So, fearful of Greg Koch showing up at my door tomorrow morning and screaming “I TOLD YOU TO ENJOY IT BY YESTERDAY!” at me, I open this bottle of quite strong, very black ale and give it a sniff. The first thing I get on the nose is blackberry, then some flamed citrus oils, cooked raisins and a hint of road tar, although the last not at all in a bad way. So far, so good.
That blackberry is back at the front of the palate, which is actually fairly sweet considering that this is a Stone-brewed IPA. The mid-palate is where all the action takes place, though, with the fruity sweetness giving way to a steadily growing citrus hop bitterness that brings with it spicy and herbal notes, suggestions of black currant and a malt flavor that is not quite roasty and neither burnt, but still somehow tastes of very well kilned grain. For a beer so big – 9.4% alcohol, big hoppiness, an admonition of the label to “ENJOY NOW! — the finish is actually fairly restrained, with lingering burnt citrus oil bitterness and raisiny notes.
Overall, this is a beer that offers much more on reflection than it does on the first swallow or two. There is complexity where one might expect only burnt grain and bitterness, aromatic depth where most hop-heads would be happy with sharp citrus, and a soothing quality attributable to its well-disguised strength. I find the bitter edge of the finish lingers too long, but then again, I’m tasting rather than drinking. In a bar with friends, I doubt you’d even notice.