New Brew: Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

2 Jul

Another IPA from Stone Brewing? Not exactly Breaking News.  Long-standing standard-bearers of the West Coast-style pale ale, the thought of another amped-up IPA as a special release doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re great at what they do and their IPA and Ruination are textbook examples of their styles, but when you see a special anniversary release, you expect something a little unique.  Stone’s 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA takes a page out of the Redcoats’ playbook and puts a decidedly British spin on a Stone classic.  The results?  A supremely big, exquisitely balanced beer that celebrates with style, 14 years of boundary-pushing, palate-crushing, quintessentially American brewing.

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

Style: British-style Imperial/Double IPA

Vitals: 8.9% abv; Brewed with all British ingredients including white malt and Target, East Kent Goldings, and Boadicea hops; ~$6.99 at Barriques Wine and Spirits

Company line:

We went to England this past spring as self-styled “IPA Hunters” on a mission to learn more about the confusing and often contradictory history of India Pale Ale – to look for some certainty where those before us have found mostly mystery and mercantilism. While our success in this pursuit is open to debate, there can be no question that we returned home inspired by the ghosts of Burton and by the experience of poring over 150-year old brewer’s logs handwritten in (India?) ink. Stone Brewing Co., after all, traces its lineage back to the British Empire’s brewing history: we make ales, and all of our original offerings used traditional British styles as a jumping-off point. If this seems a roundabout way of letting you know that, yes, we are in fact brewing another IPA to mark our Anniversary, well, so be it.

This one however, promises to be different! From the imported white malt to the “Burtonised” water to the rare yeast strain to the most pungent hops Kent has to offer, we used all British ingredients to brew our “Emperial” IPA.* While we may have brewed Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA with our own distinctively modern, San Diego-style touch, what good is history if you can’t rewrite it to suit your tastes?

In this case, our tastes called for highly intemperate quantities of Target, East Kent Goldings, and Boadicea hops, bestowing upon this dry-bodied ale a powerfully spicy, earthy aroma. On the palate, peppery hops assert themselves early and often, with malt sweetness making a brief appearance before being beaten back by a long, complex, and decisively bitter finish. What better way to contemplate the fate of empires past, present, and future?

My take: pours a striking goldenrod in the glass under ample white foam.  Aroma is intensely herbal with notes of bitter lemon, pepper, and sweet malt.  Cracked pepper and herbal, resinous hops slam the forepalate, with lightly sweet, slightly biscuity malt carrying through to grassy, bitter citrus peel finish.  Body is light and drinkability high for the strength.

This is certainly a different take on an imperial IPA for Stone.  Torch-bearers for the Southern California School of juicy, dank, super-hopped pale ales with amped up, sticky sweet malt backbones.  While no-less Super-sized on the hops front, the Emperial retains the grassy, herbal bitterness and dry, biscuity malt profile of more traditional British IPAs and the result is intriguing.  Much like our representatives on the football pitch, Stone has managed to play the strengths of the English and American camps to a perfect draw.  Extreme-minded American palates might be yearning for more punishment, but a little bit of balance goes a long way with this commemorative brew.

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