Brewery Reviewery by Pants
The demon-head logo let’s you know they mean business. Image courtesy of Yelp
On a San Diego afternoon…
I had the treat of attending a conference in the wonderful city of San Diego, CA – mostly wonderful because 1) the weather was a stunning mid-70s and sunny without fail while Pittsburgh rained and snowed, and 2) there’s a lot of great beer. Like a lot a lot. While I got to try a ton of brews over my few days there, due to having to do actual work-related things, I only had time to visit one of the local taprooms. My choice? The famous Stone Brewing Company’s San Diego taproom. While I’ve previously enjoyed the classic Stone West Coast IPA, I knew that a craft brewer of their status and fame would have to have a hell of a venue with some fantastic beer.
The taproom wasn’t huge, maybe ~50 seats around the place total, but was rather quiet given the time of day I was visiting (~2PM). The walls are decorated with beautiful art of the city while flyers for upcoming events rest near the windows.
I don’t know what I would’ve expected, but I’m sad I missed this.
Every second you look longer, you see more of the gritty detail.
With wooden furniture, cozy-looking couches and chairs, old brews’ cans lining shelves around the top of the room, and gentle sunlight passing in through the windows, the whole place felt simply welcoming. None of the modern-industrial feel that seems so ubiquitous to craft breweries – it was a nice change of pace! Music selection was eclectic but great, ranging from metal (Through the Never – Metallica) to funk (Boogie Night – Heatwave) to modern rock (Death Letter – The White Stripes) and beyond (John the Fisherman – Primus). Definitely the kind of place that I’d hang out for a few hours to chat with friends.
Looks great! But something’s missing…
Ah, much better! Left to right: Mojay, Hop Revolver, Ruination, Sanctimonious
A quick glance at the photo above may reveal that the 4 beers I had the pleasure of trying all look pretty similar. Reason being? Alllll IPAs. On the menu there was something around 9 different IPAs and 4 or 5 beers of other styles (stout, lager, don’t recall others). One of their pre-made flights had 4 IPAs from Stone I never tried, so I figured I’d get my hops on and check ‘em out! Be warned – if you don’t like IPAs, none of these are too accessible; perhaps check out our review of the TropiCannon Citrus IPA for something more relatable?
A fantastically interesting way to start off, the Mojay IPA presents itself as a hybrid between an East Coast and West Coast IPA by “brewing a hazy hop bomb with more bitterness than a typical NEIPA.” I mostly got citrus in the scent, though something else stuck out. Glancing at the description on the draft list, I realized that this something was “dankness”. When I went for the sip, it was a quick roller coaster of flavors: first, fresh orange juice, then typical IPA bitterness and hops, then the presumed “dankness” overwhelmingly (imagine mixing the taste of a nickel in your mouth with the smell of weed), and settling finally back into citrus tone. Citra hops stick out. It’s an overall interesting presentation, and I’m glad I got to have such a unique experience. If you’re feeling adventurous, check it out.
Pants’ Rating: 3.75/5
The idea of the Hop Revolver is a fascinating one – make an IPA using a single type of hop to really exhibit its flavor. My luck was that I got one of the most diverse strain of hops in my Hop Revolver: Mosaic. I was expecting berries and tropical tones, and the scent was really giving off pine and berries. Walking in, I was pretty excited. However, it didn’t occur to me that mosaic hops also are known for pine notes as well, and I didn’t consider how this would play without any other hops to balance. The result? Crisp pine floods the palate at the start, leading into the strongest mango aftertaste I’ve ever experienced. This isn’t really a good or bad thing, though was not what I was anticipating. Interesting beer, interesting concept.
Pants’ Rating: 3.5/5
Stone Ruination IPA was the first full-time brewed and bottled West Coast double IPA on the planet. As craft beer has evolved over the years, so too have techniques for maximizing hop flavors and aromas. For the second incarnation of our groundbreaking India pale ale, we employ dry hopping and hop bursting to squeeze every last drop of piney, citrusy, tropical essence from the hops that give this beer its incredible character. We’ve also updated the name to Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 to reflect the imperial-level intensity that’s evident in every sip. Join us in cheering this, the second stanza in our “Liquid Poem to the Glory of the Hop.”
Solid! Lightly piney scent and taste, hoppy, citrusy, very bitter, everything I’d want in a double IPA. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth.
Whenever I think of a double IPA, my template is Southern Tier’s 2X IPA: very bitter, very hoppy, light pine and citrus. In my mind, the Ruination took everything about these concepts and amped them up a level. You want bitter? 100+ IBUs coming your way, and you taste every one of them. Hoppy? Stone uses “dry hopping and hop bursting to squeeze every last drop of piney, citrusy, tropical essence from the hops.” I can easily vouch to say the brew meets these stats and statements – it’s definitely my new favorite double IPA. Like others I’ve had, I still feel like I don’t enjoy doubles quite as much because I lose some of the flavor amidst the heavy hops, but I’ll still take the Ruination as my go to on a day when I’m feeling particularly bitter.
Pants’ Rating: 4.5/5
IBUs: ??? (not listed)
The Sanctimonious IPA is dubbed by Stone as a “sacred brew” with pretty good reason. A sniff of this guy revealed a wonderfully detailed profile that I had to take a moment to identify: standard IPA pine-scent, a hint of earthiness, and a beautiful combination of hibiscus and strawberry. When it hits the mouth, the hoppiness sits up front, while the strawberry-hibiscus feel tinged with a quick note of citrus settles in as you let it sit. The mix of Amarillo and Simcoe hops is pretty noticeable, though more of the former than the latter. From the smell, I was honestly hoping for the fruit to step up a little bit more in the flavor profile, but I’m not going to complain – the world needs more strawberry+hibiscus IPAs.
Pants’ Rating: 4.5/5
Stone Brewing is an established craft brewer famed for their IPAs, and it was a pleasure to get to try a variety of their brews in their home-state for myself. The hot afternoon was well-complimented by the litany of diverse, interesting, and tasty IPAs that left me satiated and satisfied. If you’re in the downtown San Diego area and got some time, go to one of Stone’s taprooms to try some new brews, chat with some friends, and enjoy the ambience and music.