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

Anything But Just Another IPA: Beachwood/Heretic/Stone Unapologetic IPA

We can see the headlines now: Stone makes another IPA! The world is shocked at such a divergence from a company that hardly ever explores hoppy beer styles. Yes, that’s sarcasm! Obviously, no one will be shocked to discover we’re making yet another aggressive IPA. We’ve never tried to hide our lust for hops. Heck, we freely fly our hophead flag. But we’re sure the question will arise. Stone has already made a bunch of IPAs, so why make another. Isn’t the already lupulin-obsessed market saturated with hoppy beers? And who says the world needs another IPA, anyway? We do!

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The Next Step: Stone Enjoy By 04.20.14 IPA

We, like many hopheads, are immensely bullish on the incredible flavor and intense citrusy, bitter impact provided by our ultra-fresh Stone Enjoy By IPA. But believe it or not, for us, it isn’t just about the beer. Yes, given the massive outpouring of affection for this West Coast double IPA, that last statement sounds kind of odd, but it’s true. Stone Enjoy By IPA was forged with greater intentions than mere satiation. It was designed to convey the importance, nay, the necessity of drinking hoppy beer when it’s fresh. We overtly stamp each batch with a 35-day Enjoy By date, and when that day comes up on the calendar, this beer should be out of your fridge and off retailers’ shelves. Drinking it beyond the date printed on that evergreen bottle simply won’t provide the same, vivid experience. But we went far beyond the bottle, communicating the facts on freshness via our Stone Enjoy By IPA website and our social media channels. It was a worthwhile endeavor, and much of that was thanks to you. Through social conversations online and over pints of this beer, many who had no idea how important beer freshness was have been converted, thus improving their quality of life and craft beer enjoyment forever. For those of you who helped increase the reach of that lesson, we thank you and are excited to share the steps we’ve taken to further broaden the reach of this important message and share in the many splendors of Stone Enjoy By IPA.

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Ego-Boosting Brew: Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the company that produced an unapologetic beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale sees no reason to defend its own self-assured state of mind. We’ve been bullish on the notion of bold, flavorful, artisanally produced beers long before many caught on and began to flock like moths with particularly good taste to an insanely bright and attractive flame. Thanks to our naturally inquisitive and adventurous style of brewing—big hops, big flavor, big wood, etc.—we’ve been ahead of the curve at nearly every turn in the dramatic American craft brewing revolution. So, we’re justified in being pretty pleased with ourselves and our innovative brewed creations. Hence the moniker of our black India pale ale, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.

Wring Around the Brewhouse: Stone Ruination IPA

We’ll be the first to agree that brewing is an art, but as anyone who’s ever tried to scale up a recipe or dial in ABV for consistency knows, it’s also a science. As exemplified by the consistency of our beers, our brewers have the smarts to turn out well-engineered ales. That said, whenever we can, we like to keep the math as simple as possible. Take, for instance, one of our most popular beers, Stone Ruination IPA. That hop-heavy double India pale ale is a result of a basic mathematical equation—one-times-two—and proof that sometimes in life, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. When in doubt, just max it out!

A Case of What If: Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

While we hold true to time-honored traditional brewing processes, we’re anything but conformists. Ours is a brewery where, rather than blindly adhering to methods and styles simply because “that’s the way it’s been done for hundreds of years,” we make a practice of regularly taking a step back, clearing our minds of all we know and contemplating simple but essential queries like “why not?” and “what if?” Our beers are founded on the logic gained from centuries’ worth of brewmasters who mashed in ahead of us, but their true flavor and character is a result of our inquisitive, experimental nature. A poignant example of this is presented in our Belgian-style India pale ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA.

A Hoppy Standard Bearer: Stone IPA

When Stone co-founder and original brewmaster Steve Wagner crafted our initial batch of Stone IPA, little could he have known that that highly hopped first attempt at amplifying a British classic would become so popular and, for many beer drinkers, an India pale ale by which all future New World interpretations of the style would be judged. For many, Wagner’s bright, potent creation was their first IPA. (Was it yours? If so, let us know on social media using #StoneIPA)