In recent years, barrel-aged beers have become some of the world’s most coveted creations. Crafting them typically involves sequestering heavy stouts or barley wines in whiskey barrels for long periods of time. It’s a straightforward and successful method utilized by many in the brewing industry. But sticking to “straightforward” isn’t what Stone Brewing Co. is about…especially when it comes to Collaboration beers. Starting today, fans can look forward to a truly unique West Coast imperial IPA blended with a Belgian-style tripel that was aged in reposado tequila barrels previously used to mature red wine. That limited offering, Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA, (made possible with the help of two renowned craft breweries) will start arriving in 22-ounce bottles and on draft to select retailers in markets where Stone beer is sold.
Craft beer enthusiasts have a quartet of noteworthy brewers to thank for this one-of-a-kind brainchild, starting with Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele. When considering who to team with for the latest Stone Collaboration, he looked to two polar-opposite points spanning the American brewing landscape—Portland, Oregon and Asheville, North Carolina. Like Stone’s San Diego County home, these locales are considered hotbeds of craft beer ingenuity, thanks in part to the respective contributions of John Harris from Ecliptic Brewing, and brothers Luke and Walt Dickinson of Wicked Weed Brewing. The former held court as one of the Pacific Northwest’s best and longest-tenured brewers for a quarter century before opening Ecliptic, while the latter are the creative duo behind one of North Carolina’s most experimental, buzzworthy brewing outfits. These brewing powerhouses from points far removed joined forces to take this collaborative recipe to points unknown.
“I don’t think I could have asked for a more talented and fun group of collaborators to work with,” said Steele. “John is one of my oldest friends in the industry, and I really respect the ingenuity Luke and Walt have shown through the beers coming from Wicked Weed. When we were exploring recipe ideas, it was unknown for all of us exactly how well a double IPA would play with a Belgian tripel, but we decide to give it a shot. Now, having tried the final beer, we are really impressed with its uniqueness and complexity. It turned out to be a great representation of all our philosophies.”
The beer incorporates two disparate styles—a hop-forward, distinctly American IPA and a fruity Belgian tripel, both brewed with blue agave nectar—with influence from red wine- and tequila-saturated oak. It begs the question: What does this taste like? Tropical fruit aromas and flavors come courtesy of hop bursting, which is used to extract maximum character from a mixture of Amarillo, Calypso and Jarrylo hops late in the brewing process. The hoppiness is given brilliant depth care of banana and estery qualities produced by a Belgian yeast strain during the tripel’s fermentation. Subtle tannic, berry-like flavors and additional red wine notes are present from the triple-use barrels. Amazingly, the flavors blend seamlessly without competing in the glass.
To fully experience the massive hop presence, Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA should be enjoyed fresh; however, the beer may also be stored at proper cellaring temperatures (55°F or lower). How long can it be aged? It’s hard to say. And what will it taste like? Just as the case was when it was first brewed, we don’t know, so consider its aged manifestation yet another point of the beer’s intriguing unknowns.
Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA Quick Facts
Name: Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA
Stats: 9.5% ABV, 72 IBUs
Availability: Limited 22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning May 11
Hops Bill: Magnum, Styrian Celeia; Amarillo, Calypso, Jarrylo
National Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA and Puerto Rico
International Distribution (coming soon): Alberta and British Columbia, Canada; Japan; Singapore; and United Kingdom
Find Beer: find.stonebrewing.com
Tasting notes, provided by Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele
Appearance: Deep gold with a tinted red hue.
Aroma: Very interesting blend of peach and banana from the hops and yeast, plus toasted malts, hints of wood and a touch of alcohol heat.
Taste: Fruity, with lots of banana and berry components followed by peach and vanilla. Hints of wood, and a pronounced Belgian yeast component that is more banana than clove. There’s a slight tannic presence in the finish from the portion aged in tequila barrels that is very pleasant and blends well with the beer’s substantial bitterness.
Overall: This beer is very complex. The idea of creating a beer blend that’s 25% traditional Belgian tripel (half of which was aged in red wine barrels that had been most recently used for aging tequila) and 75% modern double IPA was inspired by all three brewers’ love of traditional beer styles and pushing the envelope with new beers. The resulting beer drinks like a cross between a double IPA, a barrel-aged barley wine and a Belgian tripel. There are elements of all three and perceptions of the beer change as it warms.
Suggested pairings, provided by Stone Craft Beer Ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak
Appetizers: Vegetarian pot stickers, coconut shrimp, ceviche, baked zucchini fries, mussels
Salads: Endive and pear, Thai noodle, heirloom beet, Waldorf
Entrees: Fried chicken, chile rellenos, salmon, pesto tortellini
Cheeses: Prairie Fruit Farms Moonglo, Cowgirl Creamery Midnight Moon, Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, Carr Valley Marisa
Desserts: Lemon bars, bananas Foster, strawberry cheesecake, carrot cake
Cigars: Drew Estate Herrera Esteli Lancero, Davidoff Winston Churchill, Arturo Fuente 8-5-8 Candela Lonsdale
About Stone Brewing Co.
Founded by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner in 1996, San Diego-based Stone Brewing Co.is the 9th largest craft brewer in the United States. Stone has been listed on the Inc. 500 | 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies list 10 times, and has been called the “All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine twice. The multifaceted company will be the first American craft brewer to own and operate its own brewery in Europe, and is also building a production brewery and destination restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. Brewing at both locations is anticipated to begin late 2015. Known for its bold, flavorful and largely hop-centric beers, Stone has earned a reputation for brewing outstanding, unique beers while maintaining an unwavering commitment to sustainability, business ethics, philanthropy and the art of brewing. For more information on Stone Brewing Co., please visit stonebrewing.com or the company’s social media sites:Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and The Stone Blog.