It’s only fitting that the brewery behind Arrogant Bastard would be the one to come along and simply name their next beer “Delicious IPA.” Some breweries have a good sense of what their culture and image are, but then there’s Stone—they live their image, from Greg Koch on down.
Delicious is a fascinating concept on multiple levels. Most notably, it’s a “gluten-reduced” beer, which is a term I’d never heard before. Not gluten-free, “gluten-reduced.” This is achieved with help from yeast-sellers White Labs, who provide an enzyme that “breaks down gluten proteins, separating and denaturing them, resulting in a beer that meets the Food and Drug Administration’s gluten-reduced classification.” This stuff, which is called Clarity-Ferm, “does not affect its color, or, more importantly it’s flavor,” according to Stone.
What we’re left with then could theoretically be the holy grail of products for someone with gluten intolerance: A good, craft beer IPA that won’t make them sick if they drink it. As most people who have done much gluten-free beer drinking would attest, they’d likely just be willing to settle for “good beer,” because most gluten-free offerings leave much to be desired in the realm of taste.
However, the gluten aspect isn’t the only area where Stone is experimenting here. Delicious IPA is a dry, West-Coast IPA that also plays with a new hop variety called Lemondrop in addition to the new-ish varieties of El Dorado and Calypso. The result is an intriguing citric aroma that strongly reminds me of the leaves of lemon verbena, when crushed to release the essential oils. There’s also a bright, green, grassy note and herbal qualities, and a suggestion of sweetness that marries together with the citrus to produce the impression of a stroll through the greenhouse or a handful of old-school lemon candies.
It’s very soft on the palate, which encourages drinking in bulk. This is not an in-your-face IPA, although there’s no shortage of hop flavors, which come across as an interesting mix of lemon-lime and tropical fruits, with an herbal buzz in the background. There’s even a little bit of grainy maltiness that pops up for a moment on the back end, which is really sort of an accomplishment for a gluten-free product. However, I find myself wondering whether, if I tasted this blind, I would really identify its profile as an IPA. I think it more likely that I’d say it was a uniquely fruity pale ale, perhaps with New Zealand or Australian hop varietals or some citrus fruit/peel additions.
The fact that I can immediately call this the best “gluten-reduced” or gluten-free beer I’ve ever had speaks less to the idea that Delicious lives up to its moniker and more to the dearth in truly enjoyable craft beers for the gluten-free market. This is an interesting product, and I give Stone credit for not simply making a similar IPA to their previous efforts while removing the gluten. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, even if it doesn’t immediately jump to the front of the pack as an IPA specifically.
So by all means, if you’ve missed hops since giving up gluten, check this one out when it has its nation-wide roll-out on Jan. 5. Users can even visit the beer’s page on the Stone web site to find exactly how many parts-per-million of gluten are in each batch, according to White Labs tests.
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
City: Escondido, CA
Style: American IPA (gluten-reduced)
Availability: 12 oz. bottles,