Oct. 13 2010 10:05 AM

Stone's latest entry in the collaboration family

If there's one thing the Arrogant Bastards at Stone Brewing Co. love more than punishing our palates with ridiculous hop-bombs, it's working with fellow brewing luminaries to push the boundaries of what beer can taste like. These collaboration ales are always the lovechild of three breweries (including Stone), and they feature internationally renowned brewmasters as often as hometown heroes. Their appearance on taps and store shelves is definitely cause for excitement, though, in retrospect, delivering a forearm shiver to the gentleman reaching for the last bottle at Barron's Supermarket was possibly a bit excessive.

The latest entry in the collaboration family is the San Diego County Session Ale, a “West Coast Bitter” based on Kelsey McNair's winning entry in Stone's annual homebrew competition. McNair (northparkbeerco.com), an unrepentant hop-head, sought to create an aggressively hopped beer that wouldn't sweep the leg on your sobriety. Let's see how it fared:

It's a bright-orange brew with a taupe head that feathers around the edge of the glass. The grapefruit and floral hops are unmistakable in the first whiff, but not foreboding.

It turns out the aromatics of this beer are something of a head fake. The hop presence is potent as expected, but the first taste is dominated by herbal notes. The flavor is as big as the mouthfeel is thin, which would indeed enhance the session-ability.

There's a mild biscuit character that offsets the bitterness a bit, but the taste ultimately resolves with pine and citrus flavors.

While I enjoyed this beer, I think it was mixed in its success as a session beer. The alcohol and lightness certainly deliver, but I'd imagine only the most dedicated of hop-heads would want to double-fist it. However, I'll acknowledge that it may well just be my manliness that needs further review.

Write to ianc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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