Reviewed: Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager
Official description: Imagine you set sail for a three hour tour. Let’s say from the Port of Escondido (work with us here). The weather started getting rough. Your tiny ship (but not lunch, thankfully) was tossed. Long story short: You’re marooned on a remote island somewhere near the Tropic of Thunder. The good news is that the Capt. of the S.S. Stone and her brewing kit were among the small cast of colorful characters that survived the rough voyage with you. Mainstays Citra & Mosaic along with newcomer Cashmere hops are joined by their juicy tropical aromas of citrus, pineapple and coconut (try stringing all that together in a catchy tune). The rescue ship will find you all soon enough. For now, set aside the non-working cell phone and lack of social media (again, work with us here), kick back and revel in your moment of tropical island lagoon serenity. 5.8% ABV, 45 IBUs.
Stone Brewing Company – Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager – 12oz can served in stemless snifter – 5.8% ABV
Tropic of Thunder is the newest beer in Stone’s year-round lineup, a portfolio made up of nearly all IPAs such as Scorpion Bowl and Tangerine Express. So what exactly does Tropic of Thunder add to Stone’s hop-centric portfolio?
I’m sampling this from a 6-pack of 12oz cans that I picked up for under $10 at my local grocery store. An easy-to-read packaging date is printed on the outside of the paper carton as well as on the bottom of each can. This batch was canned on 1/18/19, so that puts it at about 3 weeks old. A second date reads “Enjoy By: 5/18/19,” which gives this beer a 4-month long freshness window.
Into my glass, Tropic of Thunder is perfectly clear golden in color topped with voluminous, buttermilk-colored foam. Multi-sized bubbles are a good sign along with rocky topography and a dairy-like, oily film on the bubbles that reminds me of an ice cream float. There’s impressive head retention too that persists for several minutes before collapsing.
The initial aroma on this beer is truly remarkable. The first thing that comes to mind is piña colada, which is something I’ve rarely smelled in any beer let alone a pale lager. There’s tons of sweet brioche and Hawaiian bread rolls mixed in with dried pineapple, coconut, and even yellow pear and bubblegum. Once at room temperature, I pick up something like white grape juice.
Digging in, Tropic of Thunder is super light-bodied with barely any sugar remaining (1/10 level). That makes the 45 IBUs punch harder than expected with perceived bitterness at a 8/10. Lemon peel, white grape, and aggressive grassy and citrus peel bitterness take over the beer. The finish is then uncharacteristically dry for a pilsner (or any pale lager for that matter) with an intense bitterness that lingers for several minutes. Even though Tropic of Thunder commits the cardinal sin of super dry coupled with super bitter, I don’t find this to be too abrasive. A splash of fruit juiciness and fleeting white biscuit save the day. Sadly, I was expecting at least some pale lager/pilsner characteristics like ample graininess and white sugar. Pilsner malt flavors are completely drowned out somehow. As a result, Tropic of Thunder is closer to a Session IPA in flavor profile than any pilsner I can think of. The redeeming quality, though, is how clean the beer finishes with its snappy, grassy hop and lemon peel finale.
The overall package here is quite impressive. You get an incredible hop aroma that stands out even in today’s IPA-saturated market. There’s no doubt it delivers on the tropical island character. The flavor is intensely bitter, but you don’t have to deal with the stickiness or higher ABV of most mainstream IPAs. And because the mouthfeel is so light and clean, I found drinking this beer to be far too easy. It’s an excellent session beer that really typifies the bizarre category of India Pale Lager or IPL.
Of Stone’s core lineup, I would place Tropic of Thunder as my second favorite behind Tangerine Express. However, it is far removed from the craft hoppy lagers I’ve grown to love like Victory Prima Pils, Firestone Walker Pivo Pils, and Deschutes Pacific Wonderland. Tropic of Thunder is nearly indistinguishable from a Session IPA. I’d like to see a bit more sugar left for mouthfeel, more breadiness and grain character to bulk-up the mid-palate, but keep the same aggressive bitterness.
Die-hard Stone fans will find Tropic of Thunder to be familiar beer with more in common with Go To IPA than any pilsner or other pale lager on the market. However, for those thinking that Stone has finally stepped out of their comfort zone and made a proper lager, I have to report that the answer is no. Stone has simply made a lager in the most IPA way possible.
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