Reviewed: Stone Tangerine Express IPA
Product description: This ain’t no just-add-juice approach. This one is for adults. We use bountiful whole tangerine purée, which brings pithy, crisp bitterness to the citrus flavor. In addition to the complexities of the tangerine — the likes of which you can only get by using the whole fruit — we judiciously employ just a hint of whole pineapple for a backnote (you’d likely not even pick it out of the mix if we didn’t tell you it was there). We’re not looking for a sweet concoction to appease the “I want my beer to taste like fruit juice” crowd. This is Stone. We like our IPAs to taste like IPAs. Big, bold and not for kids.
Stone Brewing – Stone Tangerine Express – 22 oz. bottle poured into specialty glassware – 7.3% abv.
Tangerine Express debuted in late 2016 and now joins the cast of Stone’s “IPAs only” portfolio of year-round releases. Sure, Ruination is a Double IPA, Go To is a Session IPA, and Ripper is a pale ale. But the point is that Stone is running pale hoppy beers only for their core lineup. And I’m not complaining. Stone knows its fan base.
There’s much in common here with Vengeful Spirit, a new fruit IPA seasonal that I reviewed last year. Vengeful Spirit is 7.3% ABV and 57 IBUs with pineapple and Mandarin orange added. Tangerine Express is 6.7% ABV and 75 IBUs with tangerine and pineapple puree added. I was a big fan of Vengeful Spirit so I’m looking forward to this one.
Sampled from a 22oz bomber (6-packs of 12oz cans are also available), the bottling date on this one is from about two and half months ago, so not ideal. But it ends up not being a big issue as you shall see. Tangerine Express is a lightly hazy, bright golden color with thick, rocky white foam atop that has a whipped egg white texture. There’s excellent head retention – looking picture perfect in the glass.
The nose begins with zesty fresh citrus rind. It’s inviting, not overdone or artificial, and doesn’t have any old stickiness akin to orange gummy candies that plague many less-than-fresh IPAs. I think the shelf life of this beer is quite outstanding – similar to what you may find with Sierra Nevada.
Digging in, this is similar to Vengeful Spirit in that it is about as aggressively bitter as you can get while still being recognizable as a fruit IPA. Expressive citrus rind and pith really push the bitterness here to a 9 out of 10. It’s right there on the edge where anything more would possibly taste soapy and chemical. As the description states, any pineapple flavor is in the background and I can’t pick it out.
Tangerine Express has this wonderfully doughy, thick body that never gets sweet or syrupy. You have excellent density in the mouthfeel that is almost silky smooth with light sugar, which provides perfect balance for the prominent citrus rind bitterness that persists through a lengthy finish. It’s an excellent fix for us hopheads.
But while I’m drinking this, “fruit IPA” is not what comes to mind as tangerine character is already associated with many classic IPAs. If anything, Tangerine Express is like a reimagining of Stone IPA where the whole experience is more intense and all the flavors pop with incredible freshness.
I think the magic comes from the use of whole tangerine purée. You get some sweet juiciness but the tangerine pith and rind bring tremendous tannin-like structure to the beer. Mix in that chewy, bready malt base and you have the complete package. It’s easily the best regular strength IPA I’ve sampled from Stone with Vengeful Spirit in a close second.
Overall, Tangerine Express is much better than I expected. Yes, it’s an IPA with tangerine added. But take this beer apart piece by piece, and you appreciate all the detail that went into this new recipe for their core lineup. I’ve been truly impressed with Stone’s refurbished portfolio with the bright hoppy beer focus. A few years ago, I was really into Stone Enjoy By IPA (a Double IPA at 9.7%) and Ruination Double IPA. But for regular strength IPA from Stone, I’ve never fallen in love with one until now.