Cali-Belgique IPA – Stone Brewing Co.

Stone’s Cali-Belgique is their classic IPA fermented with Belgian yeasts, 6.9% ABV.

Reviewed in a frosted hefeweizen glass.

Appearance: Pours a bubbly, light-shaded golden orange. It produces a one-finger head that dissipates rather quickly until it is non-existent. Zero lacing occurs throughout the glass, except for a bit of residue that is left by the head.

Smell: Has a great, complex aroma consisting of sweet, fruity notes backed by hints of light bread and malts.

Taste: Very sweet on the palate, with notes of light bread and orange. The Belgian yeast is also at the forefront, and produces a soy-like taste that accentuates the initial sweetness. Transitions to a citrusy, hoppy punch that is identical to the standard Stone IPA, but is more mellow on the finish with only a slight bitterness that lingers harmoniously with the yeast. There is a slight tinge of alcohol as well, but it is not overbearing or disruptive in any way.

Mouthfeel: A medium body that leans more on the softer side. Carbonation is fairly moderate. Overall, quite a fluffy mouthfeel.

Conclusion: Stone has created a fantastic beer with the Cali-Belgique. It’s not a drastic change in recipe from their standard IPA, but the added Belgian yeasts really do make a difference, and the end result is a surprisingly balanced brew. Despite the yeast’s lighter flavors in contrast to the hop’s citrusy, bitter profile, everything meshes well in the finish and leaves you wanting a second sip. It’s deliciously drinkable! I’d say my only complaints about this beer are it’s lack of greater complexity when compared to Stone’s more ambitious IPA collaborations, and it’s rather subdued hoppiness, but regardless, the Cali-Belgique a great addition to this brewery’s already outstanding lineup.

91 out of 100

Pliny the Elder – Russian River Brewing Co.

Pliny the Elder is a Double IPA, 8% ABV.

Bottled on 4/3/2012.

Appearance: Aggressive pour yields a two finger, fluffy, off white head. Excellent head retention. Color-wise, this beer is a hazy dark-orange with hues of amber. Sticky lacing coats the glass after every sip.

Smell: Pure, fresh hops. Hints of grapefruit and orange. A bit of pine and resin. Smell is more citrusy and bright than the taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation. Smooth and velvety on the tongue with a hint of bubbliness.

Taste: One word: balance. Breathing in while taking a sip of this beer combines a citrusy and tropical hop profile from the aroma with a piney and earthy hop profile from the taste, giving you the ultimate hop experience. This intense hopinness does not come at the cost of being extremely bitter. The bitterness is present but subdued, allowing the hop flavor to shine. Caramel malt backbone kicks in at the last second to round out this beer perfectly.

Overall: There is a great deal of hype surrounding this beer. It sits at #5 on the Beer Advocate list of the top 100 beers and is widely known as one of the best IPA’s available. Does it live up to the hype? It absolutely does. The complexity of this beer is astounding. Each sip contains so many subtleties that it’s almost difficult to take them all in.

This is a beer that definitely requires multiple tastings to appreciate. When I first tried this beer, I was still pretty new to the craft beer scene and I thought it was a well done IPA, but nothing to write home about. Every time I’ve had it since then (4 times in total), I’ve understood more why this beer is so loved. The brewers at Russian River are truly masters of the IPA.

100 out of 100