Tuesday, October 6, 2015

STONE's "ENJOY BY..." IPAs & THE FRESHNESS FETISH

To be honest, I keep wondering if this modern obsession with brewed on/bottled on dates for IPAs is a little, uh, over the top. I mean, before we started majorly spazzing out about "expiring" IPAs and getting all ridiculous about guzzling anything brewed with lots of hops within weeks, days or minutes of production, me & you & everyone else we know were enjoying India Pale Ales just as we did all our other beers. No, even a dolt like me knew that you didn't "age" an IPA, but the notion that the beer was somehow spoiled or even tarnished once more than a fortnight had passed wasn't even a thing. Someone had to make it up.

Then someone - it may have been Russian River Brewing who started it - got it in their head that unless you were practically sucking on the hops as they were plucked from the vine, you weren't "really" tasting the full potential of the beer - and god forbid you should drink a 6-month-old HOPSICKLE, BLIND PIG or NELSON. That's practically spoiled! Never mind that I'd likely had those beers and others close to a year after they'd been brewed. Call me a rube, or shoot me a glaring look of condescension because I'm not a home brewer, but I can't remember tasting the world's great IPAs and thinking "this sure is good, but wow, how amazing would this bottle have been if I'd had it two months ago?". 

Not that I'm not immune to some good marketing, and STONE BREWING's "Enjoy By...." series is excellent marketing, whether you believe in the freshness fetish or not. It's going to "expire" in 4 weeks, and I'll never see this bottle again because of that, and therefore I should buy this to experience true hop nirvana. With that in mind, I bought "ENJOY BY 10-31-15" this past Friday and consumed it with extreme prejudice mere moments later, without wasting nary a minute, all the better to be that much closer to the freshness of the hops. Mine was bottled on 9/26/15; I drank it on 10/2/15. By my math that's a six-day gap. Did I lose anything in the intervening near-week? Perhaps.

Was it the loss of those six days, or my proximity to the date of bottling that made this purported double IPA taste like a harsh, sorta scorching, riot-on-the-tongue numbing agent? I'm not complaining, honestly - it claims to be "frighteningly fresh", and I suppose that might account for some of the action going on here. "Dull" it is not. Citrus brightness, grassy & malty as well with some fairly medium carbonation. No real straying from the Double IPA formula that's worked so well for Stone and their San Diego-area compadres, and "Enjoy By" is perfectly enjoyable. I suppose I was hoping for a revelation and something a bit better, but - with my cynic's hat in hand and an admission that "fresh" > "not fresh" - I think this whole modern freshness fetish is a load of crap, something we'll be poking fun at a few hype cycles from now. 7/10.

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