Here’s a short video showing a couple of Stone Brewing Company head honchos as they rebuild the amazing IPA as it would have been during the waning years of the British Empire. They imported British white malt and are using East Kent Goldings, an original IPA hop, along with some other new and interesting hops that they talk about in this short clip. All in all, I think this is an interesting idea, while the brewers are remaining true to the vision and adding their own quirky additions to what should be an amazing craft beer in Stone’s 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.
A friend recently told me he enjoyed an Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Company for the first time recently. He described it as very tasty with some sweet, malty overtones. Which is exactly how I’d describe it. But a review recently pointed out that Arrogant Bastard seems to have changed a bit from the brew it was a few years ago. I’ve never had it at the source, which is to say I’ve never had it fresh from the brewery, which is when beer is best. You remember the born on date campaign Budweiser was running on their cans? Sort of the same idea with craft beer. It’s a live product, which responds negatively to many environmental issues, not the least of which are jostling, light, storage temps, oxygen and a host of other issues.
If you go back in time many hundreds of years to when the British Empire was seeking to subdue the Indian sub continent for its rich trade in spices and textiles, it needed soldiers. And to keep soldiers happy in the hot and humid environment that is India, they needed beer. The empire had plenty of breweries back in England, but beer shipped around the horn of Africa reportedly tasted terrible to the soldiers and did nothing for moral. So it was decided to add more hops, which act as a preserver and higher alcohol content, which also tends to preserve beer, and ship this new product to the soldiers in India. Upon arrival, it was not the fresh, highly potent beer it was when left, but it was a mellow and drinkable beer that greatly improved the moral of the hot and miserable soldiers. (paraphrased of course)
My point is that as craft breweries grow and to sell their beer into other markets, they must change recipes to insure the beer still tastes good when it’s brewed in California and ends up in Florida. From my experience, nothing will ever taste as good and fresh as local beer, but it’s nice to be able to get that variety from out of state and still taste something authentic. But where is the line between what is served fresh at the brewery and what is decidedly different in a can or bottle on the other side of the country?
I’ve heard many reports that Brewdog, Scotland’s rogue craft brewery, has excellent beer when tasted at the source, but which is relatively travel worn by the time it reaches American shores. I think many of their bottled products taste amazing, at least the ones I can get in Missoula, but it makes me wonder if they taste much different at the source.
My question to you is, do you prefer your beer local and fresh, or are you good with a slightly different interpretation in a bottle or can designed to ship well?
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.
The fact that this brewery has the time to collaborate on so many other breweries is awesome, but one little thing at the end of the announcement caught my attention. “Remember, an essential part of collaboration is sharing, so feel free to bring a homebrew or two to share with everyone and we’ll waive the corkage fees!”
There are days when I wish I lived in Southern California and days that I’m glad I do not. This is one of the days I wish I lived in Southern California or that I could at least visit.
Stone’s collaboration efforts remind me of what craft beer is all about. Yes, they are making money hand over fist, but they also believe in the bigger picture, which is that craft beer is a conversation, it’s so far beyond just the beer. This is what the Big Three forgot or never figured out in the first place.
You can sell a lot of people a lot of beer, but if they don’t have a connection with the beer, it will be easily put aside for another brand.
Stone is a big brewery doing big things, but it’s the little things by which it will be remembered today and into the future.
Enjoy the latest installment of Stone Brewing Company’s Stone Skips Across the Pond series.