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Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous: The name says it all.

Smug!  That is what I believe Stone has become with their newest offering, their black IPA that is aptly titled “Sublimely Self Righteous.”  Now the first thing I want to say, and I know you Stone defenders will not hear this, but I want to go on record as saying that this is NOT bad beer.  Its good, it has good IPA flavor and a nice nose with fruit and floral tones, and everything you would expect from a really good IPA. I happily drank the entire 22 oz bomber.  I have a problem however when something is made that tastes nothing like what it should be.  Let me tell you what I mean.

Do you remember Pepsi Clear?  This was in the 80s I believe when it came out, everyone was freaking out about food additives.  So the sharp minds at Pepsi thought what a great marketing ploy.  Lets take the dye out of Pepsi (because afterall there is nothing in cola that makes it brown until you add the food coloring).  Well…it was weird.  Drinking a beverage that tasted like Pepsi and looked like 7up didn’t sit well with the American psyche.  And ultimately it was a flop.

When I taste Sublimely Self Righteous, I get fruit, I get floral, and I get bitter.  All great qualities of some of the best IPAs in the business.  Now here’s what I don’t get, I don’t get a big creamy mouthfeel, I don’t get a blast of roasted malt on the front, middle, or end of this thing, and I don’t get the unique flavor experience that a “black” IPA should bring.  It’s like Pepsi Clear in reverse.  Like they took an IPA and added black dye to it.  So why do I think they are arrogant?…

Well, it’s kinda obvious, no?  Just look at the name and the label, it exudes SMUG.  OK I get the gargoyle, it’s their thing, their brand, their identifier.  You see gargoyles and you think two things, Stone beer, and lawn ornaments.

So their labels have always had a baroque quality to them, I can forgive that even if I don’t really get that excited by it.  No, for me it is all about the name of the brew.  They come right out and say they are self righteous, but in a sublime way, a very California way, that is just too cool for you if you don’t agree.  I wonder how many piss ants are walking around extolling the virtues of SSR because they want to “get it” and be in the club, be a “cool” kid.

Well I for one am not down with it.  Stone needs to get back to making kick ass beers.  Their last couple of offerings have been far less than stellar.  They are for all the dorks and dweebs that want to feel like they are part of the in crowd.  SSR is the Cali-Belgique of black IPAs.  It is a poser in a beer type that holds so much promise.

There are a couple of cliche sayings that really seem to fit here.  First is “it an’t braggin’ if you can back it up”.  Well Stone?  You don’t do it.  You seem to be resting on your laurels with this beer.  Then out west we say a guy is “All hat and no cattle.”  That is our way of saying that someone is a poser.  This is two poser brews in a row from Stone.  I hope this doesn’t start an insidious trend of making “ordinary” beers or in the case of Cali-Belgique subpar beers with a kitschy  label and name recognition.

C’mon Stone you can do better.  Step up!

-Don

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19 Comments on “Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous: The name says it all.”

  1. Evan
    July 15, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    I think Stone has just plain over-hyped themselves. Instead of letting Arrogant Bastard be Arrogant Bastard, they went on to bleed that attitude in to all their new beers, which I think could backfire on them.

    • Don
      July 15, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

      Could and has, Evan! They seem to be resting on the laurels of some truly great brews, but what have you done for me lately, Stone? Unfortunately the answer is …Not much.

  2. July 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Agree 100% with Don and Evan. I’m sick of the “you’re not worthy” stuff. It might have worked before the microbrewery explosion, but at this point it just sounds like my squealing brakes….a noise I turn out. They’ll always have decent craft beer market share, but pretty much the only way they really nab the interest of the beer snobs is by doing a collaboration (reminds me of Carlos Santana).

    My favorite Stone brew is their house pale ale. Other than that, I really don’t bother with them.

    • Don
      July 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

      I really like their pale and their Arrogant Bastard, but I just can’t get into their newer stuff, and the level of self aggrandizement is making me sick!

      • July 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

        Their Russian Imperial Stout is amazing. It’s a real toe curler!

  3. July 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    As for black beers that aren’t normally black, I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. Black IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale, whatever you want to call it, is it a style or a fad? Although, I do believe a governing brewing body of one acronym or another jut crowned it with a style designation. Is it big and hoppy? Is it roasty or smokey? Is it supposed to be creamy? Or is it just supposed to be an IPA that’s dark? Thinking the latter myself, but not sure. Leaves things open to wide interpretations.

    Another thing. SSR isn’t really a new brew (just a new name). It’s their 11th anniversary beer from 2007. You could make the arguement that they were the first to put a black IPA on the market.

    I liked SSR when I had it on tap recently. (Haven’t had it out of the bottle.) I think for all the reasons you didn’t like it Don. It tasted like an normal IPA with some dark malts added to the recipe. Nothing more and nothing less. I’ve had a number of disappointing black IPAs that tasted just like porters or hoppy stouts to me. This one at least had an IPA profile.

    Having said all of that, I don’t generally care for Stone beers. Largely because I lean towards balanced brews and Stone always tends to go big, just to go big (my opinion). I always appreciate their boldness, but they’re not a go-to brewery for me.

    And yes, their marketing has defined their brand very well, but it’s put their beers in a corner and sometimes misses the mark all together. If you were expecting a brash, bold, motor oil of an IPA, (which you would given the hype), SSR is not that.

    • Don
      July 15, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

      Well Chad, as usual you make very good points. Very pensive and reasoned. I am not any of those things, so My opinion is kinda in your face (my blog). But I want to reiterate that I drank the whole thing, and it was pleasant. Not a bad beer like the Cali Belgique (again my opinion) but not as brash and bold as both the marketing and the style might otherwise lead you to believe. That is my beef.

      • July 15, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

        Awwww … we should hug. O.K., maybe not. Your beef is totally valid Don. Like Marvin said, their marketing has served them well. But it has probably worked so well, that now when they try to do a brew that’s more subtle or nuanced, it seems out of character for them and just off.

        • Don
          July 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

          Chad, maybe not hug, but fist bump then make the fireworks explosion! Yeah…I’m a dork. Just ask my kids.

  4. July 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    I dunno, I liked it. I also liked it back when it was the 11th Ann. Ale too. I get the roastiness personally, almost like sugared coffee to me. I think it is extremely balanced and the roast bitterness and hop bitterness accentuate each other nicely. Probably one of the best examples of an India Black Ale (as per the 2010 BA style guidelines) I have had. (I hate the monikers Black IPA and Cascadian Dark Ale, especially CDA.)

    It’s still an IPA and it’s still a Black Ale, just an amalgamation of the two. Now, I do think though if people thought of it more of a hoppy black ale, which is what it should be thought as, and not a dark, roasty, heavy etc…IPA, the style is easier to wrap your head around and IMO makes it easier to enjoy the subtle nuances, instead of looking for palate exploding bitterness.

    As for Stone, I think their marketing is genius in the Rogue sense. I mean you know it’s Stone and for the uninitiated, it’s the holy grail of beergeekdom in their minds. Marketability is as important as the beer when making money. NOW with that being said, just like Rogue, I think most of their beers are overpriced and unbalanced.

    • July 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

      That’s right Marvin. BA coined the India Black Ale designation. Much better moniker. Like you, the other two names drove me nuts. Especially “black IPA”.

      Haven’t read the back of the bottle, can’t get through all of the tiny type. But nowhere on the front does it say IPA of any sort, just Ale. Although everyone seems to recognize it as “Stone’s black IPA”. And Stone’s website or blog may mention black IPA if I recall.

    • Don
      July 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

      Hey Marv: Duly noted on the dark ale v the Stout. I guess I was expecting something heavier. To me the gold standard here is Dogzilla. That is a black IPA that I think gets it. Lots of roasty character that is balanced by the hop bite. I just didn’t pick up on the roasted quality in the brew. Like I said it seemed more like an IPA with black food coloring added. Just my opinion, but it is my blog afterall… 🙂

      • July 15, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

        Ooohhh … Laughing Dog Dogzilla is an enjoyable one. Big IPA profile with similar level of roast and toast.

  5. July 16, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Don, you’re overlooking the real issue here…

    I think if Stone were for real they would stop hiding the genitalia of their gargoyle. I mean really. This thing is going commando all over, and look at the label. There’s clever shading here, or ambiguous demon anatomy there. Is this thing a chick or a dude? If it turns out that this gargoyle is really a chick gargoyle, a lot of people are going to be upset.

    • Don
      July 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

      OK, obviously you never saw the movie Gremlins, because if you did you would remember that gargoyles have no genitalia. They simply go for a swim if they want to reproduce. Honestly Scott, I don’t know how you can continue to be so misinformed!

  6. July 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    That’s why I come here Don. The enlightenment is overwhelming sometimes!

    • Don
      July 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

      Glad to be your beacon in the storm!

  7. July 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I believe this is a re-incarnation of their 11th anniversary ale. People apparently kept begging for it. As far as the beer goes…it’s okay. I wouldn’t turn one down and I would genuinely enjoy the one I drank. However, I can’t help but agree that the Stone model is getting a little difficult to maintain. I never wrote the post I intended to about going there. I stopped by Stone the same day I went to the Lost Abbey. Let’s just say that the Stone ideology was adopted by some of the staff and the neophyte patrons. Let’s be honest, they don’t have many beers that are great. They have some decent stuff but they aren’t as cutting edge as they think. Drop the arrogant thing and worry about the beer.

    • Don
      July 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

      Well spoken Mike! They should worry about the beer! The attitude is getting tiresome and the product has to be stellar if you are going to have the attitude. Focus on the product should be the message here.

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