Stone Brewing Co. releases its newest collaboration, Points Unknown IPA

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By: Eric Strader
ericstrader69@gmail.com

John Schulz Photography

Stone Brewing Co. of southern California is known for its bold, big character beers.

The brewery’s flagship beer is Arrogant Bastard (American Strong Ale, 7.2 percent ABV), and it recently released its Stochasticity series, which according to the website is an “unpredictable series of beers, where exotic notions, ingredients and ideas coalesce at an interesting and often unexpected endpoint.”

Beers in Stone’s portfolio include everything from hugely hopped double IPAs to Russian imperial stouts and barleywines.

In recent years, barrel-aged beers have become some of the world’s most coveted creations, and Stone has tried its hand at barrel-aging as well with beers like bourbon barrel aged Arrogant Bastard (7.9 percent ABV) and Fyodor’s Classic (Russian imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels, 13 percent ABV).

Fyodor’s Classic bourbon barrel aged Russian imperial stout by Stone Brewing Co. (Eric Strader/Hop Notes)

I just recently acquired a bottle of Fyodor’s Classic batch No. 1.  This was brewed on June 2, 2014, aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and bottled in March this year. I can hardly wait to open this bottle.

Because of Stone’s reputation, it was no surprise to me to learn of its newest collaboration.

Generally, crafting barrel-aged beers involves sequestering heavy stouts or barley wines in whiskey barrels for long periods of time. It’s a straightforward and successful method utilized by many in the brewing industry.

But sticking to “straightforward” isn’t what Stone Brewing Co. is about…especially when it comes to collaboration beers.

Starting May 11, fans can look forward to a truly unique West Coast imperial IPA blended with a Belgian-style tripel that was aged in reposado tequila barrels previously used to mature red wine. 

This limited offering, Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA will start arriving in 22-oz. bottles and on draft at select retailers in markets where Stone beer is sold.

Craft beer enthusiasts have a quartet of noteworthy brewers to thank for this one-of-a-kind brainchild, starting with Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele.

When considering who to team with for the latest Stone collaboration, he looked to two polar-opposite points spanning the American brewing landscape: Portland, Ore., and Asheville, N.C.

Like Stone’s San Diego County home, these locales are considered hotbeds of craft beer ingenuity, thanks in part to the respective contributions of John Harris from Ecliptic Brewing, and brothers Luke and Walt Dickinson of Wicked Weed Brewing.

The former held court as one of the Pacific Northwest’s best and longest-tenured brewers for a quarter century before opening Ecliptic, while the latter are the creative duo behind one of North Carolina’s most experimental, buzzworthy brewing outfits. These brewing powerhouses from points far removed joined forces to take this collaborative recipe to points unknown.

“I don’t think I could have asked for a more talented and fun group of collaborators to work with,” said Steele. “John is one of my oldest friends in the industry, and I really respect the ingenuity Luke and Walt have shown through the beers coming from Wicked Weed. When we were exploring recipe ideas, it was unknown for all of us exactly how well a double IPA would play with a Belgian tripel, but we decide to give it a shot. Now, having tried the final beer, we are really impressed with its uniqueness and complexity. It turned out to be a great representation of all our philosophies.”

The beer incorporates two disparate styles – a hop-forward, distinctly American IPA and a fruity Belgian tripel, both brewed with blue agave nectar – with influence from red wine- and tequila-saturated oak. It begs the question: What does this taste like?  

Here are tasting notes provided by Steele: Tropical fruit aromas and flavors come courtesy of hop bursting, which is used to extract maximum character from a mixture of Amarillo, Calypso and Jarrylo hops late in the brewing process. The hoppiness is given brilliant depth care of banana and estery qualities produced by a Belgian yeast strain during the tripel’s fermentation. Subtle tannic, berry-like flavors and additional red wine notes are present from the triple-use barrels. Amazingly, the flavors blend seamlessly without competing in the glass.

Stone recommends that to fully experience the massive hop presence, Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA should be enjoyed fresh; however, the beer may also be stored at proper cellaring temperatures (55 degrees or lower).

How long can it be aged? It’s hard to say. And what will it taste like? Just as the case was when it was first brewed, even the brewers don’t know…so consider its aged manifestation yet another point of the beer’s intriguing unknowns.

I have yet to confirm whether bottles of Points Unknown IPA will land in Michiana. However, more recent Stone collaborations have been distributed into our area, so I’m hoping that we will get the opportunity to enjoy this amazing sounding beer!

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