A timely post by Stan just convinced me that it was high time I popped the cap on a bottle of Stone Thirteenth Anniversary Ale this afternoon, although to be completely honest, it wasn’t the “specialness” of the beer that had laid it on the sidelines for a few weeks, but rather my own busy schedule and the rather daunting combination of 22 fluid ounces and 9.5% alcohol. (And don’t start, Lew!)
But after the day of computer-generated frustration I’ve just experienced, I think I’m deserving.
A beautiful purplish brown in colour, there’s little doubt from the first sniff that this is typically stone. Yes, folks, we’re talking hops and lots of ’em. Although also in keeping with the Stone modus operandi, there’s also more than just hops present in this aroma, as aromas like pure cocoa powder and allspice help support all that spicy, citrusy hoppiness. (BTW, another thing I learned from Dr. Herz in New Orleans is that a fool-proof way to recalibrate your sense of smell is to take a deep whiff of your own skin, assuming you’re not all perfumed, of course.) The first taste, in fact, is not bitter at all, but sweet with dark chocolate, raisins and a touch of molasses. Then the hops come rolling in, but alongside and around the malty goodness, rather than stampeding over top, creating an effect that is at once mouth-coating, malted milk and earthy, astringent bitterness. Pulled all together, it works, and should satisfy both hophead and more reserved – dare I say balanced? – beer drinker.
Personally, I’d like to see more malt lingering on the finish, as the aftertaste seems to me a bit on the lingering bitterness side, but another sip quickly puts such concerns to rest. Had I done the responsible thing and waited until dinnertime to enjoy this bruiser, I think it would have served quite nicely alongside a plate of braised beef shortribs, or alternately a good – as opposed to fussy, Alan – burger with blue cheese melted overtop.