It’s Stone’s 16th Birthday this month. A worthy reason to celebrate if ever there was one. The 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA is being tapped across the region and the ‘Enjoy By 9.21.12’ is hitting bars and bottle shops this week, Stone clearly continues to excel and stake their claim as the greatest brewery on the planet. So I thought I’d recount the tale of my first crack at a bottle of Stone IPA. This story my be shocking and slightly appalling to some of you.
My first sampling of Stone IPA was not a case of love at first sip.
It was roughly six years ago at a friends birthday party. Other than the birthday girl herself, I knew zero people there. Seeing a cooler of beer in the corner of the backyard I make my way to it as quick as I can. Now at this point in my life, IPA was not a style I was familiar with at all. I’d had only recently started drinking pale ale’s in order to escape the doldrums of Miller and Budweiser, and even that track record was spotty as I was learning my way around and trying to evolve my palette. As I opened the cooler, it was bottles of Stone as far as the eye could see…or as far as the ice in the box would let me see.
I had never tried Stone before. Sure, I’d heard of it, but I had only recently moved back to San Diego and when I left as kid, craft beer wasn’t even a word yet. So I grab one and I’m instantly intrigued by the bottle. The gargoyle logo is so bad ass, it’s screams righteous metal to my Judas Priest, head banging inner self!
Popping the cap off that bottle the aroma hit me in the face and I’m thrown off, beer doesn’t smell like this does it? I’m still intrigued but it’s tinged with a little doubt, that maybe I don’t know what I’m getting into with this. Placing the bottle at my lips, I tip it back and let that beer roll onto my tongue…the flavor explodes in my mouth and it takes all of my strength to not make what I now refer to as ‘IPA face’, when someone who doesn’t drink IPA first experiences the hoppy goodness. I swallow it down and look back at the bottle and a sad thought slaps me in the face. This beer is hardcore…but I don’t think I’m hardcore enough for this beer.
That doesn’t sit well with me. I consider myself a manly man. The idea that a beer is more manly than me is not something that I will stand for. So I throw back another swallow…and I’m pretty sure I didn’t like it even more. But that won’t stop me, I’ve played hockey games with a broken nose and high ankles sprains, you think a beer is gonna stop me now? No way. I finish my bottle and all those crazy flavors linger with me, at the time I didn’t really think that this beer was gonna change me. Until the following weekend when the beers I was ordering just weren’t doing it for me, they all were lacking something. They weren’t hardcore enough for me. Before I even know it, a buddy I’m with makes a recommendation for an IPA, and I say make it two. Second time around, it’s a different world, and I can appreciate the flavors and the complexity that has gone into crafting these beers. That’s not to say I didn’t hit a few rough patches along the way, but my view of beer was forever changed and I owe that to Stone.
As for the 16th Anniversary Lemon Verbena IIPA that they brewed up – It’s fantastic. Beautiful color and aroma comes off the top and this beer has some hops to it, not quite as aggressive as I would have thought but still great. The lemon notes are not over powering and I found the beer to have a surprisingly smooth finish and at 10%ABV, well, lets just say you can have some fun but order more than one at your discretion. Overall, I found it to be a really nice beer that I’d happily order again, try it for yourself and let me know what you think.
So happy Birthday gang, keep up the great work, I can’t wait for you to take over the world!