It wasn’t really an Oscar-night thing, but Beau brought over some Stone Brewing Company IPA and some Deschutes Brewing Company Hop Henge IPA round about the third quarter of the big show. Can’t fault him though, he’s a volunteer for Big Brothers & Sisters of Missoula, and he spent most of Sunday afternoon hanging out with his little brother.
While Jeff Bridges was thanking his mom and dad for raising him in the “business” and cradling his gold statue, Beau and I sniffed the two big West Coast IPAs to see which one had the bigger nose. By color, the Hop Henge had a bit of a burnt caramel edge over the ripe barley color of the Stone IPA. But in smell, the Stone held a bit of an advantage with a wonderful aroma of fruity and flowery hops. I’m guessing they achieve this by the two weeks of dry hopping the beer is said to go through.
But in the glass and on the tongue, the Hop Henge comes out a bit ahead of the Stone IPA. The body is bigger and able to handle the 8.75 percent ABV like a linebacker carries his weight. The rich burnt caramel color translates to malty sweetness that plays cloyingly with the massive amount of cascade and centennial hops. My personal feeling is that the Hop Henge is probably in a different category. Perhaps it should be compared to a Stone Brewing Company Ruination IPA instead. On it’s own though, the Hop Henge is an outstanding achievement in the big IPA category. Despite using the cascade/centennial combo, it’s a very balanced beer with some exciting citrus and ground fruits on the tongue. Particularly strawberry and maybe some pineapple with a bit of summer herb garden, though I couldn’t pin it down to one particular herb.
The Stone IPA is a slightly lesser beer, but it just might be put together better. The nose blows off straight flowers and citrus with what I swear was a breeze from Northern California’s eucalyptus forests. There is a breadyness on the tongue that is decidedly absent in the Hop Henge. But the balance is where this beer scores its points. Traditional citrus and pine sit atop a balanced body like a multi-discipline athlete. Some beers are built like long-distance runners. They are built for the long haul, but they are skinny to a fault. Other beers rest on a comfortable, well-trained frame.
In the end, the Hop Henge weighs in a little stronger and with a little more reach than the Stone, but this match might just be unevenly weighted. Who knows though, another person might decide that the Stone had more than enough to stand up to the big Hop Henge.