Stone Brewing Co.'s 16th Anniversary Ale. / Tim Dohms/News Journal correspondent
Stone Brewing in San Diego just celebrated 16 years in business, and wouldnít 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 percent alcohol by volume double IPA accented with lemon verbena and lemon oil. This hop beast should be the equivalent of sticking oneís tongue in an electrical outlet, but instead itís restrained, balanced and elegant. The reason being might have something to do with its age.
Sometimes down here at the bottom of the U.S., it takes longer for shipments to reach us from clear across the country. Though it only takes a few days to drive that far, there are weigh stations and distribution hubs holding up the quicker expedition. Then thereís distribution to local companies who check for allocations to sell to bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
Bottom line is that when itís all said and done, a beer released in late August might not hit the shelves until ... what day is today? This could be a serious problem in terms of freshness and proper portrayal of the brewmasterís efforts. The oils in hops begin to ďturnĒ after three to four months.
Luckily the voodoo economics of beer travel and lack of open space on my tap wall havenít ruined this exceptional beer from Stone. I think we got this one just in time. Yes, I wouldíve loved to have tried this in mid-September, but I think that itís mellowed into something that allows every ingredient to shine with equal representation.
Stone dry-hopped its anniversary ale using Amarillo hops for tropical fruit notes and Calypso for its earthy, tea and apple notes. The addition of lemon verbena pairs well with the ingredients, each one enhancing the others. Light amber in color with a creamy head, 16th is loaded with lemon, peach, mint, mango and tea scents. Germanic malts provide asweet 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.
Donít be fashionably late to the party like I almost was. This is a one-time only release and will be gone soon.