That's the slogan of Stoneface Brewing Company located down by the seacoast between Durham and Portsmouth. I learned about this craft brewery earlier this summer as my best buddy and I spent the better part of an hour each day cozied up in two backyard Adirondack chairs testing mostly local India Pale Ales. And the really exciting news is that Stoneface IPA is now on tap at The Lyme Inn in Lyme, NH. Read on to learn more...
As we tasted a host of beer this summer, our view out over a 20 acre open field in Lyme, NH just couldn't get better, watching hawks float high on updrafts searching for their dinner among freshly cut windrows. In all, we sampled about 30 beers over the course of June, July and the first half of August, a broad enough sampling base for our rather unscientific tasting pyramid to have some merit. Each time we got together we'd taste just one beer. As we tasted, we'd decide if the beer should go into the "taste again" category, or if we shouldn't bother. The "taste again" category morphed and changed as we moved into August, with many IPA's getting cast out of the running in favor of other, more hoppy, less bitter runners' up.
Some might say we were not scientific enough. It wasn't a blind taste test. We had few, if any, controls. And we didn't taste more than one beer per sitting. Frankly, this is just the way we liked it. Too many beers tend to clutter the palate with flavors that can't be erased from beer to beer. So, one per day was perfect. And knowing what we were drinking allowed us to keep it for another round on another day, or dispense with it. In all, we liked the format, and it gave us plenty of time to catch up and chat. After all, what's a good beer and a good friend for?
The turning point came during the second week of August. We were down to three finalists, and we had three more days before my pal had to leave the area to head back to school. I know we each had our own idea of which IPA might be the best, but we kept our thoughts to ourselves for the most part. Yet, I can tell you, we were very excited on one road trip to have found a spot that sold cold Stoneface IPA in large brown bottles. We grabbed two for our next tasting round. Here' a useful link: https://www.facebook.com/stoneface.
After the froth had cleared, we both agreed that, by a wide margin, the Stoneface IPA topped our list of thirty beers. Of course, finding it in the Upper Valley was not an easy feat. Finding it on tap in the Upper Valley was even more unlikely. That's when I asked the Innkeeper of The Lyme Inn if he might be willing to get it on tap. He said he'd try and, voila, though my tasting partner is now gone back to the midwest, I received an email just yesterday from the Lyme Inn to let me know that Stoneface IPA was on tap.
Of course, I had to contact another friend. This one brews beer and, for all intents and purposes, sounds like a chemist to me when he talks about hops and hop varieties, yeasts, specific gravity, and how sugars react during the brewing process. I'll call him Sam. Sam knows beer and, believe me, he makes a very fine IPA. Within minutes, Sam had emailed me back to let me know he'd detour from his Wednesday late-afternoon dump run in Lyme to meet me for a Stoneface IPA at the Inn. He beat me to the Inn's tavern and was two-thirds done with his first pint, smiling at me as I walked in. Here's another useful link: http://thelymeinn.com.
Bartender Sarah greeted me and knew exactly why I was there, having been pre-announced by Sam and, surprise of surprises, by Innkeeper Jack who seemed to be timing how quickly I'd arrive after sending me the email. I realize that I'm as expert a beer taster as anyone, or nobody. I'm just a guy who happens to like a really good, really hoppy, not bitter, smooth and drinkable India Pale Ale. And Stoneface IPA had just made it to the very top of the summer tasting list. Yet, I'd never had it on tap. I was eager, and excited for a real taste of this wonderful brew.
Sam hadn't been disappointed. The first thing he said as I sat next to him at the bar was something like, "wow, Dave, this is a really drinkable IPA." That's not feint praise from a guy like Sam. I was ready.
Sarah poured me a delightful pint with enough head to sink my front teeth into but not so much that I needed to tilt the glass much at all to get to the real stuff. It was a darkish amber gold, and it blossomed on my palate like a large bouquet of hops drizzled with a slight brushstroke of citrus on the tongue. There was no bitterness on the sides or at the back end as I had experienced from the bottle. In all, an easy and highly drinkable IPA that jumped up even above its bottled counterpart. Sam was right -- Wow! As for me, I'd say the last green of summer is gold, just like the color of a Stoneface IPA, before all the other competitors turn to red or crusty brown like scrappy leaves rustling on the sidelines. Best to enjoy it while you can!
If you happen to make it to The Lyme Inn during these next few days—after all, how long can a quarter keg of an amazing and local IPA last once word gets around—give Stoneface IPA a try. The only thing you'll be missing is the graphic design on the bottle of a rendition of The Old Man of the Mountain (or the Great Stone Face of Cannon Mountain) made of hops!
What you'll get is, well, let me allow another beer aficionado to describe the experience in language that comes directly from a ranking of 4.69 out of 5 on the Beer Aficionado website for Stoneface IPA. It reads, "An easy to drink IPA that is full of flavor. If I lived in New Hampshire this would be my go to IPA. Great HOPs, great flavor and a great finish. How all IPAs should be. Nothing crazy here, just a really good IPA." If it was me, I'd just say this is a truly beautiful beer, then rank it a solid, and remarkable, 5 on a scale of 5 should Beer Aficionado ever come calling for my opinion. I've never had a better IPA, and I've tasted plenty.
Well, since I live in New Hampshire and, with The Lyme Inn having Stoneface IPA on tap, we on the western side of NH now have our chance to taste what, to me, is one of the most exciting craft beers in the world—or, at the very least, in our large neck of the craft beer woods here in northern New England where craft beer has become the latest artistic endeavor (cult craze, maybe?) of multitudes of craftspeople! Hope you'll give Stonface IPA on tap a try and let me know what you think.
I'll keep up my search for a better beer but, for now, this one's got all the others beat, hands down -- or, better yet, palate up!
Enjoy this golden taste of summer's end before it's too late...