Stone Brewing Co. is one of the true giants of the craft beer industry. Having recently wrapped up a deal to distribute in West Virginia, Stone beers can now be found in all 50 states. That’s good news for fans of craft beer as Stone’s offerings are typically solid across the board with a few standouts as well.
More recently, Stone has moved towards the trend of tropical fruit forward IPAs – a big departure from the West Coast style IPAs that historically made up the backbone of Stone’s catalog.
Stone Ripper, Tangerine Express, Ghost Hammer, and recent release Vengeful Spirit – all have been released in the last calendar year and all feature “tropical” as a key flavor descriptor. Even ace of the staff Enjoy By IPA hasn’t been immune to the change, having been left unfiltered and leaning more tropical than dank for two of the last three iterations.
While I have enjoyed each of these beers to varying degrees, it does feel like Stone is getting away from what it does best – aggressive hop forward bitter ales. Maybe the brewery is simply trying to adapt and remain relevant amidst a craft beer culture that is shifting more local, and more hazy juicy tropical.
Whatever the reason for the change, it doesn’t yet keep me from picking up a bomber or six pack of the newest Stone release when I need a safety net at the beer store. Like Vengeful Spirit, their most recent offering.
Vengeful Spirit drinks smooth and finishes dry leaving you ready for another taste.”
Vengeful Spirit is a seasonal IPA that is left unfiltered and includes additions of pineapple and mandarin orange for a – you guessed it – tropical taste and aroma.
That aroma is immediately evident off the pour with pineapple and orange that are noticeable but don’t exactly fill the room. It’s appealing in the glass with a creamy white head forming over the hazy orange beer. Looking a little closer reveals quite a bit of particulate that never really settles out.
Some of my favorite beers from the past year are unfiltered hazy juice bombs, so I am certainly a fan of the style – but I raise an eyebrow when a beer needs fruit additions to attain that flavor. It feels like a shortcut to an end goal that neglects complexity and depth.
Stone’s Vengeful Spirit falls into this trap. The pineapple and orange from the aroma (and the additions) is present and pleasing, but there is no progression or development of flavors. No notes spike in a way to be really interesting or memorable.
The body of the beer supports the 7.3% alcohol by volume and 57 IBUs quite well. Vengeful Spirit drinks smooth and finishes dry leaving you ready for another taste. I just wish there was a little more complexity.
I think Stone made a mistake in leaning on the fruit additions instead of turning its brewers loose. These same tropical notes could be coaxed out of hop additions to create a much deeper and complex progression of flavors. As it stands, drinking this beer is a simultaneously enjoyable and forgettable experience.