dsc00858I’ve really enjoyed Stone Brewing so far. I’ve only had a few of their beers, including Old Guardian, Arrogant Bastard, and Cali-Belgique. But I’ll go out on a limb and say they are one of the best craft brewers in the country. Word is they’re coming to Minnesota soon too. Which is nice. 

As is my usual routine during hockey season, I sat down to watch the Wild take on Vancouver the other night (damn Canucks), and made a selection from the beer fridge to keep me occupied for a bit. Ruination IPA struck my fancy this time, one of the many Stone offerings I have waiting for me.  

Just like Pliny the Elder, Ruination popped open with a phenomenal hoppy nose. The bottle says it’s a “liquid poem to the glory of the hop”, and they aren’t kidding. Brewed with Magnum and Centennial, this comes in at over 100 IBUs. It’s really more of a Double IPA. 

Deliciously bitter taste, balanced well with a fully, malty mouthfeel. Loads of citrus, and a nice woodiness. Just a little bit of the 7.7% ABV in the background.

Really liked this one. Alot.

Rating: A

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Imagine my surprise this evening as I walked into a local liquor store, one that I frequent relatively often, and found Southern Tier hanging out in the back coolers. Never seen it here before. All they had available was their Unearthly Imperial IPA, and two left. So of course I grabbed them. Hehe. Nice to know the good stuff is making its way to the Twin Cities.

With this Imperial IPA, I think I’ve had an epiphany about my beer preferences. I’d much rather do with lots of hops, than lots of sweet, sticky malt. Don’t get me wrong, I love most Imperial Stouts and Quads. But hops just do something special that I can’t describe. They’re the spice of beer, next to yeast the second most important ingredient in a beer, in my opinion. Without hops, you have nothing.  

This is a really good beer. What you might call “drinkable”. Poured with a thin head from a 650 ml bottle, likely thanks to the hop oils and 11% ABV penetrating the carbonation. Awesome aroma. They brew with Chinook, Cascade and Styrian Golding in the boil, and dry hop with Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. Lots of hops. And I think Cascade is what makes this beer. As I drink a variety of different beers, trying to discern how the different ingredients impart flavors, I’m coming to realize that Cascade is a very versatile hop. In small doses, it comes off very aromatic and floral. Used more prolifically, it conjures a fantastic woody vibe, reminiscent of Dogfish Head 60 or 90 Minute IPA.

The high alcohol content is barely masked by the hop bitterness. Yet, while it’s certainly bitter (it’s a DIPA, after all), it is remarkably smooth. I think because it doesn’t lend too much of that citrusy quality that tends to be the hallmark of many Imperial IPAs. It’s strong, but a little more subdued.

So what about the rest of it…lacing, mouthfeel. Yeah, it’s all there. But the main reason for enjoying this beer is in the nose and velvety hoppiness. A nice beer to enjoy to take my mind off my Twins ending their season poorly in Chicago. Can’t wait for the new stadium.

Rating: A-

Call me crazy, but Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA is just not as good as the 60 Minute version. Don’t get me wrong…it’s good. But I think it’s kind of like comparing pretty good pizza and really good pizza. The difference is marginal at best. It’s still good pizza, and you’re not gonna complain about it either way. 

As I sampled this one, it was encouraging for me as a homebrewer that the 90 Minute really reminded me of a Double IPA I brewed last year. It smells and tastes like they’re still using the same hop profile as their 60 (Warrior, Amarillo, and probably Centennial or Columbus), and on the bottle they describe their process as a “continuous” hop infusion during the boil. Does that mean they add a bunch of hops up front, and let it boil out? Or do they slowly add hops throughout the entire process? I’m not exactly sure.

But after reading my good friend Wikipedia, they apparently don’t stop there. Instead of simply dry hopping, they pass the beer through a large plastic tube filled with raw Cascade hops. The alcohol in the beer lifts oils off the raw hops and imparts even more hop flavor, making one hell of a deliciously bitter ale. Grapefruit and citrus dominate the aroma, the hallmark of a good DIPA (or Imperial IPA, as this one is billed…is there a difference?).

The taste is also pretty intense, with sweet, honey-like malt that barely masks the 9% ABV on this one. After you take a nice pull and set the glass down, for a split second you get a hint of the 60 Minute’s woody qualities, but it dissipates quickly. This is certainly one of the better DIPA’s I’ve enjoyed, but in my book doesn’t quite edge out others I’ve had like Bell’s Hop Slam.   

Rating: B+