Friday, June 4, 2010

Stone Brewing Co. - Sublimely Self Righteous Ale

Last night while watching a very satisfying Game 1 of the NBA Finals, I finally got around to trying a bottle of Stone's "Sublimely Self Righteous Ale." It's been lurking in the depths of my fridge for a few weeks, so last night, in the name of doing my part to help clear out the fridge, I decided to drink it.

I'll admit it- I used to hate Stone beers. My only experience with them was the few that they gave away for free at UCSD during a student appreciation event called Bear Garden. At every Bear Garden, Stone supplies kegs of their Pale Ale and their standard IPA and every student gets two samples. I was really underwhelmed. Coincidentally, my work, Trader Joes, finally started carrying Stone beer and the only two we carry (besides bombers of Arrogant Bastard) are the very same Pale Ale and IPA. Needless to say, at $9.49 a six pack, I will be passing.

Then, about a month ago, my perception of Stone completely changed. It started when a friend from work posted a picture on his Facebook wall of a bomber (a 22 oz. bottle) of Stone's newest release, a Russian Imperial Stout. Interesting, I thought. Up to seeing the picture, I was completely unaware that Stone made anything in the way of seasonal beers. The next day, I picked up a bottle at Bristol Farms and gave it a try. I couldn't believe it was the same brewery that I had tasted at Bear Garden. The Russian Imperial Stout quickly became one of the best beers I have ever tasted. Absolutely delicious. I tried it with Kenny, a buddy of mine who knows way more about beer than I do and who is quickly becoming my Beer Yoda. Kenny happened to have some more Stone at home, so the next time he came over, we tried Stone's Old Guardian Barleywine and another seasonal beer they make called Double Bastard. Again, I was blown away by both of them. After trying one more of Stone's beers a week later, their Ruination IPA, I decided to revise my opinion of Stone. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries.

On to the tasting. Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous Ale may not have been as mindblowing as their Russian Imperial, but it was pretty damn good. It poured a very dark and almost black brown color with a nice mocha colored head. For some reason, I wasn't expecting this. The ales I'm used to just don't look as dark as a Guinness. The darkness wasn't a bad thing at all, just surprising. The beer tasted like a good ale should, slightly sweet at the first sip and then giving way to a very hoppy (but not dry, which was nice) finish. I'm definitely used to my ales having a decent amount of hops and this one has that going for it for sure.

For anyone who doesn't know, hops are a funny little flower used in brewing that gives the beer a lot of its body. They're that slightly bitter aftertaste that you get when you're drinking a lot of different beers. You're going to taste hops in a pale ale. You may be blown away by the hops in an IPA. For me, I haven't always enjoyed hops. When I started drinking beer, I liked beers like Heineken, beers in which the hops weren't really that noticeable. Slowly, I have come to appreciate the hop to the point where IPAs are some of my favorite beers. I actually have a very special IPA in the fridge right now that I'll be reviewing soon. I'm not giving away what it is just yet, but let's just say I can't wait to review this one. Anyways, back to hops. Some people really hate hops. These people are way more likely to like a beer like Pyramid Hefeweizen or a Blue Moon than a Sierra Nevada. Then there are people who can't get enough hops. These people are known (mostly to themselves) as hop heads. I wouldn't say I'm a hop head, but my hop tolerance has definitely gone way up. The hops in the Sublimely Self Righteous Ale were pretty much just how I like them. They were right between having a floral and a citrus character to them, so they didn't weigh down the beer at all. This beer was strongly hopped, so the flavor lasted way beyond the finish and I could still taste the bitterness an hour later.

While this may not have been the best I've had from Stone, it certainly upheld their reputation in my book. It's a really solid ale, and at 8.7% (percent alcohol that is, most beers range from 4-12% or so and most are way below 8%), it will keep you happy no matter what your taste in beer is.

Final Grade: A-

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