Monday, May 9, 2011

Two Stones Pub (May 4, 2011)

Some friends and I recently checked out a new drinking and dining establishment in Newark, Two Stones Pub. It holds potential as a beer-lovers' mecca not requiring a drive to Philadelphia or Baltimore. The owner and staff are knowledgeable and passionate about beer, and they seem to get the concept of "hospitality." There are 24 craft brews flowing on tap, and a tantalizing menu of "vintage/reserve/large format" bottles. Definitely a positive development for the local beer scene.

You can read a qualified professional's profile of Two Stones here. Below is a humble amateur's rundown of the beers we sampled -- the ones I can remember, anyway.

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
I ordered this on draft, and it was served in a snifter. Even held up to a light, the brew is an utterly opaque black. Mine exhibited minimal head, however I did not see it drawn from the tap, so can't account for the technique used. This is a deliciously dense and complex brew -- right up my alley! Sweet up front, evolving into dimensions of espresso, roasted barley, and chocolate. One of this stout's finest features is its incredibly creamy mouthfeel. The flavor is in no hurry to fade away, either. Right up there with Bell's Expedition Stout as a go-to beer for a massive taste experience.

Ommegang Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend
I ordered this from the bottle, and it arrived in a goblet. In the glass it has the appearance of a brown ale, tending toward a ruby color. I passed it around and we all remarked at how subdued aroma its aroma was. A little sweet, maybe raisin? Being a quadrupel (!) fermented ale blended with a cherry lambic (!), it delivers bold malt, sweet fruit, and effervescent carbonation in abundance. The predominant flavor to me is the cherry/raisin/caramel sweetness, although within its many dimensions there is also plenty of malt to contemplate. The carbonation and heavy alcohol punch keep things quite exuberant. Lovers of ale in the Belgian spectrum are urged not to miss this one.

Victory Storm King Stout
My taste for Russian imperial stouts was whetted this evening, so my next order was Storm King on draft. Again, the beer was served in a snifter. It displays opaque black with a nice rim of brown espresso foam. This one has an enticing aroma that telegraphs the whole flavor profile and spurs you along to that first sip. Rich, sweet, and dense like Old Rasputin, but with a different character in the aftertaste. I'm not sure what the correct term for it is, but it's something I call "green barley" flavor? Another gem in Victory's brilliant product line.

Evolution Lot #6
Justin and Sara ordered this double IPA on draft through Randall the Enamel Animal packed with grapefruit and mint. It sounded a bit gimmicky, but, man, did that turn out to be a great idea! It was like an ultra magnified IPA, with the additives in Randall picking up and amplifying existing hops characteristics. I've never had Lot #6 "straight," so I don't have a baseline to compare with, and I can only guess about subtleties of the foundation beneath what I was drinking, but I doubt I will ever forget this flavor explosion. (Our server said they had previously offered Dogfish Head's Palo Santo Marron through Randall the Enamel Animal packed with chocolate and chili peppers. I imagine that was pretty intense.)

Dogfish Head Black & Red
This is a limited-availability, draft-only release from Dogfish Head, so I was honored to sample it. Served in a small snifter, the beer was black with a bit of espresso foam around the edge. I got mainly peppermint in the nose. The taste was a desserty swirl of raspberry, chocolate, espresso, and mint. I didn't run this perception past my colleagues, but to me these flavors had sneaky tendency to synergize into something reminiscent of latex paint. As long as I concentrated on the separate components it was enjoyable, but if I just let the flavor happen, I got that disconcerting twang. Strange.

RJ Rockers Son of a Peach
Patty ordered this on draft, and I only got a quick sample. Very fruity, for sure. I believe she said this is the one Two Stones mixes with champagne to concoct a bellini variant, the "beerlini." I confess to having no previous knowledge of this Spartanburg, SC brewery. Their Bell Ringer strong ale was also being served on draft that night.

Allegash White
Justin ordered this on tap and I just got a few quick sips. In all fairness, after a couple of heavy stouts and a quadruple ale, my senses were not calibrated to judge the nuances of this much lighter style. It seemed to conform to the witbier profile, but I can't say much more than that. Must return again to give it a fair shake.

Dogfish Head Poppa Skull
Justin and Sara ordered this elaborately wood-aged ale. I don't think I commandeered a sip, regrettably. Some other time.

Featured beers:
Old Rasputin
Three Philosophers
Storm King
Lot #6
Allagash White
Son of a Peach
Black & Red
Poppa Skull

Honorable mentions:
Expedition Stout
Palo Santo Marron
Bell Ringer Ale

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