Very rarely do I crack a beer from one of the top ten craft breweries in the U.S. and have a life-changing experience. It’s not to say these breweries make bad beer, it’s just that in Orange County, we’re spoiled with innovative and award-winning producers, and grocery store beer is always second best. Just this weekend, I was proven wrong after grabbing a six-pack of Stone Brewing’s Tropic of Thunder lager at the local Vons.
Coming from 2017’s eighth largest craft beer producer, Stone has seen a lot of changes over the last couple of years. Dominic Engels, the new CEO as of 2016, swept the brewery nearly clean of tenured employees, leaving many legacy craft beer fans wondering if the iconic brand lost its soul. While San Diego is drowning in 150+ breweries, Stone seemed more interested in being the first craft expansion brewery in Europe rather than manicuring its self-image here at home.
Recently, lagers at Stone have had a rough ride, not necessarily from their old “fizzy yellow beer is for wussies” mantra, but rather the branding behind them. Stone’s Who You Callin’ Wussie Pilsner was utterly delicious, but I felt like a jackass putting it in a shopping cart because of the name. Then came the NOFX collaboration lager called Punk In Drublic (which was also incredible) that was terminated due to statements made on stage from Fat Mike. +2 to the brewing team, -2 to the marketing team on both these beers.
Back to my life-changing moment, I poured Tropic of Thunder lager into a pilsner glass and stared at the sticky-fluffy head, nearly forgetting to snap a photo. The bubbles pouring up through the glass formed a tornado, booming the tropical hoppy aromatics several feet from the glass. Some say a freshly-poured cascading nitro-beer is the sexiest-looking beverage in existence, and after seeing this, I disagree. Tropic is light bodied, crisp, and boasts three hypnosis-inducing hops: Citra, Mosaic, and Cashmere which translate to spikey ripe pineapple, shaved coconut, and drippy mango. At only 5.8% ABV, yes I’ll have another.
I’ve had a lot of Stone beer in my time, and I can easily say Tropic of Thunder is quite possibly the best beer they’ve ever produced. We can only hope Ben Stiller and Dreamworks Productions don’t sue over the name.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest.