An IPA Conversion?

This past Wednesday night, the Commerce Club hosted it’s monthly Brewmasters tasting. They continued a five-year tradition by having Stone Brewery serve at the first tasting of the year.

Scott Sheridan and Jason SelbyScott Sheridan, recently promoted to Southeast Regional Sales Manager, gave a brief intro and the traditional toast before sending the show into Jason Selby’s hands. Jason is now the South Carolina Regional Brewery Rep for Stone Brewery. Jason was an energetic, informative host who shared a brief history of the the brewing company and the story behind each of the beers we tasted.

Prior to this evening, I had only tried Stone’s Ruination and didn’t like it. My taste buds recalled an excessively bitter, unpleasant beer. But that was years ago and knowing my tastes have changed significantly, I eagerly signed up for this tasting.

These tastings consist of five or more beers from a single brewery. Bottles or cans are passed out to share at a table, giving you the opportunity to taste each one without committing to a whole drink.

The night began with Arrogant Bastard AleArrogant Bastard Ale. I’m most familiar with this beer thanks to the Most Arrogant Bar competitions that Barley’s in Greenville has won two years straight.

I was surprised to find a much more balanced beer than the taste bud-assaulting bitter brew I remembered. Be sure to stick your nose in this one: the rich aroma gives a perfect precursor to the deep flavors this hoppy beer brings. Despite the bottle text, I found this a drinkable beer.

From there, we tasted the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. After aging in oak barrels, the ale takes on a sweeter flavor, which I did not like as much as the original. I do recall it being a favorite during the concluding votes, though.

Stone’s IPA and Ruination IPA were up next. Now was the time to briefly taste a beer and pass on the bottle, right? But once again, these beers surprised me with their drinkability. Of the two, I preferred Ruination because the first had a strong citrus flavor that hinted of grapefruit, which I don’t like.

Vertical EpicWe now reached the beer I expected to love most: Vertical Epic 12.12.12. Part of a series begun 2.2.02, these beers offered a unique twist every year. This final batch had elements I love in beers: a dark color, winter spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, a roasted malt flavor. Yet the beer tasted too sweet, the mouthfeel too flat and the spices too intense. In retrospect, I blame Ruination for doing its job of ruining my palate before a beer I should have loved.

In the photo to the left, you can see the final beer in a little plastic cup—for good reason. This is a dangerous sip of Crime, a 2013 release of bourbon barrel-aged Lukcy Basartd Ale brewed with a lot of peppers. A LOT. Take a look at the list here, as well as great explanations of Crime’s cohorts, Punishment and Southern Charred. The beer smells like Tabasco sauce and screams “why not??” before you can dare to ask who would want to brew such an infamous concoction. There was a chorus of “no way”s after Jason listed some of the peppers in the brew, but I toasted my neighbor and we quickly downed the beer like shots. I waited, expecting the ale aftertaste in my mouth to be overwhelmed by heat. Instead, I started to feel the burn right at the back of my throat, heat radiating from my sternum. Crime showed no mercy, punishing my entire esophagus. My neighbor felt the same way, and we quickly filled our glasses with IPAs and ales to quiet the fire.

Aftermath of Stone Brewing Tasting

The aftermath (note that quite a few bottles had already been cleared away!)

When all was said and done, this tasting proved to one of my favorites because it introduced me to beers I’d long avoided or would never have a chance to taste again. I was impressed by the kindness and enthusiasm of Jason, as he went table-to-table and chatted about each beer. During the voting round, I noted Arrogant Bastard Ale and Ruination IPA as my two favorites.

Barley’s will officially receive their 2013 Most Arrogant Bar award on March 5th, and I plan to be there with an Arrogant Bastard Ale in hand!

Do you like the sound of a monthly beer tasting + dinner? Then leave a comment here or fill out the form at the bottom of the Beer Events page and I’ll send you details about the Commerce Club’s Brewmaster meetings. You don’t have to be a member to attend.

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