Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Ruination IPA

Stone Brewing Co.
Escondido, CA

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 7.7%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Pair With:
For any Wisconsin Beer Dorks who may have missed the news, July 1 marked the introduction of suburban San Diego’s Stone Brewing Company to the Badger State. This is exciting news for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it provides fellow Cheeseheads with yet another phenomenal craft brewer in a state that already has plenty to choose from. It also helps ease the painful sting from the absence of Three Floyds, which exited the Wisconsin market last year (though rumor has it that their return is imminent). And, for Nigel, it provides another quality West Coast brewer who loves those beautiful Northwest hops.

Nigel had the privilege of being exposed to a number of Stone brews previously while visiting the Tanner family ranch outside of Phoenix. Cowboy Nigel often enjoyed a Stone IPA, Ruination IPA, or Arrogant Bastard while wraslin’ doggies and chawin’ tobaccey in the desert sun. Eddie Glick, a frequent visitor to the West Coast, was responsible for steering Nigel towards the section of Stone brews, a section that rivals Rogue, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and others in size and variety out west. I have yet to try anything from Stone that I didn’t absolutely love, though I must say a Smoked Porter doesn’t exactly hit the spot on a 100 degree afternoon in the Valley of the Sun (it’s a great beer, just not ideal while hugging cactus). For years I’ve hoped that Stone would find its way to the Upper Midwest, and finally my alcohol-induced prayers were answered.

While our focus here at remains beers brewed in the Midwest, we do occasionally wander outside of the focus area. With Nigel loving Stone as he does and the fact that although it may not be brewed in the Midwest, it is readily available in the Midwest, I figured it was finally time to review one of my all time favorite brews: the imperial IPA Ruination. Stone’s brews come in both bomber and six-pack form, with the company mascot, a gargoyle, prominently displayed. Wondering about the brewing ethos of Stone? I’d suggest picking up a bomber of Arrogant Bastard and reading the story on the side. They may be a tad bit conceited, but anyone who brews beer of this quality has every right to brag about the size of their manhood.

Ruination bombers are typically priced between 5 and 6 bucks and the sixers are typically fetching around $15. Pricey? Sure, but you can’t argue with results. Stone’s web site provides further insight into their brewing ethos, and gives the following stats for Ruination: first released in June 2002, it utilizes boatloads of Centennial and Magnum hops, creating a brew with a whopping 100 IBU’s and 7.7 percent ABV. Stone came up with the title for their signature hop monster because the bitterness will have a “ruinous” effect on your palate. As a Hophead extraordinaire, Nigel isn’t worried about the massive IBU’s, but anyone who fears the hop may be best advised to stay away from this one; the menacing gargoyle on the bottle staring you in the face is there for a reason.

Ruination pours a translucent golden brown with a mild head of about a half inch that quickly dissipates, leaving a nice spider web lace at the top throughout the drink. The aroma is wonderful, but simple: hops, hops, and more hops. A huge aroma of Northwest gold blows you away from the first crack of the bottle cap to the final sip, and it permeates throughout the room. Given the Centennial and Magnum varieties utilized, there’s a noticeable grassy undertone, a nice counterbalance to the overwhelming hoppy citrus notes of orange zest, grapefruit, and lemon. There’s a secondary touch of evergreen in the aroma and a tiny bit of malt comes through at times, though it’s hard to detect given the massive amounts of hops.

The flavor remains heavy on the hops, though it’s far more balanced than aroma. Huge citrus flavors of grapefruit, orange zest, and spice come through at the outset, tempered a bit by some grassy, earthy undertones and a slight bit of pine. The malt that was virtually invisible in the aroma is far more present in the flavor, giving Ruination a nice secondary flavor of sweet, sugary pale and caramel goodness. A slight bit of alcohol comes through at the very end, but most of the sting comes from the spicy hops, as the 7.7 percent ABV is relatively tolerable for the style. Without the earthy backbone, this has the potential be an imperial IPA along the lines of Hop Wallop, 90 Minute IPA, and Hopslam (read: hops, hops, and more hops, without much of a supporting cast). Instead, it’s a far more balanced, far more tolerable version of the ultimate hop monster, though it still packs a huge hoppy punch. Medium in body and a bit rough on the palate given the high IBU’s, Ruination goes down well with a mild aftertaste, and can be enjoyed in both the heat of summer and the frost of winter. I’d suggest the bomber form, as 22 oz. of this heavenly brew is perfect for an evening spent watching a movie, ball game, or Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel (it’s a guilty pleasure).

There you have it. Any Midwesterner who has yet to experience the goodness that is Stone should surely check them out ASAP; try any of their brews, you can’t go wrong. For the Hopheads of the world, Ruination is easily in the top 10 of imperial IPA’s (again, Nigel’s top 10 has 38 entries), just as Stone’s standard IPA is in the top 10. For those of you that don’t like hop monsters, Ruination should probably be avoided; however, if you come from the school of Nigel, indulge and enjoy!


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on August 13, 2008.
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