Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (and the ABV wars)

We’re brewers whose substantial mettle and idiomatic approach to brewing allows us to consistently create works of art such as this justifiably self-righteous ale. Its bitterness hits our sweet spot. Its blackness lightens our hearts. Its liquid dichotomy pulls it all together in this sublimely sacrosanct ale. Yes, we damn well know our stuff here at Stone, and it would be irresponsible of us not to acknowledge how remarkable this heavenly creation of ours is. Thus the name we are compelled to give it — Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale — serves as a reminder of just how good we are, in both liquid and verbal form. —From the bottle label

This beer style is the illegitimate love child of a rich stout and an intense India pale ale. Beer Advocate gives the general name “American Black Ale” to this style. Generally, it’s also known as a Black IPA, but Stone didn’t market this ale as such. I think the Sublimely Self-Righteous is the only available beer of this kind in the Philippines at the moment. This was originally the Stone 11th Anniversary release back in 2007, but it was so good that they ended up making it one of their regular releases.

At 8.7 ABV and 90 IBU, with a viscous, almost opaque off-black and a creamy tan head, this beer is no pushover. Both in terms of aroma and flavor, it has the rich, heavy chocolate, coffee and roasted malt of an imperial stout, along with the arrogant hop bitterness that Stone is known for. I find that it reaches a good balance between both extremes, and is a good beer for those rainy days when you’re just shuttered in at home (Incidentally, I hope everyone is okay and recovering after Typhoon Pedring wreaked its havoc). Heavy-bodied and almost sticky on the palate, with a slightly bitter finish that tends to stick around as well. I do feel that malts do offset the hops quite well, as it doesn’t have that trademark hop profile that is ruinous and offensive for everyone except the most arrogant of bastards. Stone pats itself on the back quite strongly for this one, as evidenced by the name of the beer itself, and deservedly so. I’d love to try this fresh, and see how the hops dropped off when compared to the bomber I tried.

My BeerAdvocate rating: Appearance: 4.5 Smell: 4.0 Taste: 5.0 Mouthfeel: 4.0 Overall: 4.5

I can only hope to try another black ale, the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial IPA released last 15 August. Cross your fingers and wish that this is made into a regular release too! If you’re wondering where the term “Escondidian” came from, it’s derived from the home base of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, San Diego, California. It’s seen as a big up-yours to Deschutes Brewery in Oregon, creators of  Hop in the Dark, another American Black Ale, but one which is marketed as a “Cascadian Dark Ale” because of its use of cascade hops. This rivalry between the Pacific Northwest and Southwest is very interesting, and like any healthy rivalry, I hope it ends up bringing the best out of each.

Photo from Stone Brewing Co.

I find that this rivalry makes a lot more sense than the ongoing ABV war brewing (pun intended) between
Brewdog from Scotland and Germany’s Schorschbrau. The latest chapter has Schorschbrau ahead with their 57% ABV Finis Coronat Opus (“The end crowns the work”), but give Brewdog another month or so, and they’ll probably be pushing 60%. While the boys from Brewdog do admit that this is all in fun, with the latest products from both brewers named as potshots at the other, it really is starting to get old. Those able to try the limited releases have said that flavor has really gone out the window, particularly with Brewdog’s End of History. The gimmicks are also starting to lose taste, as with the latter beer’s being “packaged” in roadkill. No one really cares about ABV if the flavor is not there. Clearly this is just a matter of chasing a world record. I’d rather go for rivalries such as the Black Ale wars, where the brewers are pushing themselves to make their product so iconic in terms of flavor and quality that it will end up defining its own style.

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