Review: Stone/Bear Republic/Fat Head’s TBA

We’ve made a few crazy beers in our brief time as brewers. They’re big, loud, different and fun. There’s that period of apprehension when you’re not sure if maybe you added too many habeñeros, or the oil from the peanut butter will make your beer feel slick, or the cocoa powder will make the beer chalky. So far we’ve been fortunate enough to always make at the very least quaffable beer. Most of the time, it’s beer we’ve really enjoyed drinking.

This was how I started out. I was making beers that I’d never seen before (although certainly many have made similar beers before I did). Then, last summer I made a Rye Saison that was largely a classic saison with just a small twist. The malt spiciness from the added rye worked to enhance the pepperiness from the yeast (Wyeast 3711). It wasn’t some crazy, out there beer. It was a classic, almost to style beer with a small twist that served to enhance what would expect from the beer.

What I’ve realized is that this is often times much more difficult than doing something crazy. It requires a deep knowledge of the ingredients, their flavor profiles and how these flavors work in concert and affect one another. I think this is the challenge taken on by the brewers in the TBA Brown Ale.

TBA is a brown ale brewed with brown sugar and molasses, two flavors that really serve to enhance the malty backbone of a good brown ale. In the description, written by Bear Republic’s Richard Norgrove Jr., it states:

The unifying goal was to create a new variation on an old style. Brown ales are often misunderstood, hard to brew, and even harder name

It’s a worthy goal. Brown ales are often overlooked by beer enthusiasts. They often lie far from any extremes. I think even their status as a great entry to the world of craft beer may be held against them. It’s good to see brewers often known for their hop heavy beers take a crack at elevating a subtle, middle of the road ale.

Tasting Notes

Bear Republic / Fat Head's / Stone TBA Brown Ale

Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA Brown Ale

Appearance: The head formed so quickly as I poured this beer that I almost made a mess. Once it settled down, the beer was a cloudy rust color with a two finger tan head that is still receding down the glass.

Aroma: The beer has a strong hop note in the nose. It isn’t overwhelming, and it’s completely balanced by the sweetness in the malt and molasses. A nicely balanced aroma.

Taste: A beer brewed with brown sugar and molasses has a good chance of being too sweet, but this beer is nice and dry. There’s the flavor from the dark sugars, but not much residual sweetness. The hops keep it dry without trending toward black IPA.

Mouthfeel: There’s a lively carbonation that keeps this beer bright and lively. It feels a bit sharp, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Overall: Unlike some of the other Stone Collaborations, this one seemed to be less adventuresome. Maybe it’s difficult to make a crazy brown ale, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good beer. They made something tasty, if not incredibly interesting.

Review: Stone More Brown Than Black IPA

Previously, I had mentioned that I thought Black IPAs were getting too widespread. It seemed like every brewery at the festival Nate and I went to had 2 of either an IPA, IIPA, DIPA, BIPA or DIPA. I admit, after that festival and after that beer, I was pretty down on Black IPAs. I was just overloaded.

After about a month of having an eclectic mix of beers, I am ready to dive back in a give it a go. It doesn’t hurt that Stone makes, what I consider, the ideal Black IPA. I should mention that I picked this beer up while picking some items up at Whole Foods. I never really consider going there to pick up beers as their a grocery store (a rather pricey one at that), and I have a booze superstore 2 blocks away.

However, I’m a firm believer that one should always take a quick detour through a store’s craft beer section. If you go to the same store all the time, you only get the beers picked out by one purchaser and delivered by those distributors. Even if the new store is not an amazing bottle shop, there’s a decent chance you might find something interesting that you’ve never tried before, like this Stone Collaboration beer from 2011.

More Brown Than Black IPA is a collaboration between Stone, The Alchemist and Ninkasi. The brewers came together after Hurricane Irene hit Vermont and essentially destroyed The Alchemist brewpub. In this video on Stone’s youtube channel, John Kimmich talks about walking into his bar and brewery and seeing the discussion. They also talk about the beer:

The proceeds of this beer go to a worthy cause; now I just hope the beer is worthy!

Stone More Brown than Black IPA

Stone More Brown than Black IPA with The Alchemist and Ninkasi

Tasting Notes

Appearance: The beer is a dark, opaque brown. There are ruby sparks at the thin parts on the glass, but very little lights gets through. There was a of finger, bubbly white head that laced down the glass to a thin film over the top of the beer.

Aroma: There’s definitely hop notes in the nose. I’d say mostly resiny with spicy and floral notes. Underneath the hop aroma, really holding it up, is a rich, caramel-y malt smell. This is what these new style, dark IPAs should smell like.

Taste: There’s a lot of bitterness in this beer, and it really lingers after the sip. I wouldn’t call it muddy or messy, but it’s trending that way. After the initial taste of hops, the malts come into the taste. They are sweet, roasty with hints of caramel, and really balance with the hops and round out the beer. The sip finishes with some aggressive, lingering bitterness that is tempered and cleaned up by the sweetness of the malt and the bubbles from the carbonation.

Mouthfeel: This is a very rich, smooth beer. It doesn’t have the dryness one normally associates with an IPA or, even, a Black IPA. It feels like a rich brown ale. The head on top contributes to this feel as well.

Overall: I really like this beer. For my money, Stone has the best Black IPA out there, and this is a worthy sibling. The fact that a slice goes to charity is purely a bonus. Hopefully something like this beer makes it into production at Stone. This is what needs to happen in Dark IPAs.