By Will Carroll
I was excited to see a nice selection of Stone beers at a local package store last weekend. Stone and its Arrogant Bastard Ale are among the reasons craft beer went big. Stone found that combination of great beer, humor and not being conventional. So many others have tried to follow, but in many ways, they haven’t been able to. Stone is a cornerstone, no pun intended, of the movement.
However, it’s not local. Stone is located near San Diego. I have no problem at all drinking a nice craft beer from somewhere other than Indiana, especially a good one. Stone and Green Flash are two of the more accessible ones here in the Midwest, but getting a beer from California to Indianapolis is perilous.
I found one of those perils in one of the two bottles I bought. Having gone on a bit of a Green Flash kick lately, enjoying their takes on the classic IPA that has become the signature of San Diego, I was excited to try a Gotterdamerung IPA from Stone. I grabbed it and another Stone bottle and checked out.
It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the problem. Stone brewed this beer in August. Fresh beer tastes better and hops helps beer hold up, but…no, this one was off. There were distinct rotten apple flavors on top of the citrus and resin that I had expected. It’s disappointing to spend six bucks on a beer that ends up down the drain, but it does remind all of us to check the labels, especially on special brews or out of town beers.
Some of this is on the store as well. I don’t expect the minimum wage worker to know the ins and outs of beer, but someone needs to be checking the stock and making sure that the customers are happy. I’m sure Stone doesn’t want someone having a bad experience either. (I tried to contact Stone about this, but did not get a response by press time.)
That leaves it to the customer. Read the label before you buy. Know a bit about the brewery or at least where it’s located. Even volume can matter when it comes to traveling. We all know Stone knows what it’s doing, but some brewery you might never have heard of deserves a bit more scrutiny.
Then again, maybe a good beer isn’t your thing. Stone is doing a series called the Stochasticity Project. It’s a bit more experimental, and the first had me very excited. It’s called Grapefruit Slam IPA and had me hoping for Stone’s take on something like Sun King’s famous Grapefruit Jungle.
Lots of Centennial hops and some grapefruit peel in a Stone IPA sounded like something I’d love, but it fell flat for me. There was nothing wrong with this beer — the bitter and citrus were there — but maybe I set my expectations too high because, in the end, it was a nice IPA but nothing special. I actually prefer Green Flash’s IPAs to this one, but again, that’s personal preference.
Maybe this trip to the store wasn’t successful, but I did learn something. That’s the fun of craft beer. Even when you don’t like the one you have, you’ve made a step towards finding one you’ll love. Knowing what you don’t like is just as important.
So what are you drinking right now? Drop some comments and let’s talk some beer.
Sun King Brewing will be having its fifth anniversary in June and will be doing it up right. They’ll have great Americana band The Wild Feathers and, just as importantly, will be tapping their unique Grapefruit Jungle beer. Grapefruit Jungle is fast becoming one of the mythical beers of Indiana, along with Three Floyds’ Dark Lord and Oaken Barrel’s Apple Buzz. Tickets are available online now.
New brewery Chilly Waters is an exciting addition to the Fletcher Place area. With good brewer DNA, the new brewery joins a growing list of new Indianapolis breweries scheduled to open in the next few months. No word yet on styles, but Chilly Waters is going to bring a lot of fans over from Fountain Square, I’m sure.