As I’ve mentioned before, there is a certain segment of the beer-drinking population that laments what they see as the American craft beer industry’s descent into a dopey, extreme sports mentality, where brewers are forever obsessed with games of one-upmanship when it comes to the amount of hops—and therefore bitterness—their beers contain.
You could make the argument that this all started ten years ago, when California’s Stone Brewing Company released Ruination, one of the first Double IPAs to be bottled and widely available. It clocked in at 7.7% alcohol by volume, which was quite high for the time, and at over 100 IBUs (International Bittering Units), which was basically unheard of at the time. Even its name, a reference to the ruining effect it would have on your palate, was a sign of things to come: beers with names like Hop Wallop, Palate Wrecker, and Hop Stoopid have come since. Compared to those heavily hopped beers that are all over the place today, though, Ruination is actually pretty tame. It’s bitter, yes, but it’s also extremely bright and refreshing, with tons and tons of citrus.
Now, to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the people at Stone have released what you could call an updated version. They’ve added a huge amount of malts, which allowed them to get the ABV all the way up to a no-joke 10.8%, and of course, they’ve added an absurd amount of hops—double the amount in the original, in fact.
The result is a beer that is anything but tame. The hop characteristics are front and center right from the start: there are huge tropical and resinous notes in both the aroma and the taste, with hints of pine popping up from time to time. It’s thick and sweet, with elements of what Stetka last week called “that syrupy, binging-on-hard-candy quality.” About 20 ounces into my 22-ounce bottle of the stuff, I wanted a glass of water more than I’d ever wanted a glass of water in my entire life—the way it coats your mouth and sticks to your teeth is just crazy. And then there’s the bitterness, which, at 110 IBUs, can’t be ignored. It hits you right up front, and then lingers in the back of your mouth, building with each sip. It’s to Stone’s credit, though, that while the beer itself may be overwhelming, no single aspect of it is.
If you’re gonna try it this weekend, I recommend grabbing one of the originals as well, and drinking that first so you can see how they built on it. And don’t even think of going in reverse order—the original will wind up tasting like a PBR in comparison.