It’s 1996. Independence Day is killing it in the box office. The Summer Olympics are in Atlanta. The Unibomber was captured and TuPac was shot. Oprah started her book club. And the entire world was in love with Seinfeld and Friends. Oh, and Greg Koch and Steve Wagner started a little brewery called Stone in San Diego, pouring their first beer at the city’s legendary Pizza Port. No biggie. Twenty years later, Stone is one of the biggest craft breweries in the country, ringing in their anniversary with new production breweries, one in Virginia and one in Germany. Yeah, they’re kind of a big deal. In addition to cutting the ribbon on two new breweries, Stone also brewed a big, ballsy IPA to celebrate their birthday, because that’s what Stone does.
“Citracado” is the name of the road where Stone’s flagship brewery is located in San Diego. The name also pays homage to the citrus and avocado agricultural history of Southern California and it also gives you a clue to the ingredients in the beer. Stone uses Citra hops and avocado flower honey. Don’t worry, I had to look that one up too. It’s honey from bees who feed off of avocado blossoms. So, it’s really fancy honey. So it should be no surprise that this beer resides on the sweet side of IPAs, even though it’s absolutely loaded with hops (more about that later). And maybe even more significant, the sweetness isn’t the fruity, hop-driven kind that modern IPA lovers have grown to expect. The sweetness comes through up front, and lingers through the finish, but in mellow, malty undertones that are driven by that honey addition.
Now, for the hops. In addition to the Citra alluded to by the beer’s name, Stone also uses Nugget, El Dorado and Centennial hops, but it would be tough to come up with a cute name that includes all those strains. (Citranuggadonialado?) And damn, is this beer hoppy. Again, forget those fruity, modern weed strains. The combo of hops in this double IPA come across as spiteful. Biting. The hops sweep through the sip, balancing the heavy-handed sweetness and then dominating everything on the tail end of the sip, finishing so zesty that it borderlines spicy. When you hear IPAs referred to as “palate scorchers,” this is what they’re talking about.
In a word, this beer is aggressive. And it’s just the opening act for the brewery’s 20th birthday. Stone has two more anniversary beers planned for release soon: another IPA and a Belgian strong ale. Something tells me they’ll be just as aggressive as this double IPA.
Stone Brewing Co.
City: Escondido, California
Style: Double IPA
Availability: Limited, big bottles