Soaking Up the Suds
By James Crane
Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
Stone Brewery has a thing for Belgian yeasts. This is not all together noteworthy, but what’s interesting is that they’ve been introducing them into other beer styles. I first took note of this when, starting last year, they released two of their regular releases that had been fermented using Belgian yeasts instead of their standard critters. They took their Old Guardian barley wine and their Russian Imperial stout and tinkered with them a bit, taking a familiar taste and changing it into something very fresh and new.
This week, I happened upon a Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. Apparently, this beer has been around since 2008, but I’d had yet to get around to trying it. I’ll admit to being a bit ashamed for letting anything “Stone” slide past me, but we all have our faults. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to rectify the situation. A 22-ounce bottle seemed like a good way to atone.
The brew poured out a darker shade of gold, though nowhere near as dark as most of their beers. The head was ample and left some lacing down the side of the glass as it dissipated. There were tons of bubbles rising through the liquid, putting on quite a show. If nothing else, it certainly promised to be carbonated. It led me to believe it would exhibit that crispness that so many Belgian brews tend to have.
The scent was pleasant, though not unfamiliar. It was full of floral and citrus notes as well as that kind of banana scent that goes along with that. As also common with Belgians, there was a bit of spice and pepper, though there was also the scent of some bittering hops. That was certainly the IPA part of this beer shining through.
The taste, while interesting, wasn’t anything mind blowing. It was pleasant, but tame. The first thing I noticed was the taste of spicy fruits. Like someone put white pepper on a banana and shoved it inside an orange.
To make an odd comparison, it tasted like fruit much in the same way a Now and Later tastes like fruit. Mixed into this was a good floral hop presence and a little bit of funk from the yeast. This gave it a nice dry finish which washes away any flavors that might linger in the mouth. As the mouth acclimates, the bitter hop presence becomes more and more apparent. This is when it becomes more like an American IPA rather than just a straight Belgian brew. It’s almost like you’re using an IPA to chase a Belgian. The ending bitterness is a nice contrast to the earlier sweetness and keeps it from becoming dross. It’s interesting how the sweetness, funk, and bitter play off of each other.
The beer seems to be heavier going down than it has a right to be. What seems like it would be a more drinkable beer, after subsequent swallows, becomes less so. As with most things Stone, however, it’s not meant to be an affair of quantity. It clocks in at 6.9 percent ABV, which means a 22-ounce bottle will do nicely. While certainly not my favorite of their brews, it was worth the taste.
This is one to have with dinner as it will compliment without overshadowing. You might even want another one for dessert.