In My Fridge: Stone Brewing Vengeful Spirit IPA

I don’t really have a funny or interesting anecdote about how I got this beer.

I went to watch Thursday Night Football at a friend’s new apartment recently, and as a supporter of my blog, he was kind enough to donate this can of beer to me. That was nice, and it made me feel nice.

When you put your work out there for everyone to see — be it a song or a painting or, in my case, a blog — you open yourself to a lot of criticism. You make yourself hella vulnerable, and people can (and will) exploit that vulnerability in order to hurt you. That being so, support of any kind is always a pleasure to receive. Kind words (or a donated can of beer) mean more than you could possibly know.

Okay, sappy time is over. Today, we’re trying a selection from Stone Brewing. Stone is notorious for making their beers aggressively hoppy, and I don’t expect Vengeful Spirit IPA to be an exception. Let’s check it out.

My receptacle of choice for this beer was a Jackson Design & Remodeling snifter (?) that I got for free from the Best of San Diego Festival.

Superficial Stuff

Can Art: The can is dominated by a witch doctor/tribal mask version of the classic Stone gargoyle. It kinda looks like a villain straight out of Scooby Doo, what with its cartoonishly big mouth and obvious tribal themes. I think I actually prefer this to the standard gargoyle, whom I find to be kind of a try-hard at trying to look intimidating.

Most breweries have a logo that’s distinct to them but otherwise easygoing. Usually, it’s like a graphic of some mountains or like an old car or something, but that’s not the case with Stone. They have this tough-guy, Green Goblin-looking thing that’s always trying to mean mug you. He looks like what I imagine Satan’s high school photo would look like (and I think Satan’s the kinda guy who played fullback on the football team and wore his letterman’s jacket until he was 20).

This tiki gargoyle, on the other hand, is cool. The exaggerated face isn’t scary or anything, and it fits the tropical theme well; whoever drew it really knocked it out of the park. Gotta say I’m a big fan of the color scheme this can has going on, too. The tiki-goyle is purple, and it sits in the foreground with an orange, yellow-clouded sky in the background behind it. If you rotate the can just a bit to the left, a big yellow setting sun rests just above the horizon. It turns the “water” behind the tiki-goyle purple and streaks it with yellow reflections here and there.

The text at the top of the can says, “Unfiltered India Pale Ale w/ Juicy Pineapple & Mandarin Orange.” I don’t really know what “unfiltered” means in this context, but I imagine that there’s gonna be some stuff floating around in my glass.

A glass of Stone Brewing Vengeful Spirit IPA

Beer Appearance: It looks kinda like a lighter Hi-C soda or a richer, more golden glass of Sunny D. More watery than the latter, too — those knockoff orange juices were always really thick-looking (and kinda chalky, if that makes any sense). The beer wasn’t particularly fizzy, and the head was a nice, clean white, more on the sudsy side than creamy. It looked hella refreshing.

This beer was unfiltered, as mentioned, and I could see a ton of tiny little particulates floating around when I pushed my nose against the glass. They even jiggled a little when I shook the beer. I don’t really know what plankton are like, but I imagine they look similar to the stuff in unfiltered IPAs.

Smell: It smelled like a strong, boozy grapefruit. I got a hint of fermented oranges too, which, based on the description on the can, is technically a flavor this beer is going for. There was a subtle hoppiness in the beer’s aroma too, a sort of lingering California dankness behind all the fruit. It smelled “like the art teacher’s office,” to quote the Simpsons — like if the art teacher had just blazed up while hand-squeezing some ripe citrus fruits.

Taste and Overall Impressions

As expected, both because it’s a Stone beer and an IPA, it was super bitter on the first sip. But it wasn’t a prolonged bitterness; it moved in and laid a few hard body blows on the tongue before dancing out of the way again.

There was lots of grapefruit flavor and the dull juiciness of orange slices. You know how oranges don’t actually taste like orange juice? Like they don’t have all the sugar added in, so while they’re still sweet, they also have that watery sourness to them? The orange taste in this beer was like that. I got a bit of pineapple too, which was missing in the smell of the beer. It was present for just a nanosecond, a unique, juicy sweetness that was mixed in there with the grapefruit and orange.

The finish wasn’t all that clean; the bitterness came and went rapidly, yeah, but it left a pretty solid hop taste on the very back of my tongue. Because of that, I think this is a beer best sipped, and never, ever chugged unless you’re crazy or you have a palate made of pure steel. I don’t think I can really call this beer refreshing — it might be the last thing I would want on a hot day outside. It’s hearty as hell and even the tiniest sip demands the attention of your entire mouth.

Final Thoughts 

This beer is on the cusp of being really, really good. The problem? It’s just Too. Damn. Bitter.

I loved like the first 60% of this beer. Then the hoppiness got to me and the final 40% started to feel like a chore.

Stone, you bastards. Never change.

Recommended For: IPAficionados, hop lovers, Stone fanboys/girls, men with beards.

ABV: 7.3%  IBUs: 57

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