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Review by SAP on 07/15/09  
 
Score Appearance Smell Taste Mouthfeel Overall Impression Year
70 3 9 13 3 7 2009
A soft pour still nets me an almost three-finger thick, lightly browned, amber-tan colored head. The beer is a dark, amber-red color with brown notes to it that when held up to the light shows a brilliantly clear, deep ruby hue. The aroma is sticky with candied hop notes; lychee, candied orange zest, sugar coated pine and spruce tips are followed & boosted by caramelized crystal malt flavors, toasted (almost roasted even) malt and a nice cracker / biscuit grain note towards the finish. Other, more herbal hop notes lend an almost dank, hemp-oil like character and perhaps a touch of green onion / garlic chive towards the finish. After a bit I start to notice a touch of cinnamon like hop character that mixes in with the sweet citrus notes. The nose of this beer is definitely quite hoppy, though given the hop-talk from the brewer I was actually expecting this to jump out of the glass with an expressive hop character. It doesn’t quite do that, though it certainly is a hop focused beer, but there is a solid, underlying malt contribution here; it is overwhelmed by the hops in the aroma, but you can tell this beer has a lot of malt richness to it as well.

Somewhat creamy textured and full in the body, the beer still has quite a bit of a prickly carbonation; it would probably be better without quite so much carbonation. There is enough hop character here that the overall beer effect seems dry. There is some residual malt sugars here, even a substantial crystal malt sweetness, it just isn’t that noticeable because of all the raw hop character. The beer finishes with a lingering, bracing bitterness that really stays on the palate long after the beer has left my mouth and even has some raw, green-hop astringency. Herbal hops are apparent as the beer first hits my tongue. There is also a solid fruity-hop character here, it just clearly plays second fiddle to the herbal hop notes. Hop notes of grapefruit zest, tangerine, lychee and kumquat are joined by notes green raw hop notes (that are almost a bit vegetal at times), substantial peppery pine notes, Towards the finish, after it loses the fruit notes, the hop character get piquant with notes of menthol, pine, peppery herbs and a resinous hop character that just fills the palate. The finish has some warm, almost hot alcohol character to it that accentuates the biting hop character.

I like that the nose strikes a decent balance between citrus hop notes, more dank, herbal notes and with a subtle, but somehow substantial malt character as a backbone to the nose. This is definitely a sipping brew, with all it malt character and alcoholic strength, not to mention the aggressive hop character. Stone puts this as part of the nebulous Imperial / Double Red style of beer. To my taste it is a cross between a rich, malty and thick Barleywine and a hopped up Double IPA. This is an unbalanced hoppy beer for sure, but it still needs some balance to it; the hop character can get a bit too harsh here at times and the hot alcohol doesn’t help things. Still not a bad beer, just could use a bit more finesse and perhaps just a month or two of age to mellow and better integrate the harsh notes; I’ll have to get another bottle of this to do just that.

Purchased: Plaza Liquors, Tucson AZ

Served In: Tulip