Okay, this is gonna be confusing and I apologize in advance. But it’s not my confusion. That’s been provided courtesy of the clever folks at Stone Brewing, who suddenly whelped, a few months back, a whole new brewing project with one of the most tongue-mangling names ever presented in the American Marketplace: The Stochasticity (StO-kas-TISS-uh-tee) Project, a wing of the new Koochenvagner Brewing Company (“Koch” and “Wagner”…get it?).
For those not deeply immersed in the backwaters of the English language. the folks at radiolab.org provide one of the best thumbnail definitions of this deliberately-obtuse root word (“stochastic”) you’ll find anywhere: “a wonderfully slippery and smarty-pants word for randomness“. Not since John Fahey’s immortal comment “The goal is teleological suspension of ontological fixity“, in Guitar Player Magazine, aeons ago, has a word or phrase sent so many moderately intelligent Americans (and quite a few dunces) scrambling around the house, in search of that tattered old Webster’s.
The irony in the name is that Stochasticity is one of the least randomness-friendly brewing projects ever attempted. They employ a spendy arsenal of laboratory equipment (and, to be clear on this, Stochasticity is every bit as much a lab as it is a brewery) such as a High-Performance Liquid Chromatograph, a UV-vis spectrophotometer, and every geeky science tool imaginable. The beers are engineered, off flavors ruthlessly rooted out, and purity relentlessly pursued.
When I first read about this, I was horrified. “Holy S#&T“, I groaned, “Just what the world needs: more soulless, sterile, uber-manipulated beer!” The first bottle I received eased that fear somewhat: a bright, clean, lusty grapefruit-infused IPA that, while it wasn’t exactly breaking a lot of new stylistic ground, delivered that vibrant, edgy hop-shot IPA tang we’ve all come to adore, in spades.
But that’s an IPA, a style which lends itself to rigid sterile conditions and ultra-clean profiles. I open the mail last week and there sits a Stochasticity…Quad. A Belgian-style Quad…one of the styles which I love most for the esential randomness of its creation; the frequent questionable flavors that ruin unskilled Quads but grace and illuminate great ones. Stripped of the HUGE element of Chance…what could this taste like – especially since TSP threw us the massive curve ball of making the stuff with Quadrotriticale?
Okay, let’s schlep back to the dictionary: Wikipedia describes the root grain, Triticale, as ” a hybrid of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale) first bred in Scottish and Swedish laboratories during the late 19th century. Commercially available triticale is almost always a second generation hybrid, i.e., a cross between two kinds of primary (first cross) triticales. As a rule, triticale combines the yield potential and grain quality of wheat with the disease and environmental tolerance (including soil conditions) of rye.” Got that? Yeah…me neither.
I’m gonna confess here: Having not even an atom of farmboy in my entire being, I would have never heard of “quadrotriticale” in this lifetime if not for David Gerrold’s immortal script for the original Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles”. In it, quadrotriticale was a grain being transported in the cargo hold of the Enterprise. Along the way to its destination, it became the foraging food of choice for a pet…thing that one of the crew had picked up during a previous shore leave: a “Tribble”. Tribbles were small, furry, cute, and not much else. And you stop their – to put it mildly – explosive breeding by feeding them almost nothing. Of course, the tribble gets loose, finds the Quadrotriticale (Jeez, try typing that ten times.) gets its womb cranked, and -Voila! – federation starship grinds to a halt with a tribble infestation.
And that – save for the occasional re-run on late-night TV – was the last I thought of (here we go again) Quadrotriticale…until this bottle showed up.
“Wheat/Rye Hybrid”…Hmmm…that might just be…tasty! IF TSP’s laboratory escapades have not stripped the stuff of every quirky, contrasting flavors it would naturally show.
But they didn’t. Folks, this is STONE we’re talking about, here. I can count their notable mediocrities (there have been NO failures, that I’ve found) on one hand and have fingers left over. (Okay, one more time…) The Stochasticity Project “Quadrotriticale” Belgian-Style Quad is…GORGEOUS. Flat-damnit delicious. Yes, to answer your unasked question, it is NOT smack in the fat center of the Belgian/Flanders brewing tradition. It has a lot more in common, frankly, with Boulevard’s “Sixth Glass” and Avery’s “Reverend” than with St. Bernardus 12, Rochefort 10, or Pannepot. The flavor profile is, once again, so faultlessly clean and distinct that you can pick out flavors like picking fruit off trees. The red berry, stone fruit, and cider-peary notes present right up front but, underlying that, there’s a fat, sweet, succulent core of sublime malts and that bewitching character of…that grain. (I’m tired, okay?) The presence of both wheat and rye in this hybrid is bell-clear and vivid. The wheat’s peppery elegance butts up against the lusty ebulliance of the chewy, spicy rye in a glorious clash of purposes and creates notes of dark caramel, treacle, toasted bread, bananas, waffle cone, cherries, and a background hoppiness that shows up as a citrus bite on the finish. This is, to me, an outstanding new style of Quad, a clever and absolutely successful use of a really obscure grain that shouldn’t be, and a real feat of…well, brewing, engineering, call it what you want. To take High Science and Oddball Grain and make that marriage produce a Quad this convincing, this full-bodied, this replete and flavorful…well, that’s Stone. Just beautiful beer! 94 Points
Stone RuinTen is a restatement of an idea that was clamored for and talked about and batted around until (and I have zero proof of this) Wagner, Steele, Koch, et al, must have finally just hollered “Uncle!” and redid it. This is their Tenth Anniversary “Ruination”, rebrewed for 2014. If that flat statement seems sorta unenthusiastic, I apologize. It’s anything BUT that. The reissue of this stuff is An Event; a virtual Mardi Gras for those of us Stone fans who wore out the original and begged for more.
My…well, there’s nothing to call it but “passion“…for this ale has always baffled me. I am a primary detractor of Big IPAs. I’ve railed on and on about how elevated IBUs are tantamount to your frat buddies daring you to chug a bottle of Tabasco or swallow a tarantula. I find them gratuitous and silly and the exact textbook definition of “overreaching”. And yet, this one and about five others just push every button I own. Ruination, Ruination Tenth Anniversary, and now RuinTen are catnip to me. The reason why is not complicated: Stone is a brewery which – no matter how much sheer IBU tonnage they packed into an ale – has never lost sight of the fact that, on the other end of the consumer pipeline, there’s a thirsty person who wants to drink and enjoy that beer. They have never slipped into “gratuitous” once, that I’ve found. The beers are always balanced. In the brutal IPAs, the malts always establish a firm, clear counterpoint to the nuclear hops. In RuinTen, there is a wonderful, sweet, caramel-soaked heft to the flavors; a creaminess and silky mouthfeel that more than civilizes those whoppin’ herbal/floral/citrus hops. Grace notes of jasmine and roasted nuts and apples and pears are rampant, and the finish is thyme and savory and rosemary and spruce tips and…complex and engrossing. I drank this beer in two sessions, a day apart. I wanted to see how I perceived it after sleeping on it. This is every inch what Tenth Anniversary was and is the logical and utterly worthy successor in that classic lineage. RuinTen is a rock-solid success, any way you look at it…or, more to the point…any way you taste it! 97 Points
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