Beer Review - Stone IPA and Cho Sun Ok

June 07 2010 - 9:40 PM

So, I'm a big beer fan that's been laying low for a while due to what I
hope is a temporary ailment.  My doctor restricted my diet in the
following manner: no spicy foods, coffee, chocolate, or alcohol –
everything I like.  It seems as if I'm relegated to a diet of water
crackers and Aquafina.  Yet, before my confinement to food jail by my
primary care physician/judge and executioner, I had a pleasing culinary
experience, bringing together two "off limits" menu items, beer and
spicy food.

Stone Brewery hails from Escondido, CA, near San Diego, and is known
for making bold, in-your-face, west coast style beers.  The hops they
use are usually bountiful, and the beers rich in color and translucent. 
The high quality of their products are the reason that Stone arrived in
Chicago to
great fanfare in April, with a week's worth of
kickoff events at various bars and restaurants, even Lincoln Park Whole

My personal "last supper" consisted of a Stone IPA and
some takeout Korean from barbecue haven Cho Sun OK on Lincoln that I
picked up for me and my brother.  For myself, I got my favorite dish
there, Doeji Gui, a spicy, seasoned and marinated, thinly cut pork dish,
served over rice.  The guy who runs the place always knows I'm there
for that specific dish and greets me with a smile, laughing out the word
"spicy!"  My brother got a Jab Chae, a spicy noodle dish.  I stopped at
the local wine store to pick up an appropriate beverage. Fortunately,
they had a number of Stone beers by the bottle, including the IPA which
was my choice.

What a great choice.  The IPA's citrus hop aroma
bursts out of the green, trademarked gargoyle displaying bottle.  I
poured it into a 16 ounce English style pint glass that curves outward
and has a wide
mouth to let the aromas emit.  The concentration of this beer was
obvious from its billowing head that sat atop the rich, golden brown
color like a towering cumulus.  Stone beers have a bottle freshness that
few others can touch.  Apparently, they achieve this by bottling to
order; they make it when the distributor orders them to, and there's not
much inventory lying about to grow stale.

My beer was no
exception.  If translucence can be tasted, it's in this beer. It has a
clean hop flavor with a subtle malt profile, and a thin, firm mouthfeel
that slightly tickles the tongue with carbonation.  No excess malts,
water, or flavors stand between the drinker and the core flavors, and
its balance is remarkable.  It paired exceptionally well with my spicy
pork, the biting hops cutting through the stinging chili peppers,
mellowing the tongue and cleansing the palate for the next bite of
food.  Yet despite its long,
bitter finish, the beer is never overwhelming.  It's economical body
did not overfill me nor interfere with the enjoyment of my meal.

IPA is highly recommended if you are attending a BYOB, a status of Cho
Sun Ok, and is certainly versatile enough to pair with anything from an
Italian marinara to pizza to spicy Asian food.  I'm counting the days
until my next one.