Hoppy Uncharted Territory: Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

We pride ourselves on being unpredictable, but we’re able to be honest with ourselves and say that, when it comes to our annual anniversary beer releases, fans know what to expect—something extremely hoppy! And most years, that means an over-the-top India pale ale. Ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs, including the past four consecutive years. So, it should come as no surprise that this year, our milestone-celebrating beer is another IPA. But, much as we’ve refused to be completely predictable with our anniversary IPAs (the past four years have featured an imperial British-style IPA, double black IPA, lemon verbena-infused imperial rye IPA, and 100% German-hopped double IPA), 2014’s commemorative hop monster is extremely original. In fact, we’re billing Stone 18th Anniversary IPA as the “hoppiest golden-brown IPA on Earth!” (Yes, that’s our subtle brand of sarcasm you’re picking up there!)

El Dorado hops make up a large part of the hop bill—the beer is dry-hopped with a whopping two pounds per barrel of it. Brewmaster Mitch Steele first fell in love with this citrusy hop when he brewed a 100% El Dorado collaboration ale with Northern California’s Drake’s Brewing Company in 2013. It’s since found its way into a number of new brews, including Stone Go To IPA and a little ditty released in our hometown of San Diego called Stone Delicious IPA. But this beer isn’t all about hops. If anything, it’s the specialty malts that give it most of its uniqueness. English Brown Coffee, Cara Munich and Chocolate Wheat malts bring on more than the heralded golden-brown hue—they also provide plenty of flavor and texture. The resulting brew is, appropriately, one for the ages. Sweet-tart flavors of lemon candy come on strong on the front palate, giving way to a sharp grapefruit bitterness accompanied by bready, biscuit character in the finish. It’s a testament to how well hops and malts can marry when properly balanced, and Steele and the Brew Crew nailed it with this golden-brown all-star.

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If you’re like us, you read something like “ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs,” and your inner beer geek wants to know what those brews were. We totally get that, so here is a list of the past 18 years-worth of Stone celebratory offerings.

  • Stone 1st Anniversary IPA (now Stone IPA)
  • Stone 2nd Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 3rd Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 4th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 5th Anniversary IPA (now Stone Ruination IPA)
  • Stone 6th Anniversary Porter
  • Stone 7th Anniversary Ale (“Super Special Pale Ale”)
  • Stone 8th Anniversary Ale (Imperial Mild)
  • Stone 9th Anniversary Ale (Imperial Wheat)
  • Stone 10th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 11th Anniversary Ale (now Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA)
  • Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
  • Stone 13th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
  • Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
  • Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA
  • Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

Even with all these hop-heavy brews under our belts, we continue to push the envelope. We thank you for coming along for the ride and look forward to another 18 years (and more) of anniversary-inspired exploration!

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Photo by StudioSchulz.com

Stats & Tasting Notes by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • ABV: 8.5%
  • IBUs: 75
  • Availability: Limited 22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning August 11
  • Hop Bill: Nugget, Centennial, Belma, Sterling, Hopsteiner 06300, El Dorado
  • Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, and Puerto Rico
  • Appearance: Pours deep amber with a reddish-brown hue and an off-white-colored head.
  • Aroma: Herbal, lemon and lemongrass hop notes, combined with very light levels of cocoa, coffee and roasted malts.
  • Taste: Fruity hops, lemon, orange zest and tropical fruit, with a complex malt base featuring coffee and toffee elements. The hop finish is very lemony.
  • Palate: Full bodied with a bitter, dry finish.
  • Overall: This beer was conceptualized a bit later than usual, and several iterations were created before we settled on this recipe. Using a small amount of English Brown Coffee Malt in a double IPA seemed like an interesting idea to me, and was inspired in part by the success we had brewing Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone DayMan Coffee IPA and The Alchemist/Ninkasi/Stone More Brown Than Black IPA. The malt character is rich and complex, with hints of cocoa and coffee that don’t interfere with the hop intensity. We used one of our favorite new hop varieties, El Dorado, 100 percent in the dry-hop stage, which provides a distinctive lemony character in the aroma and taste that we’ve come to affectionately describe as “lemon candy.”

Suggested Food Pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

  • Appetizers: Blistered shishito peppers, grilled prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, sweet potato fries with roasted garlic aioli, fried pork wontons
  • Soups and Salads: Kale & white bean soup, miso ramen, tortilla soup, chicken salad, green mango salad
  • Entrees: Roasted chicken, pad Thai, stuffed acorn squash, pork chops, carnitas tacos
  • Cheeses: Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, Idiazabal, Cypress Grove Chevre Lamb Chopper®, Bellwether Farms San Andreas
  • Desserts: Peach cobbler, apricot cheesecake, carrot cake, baked nectarines with pistachios
  • Cigars: Drew Estate Herrera Esteli Piramide, Tatuaje Cabaiguan, Rocky Patel Connecticut, L’Atelier Lat56

Stone & Drake’s Collaborate to Celebrate

At Stone, we go to painstaking lengths to hand-pick the most talented and innovative individuals we can to fill out and enhance Team Stone. While our beer is what keeps our fans coming back for more, it’s the people behind the beer and this company that have gotten us to where we are today.

As you can imagine, we like to keep our people close to us—especially our brewmaster, Mitch Steele. The guy’s awesome! Good thing, because we have a consistently heavy production workload for him. Due to that and his terrific work ethic, the poor guy hasn’t had a proper vacation in some time. But, as much as we love him and want to keep him near, we were happy to grant him a recent request to take some time and head to Northern California. Mitch wisely hopped a plane before a brewhouse emergency led to that hall pass being revoked.

The Drake’s/Stone Quarter Century of Issues Celebrator 25th Anniversary Pale Ale brew crew (from left to right): Drake’s owner John Martin, Stone Northern California regional brewery rep David Hopwood, Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele, Stone San Francisco regional brewery rep Michael “Zippo” Parzick and, obviously the hardest working member of the team, Drake’s brewmaster Alexandra Nowell (on the brew deck).