It has been way too long since I used the old Hophead Ranking System, and I've been looking for a good reason to dust it off. So when Stone Brewing Co. sent a bomber of Stone Enjoy By 04.01.13 IPA, it seemed the perfect opportunity, and the time limit on the beer's availability gave me the kind of deadline I need to actually get something done.
The "Enjoy By" series uses huge amounts of hops in a big, bold double IPA, and is intended to be consumed as soon as possible. In fact, Stone vows to remove any remaining beers from shelves the day after its titular expiration date.
The irony of this is that giving a big IPA an expiration date flies in the face of the IPA creation myth. The popular story is that IPAs, or India pale ales, were brewed with bigger amounts hops and higher levels of alcohol to preserve them on the voyage from the British Isles to India. You'd think something with this big a dose of hops and this much alcohol would last for years. And it probably would, though the pungent, piney, floral hops would lose some of their punch. My theory is that Stone founder Greg Koch gets annoyed by the hoarding instincts of serious beer geeks and in most cases (Vertical Epic being an exception) just wants them to enjoy their beers instead of aging them. People sometimes ask him on Twitter if they should drink some special release now or hold onto it, and the answer is often along the lines of, "Open it now, but it probably would have been better a long time ago." Enjoying beer while it's fresh -- what a concept.
It's available for a very limited time at most of the usual beer-centric retailers and bars -- Whole Foods, Central Market, Craft and Growler, Meddlesome Moth, Union Bear, The Common Table and so on. You can search the website to find one near you.
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Appearance: Clear deep golden yellow with a foamy white head. I like the simple green, black and white, the label design gets the urgency across, and the missive on the back is refreshingly short. 10
Nose: Intensely piney, dank and citrusy. You certainly know what you're in for. 10
Taste: This is great. It's very bitter and dry, with some malt sweetness up front giving way to a truckload of hops. You couldn't call it balanced, but you wouldn't want to, either. 38
Body: Surprisingly light-bodied for such a big beer, with very strong carbonation. Very refreshing. 10
Finish: Extremely bitter and dry without lingering stickiness. 9
Style/Originality: This is an outstanding double IPA, and I applaud such a serious effort to get people to drink their beer now instead of being like, "Just picked up a bottle of such-and-such, can't wait to drink it in 2016." 10
Party Factor (ABV divided by price per 12-ounce unit): Stone sent a bottle to the Observer, so mine was free. At 9.4 percent ABV and 22-ounce bombers going for $6.99 or $7.99, this has a factor of 2.16 to 2.46, rounding to 2.