I guess it is officially winter in Boston, even though it hit 70 on Christmas Eve I now see snow on the ground when I look out the window and I pulled my winter boots out of the closet for the first time today. The one positive to the long and cold winter is that the weather is perfect for dark and malty beers, especially porters and stouts. I love stouts and porters, but modern brewers have a tendency to overdo it a little as they push these styles to the extreme. It seems like every new stout is high ABV, aged in liquor barrels and infused with crazy adjunct ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well crafted bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout, but I need to mix in lower alcohol beers that won’t immediately put me under the table. Shockingly, a good example is Coffee Milk Stout from Stone Brewing Company, not a brewery that you usually equate with restraint. Stone Coffee Milk Stout is a English style milk stout, so it contains lactose, a non-fermentable sugar that adds some residual sweetness, along with coffee from Ryan Bros. in San Diego. It is available in the late fall/winter on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Stone Coffee Milk Stout pours pitch black with a minimal tan head. The scent is a mixture of roasted malts and coffee. The flavor is malt forward, notes of dark chocolate, caramel and toasted bread. The coffee is well represented but not overwhelming, and the lactose sweetness adds balance to the bitterness from the coffee and noticeable hops. The beer is medium bodied and drinks easy, at 5.0% ABV this is a session beer by some definitions. The finish is clean with some lingering roasted barley and coffee flavor. Stone Coffee Milk Stout is well done and surprisingly restrained. This demonstrates that you can make full flavored stouts with moderate to low alcohol, I would love to see more of these on the market. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Stone Reviews:
Stone/Victory/Dogfish Head Saison Du BUFF, Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, Stone Enjoy By IPA, Stone Go To IPA
I have made it pretty well know in this space that I love collaboration beers, it’s fun to see what happens when two or more talented brewers share their skills and ideas. I also think it is a great way for the brewers themselves to hone their craft, even the best brewer in the worldcan still learn new tricks and perspectives. The one downfall to collaboration beers (aside from the fact that most are one-off recipes, which sucks if the product is amazing), is that expectations can be sky high. It is easy to fall into the trap of “Brewery A is amazing and Brewery B is amazing so their collaboration beer must be twice as amazing!” Many of the best beers in the world took years of experimentation and fine tuning to achieve perfection, so it’s unlikely that a one-time experiment is going to find that level. Regardless, if I see a collaboration beer involving multiple brewers that I have enjoyed in the past there is a good chance that I’ll be sampling it. Recently I noticed a new saison brewed by three well respected leaders in the beer community, Victory, Stone and Dogfish Head. Apparently the idea for this beer was hatched in 2003 at a retail sampling in Boston, and a version was finally brewed and released this year. The beer is named Saison Du BUFF, where “BUFF” is an acronym for Brewers United for the Freedom of Flavor. Saison Du BUFF is brewed with fresh parsley, lemon thyme, sage and rosemary along with Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops. It is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles for a limited time.
Victory/Stone/Dogfish Head Saison Du Buff pours a clear copper with a minimal white head. The scent is mostly from the Belgian style yeast, spicy and a little fruity. The yeast also leads the flavor, touches of pepper, apricot and coriander. The adjunct spices are present but subdued, I taste the thyme and rosemary but it’s very subtle. The beer has a solid malt body, notes of biscuit and crackers along with some citrusy and earthy hops that also crisp up the finish. Saison Du Buff is light and easy to drink, but packs a little punch at 6.8% ABV. In all this is a solid saison, complex but drinkable. I guess I am also guilty of unreasonable expectations when I see the heavy hitters listed on the label, but I enjoyed the beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Victory Reviews: Victory Moving Parts IPA #3, Victory Swing Saison, Victory Hop Ranch
Previous Stone Reviews: Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, Stone Enjoy By IPA, Stone Go To IPA
Previous Dogfish Head Reviews: Dogfish Head Sixty-One, Dogfish Head Burton Baton
Many craft beer enthusiasts have a tendency to hyper-focus on what is new and with so many new beer releases it is easy to try entirely new brews every time you grab a beer. I can be guilty of this on occasion, sometimes I need to remind myself to mix in a few old favorites. This presents a challenge for bigger craft breweries that already have a large number of beers in regular rotation. As these breweries introduce new beers should they also retire some of their older/less popular brews? Stone Brewing Company recently announced that they were retiring a few of their year round offerings including their amber ale Levitation and their black IPA Sublimely Self-Righteous. While these beers were popular with some drinkers, their sales didn’t justify continuing year-round distribution. I thought it would be appropriate to drink and review Sublimely Self-Righteous before it becomes much harder to find. Stone first brewed this black IPA to celebrate their 11th anniversary in 2007 and it became part of their regular rotation in 2009. The last bottling will be in April, so you have a few more months to try the beer before it is gone.
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous pours midnight black with a moderate tan head. The scent is very hop-forward, a mixture of floral, citrus and resin aromas. The taste is also extremely hoppy, notes of pine, cut grass and lemon. This is accompanied by aggressive bitterness, Stone tends to be in-your-face and this beer lives up to their reputation. The malts are present in the flavor, touches of unsweetened chocolate and strongly brewed coffee that complement the pungent and bitter hops. The beer is medium bodied but drinks like a heavier beer due to the full flavor and bitterness. It is also by no means a light beer weighing in at 8.7% ABV. Overall this is a solid version of a black IPA, a good beer but not my favorite from Stone. I can understand why they want to shelve this recipe in favor of some of their newer creations, but if you are a big fan of the style you should try this one before it’s gone. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Stone Reviews:
Stone Enjoy By IPA, Stone Go To IPA
I am kind of a planner – when it comes to writing this blog and really in all aspects of my life. I usually have a series of post in mind so when I go to the beer store I’m not just thinking about beers I’d like to try, but also the stories I want to tell in the resulting blog post. On my last trip I grabbed a bottle of Stone Brewing Companies Enjoy By 8.16.14 IPA with the idea of writing a whole post about how important fresh beer is, especially with hoppy beers, and what a great idea it was to place a drink by date boldly on the bottle. It was a solid idea for a blog post, and I could still do it, but I thought it would be a little disingenuous writing a post about Stone and not addressing the controversy generated by their announcement last week.
Stone announced that they are opening two new breweries, one on the East coast of the US and another in Germany. This makes sense, their business has grown and it will save on shipping while assuring the freshest possible beer to their customers. The issue many have was the crowd-funding campaign that Stone announced at the same time, hoping to raise one million dollars from their customers to help support their expansion. I won’t get into all of the details, for a full write-up please see THIS piece by Will Gordon of Deadspin (by the way, Will is one of the most entertaining beer writers around, follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain). My general thoughts on the subject; I don’t mind startup breweries crowdsourcing some of their funding, it helps spread the word and gets locals excited for an opening/expansion. I would prefer to support the brewery just by buying their beer, but to each his own. Having the tenth largest craft brewer in the US try to raise a million dollars this way is BS. It’s completely unnecessary and anyone who gave to that campaign is a sucker. If Stone needed more cash for this I assume a company that size can get a sizeable line of credit, and if they can’t they need to rethink how they run their business.
Onto the beer review: Stone Enjoy By 8.16.14 IPA pours a clear red-tinted copper with a very mild white head. The smell is dominated by hops, with strong pine and floral scents followed by touches of citrus fruit and earth. The alcohol is also evident on the nose, not strong but noticeable. The taste starts with another big hit of hops; resin, cut grass and lemon with a little tropical fruit. There is a bit of malt in the backbone, enough to provide some balance and a little caramel flavor, but this is clearly a hop-bomb style DIPA. Stone Enjoy By 8.16.14 weighs in at 9.4% ABV, and the booze is evident in the flavor, not overpowering at all but you can taste it a bit. Despite this, it drinks pretty easy for a high gravity beer, the bitterness is very present but not tongue-numbing. This beer is really good, one of the better DIPAs I’ve tasted. I might not agree with how Stone is handling this expansion, but it’s hard to argue the fact that they know how to brew some outstanding beer. Hoppy Boston Score: 4.75/5.
Previous Stone Reviews:
Stone Go To IPA
Any craft beer enthusiast has certain beers or breweries that changed the way they thought about and appreciated craft beer. Maybe it’s the beer that showed you there was a world of flavors outside of bland, mass-produced lagers. It can also be the beer that turned you on to a specific style. Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, CA was one of these breweries for me. Stone was the brewery that started my love for big and bold IPAs. I had tried IPAs before, but bold, hop-centric beers like Ruination led me to seek out every IPA I could get my hands on. Stone is well known as a brash, in-your-face brewer with big and aggressive flavors to complement their demonic imagery. This is why I was a little surprised to learn that Stone was releasing a sessionable IPA. Stone Go To IPA provides the big hop flavors of an IPA without the high alcohol content. It was released for the first time in March 2014, and is sold in 12 oz bottles and on draft.
Stone Go To IPA pours golden yellow with a solid and sustained white head. The smell is a huge burst of fruity hops, dominated by tropical and citrus fruit scents. The flavor is also dominated by the hops, with a full range of hop flavors. I get notes of grapefruit, guava, lemon, pine and freshly cut grass. There is a touch of malt in the backbone, but it is very mild. The mouthfeel is very light, but the beer is solidly bitter at 65 IBUs. At 4.5% ABV this qualifies as a session beer by most definitions, but there is no lack of flavor in Go To IPA. No surprise that a brewery like Stone can make a session beer that is still aggressively flavored and everything you love about IPAs. This will join my go-to list for summer BBQ’s. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.