For those beer drinkers who can’t get enough hops, there’s nothing worse than opening an India Pale Ale and finding out that the bottle you just bought is several months old. Unlike some beer styles that can improve and mature with age, IPAs and other hop-forward beers are notorious for dropping off quickly because the hop qualities are one of the first aspects of a beer to fade. Unfortunately, not every brewery utilizes bottle dating to inform consumers about how old the beer they are buying actually is, which is a blight that most people have been burned by.
Stone Brewing Company, located in Escondido, California, subscribes to the mantra of aggressively hopping its beer. A common term for these humulus-driven beers is ‘West Coast IPA’ due to its prevalence in California, Oregon, and Washington, where dry-hopping techniques and long hop schedules skew the focus of the beer as far as it can towards the hoppy end of the spectrum. With Stone’s ‘Enjoy By…’ series, fresh beer is taken to an entirely new level.
While an average customer may not know where to look on a bottle for a brewing date or even be cognizant that one exists, Stone makes sure that ‘Enjoy By…’ beers are consumed at the height of freshness as it is printed in big, bold letters right in its title. Dated for 35 days after bottling, ‘Enjoy By…’ is both a Public Service Announcement to the beer-drinking community and a challenge to seek out the limited-distribution bottle before it turns for the worst.
‘Enjoy By 4.20.13’ pours a pale amber color and is surprisingly clear given the concentration of hops within the beer. A thick, ivory head sits delicately on top, lending a bit of creaminess and texture which helps translate into wide swaths of lace that coat the glass.
The nose runs the gamut from wet pine to tropical fruits, with a hint of mild green onion and some malt notes. The main aromas center around the fruits, however, which indulge in grapefruit, orange peel, mango, and pineapple.
The taste takes the nose and adds a lot more spiciness to the mix, as the fruit starts to drift off to become a little more bitter and somewhat more streamlined. For a beer so focused on the hops, ‘Enjoy By…’ isn’t the hop bomb I was expecting, and the malt bill definitely holds its own as it contributes a decent amount of caramel. The hops are also a little less distinct and crisp and impart more bitterness, but they still deliver on the promise of pine and grapefruit.
‘Enjoy By 4.20.13’ is still well within the recommended consumption period, so if you live within a market that received this latest batch and are interested in grabbing a bottle, you still have around two weeks to capitalize. Of course, this beer won’t self-destruct at midnight on April 21st, but the fresher the better for IPAs of this caliber.
B+ / $8 per 22oz bottle / stonebrewing.com