As I mentioned when speaking about Bear Republic, the arrival of Stone beers to our shores caused an unavoidable rush of excitement to my head, and despite it costing me around €25 for the five bottles, I simply had to pay up. All that remains now is to refrain from pricey beer runs for at least this month...
First of the range was Stone Pale Ale. Despite championing in the unfiltered, unpasteurised side of brewing, this beer (and the rest of the range, in fact) poured surprisingly clear. It's not very pale either; dark orange and smelling of, well, not much. Caramel malts and wet metal hops but that's it. The taste is, to quote my own notes, 'lovely', with grapefruit and orange marmalade very much the arms of a bitter hop attack. It's refreshing and drinkable, but doesn't begin to justify the pricetag. The flavour profile isn't a million miles away from Howling Gale Ale, and the aroma on that beer is actually better. Local it is then.
Stone IPA seemed like the sensible place to go for an upgrade, and turned out to be the case. Despite pouring exceptionally pale gold and clear, it produced a potent and bitter-smelling nose of zingy, coppery, grapefruit pith hops right off the bat. The hop attack on the palate is delivered atop a caramel sweetness, producing a taste sensation that moves in stages from sharp citrus fruits, to rounder, softer peach and grapefruit peel notes, to warm and sticky malts, before eventually ending abruptly, leaving just some of the bitter highlights lingering on. Good stuff and certainly an step up, but the question of value for money still hangs over this one.
The next day I decided to take it easier with Levitation Ale, a garnet-coloured sessioner at a friendly 4.4%. The nose on this speaks mainly of C-hops, with the same grapefruit notes as the previous beer but on a more muted scale. Still, it smells fresh and pleasant. There's plenty of flavour and hop presence for its ABV, with the familiar pine resin and grapefruit peel backed up by a grainy biscuit base. Nice, but I reckon we in Ireland are spoiled for local pale ales and *sigh* red ales that are just as sessionable and with the same or more flavour. It also fails to impress like Founders' All Day IPA.
Finally for now, we take a look at Ruination IPA, a DIPA of 8.2%. Like the IPA, this pours clear and surprisingly gold, but there's no doubting the hop chops of the aroma; pungent pine, peel and grapefruit pith, with sugary sweet marmalade and just a hint of toffee adding weight. The palate is unsurprisingly bitter with loads of fruity hop character and not much of a malt base. In fact, the finish is alarmingly clean and abrupt, leaving your taste buds ravished but abandoned in the most cruel fashion. Hits the IPA hop-spot, but not worth the hype or price.
In this beery version of Snog, Marry, Avoid, I'm afraid none of these beers are getting hitched any time soon, with the the Stone IPA looking the likeliest lad. Even then, Racer 5 still seems to be the way to for US IPA right now. Hopefully the Oaked Arrogant Bastard will redeem Stone Brewing soon.