Going to a liquor store or beer distributor you have never been to before can be a gigantic time sink if you’re an unprepared craft beer enthusiast. Without preparation, the thirsty aficionado is jumping headlong into the unknown, full of colorful labeling and humorous names.
None of those things actually tell you anything about the quality of that beer, of course – without name recognition, choosing a specific beer blind can be a risky endeavor.
There are certain “safe” breweries that have a long enough track record that, when given a selection of beer from unknown breweries, the drinker has a pretty decent enough idea that what they are choosing is at the worst a decent choice.
Stone Brewing has always been that brewery for me. Their brews are available mostly everywhere, from corner bodegas to Amtrak bar cars to casual chain American restaurants; these are places where traditionally good craft beer options can be fairly limited.
I can’t think of any situation where you can do wrong drinking a Stone beer. You might be able to do better, but given the options and situation, it’s easy to do much worse.
This situation occurred my last trip to the Jersey Shore. The town that I stay in, Wildwood Crest, NJ, is a dry town (a severe quality of life issue) and while there are a few breweries a short drive away in Cape May, the selection in the town itself is extremely limited, mostly adjuncts and your usual suspects of easy drinking Mexican lagers for the summertime.
As I paced up and down the barren shelves, my eyes eventually locked on a green “Enjoy By” bottle, which may as well have been the rarest beer in the world considering the other options.
It’s not fruity enough to be a world class Unfiltered IPA but not hoppy enough to be an excellent West Coast IPA”
The Enjoy By beers are a series of West Coast IPAs that are designed to be drank as soon as possible – 37 days after brewing according to the marketing. There are three varieties outside of the base version: a Black IPA, which is slightly maltier than the other variations, a Tangerine, which is extra citrusy and fruity, and the variety I ended up drinking, the Unfiltered.
Let’s get this out of the way: unfiltered IPAs are great. I know that the hazy unfiltered IPA is still a contentious discussion in the community but the detractors are wrong. It’s polarizing, sure, but it’s something different and delicious. There is nothing wrong with a citrusy juice bomb, especially when so many other IPAs are ramping up the bitterness rather than the fruitiness.
That being said, Stone’s Enjoy By 7/4/17’s attempt to strike equilibrium between the New England IPA and West Coast IPA beef unfortunately does neither style justice. From the first pour, this is abundantly clear. In the glass, the beer is slightly hazy but not opaque. There are some citrus notes on the nose but overall not enough to consider this beer anything more than a compromise.
There’s something wrong with the balance – it’s not fruity enough to be a world class Unfiltered IPA but not hoppy enough to be an excellent West Coast IPA.
Freshness is something that should be strived for when drinking any IPA, not just a specific beer created for freshness. This is where I feel the Enjoy By series fails sometimes – there’s nothing entirely special or memorable about any of them. They’re safe, but entirely forgettable. It’s something to drink when the other options are limited.
Safety, in the case of Enjoy By 7/4/17, is its greatest disappointment.