Stone throws a Belgian curveball
A Review of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA by Stone Brewing Co.
Posted on 8/2/2011 by Chops
For the hopheads among us, it doesn't get much better than Stone Brewery. These guys are well known for their aggressively delicious brews. Their entire product line is exquisite and if you love one Stone brew, chances are you love them all. So going into Stone's Cali-Belgique IPA, I already know that I'm going to experience a heavenly nectar. I just wasn't expecting to be mentally derailed as hard as I was. This beer is delectably unique.

Before I get into the review, I should note that I made a big mistake with this beer. I didn't read the label. You should always read the label. But I got a bit complacent with Stone Brewery because I knew I was going to love the beer. All it took was seeing that menacing gargoyle and the beer was in my hands for purchase. So as a word to the wise, no matter how familiar you are with a brewery, always read the label of a new beer. Chances are that you will alleviate a lot of unnecessary confusion. But anyway, moving on...

In the glass, this beer took on a classic semi-hazy deep golden coloration. There's a nice amount of carbonation as well, creating a large frothy head. Stone brews always look big and bold, and this one is no different. On the nose, all of those major IPA aromas are present and nicely balanced. Both the hops and citrus take on warmer tones. There was also another familiar smell that I just couldn't seem to identify. It sat right underneath the hops and I tried to isolate it for a while, but failed to do so. I thought maybe the taste will provide some clues.

The first taste was predictably awesome. Once you get used to the Stone way of brewing, you start to eagerly anticipate those first sips. You know it's going to be both vicious and flavorful. Cali-Belgique's consisted of spicy hops, floral citrus and a layer of familiar sweetness I couldn't put my finger on. It's that unidentified aroma again in flavor form. It compliments the character so well, and I just couldn't figure out what it was. The mouthfeel is very smooth despite all the strong spicy notes. This beer is impeccably balanced, providing for a lengthy enjoyment of the flavor train. The finish is very crisp, very flavorful and doesn't overstay its welcome.

With half the beer gone, that mysterious flavor note was peaking my interest, so I picked up the bottle to investigate. After a little reading, I crowned that minute as my dumbass moment of the day. As Stone puts it, ''We carefully selected a Belgian yeast strain that illuminates a fascinating new aspect of the beer that is otherwise quite simply Stone IPA.'' No wonder it smelled and tasted so damn familiar, it was the Belgian yeast all along. A tip of my hat to Stone Brewery for figuring out that delicious combination. Holy crap did it add some amazing character.

Overall, Stone's Cali-Belgique IPA is a fabulous brew. And in typical Stone fashion, it's both flavorful and aggressive. Hopheads will adore this beer, as if they needed to be told. Fans of heavier brews, especially Belgians, should also appreciate this beer as a traditional twist on an aggressive style. I would usually advise novices to stay away from Stone products, but Cali-Belgique actually offers a balanced window into aggressive beers. The Belgian yeasts tame the hoppy beast enough to allow the daring novice a chance to survive. But be warned, the gargoyle is always watching and can smell your fear.

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Stone Cali-Belgique IPA by Stone Brewing Co.
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