Stone's New Beers. Are They Better?

Bob Barnes - Taste testing Stone's re-invented favorites.

Stone Brewing vaulted onto the forefront of craft beer in 1996 and quickly established itself as a brewery unafraid of hops. Its flagship beers celebrated the piney and citrus flavors of the treasured lupulin ingredient and pushed the limits on how much bitterness one could put into a beer, with some of its creations topping out at more than 100 IBUs. (It has been theorized that 100 International Bittering Units is the maximum that the human palate can taste.)

The San Diego area-based brewery is now the 9th largest craft brewery in the US and has forged into new areas, such as growing its own ingredients at its 19-acre Stone Farm, having the balls to be the first American craft brewery to open a brewery in Europe (opening in Berlin in 2016) and myriad of collaboration beers spanning nearly every beer style. Now as Stone is about to enter its third decade of brewing, it’s taken the bold step of reinventing two of its most beloved creations, its American Pale Ale and Ruination.


Stone Pale Ale 2.0
Style: American Pale Ale
6% ABV
55 IBUs

In 1996 Stone American Pale Ale was the brewery’s first beer, formulated in a rented condo in Solana Beach, California by Co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. In 1997 it would go on to become San Diego County’s first brewed and bottled beer and served as the brewery’s flagship beer for 18 years. The extremely hop-forward beer was a bit revolutionary at the time, but now nearly two decades later craft beer fans tastes have evolved to accept and even expect more hoppy character to their brews. After retiring the iconic Pale Ale in early 2015, this new version took its place in May, 2015, and while the original was a copper-toned traditional British-type Pale Ale with a caramel malt body, the 2.0 boasts a lighter golden-hue and lighter body with European Pilsner, Belgian Abbey and Cara-Munich malts, and Magnum and Herkules hops provide substantial bitterness. But the main new addition is the use of Mandarina Bavaria, a newly developed hop strain from Germany, which adds bright flavors of peach and mandarin orange.


Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0
Style: American Double/Imperial India Pale Ale
8.5% ABV
100+ IBUs

Ruination debuted in 2002 and was the first full-time brewed and bottled West Coast double IPA on the planet at a time when the American IPA style was first being tried out on American palates. Its name was a nod to the effect a beer with more than 100 IBUs would have on your taste buds. As craft beer has matured over the years (IPA is now the top-selling craft beer style in the US), so too have techniques for maximizing hop flavors and aromas and this second incarnation employs dry hopping and hop bursting (a technique that focuses on getting the aroma out of the hops without adding extra bitterness) to squeeze every last drop of piney, citrusy, tropical essence from the hops. Citra and Azacca, two experimental hop strains that have been cultivated in recent years producing big citrus and tropical fruity notes, are found in Ruination 2.0, along with proven potent hop monsters Citra, Magnum, Nugget and Centennial. Like its predecessor, Ruination 2.0 provides an onslaught of every facet of hop flavor, aroma and bitterness that will keep hopheads coming back for more.

As for whether or not you prefer the new to the old versions, you’ll have to try both for yourself. Personally, I especially like the mandarin orange explosion from the Mandarina Bavaria hops in the Pale Ale 2.0 and the new Ruination seems to pull out even more of the tropical fruit hop essence than its earlier rendition.

The Author:

Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for Gayot.com. He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at bob@lvfnb.com.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

Continue the Discussion