In the interest of drinking beers before their hop profile has deteriorated, I have decided to crack open my bottle of Stone's 16th Anniversary IPA. This beer promises to be a doozey with Stone stating right on the bottle that they're brewing this one with lemon verbena & lemon oil. Now I had a pretty good idea of what lemon oil was, but I had not heard of lemon verbena, so if you need to look it up like I did, then click here. Whether you know or you don't, new ingredients get me excited and I'm always ready to try one out. So let's pour!
Starting off, things were pretty impressive. Excellent lemon and pineapple notes from the hops as well as a lesser herbal quality and a dash of pepper. The warmth arrived calmly and easily, while the malts provided a dark bread (almost earthy) & roasted qualities. Very nice all around! I then sat down to do some typing and the like and came back to it after it had warmed and let me say this... LET THIS BEER WARM! I know that it's fairly common knowledge in the craft beer universe that beers open up as they warm, but rarely can I recall a beer that so aptly provides such an example to that lesson. This beer became infinitely richer and nearly succulent with hoppy goodness. This is what world class IPAs should smell like! The original flavors intensified greatly, but also brought in a great resin aroma, a surprising floral essence(!), some reminders of the hops' Cannabaceae relatives, gooey caramel malts, and upped the booziness just a little bit. Fantastic!
This is a beautiful beer. It pours a color that nearly matches the shade on the bottle and is bright and clear as a crisp fall day. When I poured it, the head overcame the top of the glass, but was so sticky that it continued to ascend in the shape it left the glass. Almost like a Play-Dough Fun Factory, but for head. I'm very impressed.
As difficult as it was to stop sniffing this beer, my mouth wouldn't stop watering and I finally gave in and tasted it. I was given a smooth salutation from some silky caramel malts, but before long the other flavors begin to slide their way in as well: pepper, resin, very subdued apple/mango notes, and an undying caramel. An unusual citrus is present as well presumably from the lemon verbana and/or lemon oil used in the brewing process. It's definitely a more candied, sugary lemon flavor, but its appearance is not unwelcome. In fact, this particular type of sweetness goes remarkably well with the caramel sweetness from the malts. What a fan-freakin'-tastic balance of an intense sweetness and a big, strong bitter. If held long enough in the mouth the sugary lemon can be easily detected on the tip of the tongue, but eventually transforms into a peppery, resin-laden concoction. This type of complexity is SO satisfying. The last two flavors in the mouth (pepper and resin) are a Stone's ridiculously talented way of foreshadowing the finish before it actually happens. The finish removes 90% of the sweetness that was experienced in the backbone of the beer and instead gives the drinker a bitter, very peppery, resin-dripping, bitter affair that quickly leaves a moderate dryness. The aftertaste is largely remnants of the bitter, but eventually the entire mouth is salivating for the next gulp.
This beer is a little more than medium-bodied, but made to feel like much more thanks to the buried carbonation and the ridiculous amounts of smoothness that provides. It is insanely silk relative to its body. The gads of peppery spice give the illusion of carbonation but make no mistake, any carbonation involved in this bad boy is far beneath the surface. Warmth is used appropriately and also contributes to the big beer feel of this brew.
Overall Impression 10/10
What's not to like about this? The balance of sweetness and bitter is fantastic, the mouthfeel is to die for yet avoids being a chore to drink, complexity abounds, and my mouth and nose are left extremely happy. Some folks could argue that their DIPA has been made too sweet. I understand that. Some folks want their IPAs and DIPAs a little more one-sided than others. For me, this really hit the spot with big flavors on both sides just slugging it out.
I'm not sure why this beer is rated as low as it is by so many people. Maybe there are more hopheads out there, who don't like any stupid malts sweetening up their beers, than I had originally assumed. For me, I dig it. Not only that, but I didn't find out until much later how much rye Stone used in brewing this beer. That makes perfect sense! The pepper spiciness and the earthy bitter now come clearly into focus. Though admittedly, the bitter was easy to confuse as hops due to... well, the abundance of hops. This is the second Stone beer in a row that I review that has received a 49/50. The first was their 10th Aniversary Ruination and while this beer is much less intense than the 10th Anniv Ruination, it should not be overlooked. ESPECIALLY because of its $7.99 price tag. This beer is a steal and I can't believe I can still find it on shelves. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of its wide and plentiful distribution. You shan't be disappointed. Good on ya Stone for another variation of the IPA style!! Happy anniversary and many, MANY more.