Loral is the name of a fun little hop that’s been on brewers’ radars for a couple years, yet hasn’t quite made it to the Big Leagues like Citra, Mosaic, or Cascade. I’d tasted this hop in Seattle-based Reuben’s Brews rotating Crush IPA series, but little Loral had yet to burst onto the national stage. Maybe with Stone Brewing’s new Exalted IPA, it’ll make it to the big time.
Exalted is the latest in Stone’s Hop Worship Seasonal IPA Series, meaning the beer will stick around for a few months before the next iteration is released. This version showcases Loral, as mentioned, along with Citra hops. Citra is probably familiar to any IPA fan in 2018; its grapefruity, orange, and lemony notes (the citrus-esque name is no coincidence) have been especially coveted by brewers lately.
Loral’s characteristics mix old-world hops (commonly called Noble hops) with some more contemporary aromas and flavors. In this beer, the aroma is all new-school: super sweet orange and clementine, watermelon rind, honeysuckle. Loral, I think, is responsible for the lemon curd and white lily notes at the edges, but it’s hard to tease it apart from the Citra because the two hops have some overlapping characteristics and are very well integrated in this beer.
The flavor isn’t quite as tropical: The sip leads with fresh-cut St. Augustine grass and tons of lemon rind. A fruity note, like underripe papaya, is just a quick flash on the middle of the tongue before the swallow ends in a dry, mown-lawn bundle. The beer isn’t overly bitter, but its dryness accentuates that, making for a squeaky-clean finish (a Stone hallmark). Overall, the flavor is a bit thinner than the aroma would suggest, but it makes the 7 percent ABV beer quite drinkable… if you don’t mind some bitterness.
It’s definitely still a Stone beer: bold, dry, bitter. But the Loral addition is a cool wrinkle, and worthy of your time if you’re a drinker always chasing that next cool hop variety. Maybe 2018 will finally be her year.
Exalted is nationally distributed and will be available through the spring season.
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