It was always going to come to this. A standout. A leader. A subculture celebrity defying convention, while still seeming so familiar and so comfortable, that rose above its contemporaries, offering a true and sincere approach to the world of Indian pale ales.
This breakout, rock star of a beer is Stoneface’s IPA. Within the previously referenced “holy triumvirate” of New England craft IPAs – those being Maine Beer’s Lunch, Alchemist’s Heady Topper and this – Stoneface is the victor in a number of meaningful ways.
To begin with, there is obviously the flavor. In a Goldilocks fashion, Stoneface exudes a flavor profile which rests comfortably between the delicate smoothness of Lunch and the rich sweetness of Heady Topper. With its own robust, earthy, east coast hop notes and an earnest, slightly bready mouthfeel the Stoneface presents itself as an exceptionally well balanced and incredibly clean IPA, which while being devoid of any particular overtly domineering thematic or singular defining characteristic.
With a gentle blend of hoppy bitter and yeasty sweet, the Stoneface is a creature of balance. It is likely this balance of flavors, all working towards a singular richness and poise that allowed this very IPA to be the one which allowed me to enjoy such varieties in the first place.
Prior to my introduction to Stoneface back in November, my general and overall impression of IPAs was that of over-hopped and often undrinkable sorts from larger corporate commercial brewers, often given to me by friends who I frequently wondered if they weren’t merely drinking them to say that they did. The “dude, this beer sucks, give me another” sort, if you will.
So it was only after watching case after case of this golden Granite State original walk out the door (often literally by the case in the hands of customers who had come in a day prior and bought a single to sample before returning to hoard some more greedily) I found it was entirely necessary that I at least try what I was sure would be a hoppy mess of bitterness and discontent. However, much to my surprise, a wash of brilliant complementing flavors rushed over me causing me to almost instantaneously reevaluate my perspectives on the IPA as a style. Since then, whenever such arrives in my shop, I have made a point to secure a pint for myself right away, lest I run the risk of selling them all off.
And so yes, while some may think this is a matter of bias – either by virtue of this being my first in such a respect, or more laughably, due to some root-for-the-home-team sentimentality for New Hampshire and its breweries – let me now put your mind to rest, at least in respect to the latter. I have no love for this state of mine. Old, aging, antiquated and quiet, the beer – aside from its natural beauty – is one of the few tangible redeeming qualities I find to the Granite State.
With its median population age hovering around 48 and a mass exodus of the youth with every graduating class, the annual head-scratching of those in the State house over just why young people aren’t migrating to, let alone actively leaving, New Hampshire always causes me to dwell in a grim chuckle as I realize the reason is the very same as to why the state often boasts among the highest alcoholism and drug abuse rates per capita in the nation.
See, New Hampshire is a state where, culturally speaking, a group of old, white upper crust gated community suburbanites got together and decided to combine what they imagined the 1800s was like with their childhood memories of the 1950s, if only they added some spotty cell service.
In short, it is quite simply because it is boring here. It is boring, it is old and it refuses to change. But there is plenty of beer. And of the sixty or so breweries presently within the state’s borders, Stoneface, with their IPA, has offered a singularly redeeming quality to this graying former colony.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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