Monday, May 13, 2013

Stone - Enjoy By IPA Review

Stone Enjoy By IPA

Brewery: Stone (CA)
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.4%
Grade: A (5.17) / A- (4.1)

Age at Drinking: 10 Days

Stone's "Enjoy By" series is a very clever idea — IPAs that make it absolutely clear whether or not they are fresh; that are released on a limited, rotating basis to ensure they disappear from store shelves fast. This particular review is of the 5.17.2013 release, though I also wrote a preliminary review of the 4.1.2013 release. As far as I can tell, each "release" of Stone's Enjoy By is brewed to the same recipe, though having had two rounds to compare, I wonder if unavoidable differences (such as hop variation and availability) end up making each round a little different. Unless my memory is tricking me, I think I like the 5.17 quite a bit more than the 4.1.

Right off the bat, the big aroma wafting out of the glass reminds me what's so often missing from the west coast breweries that distribute to the other side of the country; their beers doomed to the purgatory of shelves for weeks, possibly months, before finding their way into my welcoming fridge. While the 4.1.2013 release struck me as having a more 'traditional,' herbal character than I was expecting from a fresh-n-trendy new IPA, this 5.17 version brings the profile back around to what I was looking for: juicy and succulent and ripe with tropical fruit flavors, with a nose full of Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy. Berries, tart citrus and grapefruit, with an underlying base of American C-hops. Pertinent to both vintages, I will say: the aroma on this seems to dissipate fast. What was a cornucopia of beautiful tropic hops for a few minutes faded about two paragraphs into reviewing this, slinking into something a bit minerally and subdued.

Though the bitterness is initially pretty tame — nowhere near the full-frontal assault of many West Coast IPAs — Enjoy By finishes dry and a slightly dank, with just a bit of pine. It's not quite the kind of bitterness that sticks around and coats your tongue, but it's firm enough to maintain Enjoy By's double IPA status. Sweetness and bitterness coexist here, like the tongue-sapping quality of citrus zest; a trick that only a good IPAs can pull off. As big bad IPA's go, this is one of the most balanced I've had in recent memory. Another check in the plus column. 

Stone's marketing approach for Enjoy By is definitely more than a clever gimmick; it's an important reminder of how IPAs should be consumed. There's a lot of hype being slung about this beer recently, and I'm happy to report that it's extremely solid, fully-flavored, and a proud standard-bearer. It's absolutely a treat; a lesson in exactly how IPAs should be brewed, shelved and sold.

Availability: Stone releases these on a rotating basis, only in certain markets. There's a handy count-down calender on their website for tracking when the next "date" of Enjoy By will be sent out. It tends to go fast.

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