Ballast Point / Kelsey McNair / Stone San Diego County Session Ale | Stone Brewing

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Ballast Point / Kelsey McNair / Stone San Diego County Session AleBallast Point / Kelsey McNair / Stone San Diego County Session Ale

Brewed by:
Stone Brewing
California, United States

Style: American Pale Ale (APA)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.20%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by mcallister on 08-07-2010

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Ratings: 376 |  Reviews: 270
Photo of DoubleJ
3.98/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

At 4.2% ABV, this beer is to "session ale" as an early January release is to "spring release". $3.99 for the 12 ounce bottle; one more of these would equal the price of the sixer of Stone Levitation. On to the beer:

The body of this pale orange colored brew has a little haze. The head looks good and thick, and its retention and lacing are admirable. Thankfully, the hops are still alive in the aroma despite 5 months after its release. Leafy hops hit upfront, then it turns sweet with honey and bready notes. Mostly sunny so far.

The malt doesn't add up in the taste. In fact, this reminds me a lot of Ballast Point's low ABV Even Keel. The hops do the talking with a plenty of raw bitternes and whispers of citrus. Very light bodied with a pinch of carbonation. Extremely drinkable stuff; if I weren't doing a review of this beer, I could have killed the bottle in under five minutes. A snap of salt and malt linger in the aftertaste.

I was a little skeptical because of that age thing, but in the end, it's alright and an excellent option for thirst quencher. While I do like the idea of a clean, low ABV beer with dominating hoppiness, I personally prefer the flavor of a fresh dark mild.

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Photo of Nichols33
4.25/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Mora2000
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a white head. The aroma is very fruity. I get a lot of fresh papaya and some pine hop character. The beer smells about like an IPA.

The flavor is a mix of papaya and pine with low to medium bitterness. There is a little bit of bready malt, but this beer is all about the hops. Very drinkable.

Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

This beer has a ton of flavor in a lower alcohol package. I wish breweries would brew more beers like this, instead of just seeing how high the alcohol can be.

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Photo of plaid75
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at The Blind Tiger, NYC.

Poured a light copper hue with a one finger frothy white head. There was good retention and very good lacing.

The smell featured a slightly citrusy but mostly herbal hop with a spicy garden weed aroma.

The taste was clean and grainy with a lingering hop spice.

The mouthfeel was thin even considering the low ABV. There was vigorous carbonation.

Overall a good hop driven session ale. However, a bit thin flavorwise.

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Photo of BillRoth
3.75/5  rDev -6%

Photo of Stinkypuss
4.22/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

San Diego County Session Ale
Stone Brewing Co.

A collaboration brew, with fellow Cali brewers Ballast Point and home brewer Kelsey McNair.

Appearance: Bright copper color, chill haze. Soapy foam and leaves lace down the pint. A good looking brew.

Smell: Hoppy, very floral, spicy hops. Pretty aromatic nose, also a little soapy. There are hints of malt sweetness.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Light bodied yet full of flavor, oily hop resins, herb, citrus pulp, earthy bitterness and peppery bite. Very mellow pale malt backing, somewhat English. The light crisp biscuity malt is the perfect base to let the hops shine.

Overall: San Diego County Session Ale is a very drinkable, complexly hoppy, delicious and refreshing brew. A true session ale, with a manageable alcohol content and depth of flavor. Beckons for repeated pouring.

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Photo of puboflyons
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle. Sampled on February 24, 2011. The pour was a cloudy, pale yellow with a busy carbonation leading to a thin, but long lasting fizzy white head. There are lots of hops in the aroma along with pine and resin. The body is medium and very soft. The taste is also full of hops with a fascinating caramel malts-sourness about it. A nice beer.

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Photo of BARFLYB
4.57/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

12oz bottle poured into a Sam Adams perfect pint glass.

A light touch of orange with yellow around the edges makes up the this very pretty looking beer. It looks like a bitter bomb str8 out the gate. A hard pour yielded about a 1/2 inch of semi firm white stuff that settled into a cap. Nice spots on the glass.

Wow, San Diego never smelled as good as this one (i'll admit, never been to the west coast) The smell burst out with hops and alot of em. Bitter hop scents with a bunch of pine and citrus including lemon and the other usual suspects. The malt, well it hardly makes a dent, wonderful scent. Excellent!

From the nose, I knew this would be a treat. Im greeted by a dousing of hops, hops overload, they really cramed them in here. Citrus and pine up front, they really run neck and neck. In short, grapefruit, mango, pine, lemon and some malts again barely make a dent. Hop forward.

Feel is bitter, but not a palate crusher, it's no hopsickle in other words, but boy is it bitter. Light bodied with a very nice amount of carb to keep the aliveness going. While big, the bitterness does not stick around the mouth forever like the certain moyland product mentioned above.

I am really into session beers and I think I found one of my favorites, since recently turning into a semi hop head (i hate using that term) this fills both of my needs. Flavorful and not dangerous. If one of these breweries does not take this recipe and run with it, it would be a travesty to the beer world. Please Stone or Ballast Point (both who distribute to PA), please run with this one in the future.

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Photo of biegaman
3.72/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This "session ale" is lighter than most lagers, but it somehow looks heavier. Its dense orange colour has a lot of shininess, but curiously no clarity; it's too thick to see through to the other side. Its head and bubbles are both loose but manage to tack on some lace.

The beer certainly doesn't smell any weaker than any Stone or other such bold southern Californian offerings. There's lots of hops, of course, and all the stinkiness that comes with them. There's a good deal of biscuity malty sweetness too, mind you, but the customary pine tips and flower petals are in full force as usual. Obviously no hops were spared.

San Diego County Session Ale tastes exactly as you'd imagine a lighter version of a typical Stone beer to taste: there's a firm and ample biscuity malting, lots of pine and floral flavours from a liberal hopping and a good deal of lemon-y acidity to severe the two. Good on them for only lightening the alcohol, and not selling the hop or flavour character short.

The brewers went with plenty of aroma hops but not too many kettle hops. It has bitterness, but it's mellow and fruity, like a lightly-steeped orange blossom tea. No surprise they got that part right, but they should have paid more attention to carbonation; less bubbles - as in a cask - would have been better (cue CAMRA's entrance music). This is too prickly.

I was curious to know how these two breweries - especially Stone who's notorious for their machismo, staunchly aggressive brands - would fair with a lighter recipe and, truth be told, they did quite well. That said, a zebra can't change his stripes - this doesn't compete with England's session ales any better than England's IPAs can compete with Californian ones...

Don't get me wrong - a fixation on the “extreme” has left a generation of U.S. brewers to neglect the appeal of mild, low gravity beers and I couldn't be happier Stone highlighted that fact with the release of this well crafted ale. But for whatever it's worth, I think they're better off sticking with what they're good at. After all, just as anywhere is walking distance if you have the time, any beer can be sessionable if you have the tolerance!

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.9/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled October 2010
A solid pour into my 25cl tulip glass produces a four-finger thick, lightly tanned, off-white colored head that leaves some nice lacing as it slowly subsides. The beer is a murky copper color that shows a lightly hazed, bright copper color when held up to the light. Ahh, the aroma is hugely aromatic, densely packed with hop notes that remind me of lychee, kumquat zest, super-ripe tangelo, juicy fruit bubble-gum are all found up front. The backend of the nose leans towards touches of dank hemp oil, pine tar, perhaps a touch of menthol and really just a dank herbal character. The malt character is almost completely subservient to the hops in the nose and I really can't pick out any malt character.

Dry and strangely devoid of flavor as it first hits my tongue, it starts to pick up a dank herbal note and ample menthol character as it rolls across the tongue until this becomes quite dominant in the finish after the beer has been swallowed. There are enough hops in this beer that my tongue is numbed a bit after each sip. Because this is such a light beer, much of the hop fruit character from the nose is severely muted in the flavor; still some tropical fruit notes of lychee and kumquat peek through at times. The hops even get a bit abrasive and even astringent in the finish, but surprisingly the bitterness on this beer doesn't seem too over the top; with such a light body I would have expected this to be bracingly bitter but the bitterness is actually fairly smooth. A touch of biscuit like malt plays a supporting role here and is the biggest malt component in this completely hop dominated beer.

The aroma on this beer is a hop lovers dream, unfortunately due to the nature of a lower gravity beer; much of the expressive hop character from the nose is deadened in the flavor. I could smell this beer forever; unfortunately the taste is a bet meh.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Inflatablechair pulled this one out recently... Awesome hoppiness Sam!!

Pours with an off white head... good retention.. hop hazed dark golden.

Aroma shows everything that we love about California hop forward brews... bright fruity... citrus zest.. Meyer lemon.. malts are nonexistent.. and that is okay by me.... I swear it is balanced.

Flavor is off the charts SoCal.... pungent citrus zest... tangerine?? pale malts are barely present.. underripe melon.. with lime on the finish... I love a lot of a good thing, and this is no exception... but This brew is a punishing lesson in excess, that I like.

Think.. "Sculpin Lite"... Fruity Hops... really no malts to speak of... long citrus finish.

I want these in Boise soooo badly... I love a good IPA or PNW Pale, but the hops are a bulldozer on this one.


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Photo of Zorro
3.67/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Clear orange-amber colored ale with a small white colored head.

Smell is strongly of c type hops with a strong bitter orange aroma. Grapefruit, onion, mango and pineapple. Smells like a hop bomb.

Starts out dry and earthy. Becomes spicy and bitter with that same earthy flavor. Not a lot of subtle flavor here, just extremely bitter and earthy.

Mouthfeel is good.

Drinkability is just OK. On the far side of the drinkability zone.

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Photo of yourefragile
4.07/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a nonic.

Pours a hazed amber/orange color with a pearl, creamy off white head with long retention and light lacing. Aroma is very hoppy and citric with some bready and biscuit malt undertones. Flavor is exceptionally dry and hoppy, dominated by citrus rind and biscuit malt. Packs a lot of flavor and hop for 4.2% but becomes a little dull and boring over the course of the bottle. Mouth is creamy and full bodied with a crisp finish. The aroma is the highlight of this, and while exceptionally drinkable, is unfortunately a little boring due to the flat, one dimensional flavor.

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Photo of Halcyondays
3.92/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Beachwood BBQ,

A: Pours orange with a light finger of white head, some good lace.

S: Definite hop character, some grapefruit notes, nice nose.

T: Very strong hop character which belies the low alcohol, like a Bizarro Mild. The malt here is very light, almost grainy, but the hop character blasts through with a lot of grapefruit, some cedarwood.

M: Light-bodied, easy on the palate but with a bit of soapy carbonation feel.

D: Nice beer, you get a lot of hop flavour for your 4.2% alcohol, so it should please the hopheads wanting something light.

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Photo of Kelp
3.75/5  rDev -6%

Photo of sweemzander
3.01/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz. bottle poured into a nonic. Thanks to cjacobsen for tossing a bottle my way!

(A)- Pours a clear orange color that produced a decent off-white head with good retention and lace.

(S)- A dry piney hop profile. Subtle hints of spice in the background.

(T)- Very dry and bitter. Lots of pine with subtle citrus characters. Subtle bits of a sweet caramel or honey too.

(M)- A good carbonation level. Again, very dry and bitter; this would put many IPA's to shame in regards to how bitter this really is. It actually almost kills off any other flavor this would otherwise have.

(D)- Not bad. It would be more sessionable as it is called if it was not so bitter.

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Photo of HopHead84
4.13/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


I didn't create the BA entry, so don't blame me for the retarded title.

A pint enjoyed on tap at stone. Appears pellucid dark orange with a huge frothy white head. Good retention. Looks great. The aroma is expressive, with strong notes of grapefruit, orange, and resinous pine. Light malt presence, but hops are the main attraction. Great aroma. Flavor is moderately bitter grapefruit and pine with a touch of malt. A lot of flavor and an appropriate abv make this a perfect session ale. Recommended! Sticky, dry mouthfeel. The pinnacle of refreshment on a day like this. I prefer Even Keel, but this is quite good and my favorite of the Stone Collaborations thus far. Drink this one fresh...I hope you know this.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
4.06/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Old review from notes.

Yellow beer with lots of clarity. Nice white 1/2" head. Aroma seemed like a great mix of newer style ipa hops. Amarillo seemed to jump. Plenty of citrus and pine. One of the first session ipas I've come across. The price at $3/12oz was a little heavy, but if they could drop it to $2 a bottle, I think it could work.

This beer stays very light on its feet while packing plenty of flavor. There's been better ones going on lately.

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Photo of avalon07
4.17/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a growler to a pint glass. Had a yellowish color and a slightly hazy consistency. There was a half inch of creamy, fairly long-lasting head. Good lacing.

S: A strong - much stronger than most APAs - aroma of hops, malt, citrus, and a piney resin.

T: Had a much higher hops content than you'd expect for the style. There were elements of citrus and resin as well, with a malty backbone. Not exactly true to the style, but a good flavor.

M: A good amount of carbonation with a dry finish. Light-bodied.

D: A drinkable APA.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.04/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I only have a single bottle of this, so I can't really test out the bold claims it makes in its name, but we'll see how it goes nonetheless.

Hazed mild golden colour, with a lot of streaming carbonation and a full, but pocked head of off-white. Body looks very light, as is to be expected. Head only leaves vapour trails of lacing. Not bad, but not that exciting.

Nose is wonderfully full and hoppy. Clean green fruit characters with plenty of zesty citrus. Really lovely sharp, fresh lemon and lime notes, very potent and very heady. The sharp nature of the fragrance cuts through whatever malt there may be there, but my guess is that this is not a very full-bodied beer anyway. Lovely fragrance though.

Taste is, yes, lacking in sweetness somewhat, and also hoppiness, but the palate manages to stay pretty much in balance. Light crisp hop characters on the front, with a mild and faint candied orange or light sugar character that feels very thin. Bitterness lingers on the back, but not because the bitterness itself is particularly pronounced—more that everything else drops out.

Tasty brew, and one with plenty of character. It does feel a bit weak and empty on the palate, but that's what you get for a 4.2% beer, and given the advantages of the low ABV, this hits what they were going for spot on.

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Photo of PEIhop
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into Sweetwater Pint glass

A - Pours a bronzy-orange in color with ample carbonation. This carbonation leads to an impressive and bubbly head.

S - Very prominent hop aroma coupled with citrus notes.

T - Excellent hop bitterness that resembles the nose. The bitterness is smoothed out with malt entering late into the taste. Fruit is presence within the taste: orange and grapefruit. This beer is very crisp and refreshing.

M - Light body with ample carbonation.

D - This is a nice session ale. The crispness and bitterness with the low alcohol make it very enjoyable.

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Photo of corby112
3.18/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a cloudy dark golden yellowish ripe banana color with golden yellow hues when held to a light source and a two finger frothy, pillowy white head. Excellent retention, only slowly fading into a lasting cap that coats the glass with large rings and splotches of soapy lacing. A bit darker than I expected but it looks pretty damn good.

Dank, uber-fresh, earthy, resinous hop aroma with lots of pine, oily hops, kind bud and slight sweet citrus fruit. I'm picking up some grapefruit and lemon peel as well as a slight creamy element and subtle pale malt. I was expecting this to have more citrus and tropical fruit notes but it smells like fresh hops and earth.

Chewy full body with a bitter, earthy hop blast that lingers throughout over the slight citrus notes and malt backbone into a dry finish. Very dry and bitter up front with a lot of earthy pine needle that kind of dominates the flavor. Again, there isn't much balance in the hop profile. All earthy bitterness and sorely lacking the sweet tropical and citrus fruit notes that I love in WCIPAs. The malt backbone is way too strong and although it doesn't cut down the hop profile much, it just adds to the mouthfeel without contributing much flavor. Even though this beer is only 4.2% that alcohol isn't well masked. I had a lot of hope for this one but it turns out to be a one-dimensional mess with a tongue coating, sticky dry finish.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
4.48/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: Poured a glowing orange color with good carbonationa nd a nice white head, plenty of bubbles

S: Citrus, grass, much like the Lost Continent IIPAs

T: Grass, citrus and hints of floral at times. Really good

M: Nice carbonation, light booze sting and some subtle, bitter hops

D: Very good. Lots of taste for such a low ABV beer. Exceptional.

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Photo of beertunes
3.22/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served in straight pint glass. This beer was very lively and the bartender had a hard getting more beer than head in the glass. It poured a semi-hazy orangeish-yellow with a lot of white head that had moderate retention and lots of lacing.

A very strong pine hop aroma greets the nose without a noticeable malt foundation. The piney hops also dominate the tongue, again no noticeable malt presence. There was a weird taste that I couldn't identify, even after trying the beer several times. Kind of metallic or coppery, but different.

The body was too thin to be enjoyable. Other than the weird taste, drinkability was pretty good. I've had several and will have more.

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Photo of pathman
4/5  rDev +0.3%

Ballast Point / Kelsey McNair / Stone San Diego County Session Ale from Stone Brewing
3.99 out of 5 based on 376 ratings.
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