Let it never be said that Stone Brewing Company (one of the biggest players in the craft beer industry) doesn’t know how to market and create buzz. They do it better than just about anyone else, whether it’s heavily hyped releases like Dayman Coffee IPA or collaboration projects with other major craft brewers around the country. They’re simply good at getting people to talk about their product. And now they’ve done it again.
Like Stephen King and Richard Bachman, Stone went out and created an alias—Stochasticity Project—albeit a thinly veiled one. A relatively small amount of sleuthing was necessary to reveal the first Stochasticity Project beer, Grapefruit Slam IPA, was actually brewed by Stone. First hint: the “shadow” brewery behind Stochasticity is based in Escondido, just like Stone. Second hint: the name of that mystery brewery is “Koochenvagner Brewing Company,” and the founders of Stone are named Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. Two plus two equals Stone Brewing.
Now, Stone has confirmed what people already knew, although I’d be lying if I said I fully understood their stated reason for creating the Stochasticity Project. In the end, I’m sure it boils down to marketing. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, and it would appear the ongoing Stochasticity Project series will focus on more experimental brews. Upcoming releases will include Varna Necropolis, a Belgian golden strong ale aged in bourbon barrels and an unnamed Belgian quadrupel made with “flaked triticale,” described as a cross between wheat and rye.
As for Stochasticity’s first release, Grapefruit Slam IPA—this is some abrasive, challenging beer, and it should be noted that this is firmly in DIPA territory at 8.2% ABV. On the nose, it smells like—wait for it—grapefruit! Who would have thunk it? I guess that’s what you get with the “immense dosing of fresh grapefruit peel” that the label boasts. You can immediately tell this is going to be a dry, bitter brew—it just has that puckering quality. Hidden behind all the grapefruit, there are also some floral notes.
The flavors are huge and intense. It’s all hops, with a rush of resinous, piney American hops that settle into pithy grapefruit. It’s simultaneously dry and fruity. There’s a ghost of bready malt character that is immediately inundated by the hop and fruit character.
Then there’s the bitterness, which is intense. Actually, “intense” doesn’t even do it credit. It’s one of the most bitter beers I’ve had in recent memory, prickling on the tongue and lasting for minutes after the sip is gone. It’s as if the grapefruit’s bitter white membrane was incorporated into the flavor base along with the sweeter side of fruit.
This beer has garnered some rave reviews since its release, and it’s certainly an interesting effort that receives points for creativity. But ultimately, there have been plenty of other brews that have done a better job of suggesting the impression of grapefruit through their hop character alone. In its unbalanced and one-note nature, this seems a little too close to some stereotypical idea of West Coast American craft beer that a new, hop-averse drinker would envision. I can imagine one of them drinking something like this and being turned off of IPAs for years, unprepared for the extreme bitterness that confronts them.
With that said, Grapefruit Slam is not bad beer—just intense. If you’re a fan of big, dry, bitter, hop-forward and grapefruit-themed IPAs, then it might be right up your alley. As for me, I’ll be keeping an eye out for future Stochasticity Project releases.
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
City: Escondido, Calif.
Style: American double/imperial IPA
IBU: 77 (but certainly seemed higher to me)
Availability: Limited, 22 oz bottle