One of the first things you learn when you make the jump from Bud/Miller/Coors into the far more fulfilling craft world is that for certain types of beer, freshness is of the utmost importance. Big, barrel-aged imperial stouts will thrive for years if stored properly, as will barleywines and dark Belgian ales among others. But when it comes to heavily hopped IPAs, you want to drink them as fresh as possible, before that hop presence begins to fade, leaving you with a beer that's not at all what it was intended to be.
The logical question, then, is: How do you know if a beer is fresh? Well, many of the better breweries have some sort of bottle dating—sometimes it's right on the bottle itself, near the bottom of the neck, and sometimes it's printed on the label. Some breweries list the date the beer was bottled, while others go with something like "Best Before" or, in the case of Stone, "Enjoy By."
You'd be hard-pressed to think of another brewery as big as Stone that's put such an emphasis on freshness. The bottle dating on even their widely distributed year-round offerings is clear and consistent (it also doesn't hurt that their dates are etched into the glass rather than printed on it, so there's no risk of smudging), leaving no doubt as to whether you're about to buy a fresh beer. With their Enjoy By series, though, they're putting their commitment to freshness front and center, going so far as to include the "expiration date" in the beer's name, which is even crazier when you realize the date is only 35 days from when the beer was bottled. It started with Enjoy By 9.21.12, and now the fifth installment, Enjoy By 4.01.13, is making its way around New York.
A 9.4% ABV double IPA that pours a super clear and vibrant golden color, with a super thick, creamy head and lots of lacing, this beer hits you right up front with a crazy aroma that's heavy on resin, with a vague herbal quality and a good hit of tropical fruitiness. The freshness is immediately apparent. The taste is similar, with a surprisingly pronounced malt backbone that adds a slight sweetness and provides a fairly chewy mouthfeel. At the end of the day, though, this is a beer that shows in stunning clarity the power and complexity of hops when they're used properly and consumed when they're at their best. Kudos to Stone for going out on a limb with an idea for a beer that I'm sure is a logistical nightmare to produce and distribute. They pull it off seamlessly, and they've taught a valuable lesson in the process.Enjoy By is currently on tap at The Owl Farm, Uncle Barry's, ReBar and other bars through Brooklyn and Manhattan.