fairly heavy, and the alcohol level is a strong but moderate 8.2% ABV. I don’t drink this beer with meals any longer, but it is one of my all time favorite brews.
I give it a 4.8 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.
Arrogant Bastard is a top-notch craft beer classic from Stone Brewing that I’ve avoiding reviewing, and for that matter drinking, solely based on how passionately I hate the name. Yes, I know it’s tongue in cheek and all in good fun, but it still makes me cringe. That said, it gets a 98 on BeerAdvocate from the brothers, and a 99 on RateBeer, so I really can’t ignore it any longer. It’s classified as an American Strong Ale, which in this incarnation means it’s a big, heavy, hop-bomb. The nose is actually pretty light, lighter than I expected for sure, primarily grassy with a bit of pine and some lemon. The middle is bitter, with dark roasted coffee, pine pitch, and grapefruit rind the major notes. The malt brings a bit of caramel sweetness towards the finish along with a bit of booze and more lemon. It’s got a fairly heavy body and lingers on the tongue for a bit. As a strong ale, I can envision it being more balanced, but that clearly wasn’t what they were going for here, and it’s without doubt exceptionally artfully crafted and executed. If you don’t enjoy hoppy, bitter beer this is certainly not the brew for you, but if do you enjoy the big west-coast hop bombs, this is an wonderful example of the pinnacle of the style and craft.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.
Browsing through the beer section at the Earth Fare, one of the local grocery stores I frequent, I saw a bottle of Stone’s Smoked Porter that I’ve passed over my last few trips, and decided to give it a try. It’s rich dark brown in color, and a medium to full bodied beer. There’s chocolate in the nose, cocoa and coffee in the middle, and it has sweet, milky finish that fades to a faintly bitter last note that gives you a hint about the hops. I really didn’t find a lot of smoke in my example. Other than a bit in the nose, to me, this was closer to a chocolate or milk stout than anything. This is not as outrageous as some of Stone’s other offerings, but it’s a really nice, smooth, flavorful beer, and would be a great option for someone who isn’t into hoppy, bitter beers. I like it a lot.
I give it a 4.2 out of 5.