Beer O’The Moment – Stone 11th Anniversary

The wonderful beers of the fine people at San Diego’s Stone Brewing are favorites around these parts, as both our loyal readers can tell you. One can find the Ruination double IPA and Arrogant Bastard Ale at bargain basement prices even in grocery stores in Central New York, and if this is the way they are turning people on to craft beer — 22 ounces and $5 at a time — then we couldn’t be happier.

Stone’s iconic gargoyle imagery and the writerly copy on each of their 22 ounce bottles naturally appeals to us aesthetically, but it has always been the deceptively remarkable beers inside that have kept it from becoming just a cleverly marketed beer.

Given our already stratospheric opinion of this brewery, and given the constant evolution of their products and the championing of the merits of craft beer — the Vertical Epic series comes to mind — it’s hard to say that Stone could really surprise us with any new beers they came out with. But they did exactly that with the 11th Anniversary Ale, a remarkable Strong Ale that pleases four out of the five senses (sorry, hearing). It’s one of those beers that catches you by surprise even after you’ve poured it.

The look of the beer is pitch black. If handed this beer in some sort of a blind test, we would have guessed it was a stout. The foamy head at the top is a large and bubbly light cardboard brown. But it is absolutely opaque, where not even a sliver of light could burrow its way from one side to the other.

The aroma of the beer positively shocked — nay, flabbergasted us. The smell is not the roasted coffee-and-dark-berries smell we expected. No, the XIth Anniversary smells of a citrusy IPA! What the…? The hops are bitter and woody, like any regular India Pale, pulling a complete switcheroo on our gullible olfactory senses. The hops, it must be pointed out, are magnificently complex: they have equal measures of pungent grapefruit, grassy pine and sweet citrus. All of this is balanced beautifully by a dry, English-ale style malt, a humbling agent that reminds all these brash other flavors where they came from. The smell is actually perfect, which is not a word we use very often. It’s less an aroma than it is a bouquet of aromas. The traffic-stopping hops are oily and rich. And to top it off, there is a hint of chocolate aroma at the end. And notice we haven’t even tasted it yet.

The flavor is a marriage of the look and the smell: supremely bitter West Coast hops, but with a unique burnt coffee malt. It’s like an India Pale Porter. Those oily and bitter hops duke it out with the dry, bitter malt. The hops come out strong in the beginning, but the malt takes the later rounds. The flavor really shifts to the burnt, toasted malt as it warms up, with the hops receding to the background as an accent.

This is a beer that evolves.

The feel is supremely thick and yet also smooth. It’s like motor oil with a dry roasted malt finish. And that about sums up the whole beer: it’s a bit, thick, oily, dark, hoppy, nutty, roasted brew. Could I drink it all night? Not unless I had the next week off. But it’s perfect for a pint.

Stone continues to get it done. If you haven’t had the pleasure, take a chance on this damn good balanced brew.

~ by William H on December 7, 2007.

One Response to “Beer O’The Moment – Stone 11th Anniversary”

  1. Wonderful post, about a wonderful concoction, by a wonderful man. Huzzah! I can’t say for sure if this is the best brewery going right now, but it sure as heck is in the argument! If I see Stone on the beer list somewhere, I am all up in it! Whatever the heck that means? I still think you need that Stone light from Kelly Cole’s over your bed. What better way to invite ladies into your octagon of terror than a back lit gargoyle over it? Am I wrong?

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