This is not a beer for the faint of heart. From the time you open the bottle to the very last sip, it is a full-on hop attack. Suddenly, all those descriptions of hoppy beers as tongue-bruising, eye-popping taste wreckers make a lot more sense.
Beer Details: Ruination IPA from Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, California. (7.7% ABV, 100+ IBU)
Appearance: This has a nicely clear copper color. Against the light, it practically glows. A loose head of sticky foam tops the glass.
Aroma: This is just wave after wave of hop flower - green, herbal, and resin-y. Trying to see past the hoppy cloud, there's a perceptible wild honey sweetness.
Taste: This starts off with a quick and unassuming burst of warm honey malts. Which leads right into the hop craziness. We tasted lots of bright grapefruit and citrus flavors upfront, but this dissolves into resinous lemon zest around the edges of the tongue and then into earthy herbal and white pepper flavors in the back of the throat. An astringency like black tea leaves the tongue feeling fuzzy and dry.
For all this, the beer is smooth as all get out and almost creamy. Personally, we would have liked a little more carbonation to add some crispness.
This is one heck of a beer. Beneath the obvious hop flavors, there's a lot of subtlety going on. It's a challenging beer to drink. Even as we drank the last dregs, we couldn't decide whether we actually liked the beer or not. And yet...we also can't stop thinking about it. More taste-tests will definitely be in order.
Food Pairings: Spicy Mexican food would make a great match for this beer, especially if you love the "tongue-battering" pairing of spice and hops. During the winter months, we'd pair it with a big pot of chile con carne. During warmer months, we'd go for tacos and carnitas.
Have you had this beer? What do you think of it?
(Image: Emma Christensen)