I’ve been enjoying Stone’s beers for several years now, but Levitation Ale has always escaped me, until now. Levitation is Stone’s version of a “session beer.” The term “session beer” comes from the traditional English pub and implies a low-alcohol, easy to drink beer that can be consumed in relatively large quantities (i.e. over the course of an evening or “session” at the local pub) without completely inebriating the drinker or totally fatiguing the palate. As such, session beers tend to be light-bodied, balanced (too much malt or hops can fatigue the palate quickly) and, of course, low ABV.
Stone’s Levitation is an American Amber style weighing in at 4.4%ABV and 45IBU’s. IBU’s can be somewhat misleading as they are in direct proportion to the amount of malt in the beer. For example, double IPA’s tend to be very malty tasting (maltier than normal IPA’s) even though they often have astronomical IBU ratings… IBU’s are tempered by high malt profiles, so a relatively low IBU beer can be a hop bomb while some high-IBU brews are malty. Stone is known for very hop-forward beers and “balance” is not often a word used in conjunction with their beers, so let’s find out if Levitation is a good session brew…
The beer pours a cloudy amber/red with a large tan head and lots of sediment in the glass. Aroma is as expected from Stone… plenty of hops, but also a surprising candy-like, sweet malt aroma. The hop aroma is slightly piney and resiny.
First impression: this is DEFINITELY a Stone beer. The hops are very forward and lean toward Stone’s trademark piney, resiny, grapefruit pithy side of the spectrum. Without the benefit of being able to taste these side by side, I would say Stone’s Levitation is close in character to Boulevard’s Single Wide IPA, but it’d be interested to drink Levitation and Boulevard’s Single Wide and Pale Ale together to see which one it resembles closer.
The bitterness is tempered late in the sip by the malts, but the aroma is a lot maltier than the flavor. Unlike some of the more hardcore Stone beers, like their IPA, the bitterness doesn’t settle on the tongue as much, nor is the bitter aftertaste as long lasting, so from that perspective the Levitation is certainly better balanced than Stone’s IPA. I had a bomber of IPA a few days ago but regrettably forgot to take notes to write a review. The thing that stands out for Stone’s IPA is that the bitterness just builds and builds and builds and it is quote fatiguing.
While it isn’t a hopsicle, Levitation is definitely an aggressively-hopped beer. It is better balanced than most of the Stone beers I’ve had, and I enjoy the earthy tones of the hops as they were used here, but for a session beer, I think I’d be hard-pressed to drink more than one or two of these in a sitting. It’s a good beer, and I think it would pair up with KC BBQ pretty well, but that may enhance the hops even more. All in all this is a nice beer and like everything I’ve had from Stone I enjoy it thoroughly, but I wouldn’t buy a six-pack of this and expect to drink it all through a poker night or something, for example.