Stone Brewing Co. “16th Anniversary Ale”

November 27, 2012

Stone Brewing in San Diego, CA just celebrated sixteen years in business and, wouldn’t you know it, created a special beer for the occasion. One of the many so-called West Coast style of breweries that make big, hoppy beer, Stone rolled out a 10% alcohol by volume double IPA accented with lemon verbena and lemon oil. This hop beast should be the equivalent of sticking one’s tongue in an electrical outlet, but instead it’s restrained, balanced and elegant. The reason being might have something to do with its age.

Sometimes down here at the bottom of these United States it takes a little longer for shipments to reach us from clear across the country. Even though it only takes a few days to drive that far, there are still weigh stations and distribution hubs holding up the quicker expedition us antsy ale fanatics wish existed. Then there’s the distribution to local companies who check for allocations to sell to bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

Bottom line is that when it’s all said and done, a beer released in late August might not hit the shelves until… what day is today? Now, this could be a serious problem in terms of freshness and proper portrayal of the brewmaster’s efforts. The oils in hops begin to “turn” after 3-4 months changing what was once something bright and vibrant into dull, cloudy old pineapple juice.

Luckily the voodoo economics of beer travel and lack of open space on my tap wall haven’t ruined this truly exceptional beer from Stone. I think we got this one just in time. Yes, I would’ve loved to have tried this in mid-September, but I also think that it’s mellowed into something that allows every ingredient to shine with equal representation.

Stone dry-hopped their anniversary ale using Amarillo hops for tropical fruit notes and Calypso for its earthy, tea and apple notes. The addition of lemon verbena pairs very well with the ingredients, each one enhancing the others. Light amber in color with a great creamy head, 16th is loaded with lemon, peach, mint, mango and tea scents. We get even more of the above all across the palate with Germanic malts providing a nice sweet balance to the bitter. That bitterness has been tempered by its age which allows those subtle scents and flavors to take more of a central role than they usually do in IPA.

Don’t be fashionably late to the party like I almost was. This is a one-time only release and will be gone soon.