This is meant to be a guide for the beers worth picking up in the store. To maximize the value I try to buy beers in six packs or greater. The beers here are some of my favorite IPAs that I find myself returning to when I see them fresh.
Modern Times Fortunate Islands
This is one of my favorite sessions on the market. Low alcohol under 5% yet plenty of great citrus hop flavor. This is a wheat beer with a bunch of hops added to bring it similar in taste to a session IPA. The beer is sold only in a four pack of pint cans. I didn’t notice the enjoy by dates at first on here but they are printed on a sticker on the part holding together the cans.
Stone Go to IPA
This is also a great session though a bit more bitter than Fortunate Islands. This also has plenty of citrus flavors though this one tastes much closer to a traditional IPA. Stone provides clear enjoy by dates so make sure you get this one fresh. Leave yourself a month before the date if you buy a bunch of other beers so you drink it in time.
Saint Archer Blonde
I don’t usually buy much outside my level but the Saint Archer Blonde is a delicious brew full of flavor yet nice and light. I prefer this to the pale ale from Ballast Point within the same style. This one is now available in either bottles or cans depending on what you are using it for. I tend to go for cans.
Green Flash West Coast IPA
The latest batch of West Coast is a strong 8% IPA that knocks you out pretty fast. Plenty of hop flavors dominate over the malts and make this a staple in my purchasing for now. This is sold in four packs of 12 ounce bottles and is just at the top of the range for regular enjoyment.
Modern Times Blazing World
This is a deliciously dark IPA style presented as a hoppy amber. Plenty of grapefruit in the hops comes through with the pine to dominate the flavor. This is also available in a four pack of pint cans. I didn’t notice the enjoy by dates at first on here but they are printed on a sticker on the part holding together the cans.
A staple in the industry where IPAs are concerned I recently gave this another try since paying more attention to the enjoy by dates. Great light color beer with plenty of kick. Like the Go To IPA make sure you enjoy this one fresh.
New Belgium Rampant Double IPA
Though a double IPA, this one is sold in six packs for a great price. Some delicious tropical fruit flavors dominate Rampant. If this is too much for you, the Ranger IPA is also quite good from New Belgium.
I purposefully kept this list short to avoid getting too long. What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!
The word stochasticity sounds like something my dad would make up. It turns out it actually has a scientific meaning, one that Stone decided to use to explain a new series of experimental beers. If I am understanding the explanation on Wikipedia, something that is stochastic is so random that you can only predict what is next using probability. Stone calls this series an “unpredictable series of beers, where exotic notions, ingredients, and ideas coalesce.”
To start this series of unpredictable beers we are given Grapefruit Slam. Hop heads should be well familiar with the grapefruit flavors that come from some of the most common hops used in San Diego IPAs. A number of delicious IPAs put grapefruit flavors at the forefront of the hop profile. To give a truly knock-down strong grapefruit flavor to this beer, Stone added grapefruit peel to the final beer. This gives it a flavor unlike anything you’ve had before.
At 8.2%, this beer was already pretty bitter before any grapefruit was added. The addition of grapefruit gives it a powerful punch and a sneaky aftertaste that will excite most hop-heads. Though I don’t particularly care for fresh grapefruit, thankfully this doesn’t get as insane as some Japanese and Filipino beers that I reviewed earlier. It is still a San Diego Double IPA at heart and should satisfy Stone fans who stumble upon it when searching for the latest version of Enjoy By. I happened to buy a few bottles of this beer when I realized I couldn’t find any Enjoy By 4.20.14.
I’ve been saying for a while that we need a good Session IPA in six packs. Stone Go To IPA hits all the right notes and was released just as the Session IPA demand has gotten fairly large.
I’ve been hooked on Modern Times Fortunate Islands because it was available in four packs of 16oz cans. Then Lagunitas recently released their Session IPA.
Unlike a few other Session IPA beers, Stone Go to IPA is not a good introduction for the IPA hater. Through a technique they call hop-bursting, which sounds like double-dry-hopping on steroids, they cram as much hop flavor into the beer as they possibly can. In true Stone fashion, this is not a beer for everyone. It is more heavy on the citrus hops than the Lagunitas variety, which makes it more my style. Still there is something refreshing about the Fortunate Islands because it only uses a few varieties of hops.
I haven’t yet compared it side by side with the Fortunate Islands but I can see myself returning to this much more than the ordinary Stone IPA or Pale Ale, both of which I consider to be a bit too malty for my tastes. If you haven’t yet gotten over the insanely strong double IPAs you will consider this a sissy 4.5% that should be reserved for the weak. It will be here when you get that craving for IPA at 1PM on a Sunday and don’t want to be weighed down by a 7% IPA.
Stone’s Enjoy By Double IPA is a great way to educate the general public about the importance of freshness when it comes to IPA. A good IPA will last for about 2-3 months before it becomes skunky. It can be so significant that a beer that was really well done at first is hard to enjoy six months down the road. With the Enjoy By series from Stone, Stone gets the beer out to stores within a week of brewing so that you know it is going to be fresh while you drink it before the enjoy date.
Rich grapefruit and citrus flavors from the hops come through good and strong. This beer is light on the malts compared to the ordinary Stone IPA that I find a little too strong on the malts. The delicious flavors are made even better because you know it is going to be fresh when you drink it. I buy this over other similar beers because I don’t always know how fresh my IPAs are. Hopefully this will get other breweries to start posting enjoy by dates on the bottles. Freshness is so important that I love to buy IPAs from smaller breweries that don’t last long enough to become bad.
If you love hops you probably already wait with baited breath for the next batch of Enjoy By. If you haven’t tried this beer yet, you will find it to be a delicious adventure in hops.
Tomorrow (December 20, 2013) I will be getting married to a man. My husband was a bit slow to come around to enjoying craft beer but now enjoys a good stout and porter. If it had been up to me, the reception would be just beer, but he and others convinced me to have some snacking food. Though my selections aren’t perfect I had to keep in mind the varying tastes of my guests because not all of them love the bitter sting of an IPA. So I thought I’d share with everyone the beers I chose for the wedding.
San Diego beer drinkers will recognize that most of the beer here is from San Diego breweries. First off, two ballast point brewer’s selections. These multi-packs first became available this year and help satisfy guests who like a good pale ale and amber while including one of San Diego’s top IPAs, the Sculpin. Big Eye IPA is also solid and rounds out the pack. From Stone, another San Diego Brewery, I have six 22oz bottles of the 2013 Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter. This is for my husband and anyone else who prefers a good porter. Those same people might also appreciate the Full Suit Belgian Brown from Karl Strauss, one of the bigger San Diego breweries. Also from Karl Strauss is their Tower 10 IPA, a favorite of mine that looks like it was freshly released. To top it all off, I have two (though only one pictured here) of the delightful New Belgium Folly Pack 2013 (as I reviewed in my earlier post). This set is nice because it has some lighter seasonal brews and some IPA and even a Double IPA (the strongest beer of the night).
This gives us a total of 108 12oz bottles of beer and 6 22oz bottles of beer. Assuming 30 out of our 40 guests drink beer, that is about 3 or 4 drinks per person.
[NOTE: I purposefully did not get a bunch of Green Bullet or other beers over 9% because I want to be able to enjoy myself without going overboard. I also purposefully did not buy a bunch of growlers or a keg. It is better to have a variety than to assume that everyone will love my favorite IPA.
If you happen to notice that the boxes are empty, you are correct. The beers are all chilling in the fridge so I don’t have to put them on ice.]
If you love both hoppy beers and dark beers you might find that most dark beers are too sweet, or not bitter enough. Sublimely Self Righteous is the cure to that, giving bitter chocolate flavors you might recognize from a porter and mixing in the hop flavors that hop addicts love. To see if those who hate IPAs and exclusively drink porters and stouts think, I gave my fiance a taste. He pursed his lips and said “too hoppy” so don’t expect to share this with the less enlightened among you.
In some ways, it is the darker version of the Alesmith Winter Yulesmith. Where the Winter Yulesmith has malts, this has chocolate, but both are perfectly balanced with the hop flavors. At 8.7% you might be able to finish a bottle on your own, though I don’t know if I can say the same thing about the Double Bastard. Make sure you get a bottle of this while this year’s batch is fresh, before the end of November and into the first half of December it should be the best.
[As a fun side note, my brother thought this tasted more like beef jerky. He didn’t like it much either]
I’ve had this bottle aging for almost a year in my wine fridge. It really comes through in the plum flavors behind the spice. Much nicer than I remember it being the last time. Remember you can usually age these specialty beers for a year or two. It tends to mature the flavor.
Somehow I didn’t notice Double Bastard until the 2012 batch was released. Of the specialty beers released by Stone Brewing, I found Double Bastard to be one of my favorites. This year Stone is going for the gold with multiple different versions of Double Bastard. Beerpulse reports that we should see two spicy versions and a barrel aged version along with a new batch of Double Bastard. It is unclear what peppers will be used in these beers but the article claims one is ultra-hot and another is even hotter. Will we finally have a widely available beer that will satisfy fans of strong beer and fans of spicy?
EDIT Nov 4, 2013: Through the official press release from Stone, we finally have an idea of what sorts of peppers were used in the making of this beer. The list of scorching edibles includes red and green jalapeño, Fatali, Caribbean Red Hot, habanero, Ghost, Black Naga, Super, Moruga Scorpion, 7 Pot, Aji Amarillo, Scorpion, Giant White Habanero, 7 Pot Douglah and Douglah peppers. To put this into perspective, consider that to the average person some of the hottest Jalapenos can be considered spicy. To the burgeoning pepper addicts, habaneros are pretty hot. Ghost peppers used to be considered the hottest peppers in the world until people discovered the Moruga and the Naga. These are some seriously insane peppers and will mean that the average person will not want to try this beer if they are not interested in a mouth of fire. More for me!
Stone recently posted this image on their facebook to get everyone excited about the upcoming release of Double Bastard. It looks like they should be in stores next week (November 4). Did you try any previous versions of Double Bastard? Are you a fan of this crazy beer?
You can count on stone to release specialty beers every few weeks (if not in reality it sometimes seems that way). No I am not complaining. When I saw the Suede Imperial Porter brewed with Calendula Flowers, Lavender, and Honey I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. Hey I love floral IPAs as much as the next guy but lavender in my beer? Not sure if serious.
So how was the beer? It has the usual texture of a high alcohol porter. The flowers aren’t as heavy in the flavor as I might have worried. The tastes are overall balanced and will satisfy fans of porters. It lacks the chocolate, coffee or vanilla flavors typically used in this style. As a result it might also appeal to people who usually find porters too sweet. The alcohol content really hides well in this one. It is easy to forget it is a whopping 9.6%.
Though I was impressed by the flavor overall, it isn’t something I’m going to rush out to buy another bottle of, especially with the new batch of Victory at Sea coming out this week from Ballast Point. Still, for those of you who were wondering if it is worth the money to buy a bottle, I say yes. I prefer Stone’s latest batch of Russian Imperial Stout though because of the coffee, especially in the Espresso version. I’m waiting patiently to try all the different varieties of Double Bastard that we should see pretty soon.
I feel it is only fitting to start this blog with a post about Stone. Not only were they the brewery that introduced me to the IPA but they are also one of San Diego’s biggest breweries. Though I don’t drink Stone IPA very much I still enjoy many of their specialty beers, including the Enjoy By IPA, Anniversary beers, and Double Bastard. Recently I got a chance to check out Stone’s new brewery/restaurant at Liberty Station and found it to be quite nice.
Nothing beats fresh IPA on tap and so I had to have a glass of the Enjoy By IPA while I was there.
I didn’t get a chance to try the food while I was there but they have a full menu just like the original location in Escondido. At the main bar they have beers from many different breweries so that even if you aren’t a fan of what Stone brews, you may find something to enjoy.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. What is your favorite Stone beer?