Stone Brewing Company’s Enjoy By 12/21/12 Imperial IPA

I had originally tried this beer at Thanksgiving along with 2 other titans of the IPA world:  The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Hopzilla.  A veritable Monsters of Hops broke out in my in-laws’ kitchen that Thursday.

 

The Hopzilla had a much fuller malt character making it more balanced.  The Heady Topper, canned the previous day, was its usual fresh, sticky hop-bomb self.  The Enjoy By fit very nicely between the two, featuring a more grassy profile than the others, but the freshness was unmistakable.  Right up there with the day-old Heady Topper which is a feat considering this beer was probably brewered a month earlier and 3000 miles away.

 

Tonight I’m trying it a full three weeks later, mere days from the latest date it’s intended (at least for marketing purposes) to be enjoyed.

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This is a beer you smell the moment you open the bottle.  Bright, floral, grassy hop aromas fill the air right away.  You can’t ignore it. 

 

Enjoy By pours a beautiful straw color, very clear and with little carbonation visible (more on that in a minute).  I wish I’d paid closer attention when I opened the young bottle to see if the carbonation was any different with that one.  A thick, foamy head was easily achieved and the foam clung to the glass creating a lacy histogram of my pauses in sipping to type this review.

 

There’s nice prickly carbonation when you take a sip which didn’t match up with the few bubbles I saw.  Crisp and inviting without much in the way of sugary malts.  The malts that there are to balance it come at the very back end but do nice work to hold off-putting bitterness more or less at bay.  Fresh hops pretty much the whole way through each sip with grapefruit, orange, and grassy hops dominating.  A slight bitterness to the finish and some warming but that’s mostly well-masked.  Mouthfeel is on the light end of medium and slightly oily.  You feel like it’s really coating your tongue.

 

Is it the beer I’d want to see out the planet earth and my own existence with?  Not quite.  It could do with a slightly less bitter finish (at times there was a chalkiness to it which I’m not a huge fan of).  But that is a very minor quibble with this exceptional beer.  It mops the floor with 98% of this very fashionable beer sub-genre.

 

My apotheosis Imperial IPA would probably be Heady Topper or perhaps Lagunitas Sucks.  But this is a damn good beer.  A damn good beer.

 

It is bested by only a handful of other imperial IPA’s I’ve tried in my apparently soon-to-be-ending life, and that’s saying something.  Hats off to Stone.

 

Vitals:  9.4% ABV, poured at about 50F into a glass from the 22 oz bottle.

 

Taste:  A-  The care put into this beer is evident.  A few minor adjustments I’d make personally, but this is a special imperial IPA.  Well done, Stone.

 

Drinkability:   C+  It’s a big beer ABV-wise.  Best shared (as I’m sure you’ve heard us say many times on this blog), but you won’t mind doing so because there’s plenty to talk about with this one.

 

Packaging:  A  You pretty much know what to expect from Stone; they have their brand and they’re sticking to it.  The Gargoyle makes his appearance, and as usual, they ace the written portion of the label test.  In the world of craft-beer label text, I’d say 1 and 1A are Stone and Lagunitas.  Stone is long-form (almost to a fault) and Lagunitas is short-form with a sense of humor I love.  Stone :  blogs :: Lagunitas : Twitter if that makes sense.

 

Value:  Something supremely limited (until/if the Mayans are proven wrong) like this is hard to put a value on.  I’ll give it an A- because this is a good beer, and I need to make a few extra deposits in the karma bank just in case we are indeed slouching towards Ragnarök.

 

On a final note, I applaud Stone for making the effort to keep freshness a priority (a concept Sam Adams pioneered, but Stone has taken to a whole new level, giving their beer a few short weeks of shelf life).  I’m sure you could enjoy Enjoy By beyond the date associated with each batch, but it’s the principal of what they’re doing that I applaud.  This can’t be easy for a brewery with national distribution.

 

Have you tried Enjoy By?  If so, let us know the date and batch.  3 weeks on, it’s definitely not as bright and fresh as a few days after release.

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Stone Brewing’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

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In the fall of 2007 I discovered a great local beer store called Julio’s Liquors. I hadn’t even dipped my toe into the craft beer world at the time, so Julio’s had more varieties of beer than I’d ever seen in my life. I found myself in the “big bottle” aisle where a certain label caught my attention. The name of the beer was Arrogant Bastard, and with my dad scheduled to visit soon I figured I should pick up a bottle if only to share a laugh over the name. 

Flash forward to my parents’ visit. My dad & I were downstairs watching a college football game when I pulled out the bottle and asked if he wanted to try it. He was game, so I opened it up. I remember noticing how dark the beer looked, but it was a dark copper color. Definitely nothing like the darkness of a stout. Dad & I took a sip at about the same time, and our immediate reaction was in stereo: “WHOA”. I didn’t have much basis for comparison at the time, but my immediate reaction was that this beer tasted like an extremely concentrated (and infinitely more delicious) version of Harpoon IPA. Obviously the similar flavor I was tasting was the hops, but I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was I loved this beer and I wanted to drink more of it. I’ll always look back on that experience as the night I became a Hop Head.

Ever since then I’ve stuck with Stone as my favorite brewery. My only issue with the Arrogant Bastard was that it’s such a commitment to open the bottle. Given the alcohol content, it’s definitely a weekend beer. You can imagine how pleased I was to be crusing the Julio’s beer aisle one day and stumble upon Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. It’s the same delicous, hoppy Arrogant Bastard with a hint of oak flavor coming through on the palate, and it comes in a 12-ounce bottle! Perfect for a week night, and it’s backed by the same malt base I crave to compliment the hops. Pair it with some salty crackers and pepper jack cheese and you’ll be in for a treat!

Oaked Arrogant Bastard is an American Strong Ale that checks in at 7.20% ABV. 

Drinkability: A

Taste: A

 

 

 

I’m a (Stone) Lukcy Basartd

You might wonder why you haven’t seen any new posts from me lately. I’m not going to lie: it’s been a rough week for me. After Sunday’s horrific Patriots loss, I figured I’d be able to turn my attention to the Celtics and enjoy some fine craft beer to drown my sorrows this week. WRONG. Monday night slammed me with the stomach flu, and I’ve been in recovery mode pretty much ever since.

But as I look back at this week, I realize it wasn’t a total loss. My good buddy and fellow CraftBeerSocial contributor @MattUD sent me a bottle of his amazing Chocolate Milk Stout (review to come on that very soon!); my co-workers supported me without question when I had to spend most of the middle of the week in bed recovering; my amazing wife Katie was there for me the entire way, easily handling all the kid & household duties when I couldn’t lift much more than a finger to swipe on my iPhone screen; and I got to spend tonight watching the Celtics and taking goofy photos with my 2 amazing daughters. Granted I hit a rough patch on Monday, but overall things really couldn’t be better.

So tonight I’m going to raise a glass to another great thing I have going in my life: CraftBeerSocial.com and the contributors I’ve come to know and call my friends. And I can’t think of a better beer to drink on this occasion than my current favorite, Stone Lukcy Basartd. It’s hoppy as hell, it’s got a tremendous malt backbone, and drinking it makes feel happy to be alive. I truly am a lucky guy. Cheers!

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Epic Chocolate Thunder

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Wow. The label of Stone’s 09 Vertical Epic Ale reads in part, “This is quite a complex and layered beer.”. No kidding. Chocolate, banana, malt, spices and vanilla are all in evidence. They also claim citrus should be present, but I’m not picking that up.

Overall a great beer for sharing on a cold winter’s night. Highly recommended.