Ruination IPA – the beer that ruined my life forever
There are some ruinous things worth celebrating this June. On the 10th a couple of weeks ago, Stone Brewing rolled out the 10th anniversary release of its Ruination India Pale Ale. A year ago yesterday, I also walked into the Tasting Room, Global Beer Exchange’s now-closed pub across Greenbelt 5, for the first time. My friend Nicole introduced me to Stone on that day, and my life was “ruinated” forever. A few days after, on the 30th, I attended my first organized beer tasting, also at the Tasting Corner, and there met some amazing people who are just as passionate as I am. One year and many beers later, here we are – thanks to the “liquid poem to the glory of the hop.”
My first Stone ale was actually their Oaked Arrogant Bastard. As I’ve mentioned before, after my initial taste, I was surprised that beer could actually taste that way. The Arrogant Bastard Ale is a proud beer, and it will pass judgment on those who aren’t worthy. The gargoyles on Stone’s bottles are guardians, watching over the beers and protecting them from preservatives, useless adjuncts and additives. A popular Stone tagline is “We’re not expensive, you’re just cheap!” Good beer is made of good ingredients and full of flavor, and advocates of real beer focus on quality, rather than quantity. Thus, the goal is to appreciate the brew, the way wine is appreciated and not chugged like a frat boy out of a beer bong or shotgunned can. Unfortunately, not everyone is of this mindset. Thus, as condescending as the gargoyles may be, they’re looking out for you as well. Anyone who drinks only fizzy yellow water will definitely not enjoy Stone’s beers.
The bastard is only a gatekeeper, however, for a much more formidable demon. After that first pint came Ruination. It was a year ago, and my memory is hazy, but I’m pretty sure I uttered a blasphemy or expletive after taking a sip. Ruination IPA gets its name for the effect it has on one’s palate and taste buds. The International Bitterness Units on this one are off the scale, ensuring that you can hardly taste anything else the rest of the night. Well, Ruination did ruin me, because now, I can no longer drink the fizzy yellow water that Stone’s Greg Koch was railing against in this inspired speech during the celebration of the Ruination 10th Anniversary:
I guess this is proof that hopheads are born, not made. Many introductions to craft beer forewarn beginners about venturing into US IPA territory. We all know how America is the land of extremes – of Supersize Me, Heart Attack Cafe and Epic Mealtime (which is, ironically, Canadian) – and this ideology is seen in how insanely aggressive and bitter their beers are. Most people need to acclimate their palates to hops, but for some reason, I was able to dive into it right away.
Ruination for me is the definitive double IPA, even if it’s not designated as such. Yes, while the esteemed Pliny the Elder or Bear Republic’s Racer X were both much more enjoyable for me, I think Ruination takes the cake because of its brazen lack of balance. Pliny and Racer X are the best of the best, among any style. That’s because they’re balanced and well-rounded with regard to malt sweetness and hop bitterness. On the other hand, Ruination is all about the hops, and to me, that’s what sets it apart from the more “drinkable” DIPAs. The nose is all grapefruit and citrus from the liberal use of Cascade hops, that erupt from the bottle, especially when the beer is off-the-boat fresh. This hop bomb is jarring from the start, while the finish is a lingering, overpowering bitterness that is best used to describe heartbroken teenagers and not beer. That said, Ruination is not for everyone, and in my snobbish moments, I take joy and a little bit of pride in it.
As to pairing, there are two radically different theories for IPAs and food. One says it works well with spicy food, as hops tend to draw out the heat and intensify it. Others would use that same logic to avoid such a partnership. That being said, I obviously subscribe to the former. I like my food with nigh-unbearable heat, and I like my beers with nigh-unbearable hops. Thus, Ruination IPA and buffalo wings are a perfect combination. Vegetable sticks in blue cheese sauce round out the experience, since IPAs are fun with intense cheeses as well.
The buffalo wings followed the classic recipe – double fried for maximum crispness following the ever reliable Serious Eats Food Lab; tossed into a bowl of 50% Frank’s Original Hot Sauce and 50% butter with some added cayenne for extra heat; shaken, not stirred. If you don’t believe in taste bud fatigue, you will after this.
Well, that’s my rumination on Ruination. Here’s to another year of good beer, good friends, and good times!