There was a time not so long ago when barrel-aged beers were just starting to trickle out of American craft breweries. At the time, some speculated they might just be a passing fancy. Those naysayers are probably still waiting out similar fads like television and the internet, but we, like many beer enthusiasts, have embraced oak-matured ale as something that is here to stay (thank goodness). For most breweries, barrel-aging involves siphoning an imperial stout or barley wine into a barrel. This is a straightforward method that yields fantastic results (as evidenced by our own barrel-aged creations, such as Fyodor’s Classic, Mikhael’s Odd and Guardian’s Slumber), but when contemplating our latest oak-kissed brew, we wanted to take things a step further to create something truly unique. No, not “unique” in the over-used sense of the word that generifies this definitive term. This beer—a hoppy, decidedly West Coast double IPA blended with a barrel-aged Belgian-style tripel—is truly and literally unique. Allow us to explain as we take you through the intriguing make-up of Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA.
You might have heard we released 120 beers last year. Within that 120 were our core beers, dated editions of Stone Enjoy By IPA, collaborations, Liberty Station beers, Stochasticity Project experiments and a multitude of others. Even we had trouble keeping up with this onslaught of ales, so confusion among our fans is understandable. But there’s always a rhyme and reason to our madness. With multiple naming conventions (and design conventions failing that), our releases all have their rightful place in our family of beers. Below, we’ll break it down for you, bottle by bottle, and demystify our portfolio.
India pale ales are our bread-and-butter here at Stone. We love them as much as you do. Similarly, we get an immeasurable amount of satisfaction out of experimenting with new hop combinations to create IPAs with flavor profiles that vary from what we’ve thus far experienced. The arrival of Stone Delicious IPA provides a tangible example of why continual IPA and hop exploration are so fulfilling. With the new Lemondrop varietal as a centerpiece and a massive dry-hop comprised exclusively of lemony El Dorado hops from Washington State, this beer lives up to its name behind a plethora of tart, citrusy notes and a stunning grove-like, lemon tree bouquet, providing a graceful yet in no way subtle one-two punch to the senses. Our newest IPA is unique to our stable of beers in every way…including the fact it just so happens to be our first gluten-reduced offering.
We pride ourselves on being unpredictable, but we’re able to be honest with ourselves and say that, when it comes to our annual anniversary beer releases, fans know what to expect—something extremely hoppy! And most years, that means an over-the-top India pale ale. Ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs, including the past four consecutive years. So, it should come as no surprise that this year, our milestone-celebrating beer is another IPA. But, much as we’ve refused to be completely predictable with our anniversary IPAs (the past four years have featured an imperial British-style IPA, double black IPA, lemon verbena-infused imperial rye IPA, and 100% German-hopped double IPA), 2014’s commemorative hop monster is extremely original. In fact, we’re billing Stone 18th Anniversary IPA as the “hoppiest golden-brown IPA on Earth!” (Yes, that’s our subtle brand of sarcasm you’re picking up there!)
We can see the headlines now: Stone makes another IPA! The world is shocked at such a divergence from a company that hardly ever explores hoppy beer styles. Yes, that’s sarcasm! Obviously, no one will be shocked to discover we’re making yet another aggressive IPA. We’ve never tried to hide our lust for hops. Heck, we freely fly our hophead flag. But we’re sure the question will arise. Stone has already made a bunch of IPAs, so why make another. Isn’t the already lupulin-obsessed market saturated with hoppy beers? And who says the world needs another IPA, anyway? We do!
We, like many hopheads, are immensely bullish on the incredible flavor and intense citrusy, bitter impact provided by our ultra-fresh Stone Enjoy By IPA. But believe it or not, for us, it isn’t just about the beer. Yes, given the massive outpouring of affection for this West Coast double IPA, that last statement sounds kind of odd, but it’s true. Stone Enjoy By IPA was forged with greater intentions than mere satiation. It was designed to convey the importance, nay, the necessity of drinking hoppy beer when it’s fresh. We overtly stamp each batch with a 35-day Enjoy By date, and when that day comes up on the calendar, this beer should be out of your fridge and off retailers’ shelves. Drinking it beyond the date printed on that evergreen bottle simply won’t provide the same, vivid experience. But we went far beyond the bottle, communicating the facts on freshness via our Stone Enjoy By IPA website and our social media channels. It was a worthwhile endeavor, and much of that was thanks to you. Through social conversations online and over pints of this beer, many who had no idea how important beer freshness was have been converted, thus improving their quality of life and craft beer enjoyment forever. For those of you who helped increase the reach of that lesson, we thank you and are excited to share the steps we’ve taken to further broaden the reach of this important message and share in the many splendors of Stone Enjoy By IPA.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the company that produced an unapologetic beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale sees no reason to defend its own self-assured state of mind. We’ve been bullish on the notion of bold, flavorful, artisanally produced beers long before many caught on and began to flock like moths with particularly good taste to an insanely bright and attractive flame. Thanks to our naturally inquisitive and adventurous style of brewing—big hops, big flavor, big wood, etc.—we’ve been ahead of the curve at nearly every turn in the dramatic American craft brewing revolution. So, we’re justified in being pretty pleased with ourselves and our innovative brewed creations. Hence the moniker of our black India pale ale, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.
We’ll be the first to agree that brewing is an art, but as anyone who’s ever tried to scale up a recipe or dial in ABV for consistency knows, it’s also a science. As exemplified by the consistency of our beers, our brewers have the smarts to turn out well-engineered ales. That said, whenever we can, we like to keep the math as simple as possible. Take, for instance, one of our most popular beers, Stone Ruination IPA. That hop-heavy double India pale ale is a result of a basic mathematical equation—one-times-two—and proof that sometimes in life, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. When in doubt, just max it out!
While we hold true to time-honored traditional brewing processes, we’re anything but conformists. Ours is a brewery where, rather than blindly adhering to methods and styles simply because “that’s the way it’s been done for hundreds of years,” we make a practice of regularly taking a step back, clearing our minds of all we know and contemplating simple but essential queries like “why not?” and “what if?” Our beers are founded on the logic gained from centuries’ worth of brewmasters who mashed in ahead of us, but their true flavor and character is a result of our inquisitive, experimental nature. A poignant example of this is presented in our Belgian-style India pale ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA.
When Stone co-founder and original brewmaster Steve Wagner crafted our initial batch of Stone IPA, little could he have known that that highly hopped first attempt at amplifying a British classic would become so popular and, for many beer drinkers, an India pale ale by which all future New World interpretations of the style would be judged. For many, Wagner’s bright, potent creation was their first IPA. (Was it yours? If so, let us know on social media using #StoneIPA)