Among the symptoms of being a "beer nerd" is the beer collection.
Such collections usually comprise limited-edition beers in different styles and sizes, manufactured by various breweries. They're fun to build and even more fun to gaze upon while pondering how that black and boozy Russian imperial stout is only improving with time.
A pitfall of many beer collections, however, is stashing beer that shouldn't be stashed. That includes most beers in which pungent, floral hops are a defining characteristic. After all, hops are plants. You wouldn't eat 6-month-old spinach, would you?
With that in mind, Stone Brewing has launched "Enjoy By" India pale ale, a 22-ounce plea for drinking fresh.
The first batch, Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA, was bottled on a Friday in August and available four days later in three beer-loving locales where the brewery thought its experiment would work: Chicago, Southern California and New Jersey. The goal, as you have probably guessed, is to have all the beer consumed by Sept. 21, when the robust hops within (there are a whopping 11 varietals) will taste freshest and most lively.
Breweries have long tiptoed around the subject of freshness, usually with a minute suggestion on the side of the bottle that the beer is "best before" such-and-such date. In this case, the bottle screams out the suggestion, which hardly seems like a suggestion. In such large letters and numbers, it seems more like an edict.
"This isn't just about the beer, but the conversation about the beer," said Greg Koch, Stone's chief executive and co-founder. "More and more people are collecting beer, which is awesome, but we all have an experience of waiting too long to open a bottle."
Even Koch has been guilty.
"I've kept wonderful beer past its prime to the point that it wasn't wonderful beer anymore," he said.
As important as the conversation might be, the best thing about Enjoy By 09.21.12 is what's in the bottle: a deft sensory explosion. Like the most memorable IPAs, Enjoy By is piney, fruity, thick, savory and juicy. As soon as you experience your first revelatory robust whiff, the merits of drinking fresh will be clear.
The beer's early buzz could lead it to become a regular in Stone's rotation, but up next, Koch said, will be Enjoy By 11.09.12, which will be released in early October in Ohio and Colorado.
Availability of the beer can be tracked at stonebrewing.com/enjoyby.
By Josh Noel