Cue the Andy Williams even though it’s not Christmas yet. It is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year. The Emerald Coast Beer Fest is in just two days.
As I’ve reported in years past, the ECBF is one of my favorites due to the emphasis on home brewing. The Fest is their chance to demonstrate their prowess on the tried-and-true styles along with how far they can push the envelope by coming up with new combinations of ingredients.
As the event has grown to rather epic proportions over the last few years and the number of regional home brewers has swelled, so have the total number of beers to try. Last year, there were over 160 individual entries just from the various home brewing groups. If there were no crowds getting in my way and I still managed just an ounce of each one, that’s the equivalent of 13.333 beers in two and a half hour’s time! And don’t forget that there are some established commercial brewers bringing beer to the party as well.
The home brewers have the luxury of experimentation as they don’t have a strict business model to which they must adhere. If their project is a success or goes bust, it’s solely on their own dime. There are not many commercial craft breweries that have that same wiggle room.
Not many, but there are a few and I’m looking to one of their beers to get myself in the mood for this weekend. Stone Brewing is just such an establishment that has long dabbled in the new and unusual. Case in point, consider their new Unapologetic IPA.
This collaborative effort saw Stone join forces with Beachwood Brewing & BBQ out of Long Beach, CA and Heretic Brewing in Fairfield, CA. Yeah, yeah… yet another big IPA from Stone, big deal, right? Wrong. Stone excels in all things hoppy, so when they strive for something new they turn to experimental hops to tinker with.
Unapologetic IPA utilizes Belma hops from Puterbaugh Farms in the Yakima Valley of Washington for notes of strawberry and melon along with Azacca hops – named after the Haitian god of agriculture – for mango and stone fruits. Also employed are a couple of yet-unnamed hop varietals that add to the layers of pine, tropical and citrus fruits, earth and berries.
Beginning with a good dose of biscuit malt in the base, Unapologetic is a pretty shade of honey-yellow and offers a feathery-soft, tall head that settles into a fine, omni-present cap that leaves heavily-stippled lacing. Scents are herbaceous and piney with grapefruit juice and peach tea. The hop bitterness grabs the palate before releasing all that citrus and tropical fruit. Its bitter finish is long and haunting.
Truly indicative of the research and development spirit, Unapologetic is a terrific warm-up to this weekend’s home brewing festivities.