If you're a Bay Area beer aficionado, chances are you've seen a bottle of our hoppy gold standard: Russian River Brewing's Pliny the Elder. Taking a close look at the label, you may have noticed a number of prohibitions against aging the beer: "Age your cheese, not your Pliny!", "Pliny is for savoring, not for saving", "If you must, sit on eggs, not on Pliny!", and the like. All jokes aside, the take-home message also sits right on the front label: "Hoppy beers are not meant to be aged."
With their newest release, San Diego's Stone Brewing is making a similar educational statement in even more bold fashion. The brewery's newest IPA is simply called "Enjoy by 12.21.12 IPA." Unlike the small font wrapping around Pliny's label, Stone's message -- built right into the name of the beer itself -- is impossible to ignore. The brewers' own words are striking, "we brewed this beer specifically not to last."
This installation is the third version of the "enjoy by" series, and the first to make it up to the Bay Area. The idea is for each release of the beer to have a new date on the label, ensuring that folks feel guilty if they don't enjoy the brew in its prime (a 35-day window, in Stone's opinion). Right now, the beer's arresting aroma is full of tropical fruit character, with notes of grapefruit and pine rounding out the experience. The taste follows suit, playing up the flavor of the beer's numerous hop varietals rather than simply showcasing the plant's bitter qualities.
If you want to drive the point home, try a bottle now and another in a few months (sshhhh, don't tell the brewers at Stone!). Down the line, the aroma will be significantly muted, giving way to a sweeter, maltier character. Or, just take their word for it. They are the hop whisperers, after all.