“On the palate, peppery hops assert themselves early and often, with malt sweetness making a brief appearance before being beaten back by a long, complex, and decisively bitter finish. What better way to contemplate the fate of empires past, present, and future?”
Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial India Pale Ale
English IPA, 8.9% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
Karl: Since this is a hyper-traditional, all-imported-English-ingredients fancypants kind of tea-and-crumpets kind of beer, you’ll allow me the use of words like “bollocks” and “bloody hell” and “take the piss” in this writeup, yes? Good, because sadly I actually use them from time to time in real life so this actually won’t be too much of a stretch for me. Pip-pip.
Now, I like a good piney, hoppy beer. And one way you know you’re dealing with something that’s going to bring the hops to the table is when you can crack open a bottle and you get that nice rich coniferous smell (only a language/beer dork like me would bring “coniferous” into a beer review) that hits you right in the face. I like the smell of pine as much as the next guy but on first whiff, this beer smelled like bloody Christmas. Like a full tree condensed into one huge whiff of pine needles and some small berries and even some twigs. Okay, maybe not twigs per se but definitely some bark. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit…but maybe I’m not.
Onto the Emperial itself. It poured a nice minimal head with a touch of lacing, and a proper light copper color. In the glass, all that pine I just spent 5 dozen words describing had dissipated into a lemony scent with some pine in the background – a little like Pledge glass cleaner that can get you properly pissed.* The taste had a lot less citrus than I was expecting. Give it a few minutes, and dogs bollocks, there’s that orange flavor I could tell was trying to break through the mix! It just had to get a touch warmer, and out it pops. Very nice.
The other thing I wanted to mention about this beer is that it reminded me of one of Michael Ruhlman’s rules of making stock from his Elements of Cooking book – that when it’s done right you should be able to read the date on a nickel at the bottom of the stockpot. It should be clear, it should be free of sediment, and it should have clarity. And when I looked at this beer, I thought just that – I could read a damn nickel’s date through this brew. Nice and clear, no cloudiness, and for the depth of flavor and character that the Emperial had, it could have easily been a thick cloudy mess.
Maybe with a year of aging on it in a seaworthy vessel it would thicken up like the Dogfishhead 90 Minute (cellar reviews of which will be forthcoming) but right now, gorry, that’s a foine looking beer. God Save the Queen, I mean it, man.
*Not mad “pissed,” just drunk “pissed.”
Andrew: You can’t judge a beer by its bottle, but I will say if the Emperial English IPA tasted as good as as the bottle looked, I knew I would be in for a treat. For some reason I just really liked the graphic on the bottle, a little different than what Stone usually offers.
I was really excited to try this beer as it was just released and hasn’t hit the stores in the Chicago area yet. As soon as the bottle was opened I got nothing but a piney hoppiness in the nose, however when the beer was poured into a glass, it really opened up and citrus took over. The beer poured a hazy golden/amber color with a light, fluffy head.
The first taste of the Emperial English IPA was lemony and piney, lots of hops and booze – I think I also picked up some hints of orange or possibly grapefruit. On the back end the beer was very bitter and dry, which left me with a dry cotton mouth feel. The carbonation was spot on and it made the beer a very easy drinker despite the overwhelming
A good beer but not a great one. I’m glad we got to try this beer as soon as it got released, but I probably won’t be reaching for it again any time soon.
Ryan: I am not sure what more I can add to this since Karl used up all the good puns, but I’ll give it a shot. This 14th anniversary brew from Stone poured a crystal clear copper to olive oil in color. This beer is so clear you could watch TV through the glass. Actually, I think I may have tried to do that.
The citrus and earthy nose on this beer is awfully inviting. As both Karl and Andrew noted there is a great deal of piney hops in the aroma as well.
Lots of lemon zest, grapefruit and bittering hops assault the palate. Interestingly, the taste doesn’t have near as much piney and earthy flavors as the smell would suggest. Let it warm and you get a nice mix of oranges and grapefruit. Strangely, I get a little bit of black peppercorns in the aftertaste – which lingers a bit in the back of my throat.
Overall, I really enjoyed this offering from Stone. I’ve recently had the chance to try a few other English IPA’s and the style is really growing on me.