Review Panel: The Alchemist / Ninkasi / Stone: More Brown Than Black IPA
Yet another new collaboration beer has been released by Stone Brewing Co. It's another take on the CDA/Black IPA style and is hitting stores shelves this week in Oregon and across the country. The Alchemist / Ninkasi / Stone: More Brown Than Black IPA takes a typically Stone and Ninkasi approach to the style by blowing up the hops, but also lightening the body just slightly. It's almost a perfect example of the myth of the Texas Brown Ale, a style once proposed as a hoppier American version of the brown ale.
This version is being released in Oregon just in time for Stone Brewing founder and CEO Greg Koch (cock)'s visit on January 6th to the Bier Stein in Eugene with Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi, and his January 7th solo book signing at Belmont Station in Portland.
This is Stone Brewing's fifth collaboration beer this year, and like the recent Baird / Ishii / Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA, it is a collaboration that will benefit a charity. This time the beneficiary is the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund, a non-profit organization that is aiding families affected by hurricane Irene, which recently devastated Vermont. One of the casualties of the destruction was the loss of The Alchemist pub and brewery, which brings us to the collaborators of this particular brew.
When Stone Brewing Co. Brewmaster Mitch Steele heard of the loss, he immediately sent out an email to The Alchemist Head Brewer John Kimmich asking if there was anything he could do to help.
"John's wife, Jen, wrote back suggesting that John fly out to Southern California for a few days… just to get a break from the reality of everything," recounts Steele.
"And almost as an afterthought, she casually mentioned that maybe we could even brew something together. I ran with it."
Steele reached out to Jamie Floyd, Brewer/Co-founder of Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, OR, who was happy to come onboard to complete the brewing trifecta.
"That's what this entire industry is all about. No matter what the 'competitive' side is, we care about humanity, and we care about each other," offers Floyd.
"It's a small town," says Kimmich. "Even the influx of a few thousand dollars will have a huge affect. There are very low-income people who lost everything. And the idea of coming out to Stone and making a beer that will directly impact our town… it's heartwarming, to say the least."
Availability: Limited 12oz bottles & draft, beginning December 19th
Distribution: AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, NC, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, VA, VT, WA
Malt bill: Maris Otter Pale, Light Munich, Carafa III Special Dark, and Cara-Helles
Hops bill: Super Galena hop extract for bittering, Nelson Sauvin and Delta for flavor, dry-hopped with a blend of Citra and Galaxy.
Brewers: The Alchemist Pub and Brewery – John Kimmich (Head Brewer); Ninkasi Brewing Company – Jamie Floyd (President/Head Brewer); Stone Brewing Co. – Mitch Steele (Brewmaster)
4 different reviewers (Breakside brewer Ben Edmunds, New School editor ElGordo, New School Photographer/Behind the Pint producer and homebrewer "SNOB" Ritch Marvin, and myself) have scored the beer separately on a 0-5 scale in .5 increments and included our tasting notes.
Review 1 by Ben Edmunds
This beer is not black at all, in fact. It's entirely brown and opaque. Perhaps this is the Texas-style brown ale that I remember reading about in homebrew books? The Galaxy hop aroma basically jumps out of the glass. It's nice to see brewers being aggressive with this hop--it really does have a lot of potential as a Simcoe replacement. It comes off as a sticky-sweet citrus; there are faint hints of tropical fruit as well. The flavor of this beer is 100% hop driven. I'm not a huge fan of Sauvin hops, but here they are well balanced by some strong grapefruit notes from Delta and Citra. The malt character is so clean as to be mostly absent; despite the color, there's only a very faint hint of roastiness. The mouthfeel is crisp and surprisingly light, and the bitterness is well balanced. This is a hop lover's beer to be sure; with a more crystal malt backbone and palate fullness it would be excellent.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Review 2 by Samurai Artist
Murky brown and opaque color with a frothy tan head. Huge pungent and piny hop aroma smacks you in the face with levels of dankness from west coast hops. There are hints of a sharp roast and burnt malt character on the nose, but I pick up more grapefruit and orange flavors from the hops than anything. The taste is super bitter up front, loads of hops with a chalky light roastiness. This beer has a lighter body, yet the hops are so intense you would think it is a triple IPA; in that sense it reminds me of the layers upon layers of hops in a beer like Avery's Maharajah. The roast is really subtle and I think well done; it meets my definition of a Cascadian Dark Ale, as you probably would not know it was so dark if you were not looking at it. The problem with it, though, is it is a one trick pony. The flavor is all pungent bitter hops and so intense they cover up more eccentricities. Still, this beer does what it sets out to do, so I think it will still be a crowd pleaser, just not my favorite.
Score: 3 out of 5
Review 2 by SNOB Ritch
I love CDAs, so I was excited to try this one, especially since Stone, which makes one of the best (Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous), has collaborated with a local favorite, Ninkasi. The beer is dark brown and murky, with an off white head. Citrusy hops dominate the nose over anything else. There is intense citrus hop flavor upfront, with barely detectable roast flavor in the middle, followed by a lingering, mouth numbing bitterness at the end. The beer is thin and dry, extremely hop forward with no malt balance; it's really pretty harsh. While I do appreciate the intense hop flavor in this beer, I find the lack of any kind of malt balance makes it a little rough around the edges.
Score: 3 out of 5
Review 3 by ElGordo
Body is a tawny brownish color, a little cloudy, with a few suspended solids hanging around (even though the beer is filtered). Aroma is huge on citrusy hops, with notes of pineapple and grapefruit, along with a touch of sweetness from the caramel malt. Palate is hop-forward for sure, with a strange back-and-forth between sweet, slightly roasted malt and hugely bitter hops. Notes of grapefruit and pineapple come through again, along with a little bit of onion(?). The mouthfeel is considerably thinner than I would have hoped for in a beer of this strength, and the color does seem to lighten as the glass gets emptier. It's an interesting way to deliver a hop bomb, I guess.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Meet Stone Brewing's Greg Koch in Portland next Saturday
Saturday, January 7, 2012 from 2pm-4pm at Belmont Station in PDX
Stop by to hang out with Stone's CEO and Co Founder Greg Koch to celebrate the release of our new book "The Craft of Stone Brewing Co." Books will be for sale during the event and Greg will be there to sign them. We will have Double Bastard and Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale on draft also.