Olutravintola Pikkulintu have recently imported a batch of 10 different beers by Stone Brewing, and yesterday they were released at both Pikkulintu and a number of pubs around the country, including The Gallows Bird in Espoo, where I myself headed yesterday afternoon, in hopes of tasting these praised beers. The beers available are: Levitation Ale, Pale Ale, IPA, Ruination IPA, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout, Double Bastard, Old Guardian Belgo, 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA, and 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale. So yesterday, me and a group of friends headed to The Gallows Bird to try through the list of Stone beer. When we came to the bar we were informed that we would have to wait a couple of hours for the Stone beer to arrive, so I tried some Danish beer in the meanwhile.
First up was Hornbeer’s Black Magic Woman, an Imperial Stout brewed with smoked and peated malt. The beer had a pitch-black color and slight tan-colored head. The aroma was very roasty, featuring tones of burnt malt, coffee, licorice, dark chocolate, caramel and some alcohol. The flavor was similar, with tones of coffee, chocolate, ash, licorice and roasted malts dominating. The flavor ended with a slightly bitter aftertaste, and I thought the beer was quite well balanced. The beer was quite full-bodied, with medium-low carbonation and a smooth finish. I thought this was a really tasty and well balanced Imperial Stout, getting a grade of 4/5.
Next up were Evil Twin’s Yin and Yang, an Imperial Stout and Imperial IPA brewed to complement each other. The label even recommends trying a mix of them, which I also did. I began with Yang, an amber-colored beer with a fluffy off-white head. The aroma was extremely fruity, with tones of mango, passion fruit, citrus and resin. There was also some caramel in the aroma as well. The flavor began with some caramel as well, but was quickly joined by lots of tropical fruit flavor from the hops. There were tones of mango, passionfruit, grapefruit and orange. The flavor ended with a sweet and bitter aftertaste. The beer was medium bodied, with a medium-low carbonation level. I liked this a lot, even though the fruitiness was a bit over the top. This one also gets a grade of 4/5.
Yin poured with a pitch-black color and a minimal tan-colored head. The aroma was full of roasted tones, featuring coffee, chocolate and some roasted malt. The flavor is similar, with tones of chocolate, cocoa, and coffee dominating, together with some caramel and roasted malts. The beer has a smooth and full body, and a low carbonation level. I thought the beer was quite well-balanced, a overall I found the beer tasty. The chocolate and coffee tones were especially strong in this one. Yin gets a grade of 4.5/5.
Yang to the left, Yin to the right, and the mixture in the center
When the two were mixed, a dark brown beer was formed, with a fluffy cream-colored head. Lots of the fruitiness from Yang’s aroma was still left, and it was coupled by a slight roastiness. The flavor on the other hand was dominated by the chocolate and coffee tones from Yin, making for an interesting mixture. The mixture was nice, but liked the beers more on their own.
While we were drinking Yin and Yang, a courier showed up outside the bar, and boxes full of Stone’s beer were loaded into the bar, hooray! It was probably a bad idea to start the day with the strong (both in flavor and alcohol content) Danish beers, since the list of Stone beers included some ‘lighter’ ones, but we did our best to neutralize the taste-buds with some water and salty snacks. We began the Stone tasting with their Pale Ale. The beer poured with an amber-orange color, and a fluffy white head. The aroma was mostly caramel, and not at all as hoppy as I was expecting. There were some slight tones of grapefruit. The flavor began with some bready maltiness, that followed with a slight fruity and citrusy hop flavor. The aftertaste was bitter and slightly dry. The beer had a medium body and carbonation level. Overall, this was my least favorite beer of the evening, and felt it being quite bland. Maybe it was because I had such strongly flavored beers before this. Still it was a drinkable Pale Ale, just nothing special. I give this one a grade of 3-3.5/5.
Next up was Stone’s Levitation Ale, which is an Amber Ale with 4.4% ABV (you can find it in Kesko’s larger supermarkets, e.g. K-Citymarket Sello and Iso Omena, as well!). The Levitation Ale poured a dark amber color, with an off-white head. The aroma was a lot fruitier than the Pale Ale to my surprise, and it featured tones of caramel, citrus, mango, and resin. The flavor begins with some sweet malty tones and caramel, and this is joined by the citrusy and slightly resinous tones from the hops. The aftertaste is bitter, and I felt the beer is well-balanced for such a low-ABV hoppy beer. The beer has a nice medium body and a medium carbonation level. I definitely thought it was better than the Pale Ale, and overall a tasty well-balanced package. I give this one a grade of 3.5-4/5.
Then, it was time for Stone’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard, which I have reviewed earlier. The beer pours with a dark amber color and an off-white head, and the beer has a very similar appearance to Levitation Ale. The aroma has tones of wood, dark fruits, malt and some resiny hops as well. Can’t find much of the vanilla, which I remember from the last time I tried it. Also remember that there would have been slightly more hoppiness in the aroma the last time I had it. The flavor begins with tones of caramel and just a slight roasted maltiness. This is joined by an earthy, citrusy, bitter and woody flavor from the hops and oak. The aftertaste is quite bitter. Couldn’t recognize any vanilla in the flavor as well. The beer has a medium body and carbonation level. I liked it, but felt it was a bit different compared to when I tasted it the last time. The atmosphere and tasting conditions are of course very different, which probably explain the differences in taste. I give this one a grade of 4/5.
The following beer was Stone’s India Pale Ale, an American IPA featuring 70+ IBU. The beer pours with a light golden-yellow color and a fluffy white head. The aroma is hoppy and floral, with tones of grapefruit, resin, pine and mango. The flavor begins with a slight sweet maltiness, that is quickly overtaken by a resiny and citrusy hoppiness, with tones of pine and grapefruit. The flavor finished with huge bitterness. The beer has a medium-light body and a medium carbonation level. The beer is quite well balanced, with the slightly sweet malt backbone backing up the bitter hoppiness. A nice IPA, but was hoping for something ‘more special’. I give this one a grade of 3.5-4/5 (leaning towards the 4).
The following beer was one of the bigger bottles: The Vertical Epic 11.11.11. This year’s Vertical Epic is a Belgian-style Ale, brewed with Anaheim Chilies and Cinnamon. The beer pours with a hazy amber-orange color and a slight off-white head. The aroma has tones of banana and spices (cloves and a slight hint of cinnamon), together with a slight maltiness. Can’t detect much of the chili. The flavor is similar, beginning with a slight caramel maltiness, together with some spicy belgian yeast tones (cloves and pepper) and some banana. The beer has a smooth and medium-full body, and a medium-low carbonation level. Makes a great sipping beer, and I quite liked it, even though I’m not a great fan of Belgian-style ale. Couldn’t detect much of the chili though. I give this one a grade of 3.5-4/5.
Then it was time for another beer I’ve had before, Ruination IPA, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. Last time I really liked it, even though it was a bit on the bitter side. This time the beer pours a golden-yellow color with a white fluffy head. The aroma is very hoppy and floral, with tones of resin and citrus. The flavor begins with a slight maltiness, but it is evident that this is a very hoppy and bitter beer, with resiny and citrusy (grapefruit) taking over and dominating the palate. The flavor ends with a dry and huge bitter aftertaste. The beer has a medium-light body and medium carbonation level. I liked the hop flavors in this one, even though they were not as strong as I remember (could have been the tasting conditions again), but felt the beer was slightly too bitter. I give this one a grade of 4/5.
Next up is Stone’s Double Bastard, a stronger, maltier and hoppier version of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard. This beer poured with a dark amber color and a fluffy cream-colored head. The aroma is malty, with tones of caramel and dark fruits (raisins), and citrusy (from the hops). The flavor begins malt forward, with tones of caramel, bread and raisins, which is joined by a earthy, resiny and citrusy hoppiness, that ends in a sweet, spicy and bitter finish. The beer has a medium body and carbonation level, and since the flavors are very strong in this one, it seems a bit unbalanced. I liked this one, but it was a bit heavy. I give this one a grade of 4/5.
The following beer was the 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA, which is one of the first Black IPAs I’ve ever had. The beer pours a black color, with a fluffy tan head. The aroma is hoppy, with resin and citrus dominating. There is a slight caramelliness, roastiness and alcohol presence in the aroma as well. The flavor has a bit more roastiness, with some tones of coffee, but the hops are very prevalent here as well, with tones of resin and grapefruit. The aftertaste is bitter. The beer has a smooth medium body with a medium carbonation level. This was an interesting blend of an IPA and a stout, that I thought worked quite well. I give this one a grade of 4/5.
The second last beer of the evening, which was also probably my favorite of the Stone’s, Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout. This Imperial Stout has, as the name implies, been spiced with anise and oak chips, and has been brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. The beer pours with a pitch-black color, and a slight tan head is formed. The aroma is dominated by lots of licorice and anise tones, but there are some tones of coffee, roasted malts, and a slight salmiakki. The flavor is roasty, with tones of licorice, coffee, chocolate and salmiakki. There are some slight hop flavors as well, and the flavor finishes quite bitter with anise in the aftertaste. The body is full, and the carbonation level is low. Felt the beer was quite well balanced, but this was definitely a slow-sipping beer. I like licorice, so this suited me fine, but I understand that people not liking licorice would find this beer quite unpleasant. Great flavors in a nice package. I give this one a grade of 4.5/5.
The final beer of the evening is the Old Guardian Belgo, a Barleywine brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. The beer pours with a clear dark amber color, with an off-white head. The aroma is sweet, malty and has some fruity tones from the Belgian yeast. The flavor is sweet and malty, with caramel and dark fruits, and is some hop flavor present as well. There is only a slight presence of the Belgian yeast in the flavor. The flavor is slightly boozy as well, but the alcohol is quite well hidden behind the sweetness. The beer has a full body and a low carbonation level. It was a little too sweet for my taste, and a bit heavy to drink. I give this one a grade of 3.5/5.
Overall, this was a very pleasant evening, with some great tasting beers. I recommend visiting Gallows Bird, Pikkulintu, or any of the other pubs around the country offering these beers, and at least try some of them. Thanks Pia, Jonny, Rasmus, Artem, Paulina, Teemu and Kimmo for the company!