Tasting the Stone 13th Anniversary Ale

As if I really need to introduce the Stone Brewery by now. Only yesterday I posted an extremely positive review of their collaboration beer with Victory and Dogfish Head, the Saison du BUFF, I also reviewed another collaboration beer with Stone, Maui Brewing and revered homebrewer Ken Schmidt, the Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, and one of the first beers I wrote about was their infamous Arrogant Bastard. I think I’ll have to revisit that one soon.

With Stone’s 14th Anniversary Beer just about to hit shelves, if it hasn’t already, I decided to crack open my last bottle of the 13th Anniversary Ale; their Imperial/Double Red Ale. It has been hiding in the back of my fridge since mid 2009, and is certainly ready to be enjoyed. In fact, I should have probably opened this one fresh. But therein lies the heartache of finishing a one-off beer. I had had it a few times before, but now I was really to really sit down and focus on it.  

As a bit of a background, Stone releases a new Anniversary beer every year; and surprise surprise, they are usually very hop forward. Sometimes one of these specialty beers becomes so popular that they add it to the regular line up. As is the case with one of my favorite beers that they brew, the Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, the 11th Anniversary.

The 13 Anniversary comes in a 650ml classic Stone bottle with red on-glass printing and a proud gargoyle raising a pint in celebration. So the 11th was a Black IPA, 12th was a Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (I wish I could still find one of those!), and now an Imperial/Double Red Ale. Sounds good to me! I do love red ales, and think that they are largely overlooked by the brewing community. This Imperial version hit me much like a Red IPA; I guess that is in pure Stone fashion.

I opened the 13th up at cellar temperature around 12C (54F) and poured it into snifter.  It poured very aggressively building a deep garnet red beer with huge amounts of life and carbonation. When the pour was over, and the rumbling had settled I was left with a deep and dark slightly hazy, but overall transparent beer. It shone strongly with amber reds, dark golds and blackness streaking all throughout it. A thick and frothy tan brown head lifted a good inch and a half above the beer showing great carbonation, resilience, and contrast to the beer itself.

The nose, like so many of Stone’s beers, was upfront with big punches of west coast hops.  Stone brewed this with a spicy and piney variety called Chinook, and also dry hopped it with Simcoe and Centennial. Fresh and bitter scents of earth, pine and citrus erupt out of the beer bringing sweet and tart grapefruit with it. Malts show big round and juicy flavors of caramel and soft toffee with a gentle hind of roast, and pale malt freshness. The 13th is 9.5%abv, and does smell madly rich.

In for a plunge and you will experience exactly that. A big rush of bitter quenching hops comes to the front beginning on the tip of your tongue and crashing all they way down the back of your throat. The hops show smooth complexity focusing on citrus peel and pine, but also bring touches of sweet fruit, earth and round, deep bitterness. Soon though, malts make they way under the hop resin and glide along your tongue and into your cheeks. Soft caramel with a brown sugar sweetness, dark cherries, apricots and blood orange show soft malts the way in.

This somewhat creamy malt sensation is nice, and needed to be there to add balance, but in comes more hops to bitter and crisp out this beer. It has got to be in the 90 IBU range, and shows much power and gusto. The hops do wave in with a significant crackle that leaves you very quenched; it left me very satisfied. The mouthfeel is authentic and full bodied showing some spice from the hops. It shows a smooth and carbonated structure with crisp edges, and a touch of alcohol warmth.

It is a big beer, and for the average beer drinker it will probably knock them overboard. But it really wans’t designed for them – this is the Anniversary Ale, this was designed for the people who made Stone what it is now. It was designed for the hop heads, the brewers, the fanatics, and the fans. And I’m glad they did it! This beer was totally enjoyable and showed me great rich hop flavors and soft malt chewiness that I do love. I can’t wait to try the 14th!

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