Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Best of 2009: #10

Stone IPA

Brewery: Stone, Escondido, California

Style: India Pale Ale

ABV: 6.9%

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Unquestionably one of the most widely-sampled IPAs, Stone's had 2134 ratings on ratebeer at the time of posting. I'm certainly blazing no trails with this review. However, we still can't get Stone beers in Minnesota (I think??) and I had to cross into cheese country to get some. I'm almost positive I've had it before courtesy of Cali Uncle Mike, but not since this little project started. Want to know a cliched, embarrassing secret?

I watched Julie and Julia last night and became the seven millionth person to re-dedicate himself to his blog. I'm ashamed to admit it. But, looking back at 2009, I had a lot of great beer, 340 first timers to be exact, and sharing them with a pregnant wife isn't near as interesting as sharing them with my now 12 followers.

So, to the Stone. The standard IPA rates a tad lower than the Ruination IPA, which is stronger and packs a little more punch, but I prefer the regular ole IPA. This distinction is a good representation of what happened to my beer tastes in 2009. When I tried some of my first outstanding double/Imperial IPAs in early 2008 I was blown away. Obsessed. But, a year later, I felt the field was getting a bit watered down. Everyone was throwing copious amounts of hops into everything, and I thought the quality took a back seat to the quantity. I was vacuumed back to the straightforward, standard IPAs. Still with the big aroma. Still with the sticky, mouth-gripping bitterness. But not as super-sized.

I recall the point in my life where I didn't super size simply because it was 'the best value.' Sometimes, even though the 44 oz fountain Super America Coke is the same price as the 22 oz, you really only need 22 ounces. Sometimes I don't need the copious amounts of hops. And in the beer world, the double IPA does cost more than the regular.

Having trouble staying on task for this review.

The tasting dates back to March 5, 2009. From a bottle, obviously. On that day, I said: "The smell reminds me of the best: Furious, Two Hearted. Just want to keep smelling it." I can name 20 beers I've said that about that have thoroughly disappointed. This one clearly didn't.

As opposed to the often buttery, syrupy double IPAs, this beer was crisp and sparkling, with good carbonation and cleanliness. The citrus aroma carried through brilliantly, which is often the biggest source of IPA letdown. And the bitterness, I often describe it as a back-end grab, takes over when the flavor begins to subside. Back-end grab: the beer, after swallowing, reaches back to the roof of your mouth, grabbing the moisture and pulling it down your throat as its last gasp of life. It leaves your mouth dry and...bitter. It's the IPA's signature, and I love how it is a continuation of the tasting. The beer isn't over when you swallow.

The biggest reason that Stone's IPA falls here over the dozens of good IPAs I had this year, and the reason I prefer it to the Ruination IPA, is its drinkability. It doesn't overwhelm you, isn't difficult to choke down and is enjoyable from the first sip to the last drip. On that March tasting I said I "could drink one after another all night," and I thoroughly believe I could.

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