Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tapped Out

I had the good fortune, this week, of being in town for a special event at Stone Brewery, which, given my recent work/travel schedule, was surprising. They were having something called a "Fresh Tap Night", which means they were pouring a variety of local beers (not just their own) which had been kegged that very day. In addition to this (and, perhaps, most importantly) they were offering the chance to drink a glass of their 15th Anniversary Imperial Black IPA.... which may be the longest name for a beer that I've yet encountered. The way it works is you buy a token at the bar, which you then redeem in the store before being led through the brewery to the IPA. We bought our tokens, I took the picture you see above, and we went to the store, and started the line for the first group of the night. I was in front, my beautiful girlfriend was behind me, and some woman who insisted on trying to make conversation with the backs of our heads was behind her, followed by two other men. We were led through the gleaming towering brewing equipment, and down an aisle that the tour we'd taken before had not brought us down, actually between all of the fermentors. When my liver dies and goes to Heaven, it will find itself somewhere like this. We were met by a man with a rack full of glasses who, when asked how long he'd been working there, said, "Oh, about five minutes.... oh, you mean years?".

I was the first person in line, in the first group of people to taste the first batch of this beer.... straight out of the fermentor.
Other than the people who actually made the beer, and probably tasted it to make sure it was suitable for sale, I was in line to be the first person to taste it. However, I am a gentleman, and let the two ladies behind me get their glasses filled first.

Despite being called a Black IPA, it was more of a dark chocolaty brown. In fact, the color and the feel of it (since it had not even been carbonated yet) reminded me of the river of chocolate in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. I took a sniff, and then a sip, and imagined myself as Augustus Gloop, falling head first into the river... a fate I don't think I'd be bothered by. It was, almost needless to say, strong. It's Stone Brewery after all. It was intense, though not over-powering, hoppy and malty in turns.

We took our glasses out to the patio while another lucky group was led in. I wanted to savor my drink, so I sipped on it while we waited for a waiter to come around. Besides, I thought, this is much too heavy of a drink for someone to just guzzle down.

Or so I thought, Erika.
We ordered some tacos (I got barbecued duck) and chips, and spud buds. And Erika, not content with the strong beer she'd just chugged down, ordered two glasses of Cali Belgique (though she will tell you an entirely different version of the story which will include some nonsense about the waiter taking too long, and the bartender giving her an extra one or something)

The girl in the background is whispering to her friend about Erika being an alcoholic.
The Food and beer were all delicious, and you should all be very jealous. The thing about Stone is this. This is the thing: Their beer is very strong, and their food is very spicy. I've heard Stone accused, a number of times, of relying too heavily on hops for character, and I believe the same could be said of their use of spice in the food. It's almost as if they designed their food so you could still taste it over their taste-bud numbing beers... or they designed their beer so that it could over-power the intense burning sensation nearly every item on their menu causes.

Pictured: Just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, fire chili death chips.
The moral of the story, though, is that no one should ever let Erika near their brewing equipment, because she will drink those tanks dry.

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