Monday, June 29, 2015

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

Stone Brewing retired its original Ruination IPA, the first full-time bottled double IPA, earlier this spring and replaced it with Ruination 2.0.  Ruination was always my favorite of Stone's core beers.  Since Ruination's initial release in 2002 other breweries have produced stronger, hoppier, and bolder double IPAs, which left Ruination to drink more like an IPA than a double IPA.  For a brewery like Stone, which markets itself as a bold, trend-setting brewer, having its flagship double IPA taste like what is now considered an IPA was probably unacceptable.

I didn't see it then, but realize now, that Stone's release of Enjoy By IPA in the summer of 2012 signified Ruination's end.   Enjoy By is as muscular a double IPA as you will find, whether from Stone or any other brewer, and it fits with Stone's aggressive image.  I played a willing, if unknowing, part in Ruination's decline, buying far fewer bottles of Ruination since Stone released Enjoy By.  There is no need for nuance when you are assured a knockout, and Ruination 2.0, like Enjoy By, is more knockout than nuance. 

Ruination 2.0 is part of West Coast craft brewers' shift to high hop, low malt beers.  In its blog post discussing the retirement of Ruination and the introduction of Ruination 2.0, Stone states, "you can expect to encounter a version of Stone Ruination (i.e. Ruination 2.0) made bigger and bolder through the use of a revised hop bill including some new and exciting varieties," because when Ruination was introduced fewer high alpha-acid hops were available and the techniques to extract their hop flavors and bitterness were not yet invented. 

Ruination 2.0 delivers a big, oily hop mouthful that coats your entire palate.  I did not get a dominate citrus or pine flavor profile - I tasted both - but if pressed, I'd say citrus was more prevalent, along with a faint, underlying earthiness.  The beer poured a cloudy bright orange with a solid white foam, and it had a floral aroma.   There was a soothing level of sweetness that defrayed the beer's bitterness.  I tried to focus on Ruination 2.0's varied flavors but was distracted by how good it was despite its diminished malt.  I don't know how Stone can brew a beer that should be unbalanced chaos, but instead is smooth and delicious.  Like many of Stone's beers, Ruination 2.0 drinks bigger than its abv.  It has a substantial 8.5% abv, but I would not question it if someone told me the abv was higher. 

I was sad to see Ruination go, but Stone has unleashed a stellar encore to a classic, style-defining beer.  Ruination 2.0 will jostle for space in my fridge with Enjoy By. 

Bonus Food Pairing:  I am a beer and food pairing skeptic, thinking the whole concept overdone and over thought.  I am reminded nearly every night that beer goes with food, but rarely do the two enhance each other.   One beer / food pairing that works is Ruination 2.0 and dark chocolate.  I had a chunk of gourmet/artisan/hand-crafted/small batch/slow roasted/single origin, Tanzanian dark chocolate from San Francisco's Dandelion Chocolate when drinking Ruination 2.0 and was stunned at the symbiosis of the bittersweet beer and semi-sweet, bitter chocolate.   This delicious combination was so good it is making me rethink my beer / food pairing ambivalence.

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