We currently live in an era where the most acclaimed IPAs are being released, often just hours old, directly from their breweries, which are often in tough-to-access parts of the country. These canned IPAs — usually of the New England-styled, hazy/juicy persuasion — elicit long lines and create massive trade fodder for their stockpilers.
None of these beer geeks unironically hashtagging #hazefordays, would deign to drink an IPA out of a bomber – and from the supermarket no less! Which makes the massive success of Stone's Enjoy By series all the more remarkable.
Widely-distributed, easy-to-find, well-priced, west-coast-styled, and damn reliable too. Now entering its fifth year on the market, though, the initial excitement of Enjoy By has begun to die down. Another new Enjoy By XX.XX.XX just isn't enough to move the needle in this time when breweries like Tree House or Other Half might have four brand new IPA releases a weekend — often double or triple dry-hopped, whatever that means.
Widely-distributed, easy-to-find, well-priced, west-coast-styled, and damn reliable too.”
Yes, the beer geeks today love variants and variety and Stone — perhaps the savviest of the larger craft brewers — is smart enough to occasionally mess with the Enjoy By script. So far there's been Tangerine, Black, Brett, and Unfiltered Enjoy By variants, and all have been pretty good.
Now, the Escondido, California brewery releases their most ambitious Enjoy By to date, a red-and-white-labeled bomber just in time for Valentine's Day, loaded with chocolate and coffee. (Alas, I'm not sure what coffee has to do with V-Day. Try to take your wife out for a venti frappuccino on February 14th and see what happens.)
Alas, I'm not sure what coffee has to do with V-Day.”
I must admit, these new-era coffee IPAs are beers I often admire, but ones I rarely love. While pairing a coffee bean's espresso notes with dark, roasty malts just makes sense — and is a well-worn path — it seems completely nonsensical to pair coffee with light and hoppy.
But if you think about it, if you're the kind of person who goes to sort of obnoxious coffee shops that take 10 minutes and 10 bucks to make you a single origin pour-over, there are actually quite a bit of lighter roast beans from certain regions (Ethiopia, I'm looking at you) that have fruity and tropical notes. Those are the kinds of beans that pair well with today's juicy hops varietals like Citra and Galaxy.
Enjoy By 02.14.17 is one of the better integrations of coffee and hoppy I've ever tasted.
The beer's bright coffee flavor (courtesy of San Diego Surprise, a lemony blonde roast from Ryan Bros. Coffee) accentuates the already dank and tropical notes of the base Enjoy By, while the bitter dark chocolate adds a complexity and well-rounded finish often lacking in those aforementioned New England-style juice bombs.
No, this is not a beer to crush, but rather one to savor, perhaps while snuggling on the couch with your beloved. And if you're a lonely hearter at the moment, 02.14.17 will certainly be better for you than eating an entire box of Brach's while pounding a six-pack alone.