Monthly Archives: March 2011

Drinking It All: #37 Stone IPA

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

somehow this gargoyle doesn't imply gothness

During our last trip to Atlanta a couple of weekends ago, Steve took us to Hop City where they sell homebrew stuff and tons of fancy beers and wines. I managed to spend about 45 minutes looking at beer before even starting to fill a buggy, and I came home with about 7 or so single beers (some in large bottles). Today, I’ve finally opened one of them up, and it’s one I’ve heard much about but never tried: Stone IPA.

Stone brewery is located in San Diego, and they’re pretty well-known in craft beer circles. You can read a little about them in Charlie Papazian’s Microbrewed Adventures book. I’m pretty sure I remember the owner of the brewery being interviewed in Beer Wars (which if you haven’t seen, you should, etc.). Other than that, I’m not much of a scholar on the brewery, but I figured I knew enough to buy a beer of theirs. And so.

This beer’s (like I said) an IPA, and the back of the bottle is, to paraphrase, not exactly modest about how they feel about the beer. They are proud, and the word ‘hop’ or some variation of it appears in one paragraph 7 times. Modesty isn’t one of their ‘strong suits’ and neither is subtlety either, I guess. So the beer should be hoppy.

And the beer is hoppy. As a 6.9% ABV IPA, it’s at home near the lower end of the strength totem pole, but the hop flavor could easily fit a beer with a higher ABV. The hop character of the beer isn’t so overwhelming though. It’s not at all the hoppiest thing I’ve had, but it’s getting up there. The taste is super hoppy and bitter, and the smell is hoppy (but to be honest, my nose is a little stopped up so I’m having a hard time telling just exactly what it smells like). The color is pretty light as far as IPAs go–since the ABV is relatively low for the style, the paler-than-many-IPAs color makes sense.

Tangentially-related side note: I’m afraid I’m starting to wear myself out on IPAs. It’s getting hard to be able to tell the difference between the many super-hoppy beers that I like so much. Neither my nose nor tongue is trained enough to recognize different hop varieties, and since that’s the case, I’m starting to wonder how I’ll be able to rank the different IPAs I try. (Not that the goal here is to rank them, but it’s at least kind of the goal, right? If I can’t tell the difference, then I should just stick to one and forget the rest. But then what if I pass one up that’s just hoppy enough to make steam shoot out my ears–see? How else do I differentiate the IPAs other than levels of hoppiness? There are ways, I’m sure, but I don’t know them.) And so I’m also starting to wonder if I should stop drinking IPAs so indiscriminately and adopt a more panoramic view of the beer aisle. Then when I periodically try an IPA, maybe I’ll be able to more easily tell what its prominent qualities are. And also, just imagine a panoramic view of the beer aisle. Yes.

This beer I like. Even though I might not be able to articulate very well why I like it (which, I know, then what’s the point of writing about it and expecting people to read it and actually get some kind of mental/gustatory sense of the beer if I can’t explain why I like it in fewer than 600+ words at this point?), I’m betting that if you’re reading this, you’ll be likely to take a chance on it. Also, look at the bottle. Fuckin’ gargoyle on it.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up. But don’t ask me why.

Brewed Slowly: #12 London Pride Clone

Last time my wife and I were at Whole Foods, I put together a mix 6 pack of beer and just happened to pick one of my most favorite beers out of my many favorite beers: Fuller’s London Pride. London Pride is a British bitter that you can find on tap just about everywhere in London, which is where I first had it, and some places here in the States, and it’s pretty low in alcohol (4.1 or 4.7 ABV depending on whether it’s in casks or kegs/bottles). And even though the tendency seems to be that higher gravity (alcohol) beers get featured more prominently as the ‘serious’ ones at restaurants and stores, I’m a huge fan of lower gravity beers. A high gravity does not necessarily a good beer make. Also, you can have a few low gravity beers and not be ruined the rest of the day (which try to do that with an Imperial anything). So when I bought some new equipment to start transitioning to all-grain brewing, I figured I’d take a shot at making a London Pride clone.

(Because this was my first all-grain beer, I looked at some all-grain intros on the Internet. One pretty helpful video I watched was Joe Polvino’s two-part video. He ain’t the most captivating public speaker, but the content’s solid as a goddamn tank.)

A bit about the new equipment. I recently bought a new brew pot on eBay. This pot, as you can see in a couple of the pictures, is just a modified keg–i.e., a keg with the top cut out and with three holes put in for a valve, thermometer, and a sight glass. My pot came with a thermometer and valve but not a sight glass. It also came with a steel mesh strainer on the inside attached to the other end of the valve. Long story short, it’s a completely kick-ass toy.

the burner ain't big enough for its britches (i.e., the keg)

I also finally broke down and bought a glass carboy to use as a fermentor. I’ve been using the same plastic fermenting bucket that came with my first brew kit (which is now over two years old), and I’ll just say that it doesn’t ever not smell like beer, so it’s not exactly the environment I want my beers to ferment in anymore. And I usually use my wife’s winemaking glass carboy as a secondary, so I only really needed one more carboy. For now. And using a carboy as a fermentor is cool because now I can actually see the beer fermenting. Yes, it is cool to be able to do this.

So with the new equipment came new (and necessary) steps in the brewing process, but first, and switching to metric for primary measurements (also, a note about the recipe: this is a clone recipe, which just means that it’s someone’s close attempt at recreating a particular commercial beer. I’ve actually mixed two recipes for London Pride, one from this month’s Brew Your Own magazine, which is provided by the brewery, and one from this site),

the Software :

3.9kg (8.6 lbs) Optic Pale Malt

240g (0.52 lb) flaked corn

132g (0.28 lb) Caramel/crystal malt 40L

11g Target hop pellets

10g Northdown hop pellets

11g Challenger hop pellets

1 tsp Irish Moss

Wyeast 1968 London ESB (Fuller’s own yeast strain)

the Dance:

1. Brought 2.25 gallons of water to 170F in the keg pot.

2. Added the grain (in a huge grain bag. I seriously miscalculated how big a bag I’d need. I think the one I bought is like 2′ x 3′ or something).

mashin' 9 lbs o' grain

3. Kept the temp. between 150-158F for 60 minutes. This is a pretty big pain in the ass to do with the Bayou Burner I use. Lots of bringing it to 160F, then turning off the heat, then turning it back on when it gets to 150F, then repeat, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

sub-3. Brought 4 gallons of water to 170F in another pot (my old brewpot) during the 60 minutes mentioned in 3. And on the same Bayou Burner–gettin’ a workout.

4. Sparged the grain with the 4 gallons from sub-3. Poured the 170F water over the grains and let it run out through the handy valve (did this twice, and it seriously helps to have a helper during this stage–my buddy Ben lent his two hands).

5. Removed the grain bag.

–Steps 1-5 comprise the Mash, which is the new (and necessary) step in my brewing process. It’s basically making the extract I used to use, and there are all kinds of advantages to mashing/all-grain brewing, which we’ll suss out later on. As in, in other posts.–

bringin' it to a boil


6. Brought the liquid to a boil.


7. Added the Target hops at the beginning of the 60 minute boil.

8. Added the rest of the hops and the Irish Moss with 15 minutes left in the 60 minute boil.

9. I had no snow this time, so I cooled the wort down, after transferring it to my old brewpot, with regular, store-bought ice.

OG: 1.050

it's alive

Same as last time, I goofed on the measurement. This time I just plain forgot to use the beer thief to get a sample before I plugged up the beer to ferment.

I’m hoping, obviously, for a big success with my first all-grain beer, and the fact that it’s got London Pride’s Shaq-sized shoes to fill is why I specifically chose the word ‘hope.’ I think about all the words I choose, homey.

Coming up, I’ll have reviews of some fancy-ass beers (e.g., Dogfish Imperial Pilsner, Stone IPA) I picked up in Atlanta last weekend.


Drinking It All: #36 O'Hara's Irish Stout

Drinking It All is a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

ain't no stout like an irish stout

I’m still trying to knock out some of the beers I’ve been saving up for the blog. I’m down to just a six-pack or so (although that’s mostly because I’ve just been drinking the beers I’ve been saving and not writing about them), and I’ve just opened a stout that my dad got us for Xmas. Admittedly, he got us a few more beers (which went unblogged (supra)), and they were good, but I’m going to tell you about this one, and it’s good. (FYI: my dad does like to drink a beer now and again, but he’ll tell you that dark beers aren’t much to his taste, so I’m pretty sure he’s not had this beer but picked it up because he thought we’d like it.)

Stouts from bottles. I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned my skepticism of stouts in bottles. I’m sure that I probably just seem too picky. I’m sure there are good reasons to put stouts in bottles, and, at the end of the day, I’d rather have stouts in bottles than no stouts at all. So, OK. This beer obviously is a stout in a bottle. The (somewhat informative) bottle indicates that the beer is O’Hara’s Irish Stout imported from Carlow, Ireland, and the 11.2 oz/330 ml e measurement seems to back the Irishness up. If there’s anyone to trust with a stout, it’s an Irish brewery, so so far so good.

This beer tastes similar to lots of other stouts I’ve (and probably you’ve) had–it’s got the coffee-ish roasted flavor and a noticeable chocolate taste. But not too much chocolate. It’s also bitter, which is kind of a defining part of a good stout, even if it’s (i.e., the bitterness) something that is easy to overlook because of the prominence of the roasted malt and chocolate flavors. And this beer smells good. I’d say that the way it smells is a bigger part of why I like this beer than how it actually tastes (but then smell accounts for how much of our ability to taste? That’s right–a bunch or our ability.). But it’s kind of silly to divorce the taste from the smell or the appearance for that matter. Which about the appearance, just guess. It’s dark. You can see in the above picture that the beer is dark. It might not be the darkest beer I’ve ever had, but let’s just call it as dark as a Hawking singularity. (Is that histrionic if I admit to it?)

So this stout is, I’ll admit, similar to other stouts I’ve had. Even though this might seem like a criticism, I definitely don’t mean it that way. I’ll chalk it up to my inexperience with stouts (and the fact that about the only one I can get often around here is Guinness, which ain’t easy for any beer to measure up against) and the fact that the way stouts taste is usually such that subtle differences can be masked by the larger flavor components. However, all things being equal, similarity isn’t enough (in this case, or, to be honest, in most cases) to dismiss this beer.

Long story short: give this beer a try if you run across it. It might just seem familiar, and that’s probably a good thing.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up. Next time I’m in Ireland (for the first time), I’ll be sure to take a bus to Carlow.

Also, I’ll be soon bringing back some old features of Namely, the Box of Vinyl project (especially now that the proverbial ‘box’ has gotten considerably bigger) and probably ‘literary ramblings of a once future academic literate elite’ (which wasn’t a feature, but that’s just too ridiculous a name for it not to be). Sounds like fun, yes?