14 September 2016

Meine kleine Steine

Stone Brewing Company's outpost in Germany has generated a lot more hot air and newsprint than actual beer since it was announced in 2014. The brewery's first releases arrived in Ireland earlier this year -- the flagship IPA and strong ale Arrogant Bastard. Reviews were mixed and, more importantly, I've tasted both already, so I left them on shelf. Wave two appeared more recently and featured Ruination plus two brand new ones for me, which is enough for me to go and satisfy my curiosity how the baby Stone of Mariendorf is getting on.

Go To IPA was the first I opened, a session IPA at 4.7% ABV, which is on the high side for the style but perfectly acceptable. It's a very pale yellow, which I take as a good sign: none of your sticky malts thank you. The aroma is very impressive -- extremely tropical, bulging with sweet mango and pineapple to begin, though developing more serious dank grass and spring onion after a minute or two in the glass. Still, I was intrigued. And it's the spring onion that dominates the foretaste, turning to full-on garlic. There are nine different hop varieties in here but it seems to be Mosaic at the controls. Searching for more complexity I get a little bit of peach in the middle, before it all kind of tails off into a hard bitterness and a watery finish. This one doesn't quite live up to the promise of that aroma but it's still a damn tasty beer and demonstrates clearly to my satisfaction that Stone's German satellite is perfectly capable of producing the same elegantly balanced beers as the mothership.

We change tack somewhat for the next one: Cali-Belgique, one of those hybrid Americo-Belgian IPAs of which I hold up Flying Dog's immortal Raging Bitch as the highest example. It looks plain enough: a clear pale orange, the froth quickly fizzing away to almost nothing. There's a heat to the Belgianness in its aroma; an acetone and phenols buzz that makes me think of dark and strong beers rather than pale and merely 6.9% ABV. The flavour is calmer, thankfully, but it's still all about the Belgian effect: big esters throwing out banana, pear and a little bit of lychee. The hops are comprehensively drowned out, to the point where I really could have been drinking any average strong Belgian blonde ale rather than the pinnacle of Californian and Teutonic brewing capability. There's nothing wrong with it per se, but it gets a resounding meh from me. It's really nothing special, and I demand special from Stone, in one direction or another.

Overall, these aren't the wonky beers I had been half-expecting them to be. I think the system in Berlin is working the way it ought to, contrary to what I'd been told. I'm well up for whatever it produces next.


  1. Had a lot of Stone and never found their beers to be the height of anything. Rather, they are well priced well made easily available things in NE of the US but brewed thousands of miles away. Plus with a hairy odd man in charge and bad branding.

    1. Well priced and well made is the height of what beer is supposed to be. It is, in fact, awesome.

    2. It is then like Table Mountain in South Africa, a height with a broad flat surface. Too many equals or betters to evoke the Matterhorn sort of Alpen cereal imagery.

    3. In which case you have my congratulations, not entirely without a tinge of envy.

    4. BTW, Spike Milligan on the Goon Show sang "I lost my teeth on Table Mountain / High up above, they smile at me..." which I believe was the high point of the British Empire.