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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.

For Trade:
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Reviews: 270 | Ratings: 376
Photo of veinless
4.05/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours golden orange yellow with a decent lacy white head. Hazy body.

Smells floral with strong hints of grapefruit.

Tastes really flavorful as well, with lots of citrus with enough malt to make it work. Tiny bit of bitterness makes the finish clean and crisp.

Drinkability is as high as it gets for this - session ale was made for this.

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

A: Golden Copper Body, Huge 2" head of brilliant white, some messy lacing...NICE

S: nice hoppy C hop character, bright and brilliant with a touch of biscuitness backing it up

T: some sweet malt pokes its way through, but the front page story is the citrusy hops (more so than SNPA), this is really an intriguing flavor profile, obvious they used a plethora of hops...me likey

M: full for the abv, but nice and full on the palate

D: hope to see this in 6...no make that 12 packs

this beer is more than a month or so past the 'freshness' date on the bottle and I'm still wowed by it...

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Photo of ArrogantBastage
4.34/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle poured into a glass

A: Pours a bright amber with a thick head. Head lingered long enough to prep for the review and then diminished to a thin ring. A few islands of foam remained on top for a little while but those disappeared about half way through the session. A thin ring remained thru out. No lacing which surprised me considering the amount of hops used in this beer.

S: Pungent hops, loads of citrus up front tinged with some pithy aromas, herbal and spicy hops also hide in the background.

T: Follows the aroma almost perfectly. Loads of citrusy hops giving the beer a strong citrus peel flavor. Some spicy notes make an appearance as the beer warms slightly. A little sweet malt in there too. Not overly bitter as the strong hop aroma would make some expect.

M: Light bodied with a fair amount of carbonation.

D: Definitely possible to have more than one of these in the course of an evening. Highly recommended to people that love hop forward beers.

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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 phiberoptik
4.47/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Wow... I really had no clue what to expect from this beer other than it was a $4 bottle of beer at the local store. I figured it had to be good based on the collaboration and the price so it was worth a try.

It pours a copper/amber color with a nice medium density white head. Not much lacing that I noticed.

I get a lot of citrus hops both in the nose and the taste. Very enjoyable. It has some characteristics of bigger IPAs but somehow manages to be only 4.2% ABV. A lot more flavor than I expected. Very nice.

This is a highly drinkable beer. I wish it came in 12 packs and cost a lot less, it could be a regular in our home.

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

This collaborative effort appears clear and copper/orange in color. The head is a half inch thick and displays good retention and lacing. The aroma is a blend of hops and malt, and bolder than I would have expected in a 4.2% beer. The flavor is decent, with a bit more of a malt presence than I prefer in a beer of this ilk. The feel is moderately light in body, and the beer finishes with a lingering hop bitterness. A decent brew, but not worth the $4 for a 12 oz. bottle.

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Photo of TheSupremeAJ
4.6/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

On tap at Blue Dog in Lansdale, PA.

A- A little dark for a Pale Ale and likely why its referred to as session ale. A little light for a session ale in my opinion.

S- Smells hoppy for a session ale... it seems like a very good pale ale a few steps above my old favorite classic SN pale ale.

T- Outstanding! Hoppy, malty, not bitter or boozey!

M- Very nice with a cool mouthfeel.

D- Very high drinkability and very non-offensive. This could be my to drink with dinner beer and remain composed.

Very good... and I want a case.

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Photo of SuperNova777
4.45/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanx to BabyCatPrince for this

A:Pours a hazy orange with a very nice head leaving good lacing hanging around

S:Nice dose a hops come thru citrus and pine, way better than I expected to come out of it with the low ABV

T:Lots of hops coming thru up front with slight malt in the middle then another blast of hops on the backend that linger around

M:Nice solid mouthfeel with good carb. sticky hop resin hangs around on the palate long after drink

D:I could drink this all day and night, super huge flavor for a session brew with hops that just don't quit. This collaboration hit the nail on the head with this brew

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Photo of alleykatking
4.32/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 12oz bottle.

A- Pours a nice coppery color. One finger tan head shows medium retention. Streaky lacing on the sides of the glass. This looks actually really good.

S- Citrusy hops galore cover a light caramel malt base in the front. Piney hops come into the back making this beer such a hop monster it is hard to believe it's a such a light weight of a beer ABV wise.

T- Hops and more hops explode onto the scene with the first sip. Orange peel and grapefruit are the first to be seen flavor wise. This dies for a second leaving behind a crackery malt base. Pine and earthy hops kick up the backend with light hints of citrus. The alcohol gets caught up in the tail end with the hops only then making it noticable.

M- Medium mouthfeel. Carbonation was good for the style. Citrus hops and light pine are left on the palate with a nice hoppy resin that coats everything it touches. Aftertaste is piney hops with a stronger hint of alcohol. There were no off flavors to this one. Balanced? For a session ale I would say no because of the hop forwardness of the beer.

D- I would have no problem drinking a sixer of this at all. My palate would be shot down after a couple of these though so I wouldn't want to waste the others on a shot palate. Damn good though for a session ale.

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Photo of CrellMoset
3.92/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of the Stone Collaboration brews I missed until just recently when I picked it up at State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. It sat in the back of my friend's car for nearly four weeks - I imagine, at 4.2%, it likely froze and unfroze several times. I guess it's time to find out if my forgetfulness has ruined this one. Poured in to a cervoise.

Appearance: A hazed golden amber, peachy, relatively attractive, this one's capped by one finger of light beige head. Retention is perhaps detrimentally impacted by the lack of integrated carbonation in this one - only a few streams of large bubbled, erratic carbonation are visible, even when held to direct light to attempt to see through the haze - though there's plenty of stick contributed and enhanced by what I imagine from the haze (and the aroma wafting out of the cervoise) is a slew of hops. Lacing on the sides of the glass is incrementally better (it doesn't rely on carbonation, for one), with some nice dry, crunchy stickness clinging to the slopes.

Aroma: This beer's best attribute, nearly a 5.0. It's fat, juicy, and wonderfully pungent. Even with a slight amount of stuffiness, I'm getting huge freshly squeezed oranges, tons of sweet, juicy mint, and plump, ruby red grapefruit, all wrapped in leathery, wet tobacco leaves. It smells sweet, though that could just be the "juice" part of my brain filling in the blanks. There's definitely some faint roast, but it's mostly just juicy, resinous, oily hops - and it's nice.

Taste: I'm going to assume that this beer tastes a little off (to me) not because of the freezing/thawing, but instead because that's the way it was intended to taste. I think this because of what I know about the process (and have read on these forums). This beer is incredibly herbal, astringent, piney. It's jammed full of flavor, sure - it's just that the flavor is a little offputting. Full of tobacco and tart citrus notes, the hop notes are bitter, harsh, complimented well by a mild bitterness. It's just a little too intense, though. Part of it is the lack of backing sweetness - this beer is dry, almost puckeringly dry, and the only malt attributes that pop out here are a few bits of roasted biscuity notes. There's not too much else here - truth be told, it does grow on you after a bit, and I guess this is what a west coast session ale tastes like: low on the malt side of things to keep the abv% low, and hoppy, biting, and bitter.

Mouthfeel: You can tell the carbonation on this one was at one point pretty solid - there's still plenty here, though it's obviously been somewhat subdued after the freezing cycles. The beer itself is moderately bodied, probably even a little on the thicker side with the roasted sugars present in this one. As it stands now, it'd be a solid 3.0 ... but I gotta give it the bump, because a) it's gettin' reviewed, and b) Stone's reviews shouldn't suffer as a result of my forgetfulness.

Drinkability: Wish I could have tried this one unfrozen ... and fresher ... hell, on tap. Maybe I'll still get the chance - I still see it on a the shelves in certain places. However, honestly, I don't think the freezing changed the taste too much, and the taste didn't quite do it for me - it almost tasted east coast in the mouth (too herbal). As it stands, I can't knock the drinkability too much - it is a session ale after all. It's just not my session ale.

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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 seedsofchaos
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to beerphilosopher for this one given at a local tasting event.

Translucent light amber fills my glass with a 1/2 inch head that lingers as fine lacing just on the surface. Carbonation is ever-present and adds to the presentation of this session beer. Lacing really seems to stick to the glass as my Stone pint glass gets emptier.

Nose is clean and crisp with a well-rounded aroma. Light biscuity malts play well with hints of floral hops. The aroma is definitely of a lighter ale and nothing slaps you upside the head in typical Stone fashion.

Clean and refreshing with just a touch of bitter nowhere near astringent. Lawnmower beer? You got it. Biscuit and floral again in the taste with a light body that might border on medium if one focuses on the bitter. Aftertaste is sweet floral and citrus hops. Goes down smooth just as a session ale should.

Everything is pretty right on target for the style but to think of this as anything more than a BBQing or summer lounging beer would be a stretch.

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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 ms11781
3.96/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Reviewed on 10/02/2010. Enjoy by 11/10/10 on bottle. 12oz bottle poured into a pint glass.

Pours a clear golden yellow color with a decent white head. Very good lacing left on glass.

Nose is all hops up front. Citrus, grapefruit and a hint of pine. No malt detected whatsoever.

Most times it's not a good thing when no malt is detected in the aroma but that's not the case here. Taste runs parallel to the nose, with more piny hops. Citrus, grapefruit and pine with a good dose of bitterness all the way through.

This one is bone dry from start to finish. Highly carbonated with a very light body. Lingering bitterness and very dry.

Very easy drinking. Between the light body and the good flavor from the hops this one is gone in no time. Sometimes, for me anyway, a highly carbonated beer is a bit tougher, or takes a bit longer to drink. This was an exception.

When reading up on this beer it sounded as if it was meant to be a "session" IPA or a "light" IPA, for lack of better terms, and that's exactly what it is. It says it's an APA that's trying to be an IPA but it seems to lie somewhere in between.

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Photo of engagechad
4.84/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I had this beer on draft at the Saison du BUFF tasting at capital ale house in Richmond, Va on 1-6-11.

A - Kind of a murky yellow but still pretty

S - amazingly fruity and fresh

T - very smooth. perfect definition of what a session would be in my opinion

M - medium, not thick but not thin

D - I could literally drink this all night, possibly my favorite of the night.

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3.52/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle to pint glass. Sampled 10/28/10. $5.50 for the single.

A: A one finger head of foamy white bubbles transforms into a sudsy film over an average amount of time. Moderately hazy, the body is medium dark amber orange with a transparency close to 70%. Lacing is fair.

S: The light malt aromas of toasted bread and caramel stand up just enough in this heavily hopped pale ale. Dominating citrus aromas include grapefruit and orange.

T: The nose carries over to the palate and adds notes of spice, white pepper and dust. The big hop flavor is enhanced by the [particularly] small malt bill, which is just big enough to provide an adequate mouthfeel.

M: Medium light in body, creamy in texture with an average level of effervesence, which promotes the the first two qualities even further. Rather bitter on the finish.

D: Better than average drinkability. Even though San Diego County Session Ale is by no means a spectacular brew, it is very successful as far as the concept and execution are concerned. The impetus of this collaborative brew was to prove that an ABV-challenged brew could be as flavorful as its high-ABV brethren...and it is! However, as others have said, I must agree that this beer is wayyy overpriced for, not just a session beer, but a beer that is just not that great to begin with. A repeat purchase is unlikely.

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Photo of nkersten
4.12/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into NB globe. Slightly hazy golden orange with a thin white creamy head with nice retention and lacing. Smell is great - up there with some of the best pale ales and IPAs. Lots of tropical fruits, apricot, and subtle sweet malts. Taste is not as intense as the smell but still pleasant. Bitter hops with a touch of tropical fruit and pine, slightly sweet malt finish. Medium light body with a medium carbonation. Overall a very flavorfull pale ale, my only complaint with this is the price... $20+ for a 6 pack is too much for a session beer, but I will most likely buy a single bottle of this now and then.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.85/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I picked up this 12oz bottle for $3.50 in Columbus, finally thinking I've found the collaboration I've been waiting for, one that focuses on hops instead of spices. After bringing it home I realized the name is "San Diego County Session Ale", which I understand as it's a low ABV beer with neoclassic San Diego hops treatments. But on another level it doesn't make sense as I believe a session ale should be more affordable, as it will be consumed in large quantities...

To start with it looks and smells incredibly good. Hazy dark golden color, thick wet white foam and gorgeous lacing all over the glass. Citrus hops take over the aroma, no malt balance at all. This smells like an Alpine Duet, maybe one of several Ballast Point beers too, so much west coast hoppiness. I'd guess Citra and Amarillo, but almost certainly there are others too.

And what you smell is what you taste, the hops really are the whole story. No malt balance which is OK by me, and I guess it was no problem keeping the malt bill weak in order to achieve a low ABV. Still, it must take some skill to put together such beautiful looking beer with such delicious qualities and keep it low. Tropical and citrusy fruits, well done. Funny, it's not a stretch to call this abrasively hoppy, you can feel a little stomache burn even in this low ABV ale.

Thin bodied, easy pounding, everything I could want, except at a price point that guarantees I won't buy too many.

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Photo of maximum12
4.2/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Thanks to errantknight & stormking47 for sending me bottles of this almost simultaneously. Eager to try this one; I love my big stouts & barrel aged whatever, but the world is really lacking tasty session beers. Hoping this is one!

Pours a clear light orange mixed with bits of coppper. Nose is good, sweet malts mixed liberally with west coast hops. Great pine & citrus coming off the surface, promising first note.

San Diego County Session Ale brings what I hoped for. 4.2%? Really? Why is this so hard for brewers to do? Pale malts are balanced out vs. fairly aggressive hopping, tropical & citrusy & such-like. Pale malts block & tackel, but then bitterness flows over the palate & washes away both the malt & the subtlety of the hops. Whack bitter in the ending.

"Session Ale" is an accurate description, this is drinkable as all hell. Maybe it's the freshness, perhaps session ales can't travel, or lose their appeal & tastiness quickly.

Excellent beer. Impressive taste from a low ABV beer. I hope this is a trend that come & plants it's low ABV fanny in my neighborhood for a long time.

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

Somewhere between amber and tangerine (depending on your light source) with a lovely looking chunk of alabaster cream filling the upper third of the pint glass. The foam has all sorts of interesting surface topography and is beginning to lay down bits and pieces and swirls and whirls of lace.

The nose is wall-to-wall citrus fruity and spruce-like American hops. The rundown includes Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe and Citra, which are some of my very favorites. Believe it or not, I could have made some pretty good guesses along those lines if blinded.

San Diego County Session Ale tastes exactly like what it was brewed to be. Even four months after the release, this here is some hoppy beer! At least part of the reason is paper-thin malt support, which was necessary to keep the ABV down.

If you like any sort of sweet-bitter balance, drink a different beer. Hints of crackery malt barely hold up in the face of a significant alpha acid attack. Each gulp delivers a blast of white grapefruit pith, bitter orange zest, pine boughs, and hints of pineapple.

Multiple bottles in a row would probably result in dulled taste buds, which sort of defeats the purpose of a session ale. Besides, if previous Stone collaborations are any indication, the price is probably too high to buy it in bulk. That said, this bottle is pretty damn tasty.

The mouthfeel is a wonderful combination of smooth and creamy... biting alpha acids... and lightly tongue stinging carbonation. Since I'm not sure how this attribute could be improved, the higher of the two considered scores will be granted.

Stone/Ballast Point/Kelsey McNair San Diego Session Ale is probably precisely the brew these guys set out to create. Hopheads will love it, but this hophead needs more malt support in order to grant the really big taste and drinkability scores. Sorry, but that requires an ABV in the 6.5-7.0% range. Buy a single, then decide.

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Photo of crossovert
4.02/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle.

It pours a pale orangeish gold with a foamy white head.

The smell is hoppy, with a ton of pine.

The taste is again pine, and lots of it, there is a subtle bit of citrus, it isn't too bad, definitely hoppy for the style.

This is an interesting one, it is an APA but there is almost no malt presence. This could go places i they tweaked the hop bill to make it a bit more citrusy and tropical and not just pine, though i love the pine.

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Photo of rootbeerman
4.3/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Arrive as a 10oz belgian pour. With a finger and a half off white head the lingers well and laces in large chunks.

Smell is grapefruit hops along with malt sweetness. Almost like a halved grapefruit with sugar.

Taste is equally good as smell. Very lightly sugared grapefruit, malt and hop. Is also lightly coating and hops as well as some malt linger for a while. Carbonation is good enough to hold the head up and give a smooth mouthfeel. Also it is very drinkable with a smooth balance between hops and malt also low abv it is certianly a session ale.

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

Of all the collaborations this was the only non drain pour.

Pours a carbonated golden yellow white frothing head.

Huge nose, pine, malts, candied sugars,

Huge smell, but little taste. pleasant little burst of hops up front that lingers.

Big things come in small packages, bitter resiny hops for such a low abv.

For the hop head who wants to drink all night.

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Photo of RonfromJersey
4.3/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Hazy golden orange topped by three fingers of highly whipped snow white froth.

Big citrus aroma, heavy with oranges, then grapefruits and apricots.

Light trickle of malt runs down the center of the tongue. Juicy fruit explodes throughout the mouth, plenty of orange, with grapefruit support.

Light almost bubbly mouthfeel floats down the tongue.

Drinkable? Hell, its a session ale!

Light body and alcohol with a big hop smack. Definitely recommended.

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Photo of vfgccp
3.42/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 2 | smell: 5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

A - Lots of sediment, light gold

S - Amazing aroma. Sweet hops, honey, orange water.

T - Mildly-cedary hops, but it's more of a backdrop than a main event. Almost no malt.

M - Very carbonated. Very light, almost watery, body.

D - Super drinkable. The carbonation is refreshing, and the body and flavor are light on the palate.

O - I was disappointed by the flavor, there's almost nothing going on. For such a delicious bouquet, and great name breweries, I was hoping for something more.

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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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