It might be because of New Year resolutions—or the end of a long year that offered many reasons to drink—but lo-cal, lo-ABV IPAs are still trending. Some do deserve attention, but more and more keep falling into the “meh” category. That said, I cracked open a Stone Brewing Features + Benefits IPA while taking my ski boots off the other day and it completely knocked my ski socks off. It might be the best session IPA I’ve had during après-ski since this type of beer became a thing a few years ago.
Now, if you’re a skier, you’re probably wondering why Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing is being featured in a column that mostly covers ski town breweries. The answer to that is Mountain High, a ski area just two hours away from the company’s primary brewery. With 1,600-feet of vertical descent and 290 acres of skiable terrain, this snowy nirvana keeps it real for day-tripping SoCal skiers. (Southern California also happens to be the primary market for both the Ikon and Epic Pass sales structure, as outlined in Chris Diamond’s book, Ski, Inc. 2020.) Needless to say, there are definitely plenty of skiers in the area.
Still not enough to justify Stone as a beer for skiers? Ever heard of Stone IPA? I’d bet money that one out of every five beer-swillin’ skiers in the western U.S. would put Stone’s flagship beer—one that defines the term “West Coast IPA”— in their top three favorite IPAs for après. And if Stone IPA can be so beloved by skiers, then the rest of the brewery’s styles can as well, especially Features + Benefits.
For beer drinkers doubtful that these fairly new lo-cal IPAs can be any good, the F+B IPA holds its own with plenty of Cashmere, Vic, Secret, Azacca, and Mosaic hop flavors packed in. The key is the orange, pear, and white peach notes—which also seem to be trending in the IPA world—plus a tiny white pepper spice that keeps the IPA sting Stone has mastered.
“We knew that making a vibrant, full-bodied IPA that’s this low in calories, carbs, and alcohol was going to be a huge challenge,” explains Jeremy Moynier, Stone Brewing Senior Manager of Brewing & Innovation, in a press release. “Calories and carbs contribute a lot to the things we like in food and beer. But we weren’t willing to just water down an IPA and call it a day. So, we went through countless iterations, mixing up the process and engaging in fermentation experimentation techniques. Even when we thought we’d landed it, we went back once more, working to make it even better.”
Full disclosure: If you’re pounding any other variety of Stone IPA before cracking open an F+B, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you start with an F+B when you’re taking off your ski boots after a fun day of skiing, then move on to something like their Delicious IPA later on, you’ll taste the flavorful magic of this lo-cal IPA.
Stone Brewing Features + Benefits IPA Notes
- Beer Style: Gluten-Reduced Session IPA
- ABV: 4% IBU: N/A
- Hops: Cashmere, Vic, Secret, Azacca, and Mosaic
- Color: Straw yellow with a thin white head.
- Aroma: Orange peel, lemon, spice, and light grain character.
- Taste: Orange, pear, white peach, melon, and black pepper.
- Palate: Crisp and refreshing with a pleasant short finish.
- Pairs well with: Dry-ish January; après-ski in the parking lot; acknowledging that IPAs brewed on the West Coast are still superior to all other types of IPA.
- More info: Stone Brewing’s Website; Stone Beer Finder