Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Sublimely Self-Conscious Spill Over

The only San Diego Beer Week event I attended was the Sour Night at Pizza Port Ocean Beach, and while I discovered an excellent sour beer in Mi Nachos Trois, I missed the marquee beer from Cantillon.  But to me, one of the best parts of Beer Week is not the key events, but the next day when the crowds are back to normal and the good beer is still on tap.  It's kind of like Thanksgiving leftovers.  On Saturday night I went to Stone Brewing's Liberty Station tasting room to check whether any special beers were available for growler fills for Beer Week.

Stone was filling growlers of Supremely Self-Conscious Black Session IPA, a beer I wanted to try after reading this glowing review from the Irish beer blog The Beer Nut late last week.  The review was on a similarly named Stone Supremely Self-Conscious Black Ale, a collaboration between Stone and Britain's Adnams Brewery.   I'm not sure whether the two beers were the same - mine was labeled Black IPA, and the blog post and Adnams' website referenced a Black Ale - but I figure they must be close.  When I read the review I wasn't sure whether this low alcohol black ale was a UK-only release or not, but when I saw it available for growler fills I had to get it.  It didn't disappoint.

Rather than write a new review, I am posting the Beer Nut's excellent description:
Second on my hitlist was Supremely Self-Conscious Black Ale, created by Mitch Steele of Stone at Adnams. I had been led to believe by advance reviews that it wasn't all that, but it is all that, and a fair bit more. The aroma makes it clear from the outset that a lot of US hops have gone in here: big old grapefruit and pine resin welcome the drinker in. On first sip there's a massive, burning bitter hit which subsides mercifully quickly, fading down to grapefruit pith and then settling on friendlier mango and pineapple. There's just a bit of coffee representing the dark side of the profile -- the programme describes the roast character as "subdued" and I think it certainly has been. It's only 5% ABV but tastes and feels much stronger, being weighty like a big stout and depositing a lingering resin on the lips. Possibly not a great choice for second beer, but it had been on since the previous day and was due to run out soon, though in the event there was still one pint left for me to claim a few hours later before the train home -- the best £2.29 I've spend on beer this year.
I did not distinguish the mango, grapefruit or pineapple, and from drinking so many Southern California IPAs, I can't say with a straight face that Supremely Self Conscious had a massive, burning bitter hop profile.  (Someone needs to ship the Beer Nut a bottle of Stone's latest Enjoy By IPA so he can experience a true West Coast hop burn.)  But I agree that Supremely Self Conscious has a deep roasty character with a solid hop profile.  Its rich, almost chewy body belied its session status, and it drinks much bigger than its nearly 5% ABV.   It's just a wonderful beer.  

One final point:  I want to drink where the Beer Nut gets $3.50 imperial pints!


The Beer Nut said...

Thanks for the shout-out! JD Wetherspoon is the national UK chain of $3.50 pints. In fact I think that's near the upper end of their price scale. There are branches you can get a beautifully kept imperial pint of Greene King IPA from the cask for less than half that.

As that blog post you quoted from shows (I hope), very far from all the beers they commission are as good as the Stone/Adnams Self-Conscious, and the host brewery has a lot to do with it. I was back in the UK at the weekend and tasted another Stone collaboration, this time with the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, and it had nowhere near the impact of the Self-Conscious.

I do know what West Coast hop burn tastes like, btw. In a 9.4% ABV beer like Enjoy By it's not exactly a noteworthy achievement. It's the lack of acridity in most of Stone's hop-forward beers that really impresses me about them.

Beer Rover said...

I've enjoyed your blog for years. It is intelligent and well written. The Stone collaborations have been hit or miss, but the hits have been outstanding. Teasing on the hop burn comment. I agree that an over hopped 9% beer is no achievement, every brewery in California or the US seems to have one. Making a drinkable one is an art, and Stone is at the top in this game.