I'm back with another entry in the MSBB IPA series, celebrating our love for all things hops. The latest hop heavy brew that deserves a mention here is the Stone IPA.
I first came across Stone in Chicago even though they don't yet distribute to Illinois. Rumors flying everywhere have them coming to the bad beer city. About a year ago, a local pub here, the Hop Leaf, long known for sneaking in rogue brews, not to mention girls sending their drunken boyfriends home in cabs so they can keep drinking, snagged a keg of Stone's signature DIPA, the Ruination IPA, and poured for any willing hop craver. This coup perfectly coincided with my growing passion for hops, so the beer could not have arrived at a better time for me to enjoy it. Already several strong beers in to my evening, the Ruination greeted me in memorable fashion and I never forgot it's sharp, piney flavor and Pit Bull like hop bite. I was instantly a fan of Stone and couldn't wait to get more. Damn the distribution laws!
Fast forward to 2009, last weekend, my most recent Stone experience. I was in South Bend, Indiana, at a must-go Irish pub called the Fiddler's Hearth in downtown. Anticipating a day of tailgating and football, I started with a more traditional Murphy's Irish Stout (which was extremely good), priming the pump for some hops. Stone has distribution in Indiana and the Fiddler's was willing to oblige. Across the bar I saw the prettiest thing in the room: a large royal blue tap with the name "STONE" plastered upon it in big white block letters. This was Stone's standard IPA. Hook a brother up.
Asthetics are at least 40% of beer enjoyment, and the good beers almost always deliver on looks. The bartender poured my Stone into an English style 16-oz pint glass with the widened mouth on top. The beer proudly displayed a huge cumulus head with an overshooting top bubbling out of the glass. Huge forest and flower smells emitted from this hoppy bulge.
It tasted wonderful, quickly unfolding its flavor on my palate and leaving a long, lingering finish of hop juices and oils, cleansing my palate like a strip mining operation on a West Virginia hillside. Malts are shoved to the back but clearly smooth it out; the beer never comes across as brutal or harsh. The mouthfeel was consistent with my favorite types of beers: thin to moderate without being overly rich.
It's not as bold and devastating as it's big brother, the Ruination; but unlike its sibling, the standard Stone IPA is a beer I'm always in the mood for and can session. At 7%, though, sessioning quickly victimizes sobriety.
If this bad boy ever comes available in Chicago, that's good news for my local bodega.