Monday, July 8, 2013

Stone - RuinTen IPA Review

Stone RuinTen Imperial IPA

Brewery: Stone (CA)
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10.8%
Grade: A-

Age at Drinking: One Week

That IPAs are a divisive style in beer today is pretty much a given — and also unlikely to change. (Remember this whole kerfuffle?) Recently, though, many American IPA brewers have moved away from that devastating karate chop to the throat of bitterness that gave IPAs this reputation in the first place. Many of today's lauded IPAs have moved on from scorched earth to softer, more nuanced flavor... which is great, in my opinion. But that doesn't mean there isn't still room for those classic behemoths, those tongue-crushing, palate-wrecking monsters. Every now and then I encounter a new beast of this breed, an IPA that reminds me why the style can be so alienating in the first place. Big, boozy, raucous, and mean, it's like a bitter whiskey you can drink by the pint. (Though I wouldn't advise too many pints).

RuinTen is most decidedly an IPA that will appeal only to devout hop-heads — more specifically, hop-heads who love bitterness. If you are looking for an IPA with soft and nuanced pure hop flavor, this is not really that, for better or worse. This punches out your teeth before you could ever have a chance to get too cerebral. Even the aroma warns of its rich, resinous nature. For all the people who go on about hops being a palate wrecker, I don't think they give enough credit to the role malts play in creating the sticky, slick, tongue-crushing resin character in beers like Stone RuinTen. Without a hefty, borderline-cloying malt base, RuinTen would still be bitterbomb for sure, but it wouldn't squat on your tongue like a pound of fruity tree sap with a staple gun. Personally, I would love some more room for the hoppy nuance of Citra and Centennial that Stone used in this one, but those fruity varieties mostly fade into an amalgam of intense bitterness and tree-sap like resin, with hints of tropical fruit, melon, berries, peach and citrus to be gleaned underneath the branches. They are but quick-footed squirrels of complexity, briefly glimpsed, hard to pin down.

As RuinTen does so much karate to my mouth that I prepare to relinquish my reviewing powers for the night, it nonetheless occurs to me that this beer also graciously solves a long-pondered beer mystery. I have a few friends / fellow beer enthusiasts who consistently describe certain IPAs as piney, despite an absence any of the typically piney-hop varieties in them (neither Citra nor Centennial is a very piney hop, but Stone doesn't make it clear if they're the only hops present here, or just the featured ones). I think the secret is this: with ample bitterness and a big heaping backbone of malt, just about any hop variety might be interpreted as somewhat piney. It's that resinous character met with general, blended "hoppiness" — like I said, bitter tree sap clutching your tongue in a bear hug.

Available: Sounds like it's going to be an annual release from now on. 22 ounce bottle.


  1. Great review. I bought half a dozen bottles of this, as I'm absolutely in love with it.

    To me it's a muscle car of an IPA. Raw and unabashed. Although the ride is a bit rough, it's amazing.

    1. Thanks, and well put, too. It's definitely not an IPA for those timid about bitterness, but it's very good at what it sets out to do.


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