Beer Review: Stillwater Artisanal The Cloud

photo via Beer Zoo

photo via Beer Zoo

As I perused the shelves at a local bottle shop recently, I came across a few cans of Stillwater Artisanal Ales’ The Cloud. Per the Baltimore brewery’s standards, the can design was too attractive not to make my eyes take notice. The light blue grid and subtle cloud cover in an upper quadrant of the design is simple, yet superb somehow. I read the minimal copy on the can and noted that the beer is brewed with oats and lactose, with a description that the beer inside is a “soft and fluffy” IPA.

How could I refuse?

The Cloud got its initial release last spring, and it didn’t take long for me to find out why Stillwater fancied this one a warm-weather beer. A pour into a tulip glass yielded a minimal white head with a grassy, tropical aroma that hints at just a bit of tartness.

That tartness never materializes, but the tropical fruit flavors are there in force. The beer is a hazy, golden color, but it’s not one of those IPAs – as in, this one doesn’t drink like a breakfast juice. The Cloud is crisp and dry, bright and only lightly bitter, with what truly is a “soft” mouthfeel and bit of a grainy quality, no doubt owing to the oats. If the fruit character and lactose offer a wisp of sweetness, the beer is anything but cloying. Honestly, it’s just fresh, delicious and a great choice for a spring or summer sipper. The tropical character comes from Mandarina Bavaria, Mosaic and Huell Mellon hops, with the mild bitterness coming in with Centennial hops.

Interestingly, as soon as I picked up the can, I had a thought about the phrase “the cloud” in terms of digital storage (I used to work for IT companies). I had to smile when I went to the brewery’s website and read the beer’s description: “Centered around the ideas of both the sky-inhabitants and the implications of a technology-driven society, The Cloud is an “intelligent” beer with soft & fluffy palatal tendencies.”

Gotta love a double entendre in craft beer. Either way, this 7 percent alcohol by volume IPA is a smart bet.