Bits and Brews 004: Stone Green Tea IPA & Portal 2

IPA’s, India Pale Ales, are not my favorite style of beer. Not my least favorite, but outside my top ten for sure. There are a few that I love but they are not something I usually take a chance on. The recent trend, started in part by the brewer of the beer we are about to discuss, of obliterating the drinker’s palette with hop bitterness for the sake of hop bitterness never really sat well with me. (thankfully, like all trends, it seems to be dying somewhat) It turned me off to Stone as a general rule. But then, they started to do some things a bit differently. They started to show finesse. I saw a bottle of their Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean and gave it a go. I tried their Coffee Milk Stout and loved it. I had a bottle of Xocoveza and was blown away. (best beer I had in 2014 by far) This wasn’t the Stone I knew. So when I walked in to my bottle shop and saw a bottle of their Green Tea IPA, I was leary but willing.

Originally released in 2011, Stone uses Sencha Green Tea to give this IPA its character. It’s an incredibly complex beer that on the surface, to me anyway, did not make a ton of sense. Why use tea in a beer? Chocolate, spices, vanilla, peppers, I get that. But tea? What would that add? The answer is a floral, earthy, grassy flavor profile the blends beautifully with the hops. There is an overall fruity aspect to the beer, tropical fruits like mangos and pineapples, that is grounded in earthiness. That isn’t to say it tastes like dirt, that would be ridiculous, but that there is a quality of "from the ground" in this beer. It’s fantastic. It is one of the best smelling beers I have ever had. There is such craftsmanship on display here. One element too far to one side would have made this beer an utter disaster. Instead, these elements that don’t seem to make sense right away, are used to create this beautiful new thing. It’s a testament to the skill of the three breweries involved, this is a collab beer after all. It’s high alcohol content is extremely well hidden, dangerously so even. This is a beer you can get lost in just appreciating how everything comes together.

Released on my wedding anniversary in 2011, Portal 2 took everything about Portal and made it better. While the first Portal received critical praise, it was never the smash hit it deserved to be. Portal 2 however, changed that. I am not ashamed to admit that I did not play the original Portal. I didn’t get it. Portal 2 converted me though. I understood what Valve was going for by combining elements that did not seem to work together into something truly incredible. That blending of first person perspective and mind bending puzzler was nothing short of genius. The fact that the game works at all is astonishing. For those of you who have not played Portal 2, it breaks down as such. You, as the protagonist Chell, have to reach Point B from Point A using your Portal gun. Said gun gives you the ability to place portals in different locations throughout the map that will allow you to move between them. This creates some really interesting effects as you can jump through a portal on the floor and end up falling from the ceiling or watch yourself walk through a room over and over again. It takes a bit to get used to but once you do, it makes so much sense. The story is told through some truly remarkable voice acting and is deeply heartbreaking and hilariously funny at the same time. It is simply one of the best games you could hope to play and if you have not done so already you need to stop reading this article, get a copy of the game, and come back when you’re done. I promise you it’s worth it.

So why these two together? Unexpected pairings producing greatness. Neither this beer nor this game should work as well as they do. The connections between the elements being blended are not obvious and on the surface, do not seem to fit together well. And in the hands of lesser teams, these elements combined would make (Captain Planet...) quite simply, a hot mess. There is no easy road to making either product. There has to be love, craft, a lot of really smart people, and some strong guiding principles to make these things work. And when they do, they make something completely unique, completely singular. There are millions of beers available as there are millions of games. However, there is nothing remotely close to a Green Tea IPA (from any of the various breweries who make one) or Portal 2. That’s a rather incredible feat considering the amount of product available in both fields. So the next time you are at your local bottle shop, search out a Green Tea IPA. (Beer being a regional and sometimes limited thing I can’t promise the Stone version is still out there) Take that bottle, or can, home, fire up Portal 2, and be amazed at the ideas we have and the experiences we can deliver.