Yesterday I poked a little good-natured fun at Charlie Papazian and the Brewers Association through the release of a new beer from southern California’s Stone Brewing. (Hey, Charlie, you know it was all is fun, right? Or at least, most of it was…) Today, let’s see what a Cali-Belgique IPA tastes like.
On the nose, this bright golden ale certainly comes across as an IPA, Cali-Belgique/België or otherwise. (In order to not play favourites between the Wallonian south and Flemish north of the country, half the bottles are named in French, the other half in Dutch.) There’s lots of piney, floral notes, buttressed by some resiny spiciness, sort of like rosemary crossed with coriander, but also a sort of cotton candy fruitiness, which I imagine would come from the influence of the Belgian yeast.
The body is full and rich and just a bit creamy, with ample hop bitterness showing forth from the outset through (especially) to the finish. Beside it all, not quite integrated into the overall flavour, is a round and full, apricot-led fruitiness that seems at once at odds and in harmony with the bitterness, like a curious yet pleasing undercurrent. At times, the fruitiness makes the beer seem a bit out of balance, but it also makes the front end more approachable for non-hopheads and softens the finish, which given the unrepentantly hoppy character of the base beer is paramountly a good thing. There’s little doubt that at first blush this is a very odd ale, but it does tend to grow on a person the more you sip and savour.
As an aficionado of both strong and fruity Belgian ales and west coast U.S. hop monsters, I was left pleased with both the “Cali” and the “Belgique/België” elements of this ale. San Diego, meet Antwerp. Antwerp, this is San Diego. I hope you two will be very happy together.