This week Stone Brewing Co. shipped the third batch of its Enjoy By IPA to 10 states, and beer nerds everywhere—well, beer nerds in or around those 10 states—scrambled to grab a few bottles before it disappears. (I picked up six bottles on Tuesday, November 20, the day it hit Boston. I drank three bottles over the past few days, and I have three more in my refrigerator.)
The idea behind Stone’s Enjoy By IPA—all three batches were made with the same recipe—is to use extremely fresh ingredients and then get the beer into customers’ hands as soon as possible after it’s bottled, to demonstrate just how important freshness can be to beer. The date in the name, in this case 12.21.12, is the date by which the beer is supposed to be at its best.
So does Stone’s Enjoy By 12.21.12 double IPA live up to all of the hype? Yes…with a few caveats.
Stone puts a lot of love and care into every single beer it brews, and Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA is no exception. What sets this big ol’ double IPA apart is that Stone supposedly brewed it “specifically NOT to last.” I’m not really sure what that means, and Stone hasn’t said. I’m guessing it just means it’s not pasteurized and doesn’t have any preservatives, but that’s not exactly rare; IPAs and hoppy beers are generally better when they’re fresh, and the best don’t have preservatives. Stone’s definitely not the only brewer to stress this fact, either. Russian River Brewing Co., maker of Pliny the Elder, one of my favorite IPAs, prints instructions to consume the beer as soon as possible on every bottle. And the majority of craft beer today has bottling dates, though it’s usually printed in barely-noticeable, small text and not mentioned in the name of the beer.
Anyway, on to my Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 review.
Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA is available in 22-ounce bottles and on draft. I vigorously poured my bottle into a tall Stone Arrogant Bastard glass, and it formed a thick ivory-colored head of fine bubbles. The ale itself is golden with amber hues.
One of my favorite things about this beer is its smell. It stinks, in a good way. The aroma is truly amazing. It smells of sticky, pungent hops and mild alcohol. I enjoyed smelling this beer as much as I did drinking it.
The beer is extremely crisp and clean at first, as you might expect from such a fresh brew. The initial taste is malty and refreshing, followed by a serious hop smack in the face. It has a notable “dank” marijuana-like taste. This is one seriously hoppy and bitter brew. It’s also surprisingly drinkable for a 9.4%ABV double IPA. You only get a slight warming alcohol flavor.
The intense hop flavor is a result of some ridiculous hopping during the brewing process. Stone literally used 11 different types of hops: Calypso; Super Galena (extract); Simcoe, Delta, Target, Amarillo, Motueka, Citra, Cascade; Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy. I can’t think of another IPA with so much hop variety. And it shows.
My bottles cost $10 each, which isn’t cheap, but I don’t feel burned.
I was genuinely impressed by Stone’s Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA…but something rubs me the wrong way about the whole presentation. It feels like a marketing gimmick, and I don’t like feeling as though I’m being sold something other than a really fresh beer. The craft beer world is full of weird gimmicks right now, and I understand why. The market is extremely competitive, and brewers will do just about anything to differentiate themselves from competitors. But I guess I kind of expect more from Stone.
Again, this Enjoy By IPA is a great beer, so I’m not trying to knock Stone. At the same time, I bet it will taste just fine in a couple of months—maybe not as good as it does today, but it’s not as if the brew will spoil or something. Stone doesn’t need to convince me to drink its beers with marketing gimmick. It has already earned my respect through quality brewing.
Stone’s Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA gets a 9 out of 10 on the Urban Beer Nerd Scale. (It currently has a BeerAdvocate.com score of 94/100 based on 111 users reviews.)
Check out the above video or visit Stone’s website for more details. (And read my recent list of noteworthy IPAs all hop lovers should drink at least once for more recommendations on awesome hoppy brews.)