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

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Special Holiday Ale – Stone / Jolly Pumpkin / Nogne O

Special Holiday Ale is a Winter Warmer brewed with chestnuts, juniper berries, white sage, and caraway seed, 9% ABV.

Appearance: Aggressive pour yields one-finger khaki head that quickly fades. Light brown around the edges turning into an intense dark brown in the center. Hazy with almost no light penetration. Lacing is very slight.

Smell: Juniper and sage give the aroma floral hints. Toffee sweetness and a bit of bready malts round out the aroma nicely.

Mouthfeel/Taste: Syrupy and thick body, yet bubbly on the tongue. Sweet bready malt up front, followed by a hop blast complemented by the brewing spices, and ending with a nutty finish from the chestnuts. Only the faintest touch of alcohol on the back of the tongue. Each ingredient makes its presence known without making the beer convoluted.

Overall: The flavor of this beer is impressively dynamic. It seems like it changes in every sip: some are sweet and malty while others are bitter and floral. Not being a big fan of this style of beer, I was a little skeptical of whether or not I would like Special Holiday Ale. However, Stone, Jolly Pumpkin, and Nogne O did an outstanding job of putting a surprising amount of complexity into this beer. A great collaboration between three quality breweries.

90 out of 100

TBA – Stone / Fat Head / Bear Republic

TBA is an American Brown Ale, 7.1% ABV.

Reviewed in a Stone Tulip.

Appearance: Pours a dark copper that fades to light brown around the edges. One-finger sized tan head that fades relatively quickly to a patchy layer on top of the beer. Lacing is superb.

Smell: Hops are at the forefront. The hops give off piney and floral aromas. Brown ale sweetness can be found underneath the hops.

Mouthfeel/Taste: This is where this beer gets interesting. Light body with a medium to medium-high amount of carbonation.  Initially tastes like a hybrid between and IPA and a brown ale, but individual ingredients begin to shine through. Starts with a healthy dose of hops but ends on breadiness and sweet malts. Finish is much more bitter and dry than a typical brown ale. Notes of brown sugar and molasses can be detected underneath the hops.

Overall: The Stone collaborations can go either way for me. There have been some real gems and some that have left me wanting more. I was very pleasantly surprised with this beer though. A very interesting take on a brown ale with an impressive amount of complexity. As always, you can expect a Stone beer to be aggressively hopped and this one does not disappoint. I would drink this beer again without any hesitation.

90 out of 100