I am a person that likes to think about context. And I am very big on compartmentalizing. If I were to talk more about context and compartmentalizing I would say that context is something that I tend to do aloud, while compartmentalizing is something that I tend do more quietly, and mostly with myself.
There is a “work” me, and “at home” me, and the “at home” me comes with several sub-compartments: at home with one child, at home with both children, at home with Wife (no kids), and at home with everyone. It’s all in my head and try not to think about it, but it’s difficult because currently I am at home, alone with this Stone Ripper San Diego Pale Ale.
It pours gorgeous, with a nice head on its golden shoulders. There is just a touch of haze and not as much lacing as I expected from that dreamy head off the pour. Suddenly I am wondering if I am the Ripper. Or if the Ripper is me.
I realize that this approach – compartmentalizing most aspects of my day and then identifying with inanimate objects, while drinking – is potentially a recipe for disaster, or insanity, and if I were doing it consciously then maybe I would stop. But I assume I've always done it, and even if I haven't I've now separated it into “pre-compartmentalizing” me and well, I think you by now you get it.
The aroma is parts familiar, hanging in the background – memories of a downed pine tree, or sitting in the backyard pulling at fresh grass – and parts not as easily placed having a seat in the front row.”
The aroma is parts familiar, hanging in the background – memories of a downed pine tree, or sitting in the backyard pulling at fresh grass – and parts not as easily placed having a seat in the front row. There’s grapefruit but after that it tough to be certain. Like a picture of you and your significant other standing in a jungle, you know it’s tropical but you went to several islands that summer so you can’t be exactly sure which jungle you’re in or even what island you’re on. But you try to figure it out – so passion fruit, and maybe guava.
It's all Venn diagrams and strange associations. And I do it with beer. A lot. And not in a what style category does this beer belong, but in a when do I want to drink this beer sort of way. I have this beer, I want to drink it, mostly because it is beer, but now that I've tried it, what is the context in which I can optimize my enjoyment of this beer.
This doesn't happen as much with very good beers. Those very best beers are so good I would enjoy them almost anywhere – think green eggs and ham.
But even some great beers, all thing being equal, have a context. I'm not going to take six pack of two-year-old Bell's Expedition Stout to the hot and humid summer backyard party. No, two-year-old Expedition Stout is for drinking alone, in the dark, preferably in the bathroom, where I can quickly turn the lights on, catch a glimpse of the strange “drinking alone in the bathroom” me, and can then just as quickly turn the lights off (and be “pretend I am nowhere” me).
The taste has same notes as the aroma with bright citrus and sugary tropical fruit. Grapefruit rind and some spicy dank pine bitterness come on in the back end to fill up some of the empty spaces left in the front. I wouldn't say there's a “rippin' swell of juicy hops” like the can proclaims, but I get it. It's an easy drinker with some of the more bitter hop flavors hanging on the lighter side for a Stone beer.
The feel is maybe the most interesting part – the carbonation is fine and the beer drinks smooth, like almost English Pale Ale smooth. The finish is crisp and the hop bitterness dries things out just enough to send you back around for another go at the front end, which is where the juicy swell might occur. Think Firestone Walker's Easy Jack, but with less rich tropical hop flavors and with more of the Stone Brewing hop tongue punch, toned down to pale ale levels, and 5.7% alcohol by volume.
I would like to take Stone Brewing's Ripper San Diego Pale Ale to a lovely, warm weather summer party. So being in Pennsylvania, I'll have to wait a few months. But that is what this beer makes me think of. That is the context I want to drink it in. With “I am in San Diego” me.