The Tropic of Thunder Lager, part of Stone Brewing Company’s year-round lineup, presents itself in a clear golden hue. A buttermilk-colored foam crowns the liquid, showcasing multi-sized bubbles and an intriguing rocky topography. The impressive head retention persists for several minutes, leaving behind a dairy-like, oily film reminiscent of an ice cream float.


The initial aroma of Tropic of Thunder is nothing short of remarkable. Evoking the essence of a piña colada, it surprises with sweet brioche and Hawaiian bread roll notes intertwined with dried pineapple, coconut, yellow pear, and bubblegum. As the beer warms, hints of white grape juice emerge, creating a complex olfactory experience that defies the conventional expectations of a pale lager.


Venturing into the tasting experience, Tropic of Thunder unfolds as a super light-bodied brew with minimal residual sugar. Despite the lightness, the 45 IBUs pack a more potent punch than anticipated, registering at an 8/10 on the bitterness scale. Lemon peel, white grape, and assertive grassy and citrus peel bitterness dominate the flavor profile. The finish, unusually dry for a pilsner, exhibits an intense bitterness that lingers for minutes. While the beer deviates from typical pale lager characteristics, a hint of fruit juiciness and fleeting white biscuit undertones provide a saving grace. Notably absent are the anticipated pilsner malt flavors, drowned out in favor of a flavor profile closer to a Session IPA.


Despite committing the cardinal sin of combining super dryness with intense bitterness, Tropic of Thunder maintains a surprisingly drinkable quality. The light and clean mouthfeel make consumption effortlessly easy. The snappy, grassy hop and lemon peel finale contribute to a clean finish, distinguishing it as an exemplary session beer. However, the absence of ample graininess and white sugar, expected in a traditional pale lager, positions this brew closer to the realm of an India Pale Lager (IPL).


The overall package of Tropic of Thunder is undeniably impressive. Its standout hop aroma, even in an oversaturated IPA market, aligns with its tropical island character. The intensely bitter flavor, reminiscent of mainstream IPAs but without the stickiness or higher ABV, makes it an excellent session beer. While it falls short of the characteristics found in craft hoppy lagers, it excels in its IPL identity. Positioned as the second favorite in Stone’s core lineup, Tropic of Thunder lacks some desired mid-palate bulk with breadiness and grain character. Die-hard Stone fans will recognize familiar elements akin to Go To IPA, emphasizing that Stone has approached lager-making in a distinctly IPA manner, rather than breaking away from their established comfort zone.