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About this Blog

Welcome to Po'Nutrition Fax! This blog is about alcohol - it has nothing to do with health or wellness, and the only relationship between this and Edgar Allen Poe is that he was an alcoholic.

I used to work in a liquor store and developed a taste for all different types of booze. As my collection grew, I felt the need to share my knowledge of, interest in, and experiences with my purchases - from the standards (e.g. whisk(e)y, gin) to the less-than-standard (e.g. kirschwasser, raki). You'll also find a lot on beer (another love of mine).

This is not about how much I can drink nor do I promote over-excess of alcohol. As with most blogs, there is some self-reflection included with most of the reviews. The point is to encourage everyone to reflect on what they drink.

Leave comments or ask questions! Also, "follow" me if you like what you read - I am not making money from this blog but if I see more interest in this and hear some feedback, it will encourage me to write more.

Cheers!
Mike

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale


I have always had great respect for The Stone Brewery. They love to make beer and they are always trying to out-do themselves. They don't always succeed but they do most of the time. However, I haven't purchased anything from Stone in awhile because it's a beer that has to travel a long distance.

For all intents and purposes, beer is a food product that is best served fresh or needs to be preserved to prevent "spoilage." Due to the alcohol in beer, it doesn't spoil in the same way that most food items would spoil (i.e. cause gastro-intestinal distress for days if consumed) but it won't taste as good as when it was first made.

This should only be kept in mind for "craft beer." The mass-market beers will taste the same either way.

Like most consumer goods in this country, beer is shipped in truck containers to distribution centers and then to retail outlets and, finally, into your hands. For the most part, these containers are not temperature-controlled so the beer can go through extreme temperature variations. Furthermore, the beer can sit in distribution centers or on the shelf for a long period of time - and not always in a temperature-controlled environment. Therefore the longer the distance your beer has to travel, the greater the possibility that the beer will be in these unfavorable conditions. That is why I generally try to purchase regional beer (Rust Belt or New York State beers) since the exposure to these factors is smaller than those produced either across more than one time zone or across the Atlantic (or Pacific). However, some breweries employee contract brewers. For example, in Upstate New York if I buy Sam Adams, it isn't brewed in Massachusetts but rather in Rochester, NY (at High Falls - formerly Genesee). Nevertheless, it's easier to just drink local beer than to find who your local contract brewer is and what they are brewing.

However, I took a chance here since this beer is brewed in California (although they may contract brew now too - I'll have to investigate). I knew I was going to have to be really committed to this beer too (if purchased) because most Stone beers only come in the 22 oz. bottle. Although they've been offering the 6-pack option on some of their other beers (at least that is the case here in Upstate New York) that was not an option for this beer. I guess it is better to have only one bottle of beer you don't like vs. five more 12-oz. bottles of beer you don't like: the Deuce-Deuce-Only option isn't all that bad.

I decided to have it today because, like yesterday, it is another gloomy, wet, and cold day in Buffalo, NY and needed something to warm me up: a heavy beer seemed like a good idea. Beer and (American) football just seem to go hand-in-hand too. When I poured it, I was surprised at how dark it was. Had I read the description (which I decided to do after I started to drink it), it would not have been a surprise. I was expecting something like a Imperial Stout or porter and it is what one would describe as an Imperial Porter.  I guess Black IPA is another style that could be used but that's bullsh*t - everyone goes crazy for IPAs these days so I consider that style just some marketing tool.  Anyway, it has a pretty high ABV (alcohol by volume) of over 8% and dark-beer qualities, but it doesn't have the same mouth-feel as an Imperial Stout (i.e heavy). This is not to say it doesn't have any weight but it doesn't have that intense motor-oil, tongue-coating, feel an Imperial Stout would.

My initial expectations of the taste (based on the color) were fulfilled but there was something else in the smell and taste that I couldn't quite determine. The end of the sip had a somewhat sweeter quality to it. The beer was mostly very bitter but it wasn't a very citrus-hoppy bitterness: this bitterness came mostly from the dark malt that was used. At first I assumed this "sweetness" was from some residual malt sugar. However, because it is such a high-ABV beer and was pretty dry, it didn't make sense why there would be must residual sugar - at least enough to be that noticeable. The more I sipped, the more this sweetness reminded me of the sweetness one gets from exceptionally dark chocolate. It's almost as if the chocolate is so bitter, it's sweet - this beer is not different. The more I reflected on it, the more I realized that it was unlike Stone not to hop their beer. Stone prides themselves on how they can craft a beer - especially the hop/malt ratio. That's when it hit me - dark orange chocolate. This was what I couldn't quite identify at first. That sweetness was the citrus from the hops combining well with the dark-chocolate qualities of this beer style to create this lingering flavor. Satisfied with this self-discovery I decided to share this beer with everyone else.

Whenever you read a tasting review like this you have to keep a few things in mind. First, taste is entirely subjective - what I taste is not necessarily what you'll taste. Second, it's not as if this would taste like dark orange chocolate all the time - it's just a subtle note. Third, although it seems like a really pretentious thing to go into this much detail, this process helps to identify other qualities of the wine, beer or spirit for pairing purposes. For example, if I had a piece of dark orange-chocolate and wanted a beer to go with it then this would be a better choice over other beers of this style. This "pairing point" seems like it is in opposition to the first point. Not necessarily - there are certain general qualities that can be agreed upon but it's the final interpretation that is subjective. Dark and bitter with citrus notes I identify as "dark orange chocolate" while someone else may say "coffee with a shot of Grand Marnier." Furthermore, it's part of what makes drinking alcohol that much more interesting. It makes this a much more active process and enhances the experience. Finally, and related to the third point, it helps you to discover what you really enjoy about a drink. If you open your mind to new things, you might even find something you like in a drink you originally assumed you wouldn't. For example, I hated scotch at first but when I "actively tasted" it (for lack of a better term) I changed my mind and now enjoy even the smokiest of Islays.

Anyway, I'm digressing. If you can take anything from this post, remember to try and drink your beer locally but if you choose too drink your beer from elsewhere keep the above warnings in mind. Plus, you can always trust Stone to make a delicious beer.

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