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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Reviews: 270 | Ratings: 376
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 xerotime
4.24/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy burnt orange color with a small white head that leaves a nice lace around the glass. From the second I popped the cap off I could smell this beer is just loaded with hops. Citrus and pine overload here! The bready malt blends perfectly with the huge amount of hops in this beer. Medium bodied and super dinkable given the only 4.2%. I wish they would turn this into a regular offering.

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Photo of Cavery
3.32/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12oz shared with Klym at the start of a Friday session. Poured into small tulips.

A: A cloudy lemony yellow pale malt body with some decent small bubble foam. Modest retention is likely caused by a very violent moving body and lack of stickiness. Comes off very light in the visual, almost like a pale wheat ale. A decent ring of foam sticks around the edge of the glass.

S: Yummy light herbal hops with an almost pear skin like quality to it. There's a bit of a medicinal linger but not one that makes me feel like I'm getting my vitamins. I'm getting an actually kind of funky note of cucumber from the hops. Not bad, just comes off really light. The theme so far is lightness!

T: Once again, light. A fairly simple flavor of semi-old hops and supplement powders. There really is an aged taste to this thing, and it's really not very welcome. There doesn't seem to be any sign of infection, just kind of a funky mellow taste that takes the malt sweetness to a realm of bitter medicines. some mild orange rind before the medicine sets in.

M: An appropriately light slow bubble dissipation in the mouth. I like how there's a real effort to keep the theme of drinkability a top priority. Very light and almost air like, but still has a very noticeable IPA hop presence and general flavor transition. Not wet from alcohols, and not overly dry from the medicines. If the flavor could keep up with the mouth this would fair better.

O: I had this before, and I didn't remember it being this mediocre. I actually remember thinking it was very drinkable and respectable despite the suspicious low ABV and small clear-ish bottle. However, I think that this bottle may have seen a bit more time than it needed. The hops really come off tasting like a preservative, and the malt is ridden with cobwebs. This is an enjoyable beer fresh, but a mediocre beer without that element of freshness. Don't make a session ale out of this unless you are certain of the bottle date!

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Photo of Klym
3.69/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a tulip. Shared with Cavery.

A: Pours a translucent orange with a reasonable head for a pale ale.

S: This smells amazing for a pale ale. Citrus booms through this with a lovely, slight-hop pine character. Tons of tastey aroma.

T: Taste is honestly a let down. Initial taste is a nice citrus/resin/hop but it peaks quickly in a difficult-to-enjoy bitterness. Whats left is a weak, watery, mild hop and old citrus rind flavor that dies off in a few short moments. Transitions are kind of poor, but overall I'd still say it's above average.

M: Mouthfeel is a little watery and the carbonation in the mouth feels erratic.

O: I've actually had this once before, and I think my previous bottle was much better so maybe this bottle is a bit old. It's not a bad session ale and would be worth picking up if you see it, as it's a cheap bottle, but at the same time I wouldn't at all go out of my way to try this.

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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 allforbetterbeer
4.05/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. No freshness date on bottle.

Pours a luminescent clear golden color capped with two fingers of white smooth-looking head.

Smells of grassy, leafy hops. Citrus notes are buried under the harsher hops in the nose. This almost has the biting qualities of an imperial pilsner.

The flavor takes a more laid back take on what was expressed in the nose, with the addition of more complex hop flavors. Basil, pineapple, evergreen and grapefruit are evident. Malts are present and balance so very nicely with all the hop flavors without detracting from them. Bitterness is low for the amount of flavor, which is awesome.

The mouthfeel could easily be that of a higher ABV beer, which is also awesome. The carbonation level is spot on, as is the thickness of the body.

Conclusion: I think this is a great West Coast take on the session beer idea. This is to the English Mild what West Coast IPAs are to English Pales. It saddens me that this beer only achieves a 'B+' on this site... as I believe there is a gaping hole in the American craft beer market for beers just like this one.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.83/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Saw this one tap at one of my favorite places. The beer poured out as a hazy golden yellow color with some fizzy white head on top. The aroma of the beer was probably the best part of the beer, I found it to have a very floral aroma to it and it was rather inviting. The taste of the beer wasn't as floral or hoppy as I was hoping it'd be. The mouthfeel was decent, pretty typical stuff for an APA. Overall the beer was quite good and had a solid amount of flavors and aromas from start to finish.

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

Bought a 12 Fl. Oz. bottle of this from Adam's Fine Wines in Redondo Beach, CA for $3.29. Poured from the Collaberation bottle with a Golden triangle connecting Stone, Ballast Point, and Kelsey McNair's Brewery Symbols into a Beer Mug and has no Freshness Date but by talking with the Liquor Store Manager, I know its fresh!

Aroma- Very strong citrus aroma with hints of other fruits like grapefruit and orange. Nice amount of malt here as well.

Appearance- Pours a 2 finger, bubbly head with a deep amber color body and slight haze. There is good lacing on the sides as well.

Flavor- High amount of citrus hop flavor and bready malt character. Good hop bitterness at the finish but nothing out of the ordinary for this style.

Mouthfeel- Medium Bodied, Medium Carbonation, and Smooth with a bitter bite at the end.

Overall Impression- Since this was a limited beer, Very low-key, easy drinking but very good! They could have done much more to this beer but I'm guessing they were just trying to brew a perfect, standard APA without any spontaneous ingredients. Fully enjoyed and am lucky to have a Liquor Store with 3 entire shelves of Stone beer. Good APA and if you get a chance, I would recommend.

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

Hazy orange copper. A small amount of fluffy white head that leaves a ring around the edges. Nose is loaded with hops. Pine and citrus but with a weird pepper note. Smells bad but good at the same time, like something else related to hops. Taste is smooth bready/caramel malt blending with some piney citrus that turns to grassy/tangerine hops. A large amount of dryness on the finish but with a juicy fruity bitterness. Light and creamy body with a bold hop character backed by a smooth and creamy malt body. Interesting flavors and transitions between them.

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Photo of jcurtis55
3.45/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark golden color with a small amount of head. Hops galore in the smell and the taste with lots of bitterness. Lots of flavor and mouthfeel for a beer with only 4.2% alcohol. I’m more of a malt lover, but if you love hops, you’ll likely like this beer a lot.

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Photo of gpogo
4.12/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Slightly hazey golden yellow body with a moderate sized white head. Head dissipated and left a sparse lacing.

A- Strong hoppy aroma very piney with citrus notes specifically grapefruit. Slight sweetness to it.

T- Big hop flavor. Like a bouquet of citrusy hop flavor. Nice hit of bitterness. The malt backing is extremely light, I see why they call this a "Session Ale." The hop flavor tastes so fresh for sitting in my beer fridge a few months.

M- Light body with a moderate carbonation.

D- This is incredibly refreshing. Normally I would like a bit more malt to my beer, but this just works as a hoppy refreshing beer where you don't have to worry about the alcohol hitting you.

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Photo of sendsilk
4.14/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Received this in a trade several months ago from Amdy...Thanks!!

**Follow up after review--F*** me, this thing is only 4.2 ABV? That makes this fantastic IMO!!!

Well, I finally thought I would give this a go tonight, after all, it's named a 'session beer' so I have been in no hurry to open it, figuring weak. I'll tell you that the SMELL is freaking awesome. Haven't tasted the beer yet, but smells of good things to come...Here we go.

A - Good, a little light colored with a nice frothy head.

S - Freaking awesome. Especially since I considered this some bland, flavored light beer

T - Nice. Crisp and delicious, not as much body or taste as the nose would have me expecting, but if Miller Lite or Bud tasted like this and in lower Alcohol, carbs, calories, etc. we'd make Billions, Billions I say Igor!!! Nice citrusy hop bite.

M - Nice, light and crisp. Refreshing even. Actually, I could go for several of these, alas, I only have the one.

O - Excellent!

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

Poured into a Southern Tier flute on 6/23/11

Pours a nice orangish mango color with a finger of head that dissipates leaving no lacing on the glass. Beautiful color but I wish their was more head and lacing on this one.

Smell is a hop slap in the face. Tons of citrus grapefruit, and some sweet malt character comes out more as the brew warms. I think I smell some mango too. I like the aroma of this brew but I would liked to have some more complex hop smell, some more mango and maybe a tad bit more sweet malt.

Taste is much the same. I get a lot of the hop bitterness as well as the pine, and citrus. The malt characteristics are totally blown away by the hops. Maybe just a little more malt sweetness for balance but still a great taste.

Mouthfeel weight is moderate to medium. Nice resin that leaves a very light pine taste on the pallet that makes you want to take another sip.

Overall this is a great brew for the ABV. You don't see many beers with the hop and malt character that this has without an ABV above 8%. Good job guys I love the brew.

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Photo of chugalug06
1.77/5  rDev -55.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

A - Cloudy peach color with lots of whites and oranges. Head pours strong with a nice pop to the bottle cap. Lacing left behind looks quite good too. Head is straw colored with holes in foam.

S - Smells like an arm pit... Think sweaty locker room... ;p Very piney and sweet smelling. Camomile? Gross.

T - Tastes like a bad homebrew. I'm beginning to wonder if I got a bad bottle...??? Very borderline flavoring, there's not a whole lot of APA flavors in this one. Tastes a lot like corn and pine resin. Quite bland and watery.

M - Great carbonation. Nice and light on the mouth. Very slight bitterness. Extremely low abv too. There's not much flavor distribution.

O - I wish this brew had more aggressive hops.... Not my favorite, but this would be a nice brew for a hot day. I wouldn't seek this brew again. All over the board. Perhaps I got a bad bottle? Drain pour.

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Photo of ummswimmin
4.2/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I poured this from a 12 ounce bottle into a pint glass.

The pour has a nice one and a half finger head. It releases a nice mix of grapefruit, pine, and floral head.

The scents in the head transfer into the flavor. It is a complex mix of hops. The body is perfect (not too heavy).

The beer is a very refreshing session ale. I could drink this all afternoon. It definitely shows that sessions can have good, complex flavors. A high ABV is not necessary for nice hoppiness.

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Photo of Zaradog
4.05/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Visual: One and a half finger foamy white head that lingers for a while. Mine had a little bit of chill haze with fine ground pepper sized protein particulate. Orange-gold color, with lots of bubbles rising through the drink.

Aroma: 85% grapefuity (lots of Amarillo added at flameout maybe?) 15% piney hop Aroma. Malty smell develops as you drink it.

Taste: Lots of grapefruity hop at first that slowly fades in intensity the farther back in your mouth you go only to end in a slow building splash of bitterness on the finish. The grapefruitiness is a little less sweet and more bitter… resembles not quite ripe white grapefruit. I’m starting to pick up a slight light toastiness as well.

Mouth Feel: Not too dry, not too wet. It seems just right on that front. Carbonated just enough to wake up your tongue making it ready for the hoppiness to come. The carbonation does seem to fade with each sip though.

Drink-ability: Low alcohol… but a pretty big hop taste. If I was really in the mood to hop it up, this beer would come in the middle of a night that finishes with something really hoppy. I wouldn’t want to stick with this all night long, but it definitely has its place at my table.

Impressions: Overall I think I like it, although I wish it was just slightly sweeter on the finish… not much mind you, the bitter kick at the end is good, but seems a little too harsh. I get a feeling like there is a little more than the reported 4.2% ABV on the exhale as well.

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Photo of FARGO619
5/5  rDev +25.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Reviewed from notes: Poured into a room temp tulip glass from a 12oz. bottle.

appearance: golden yellow orange with a 2 finger head that lingered for some time.

smell: floral, citrus, hops, and some pine.

taste: floral, pure bitterness that just goes down smooth.

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, light to medium body, crisp

drinkability: definitely a session beer. was hoping for something more unique.

Serving type: bottle

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

First had: bottle from Pinocchio's beer garden, Media, PA

Definitely gets points for complexity. Pours a nice copper color with a white head. The nose is strong with pine notes and undertones of grapefruit and meadow grass. As far as taste goes, this genuinely has 3 distinct phases. Starts off VERY hoppy, but crisp, clean, and grassy. Moves on to a sweeter taste, a little bit watery, but not in a bad way, just in a clean soda-watery way, as opposed to syrupy sweet. Fresca-ish. Finishes off bitter with more hops, and leaves a slightly stale aftertaste of a piney IPA. Medium mouthfeel. An interesting drink that I'd like to try again, but probably won't since it was only brewed once.

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Photo of BeerTwigs
4.55/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: A nice orange gold with a thin white pacing

Smell: The aroma packs a lot of bunch with a citrusy and piney burst of hops...

Taste: This is a very hoppy pale ale with a good malt balance. This beer is very delightful and packs a lot of flavor with a low abv.

Mouthfeel: Light, spot on for a session ale, smooth and a great aftertaste.

Overall: This is a really nice session beer which allows you to enjoy a hoppy pale ale without all alcohol to knock you out. I would definitely drink this beer all summer.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.75/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a nice clear amber with an ample white head about two inches tall. This faded and left behind a ton of lace. Good visible carbonation.

Very hoppy, lots of very sweet citrus flavors. A touch of sugar and some malted grains in the backend of it. Very nice, and very hoppy. Had a very clean, cut taste. Not much of an aftertaste here, just straightforward hoppy pale ale. Nice grain fresh cut grass in the back. Silky smooth, albeit a little thin, but very smooth. Again very clean and refreshing, light. Very good. I coud easily session this one all night ling. It was just a nice light IPA, or pale ale.

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Photo of dhartogs
2.9/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Had this on tap when visiting San Diego and again in bottles.

Smell was nice, mild hops, but I felt the body was lacking as was flavor compared to the aroma. Around here it sells for $3/bottle, which is a bit steep considering the abv and mild flavor. Good effor and nice to see these collaborations but this beer really didn't do it for me.

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Photo of angrybabboon
4.19/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Review adapted from notes taken 10/18/10

Appearance: A nice orange gold with some sticky yet thin white lacing

Smell: Simply amazing - I honestly thought this was an IPA based on the smell alone - this is a citrus, resin, leafy, herbal, explosion of hops - smelled super fresh and delicious

Taste: Very hoppy - again, I feel this could pass for an IPA - citrus, tangerine, orange, tropical fruits - bitter, dry, and almost leafy - moderately bitter - malts are very subtle - ridiculously overpowered by the hops, but there are some hints of pale malts and biscuits - barely enough to hold the whole thing together, unfortunately

Mouthfeel: Very light - I know this is supposed to be a session ale, but I felt that the body was missing something

Overall: A very tasty experiment that I would like to see more of in the future

I believe that a slightly higher malt bill would do wonders for this beer. However, it is still very impressive. I would be more than happy to see more breweries experimenting with hoppy session beers.

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

On-tap at Craft & Commerce in San Diego CA

A - Poured a copper color with an off white head that leaves lacing behind

S - Is mostly of citrus hops

T - Just like the smell lots of citrus hops

M - This beer has a medium body with medium carbonation to it

o - I really liked this beer its similar to a lot of Stone beers but at an abv that allows you to drink a number of in a sitting it would be nice if there were more beers out there like this worth picking up

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Photo of thagr81us
3.95/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served from bottle into a Stone nonic (how fitting). Poured yellow-orange with a two finger fluffy very slight off-white head that subsided to one very slowly. Maintained nice lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, pine, citrus, citrus hop, and pine hop. The flavor was of sweet malt, pine, citrus, and pine hop. It had a light feel on the palate with medium carbonation. Overall this was a pretty decent brew. Lots of complexity going on in the flavor on this one for a 4.2% brew. The pine and citrus aspect going on in this were quite nice. The aroma was also pretty good as well. Not my favorite APA I've had, but definitely still quite tasty and worth getting on your palate.

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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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