I swore I would never spend my money on the new flurry of sub 5% IPA offerings on the market. The first one I heard of was DuClaw Fractional IPA, at a whopping 4.5%. Not only did I refuse it, I poked fun at friends of mine who did try it.
Fast-forward to this week. I have been out of the beer-buying business for a hot minute because I purchased almost every single bottle of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale in existence on my local military base back in November, and for one guy, six cases of heavy IPA takes a while to go through.
Anyhow, I slipped into the store to see what had populated the shelves in my absence. I was delighted to find STONE GO TO IPA in the six pack for the low, low price of 10.99. I had heard from a friend that it was out, but didn’t expect to get my hands on any. Normally, I do my homework before a purchase. This time, I just grabbed a sixer and headed to the counter.
Once I got home and opened one, I read the bottle. Scammed. This monster is 4.5%. I drank it anyway and was surprised at what it had to offer. Here is my review – freshly opened bottle with a “drink by” date of 5/21/14.
Poured into my Dogfish Head snifter.
Appearance – This thing is only slightly darker than Miller Lite. The pale, straw color is enough to scare away the serious IPA drinker, but at first it had a good looking, fluffy, white head. No lacing to speak of. If I didn’t know better, I would never suspect this was a beer in this style or price range. Still, good to go so far, I’d give the appearance a 3 out of 5. Low for a Stone product.
Aroma – Home run Coach. Grand slam even. The new process of dumping in a bunch of hop oils AFTER the brewing process is allowing brewers to give us a great smelling brew even after they water down the original beer to get more out of a batch. It’s a sneaky trick, but it gives this thing a tremendous pine, citrus scent with a hint of grassy malt. The hop smell is almost overwhelming and hits hard like most any top-notch west-coast style IPA. 5/5.
Taste – Well, there isn’t any alcohol burn… not that I expected any. The taste is about like the smell – hop heavy with pine early and often. Hits hard, bitter, and full-bodied, all of which is a mask of what we already know is a glass of water with hop oil in it. The finish is bitingly bitter as well, very little malt profile. It tastes good enough to drink a dozen, and thanks to the ABV, you probably could drink a dozen without losing your whereabouts. Although this taste is fake, it’s still awesome – 4/5
Mouthfeel – Very thin feel, not thick or oily like many IPAs. Light carbonation burn on the front of the tongue and stays on the tongue after the swallow, while never burning the back of the throat. Neat, like a sparkling wine. Still, it feels just like drinking bubbly water if you ignore the nice flavor. Does NOT feel like an IPA at all, more like an American Lager. 2/5.
Overall – This brew is a good way to stay alive at a party without having to drink cheap, yellow, American lagers. It gives you the flavor you expect from an IPA, and if you drink it fast enough, you might not even notice the cheap texture of it. Nice bitterness. I can’t think of a real reason to buy it again, but I still would recommend it to people who love an IPA but hate to lose their edge after one beer. The worst part is my fear that this new method of adding hops late is going to give brewers everywhere a way to give us less powerful, if still flavorful, IPAs and dilute the style. Give it a try, but buy a single if you can. And get it fresh. I’ll bet this thing is total garbage after those late-added hops fade. 3.25/5
So, there it is. Take it for what it’s worth. You know your taste and your style preference. Hey, the bottle is cool at least. If you enjoyed this review, share it with someone else.
Cheers – Ringo