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Don’t Judge a Beer by One Sip

The Emperial IPA in my parents' dining room.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned here with Brewhaha, it’s that you really need to give a beer more than one chance before giving it a verdict.

While it’s still easier to buy beer than wine with the confidence of it having a reliably good flavor, it’s not 100% reliable. It could be old, could be oxidized, could be exposed to temperature fluctuations, and it could be different on tap than in bottle.  Before I’ll strongly express an opinion on a beer, I like to give it as fair a shake as I can.

Now, for those of you who read my ruminations on Pliny The Elder, you might gather that I also am skeptical of beers that are given too fair a shake, that is at least, if they’re compared with other beers that haven’t been given as much of a chance.  So here I’m trying to give all beers a fair chance, but I have to admit, it’s partly because when I tasted Stone’s 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA (isn’t that a good pun? it’s a british EMPIRE style IMPERIAL IPA…) and had some issues with it I thought, “I gotta give it another chance,” because as I’ve pointed out, I’m an unabashed Stone-Head.

SO, since I’m at home in Southern California visiting my family for a couple weeks, I decided I’d try the Emperial IPA in bottle, on tap AT STONE BREWERY, and once again in a bottle I bought at the brewery.  How’s this relate to beer in Davis?  Well, Stone’s 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA is available at the Whole Foods in Sacramento, and likely soon in Davis.  Plus, also recently available in Davis (at the Food Co-Op) is AleSmith’s YuleSmith seasonal summer imperial IPA, another San Diego beer.  I compared YuleSmith on tap at the Pizza Port in San Clemente with a bottle of it purchased in a store by my house.  My sources in Davis tell me it’s $8.99 at the Food Co-Op (but it was $7.80 here).

LET’S GET TASTING:

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.  I poured it from a bottle purchased at a nearby

8.9%abv, 100 IBUs

store,and it had had a strong aroma of fruits.  The bitterness was more clear to me than it is in most IPAs.  It was at first a kind of funky, earthy bitterness.  It was a predominantly fruity flavor which I kept wanting to describe as “passion fruit” but I’m not actually sure I know what passion fruit tastes like…I mean, where do people usually buy passion fruit?  It just sounds like a good description, but not sure why.  My dad pointed out that the bitterness was kind of appley.  Near the end of the glass though, I couldn’t be enthusiastic about the funky bitterness.  It was strange and I couldn’t say it was a good strange.

So I got it on tap at Stone Brewery, after a pint of their Ruination IPA.  I liked it quite a bit more than the Ruination (which didn’t taste how it usually tastes to me).  SO MUCH FRUIT FLAVOR!  Seriously delicious.  And the bitterness was more subdued, although still unique from typical California IPAs.  Drinking it made me very happy.

So how’d the bottle purchased at the brewery for $6 taste?  It tasted a lot more like it did on tap.  What I was calling the earthy funkiness in the first bottle I had, was a lot less dominating this time.  I would guess the difference between this and the first bottle could be how it was stored (temperature fluctuations, etc.) HOWEVER, I purchased it at the same place I bought the AleSmith YuleSmith Imperial IPA, and I actually preferred the YuleSmith out of the bottle than on tap at Pizza Port.

bottle says 8.5%abv, website says 9.5%...

AleSmith YuleSmith Summer Ale:  At Pizza Port in San Clemente I got a pint of this beer to go with my pizza.  It was a very tasty IPA, although didn’t have any exceptional qualities that stuck out in my mind.  It had a bite to it, and I enjoyed drinking it.

But a couple days later when I poured a bottle of it, it stood out a lot more to me.  One, it was much more familiar as a California IPA than the British style Stone Emperial IPA had been, but I guess that’s obvious.  The difference was mainly in what I always think of as distinct pungency, which I associate with Pliny the Elder more than any other beer, and while I wouldn’t say that the YuleSmith was the same as Pliny the Elder, it was definitely in that direction.  Big and bold with a pungent bitterness and distinct flavor, which contrasted a lot with the dryer bitterness and highly fruitfy notes in the Stone Emperial IPA.

After multiple tastings of these beers, I’d highly recommend them both.  Stone’s 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA is a more unique experience simply because it’s attempting to recreate what a British IPA might have been made like back when IPAs were invented (although I highly doubt they were this deliciously fruity then), while the YuleSmith is yet another big, California double IPA…which is delicious, just easier to come by.

And I guess it’s good that I liked the YuleSmith better from the bottle, because it’ll be easier to find it bottled in Davis than on tap.

And one last note:  We really are lucky with our beer selection in Davis.  Down here in Souther Orange County, there’s only one place around me with an impressive beer selection.  Whereas the small town of Davis has several.  I’m excited to see what’s new on the shelves when I return!

Bye for now.

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