Beer: RuinTen IPA Brewery: Stone Brewing Co. Style: Imperial IPA ABV: 10.8 percent
When I was in college, I spent seven weeks studying German language and culture in the city of Regensburg, located in southern Bavaria. The experience, as those who've studied abroad are required to call such things, was incredible. For 49 days I took in all that Germany had to offer, not the least of which was a probably unhealthy amount of locally brewed beer.
Now, the beers of Deutschland are renowned for their quality -- and I can attest that each pint I had was balanced, flavorful and clean. But German beer can also be painfully homogenous. The selection in most areas I visited consisted of four beers: a light lager, a dark lager, a hefeweizen and a dunkelweizen. It seemed that the while the Reinheitsgebot (the 15-century Bavarian food purity law that states beer can only be made with water, malt, hops and yeast) had influenced the quality and consistency of German breweries, it had also limited their creativity.
Interesting news, then, that Stone Brewing Co. will soon open a production brewery and restaurant in Berlin. Stone, the 10th-largest craft brewer in the U.S., announced plans last week to renovate a historic gasworks complex in Berlin, turning the two-acre space into a $25 million facility set to open in late 2015 or early 2016. When the new spot is open, Stone will be the first American craft brewer to independently own and operate a brewery in Europe.
Stone obviously feels they're ready to operate a brewery in Germany -- but is Germany ready for Stone? Imagine a German citizen, only vaguely familiar with the brash, hoppy styles pioneered by American craft brewers, jumping headfirst into a brew like RuinTen, which Stone first brewed in 2012 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Ruination, the brewery's lauded imperial IPA.
The color he'd find: vermilion. A sticky cap of off-white froth erupts from the liquid at the pour and spends the better part of the next ten minutes painting bubbled lattice on the glass as it descends.
The aroma he'd experience: a sweet, fruity blend of hops. Passion Fruit. Tangerine. Orange blossom. Grass. Honey. Substantial biscuity malt notes provide backdrop for the otherwise aroma .
The flavor he'd encounter: Resinous. Ruinten bathes the tongue in hop oils, with notes that vary from orange zest, nectarine and guava to grass, pepper and cucumber slices. The beer is made with three varieties of hops -- Centennial, Citra and CTZ (a blend of Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus) -- added to the beer at different times and in absurd proportions. In total, Stone uses close to five pounds of these hops per barrel, with about a pound each of Centennial and Citra adding aroma during dry-hopping. Really, though, it's less like Stone brewed RuinTen and more like they ran a bunch of hops through a juicer and decided to bottle it. Honey-laden alcohol arrives mid-palate and carries the bitter stuff into a loooooong finish where the absolute apex of hop bitterness can be observed. This shouldn't be surprising -- Ruination, RuinTen's predecessor, was so named for its ruinous effect on the palate. The beer we have here is even more beastly at 110 tongue-numbing IBUs.
Stone calls this beer "A stage dive into a mosh pit of hops," and it's but one of many varieties the brewery offers that's the likes of which Germany's beer drinkers have never seen. Are they ready? Are they ... worthy?