Taste test: Stone-style IPAs

Union Jack and West Coast IPAs

Union Jack and West Coast, left to right. The Union Jack has settled somewhat; it looked cloudier when poured.

The other day two titans of the IPA world were on tap side by side at EBI, my local dispensary. So I filled a growler with West Coast IPA and a growler with Firestone Union Jack and quickly found five IPA lovers to taste and compare.

These are both “Stone-style” ales, after that Southern California brewery, which means they’re characterized by intense hoppiness, a citrus nose and taste, and moderate ABV (alcohol by volume, a bit over 7% for each). It’s my favorite style of beverage and I think these two are the best of the best.

Two beer signs at EBI

As rare as a solar eclipse… two giants of the IPA world, side by side.

But enough about me… what did my tasters say? Although it was a blind tasting it was easy enough to identify the Union Jack because it’s unfiltered, leading to a moderate cloudiness when poured. Both had a foamy head that quickly reached one inch and a pleasing citrus aroma. And they were very similar on first sip, but on repeated investigation they moved apart.

West Coast maintained its citrus characteristic that provided a lasting tartness in the mouth. Two tasters didn’t like this, saying it was too much and lasted too long. The others were positive. Two called it floral and one described it as “peachy, assertive and forward.”

The Union Jack had a muskiness that definitely appealed to the non-West Coast pair but the others cast a firm vote against it. One person really didn’t like it, calling it “minerally, uninteresting and timid.” Ouch.

The next day there was a bit of each left in the growler so I tasted them flat, not the way to enjoy a beer. It was interesting how different these apparently similar beers tasted now. The tartness of the West Coast and the muskiness of the Union Jack really came through. And actually I liked them both, with a slight edge to the West Coast. Guess I’ll have to do this again.

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