I usually get grouchy when I see a gimmick in the craft beer industry executed, then subsequently mimicked and beaten into the ground by every other brewery in the nation. I know the goal of brewing beer commercially is to make money, but I also like seeing quality and creativity as a lover of beer.
It seems the Black IPA fad has died down to tolerable levels and the White IPA fad turned around for an emergency landing months ago. There will always be new trends, trendsetters and trend followers that keep this booming business moving and staying exciting, even if I’m not personally fond of certain trends and gimmicks. To keep my vocal grumpiness in check, I would like to praise the single best gimmick/trend I’ve seen in craft beer, set by Stone Brewing Co. and their new Enjoy By IPA.
IPA connoisseurs prefer an IPA as fresh as possible. The reason being, the main ingredient that makes IPAs so tasty to those that love them are the aroma and bittering hops. As the days and weeks go by, that amazing aroma fades away, and the malt backbone becomes more of the dominate flavor rather than the hop flavors that you crave. While I can’t get into the science of it, I have it on good authority that the danker the beer, the quicker it fades. I think we’ve all picked up a bottle of 90 Minute IPA once in our lives and its been more like a barleywine than a Double IPA, yet you remember it being nice and hoppy on tap. You may have heard some enthusiasts scoff at drinking Pliny The Elder when it’s older than 4 weeks. There is merit to that type of selective drinking.
While the increase in craft beer drinking seems to have increased here in my area of Los Angeles, I’ve been frustrated when trying to buy some of my favorite IPAs and Double IPAs. While I can go to the bar and get a fresh pour of Sculpin, Union Jack or Mongo, I will be damned if I can go to a liquor store or chain retailer and get a well kept, perfectly fresh bottle of any of those three beers. I live 3 hours from all of those breweries, but by the time it goes from brewery to warehouse to liquor store, I’m lucky if it’s 3 months old, and more times than not, it’s not up to my IPA drinking standards.
Stone Enjoy By IPA to me, is the single best gimmick going in craft beer right now. For those of you who have only seen pictures on your social feed of Stone Enjoy By IPA, I will quickly fill you in. Stone has formulated a highly hoppy, very dank strong IPA designed to be drank FRESH. Every IPA is crafted to be drank fresh, however this one is blatantly marked ENJOY BY XX.XX.XX Date. They also have been selecting two markets at a time and have been giving fans a voice as two what markets to target next via online vote. So for all those liquor store guys out there putting IPA on a hot shelf, or hoarding it in the back for subsequent markup or false scarcity: YOU WILL WILL BE FOILED.
When this product first came out in September, I enjoyed it immensely, but wasn’t sure how everyone else would perceive this beer. After all, Stone has an IPA in a green and black bottle, Ruination in a Green and Yellow bottle and we can count on a special IPA or Double IPA almost yearly in their Anniversary Ale line. Since last Friday, our Twitter and Facebook feed has been lit up with pictures of Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA, whether it be a bar getting it on tap, liquor stores stocking their fridge, or the happy beer consumer taking one of these bad boys home. It’s safe to say this isn’t just another Stone IPA. This my friends is a game changer. If we could all treat our beer as we do with eggs and milk, we’d never have to roll the dice at the liquor store again. Based on other trends Stone has set over the past 16 years, I am staying hopeful that this is the trend other craft brewers will follow.