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Monday, February 13, 2012

West Coast IPA Throwdown | Stone vs Bear Republic

Thought we'd mix it up a bit here and do a West Coast IPA Throwdown. NorCal - Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA vs. SoCal - Stone IPA.

Both poured into equal sized pint glasses. Racer 5 has a golden pale amber color, the slightest amount of haze, and a minimal cm or so of white head that fell to a frothy ring. Stone has a very similar shade of golden amber, maybe a touch paler, and is crystal clear. The head on Stone IPA is large and white with big fluffy foam that leaves lots of sticky lacing as it falls to a finger thick of head. If you want to get nerdy about it, I'd say Racer 5 is about 7-8 SRM and Stone is around 6-7 SRM. For appearance - Stone wins that round.

The aroma on Racer 5 is strong and fresh citrus hops, light pine, sweet tropical fruit with slight hints of alcohol and lightly toasted grain. There is a mild sweetness on the nose. Stone IPA has a slightly more pungent fruity aroma; still very citrus driven, but a little more zesty and minty. It seems like Stone's dry hopping is a little more intense than Racer 5. This is tough, both smell incredibly good.... but I'd have to give the edge to Stone on aroma.

On to the best part, taste! Racer 5 kicks your taste buds with an explosion of crushing hop bitterness. Hops are citrusy, piney, fruity, and bitter. The malt comes into play to balance the middle with some bready flavors making it very savory and juicy before finishing with a grapefruit bitterness. The hops really shift into gear in the flavor more than the aroma leads you to believe. Stone IPA starts off a little easier on the tongue, but still quite bitter, with a good amount of spiciness. Lots of pine, citrus, tobacco, and minty flavors. Although the initial hop blast starts off slower than Racer 5, it gets more intense throughout each sip, and almost numbs your tongue with hop essence. This is a tough one to pick because it really depends on what your personal preference is. Therefore, for flavor, it is a tie. Both have equally distinguishable and delicious traits to them, and it is nearly impossible to say one is better than the other.

It would seem as though Stone IPA has won this battle, with a much better appearance and a slight edge on aroma. However, like it was said in the taste, it's still up to personal preference. If you were to ask which one has a better mouthfeel and is more drinkable, then Racer 5 would win. But if you were looking for the 1 bottle quintessential hop-bomb IPA (as if both aren't hop-bombs), then Stone IPA is the choice. The easiest way to break down the difference, for me at least, is Racer 5 is like drinking "hop juice," while Stone IPA is more like "hop spice." Which is better? Tough call, it's up to you. The least that I can say is, if you love IPAs, you NEED to try both of these beers. You will not be disappointed.

Winner - Stone IPA

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