Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale

Matt Steirnagle
The relationship between good drink and social spirit is clear to just about anyone who has ever attended a worthwhile gathering. Whether at a casual picnic or a formal banquet, the good host knows the irreplaceable value of libation in bringing people closer together. Perhaps less obvious, but no less important, is the role that togetherness plays with creating our favorite of all amenities: Craft Beer. Visit a brewery, if you haven’t already, and see for yourself. Brewers, pub owners, and fans from all over San Diego and beyond appear to feel an affinity for one another, and if there’s a sense of competition it comes from dedication to excellence rather than domination. It is in celebration of this community spirit and the fruits of our collective loves and labors that Stone has teamed up with Jolly Pumpkin and Nøgne-Ø to create the first Holiday beer ever to come from our brew house.

Kjetil, Mitch, Ron, and Greg

Our tale begins this past march in a bar in Tokyo, where our own Greg Koch had a chance encounter with Kjetil Jikiun, the owner and head brewer of Norwegian craft brewery (the name translates to Naked Island.) The two hit it off, and when they met again at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, Greg managed to wrangle an invitation to visit Kjetil’s brewery. Greg had a blast in Norway and formed a friendship that soon gave rise to a desire for some kind of collaboration. Greg suggested teaming up with the adventurous Michigan brewery Jolly Pumpkin (specifically, with head brewer and haiku master Ron Jefferies,) and the Triad was thusly formed.

Our head brewer Mitch Steele found some time to fill me in on his part of the story. He grinned while relating his experience with Kjetil (friendly, open, excellent language skills) and Ron (more reserved, always eager to experiment)

“We knew [this beer] would take a long time to plan… because we had to do it with E-mail”

Not too long ago Stone collaborated with Mikeller and Alesmith to create a Belgian Trippel style ale, but this time there would be no set style, and, therefore, no guidelines to follow. Designing a beer from the ground up is no simple matter, and having three designers in three different time zones doesn’t make it any easier. It does, however, make for an interesting brew. Here’s an excerpt from what Mitch wrote for the back of the bottle:

“We quickly decided to try and use one indigenous ingredient from each of our brewing regions, Southern California White Sage, Juniper Berries (we couldn’t get Norwegian, unfortunately, so we used Italian Juniper Berries, at least they are from the same continent), and (mostly) Michigan Chestnuts. Kjetil suggested brewing with rye malt and Ron suggested adding some caraway to complement the rye, so we decided to brew a full bodied, spiced ale with 25% rye malt.”

Mitch, Stone Brewer Tom Garcia, Ron, Greg, & Kjetil: The deliberation process...

Two test batches were cooked up in advance for sampling and adjustments the afternoon before Brew day. After comparing notes and coming to a consensus, Mitch, Ron, and Kjetil joined an informal dinner in the Bistro where some Team Stone crew, local fans, and home brewers were able to try both beers and get to share beers and food with the brew masters. Guests were encouraged to bring their own creations along with beers from the guest breweries to share, which they did! Greg pulled out a generous amount from his Nøgne-Ø stash that he had brought back from his trip and everyone was glad to share in it.

The next day saw no lack of community spirit as celebration gave way to shared efforts and hardships. Rye malt is notoriously difficult to work with. Mitch continued to smile while he described how one stage of the process became (almost) hopelessly stuck. “Ordinarily two batches would take about thirteen hours. These two took more than thirty… They wouldn’t lauter… We tried every trick I knew of.” Another Stone Brewer, Jeremy Moynier, had the honor of being called in at 3am to participate in the debacle. He relates:

Ron, Jeremy & Kjetil prep some sage

Ron, Jeremy & Kjetil prepare the sage

“seriously, although it was a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong day, the spices, chestnuts, and sage that we added made the brew fun to do and it was also very cool talking to those guys. It’s always fun and educational to talk to other brewers. Tasting the beers during fermentation and recently in taste panel….very impressive. These came out complex and the spices are intriguing (it’s amazing how just a little sage goes a long way). I think people will dig this beer!”

I think so, too. I was lucky enough to sample this unique brew right out of our filter, and though not yet fully carbonated it blew me away. I wouldn’t want to taint your expectations with my own humble impression, suffice to say the elements all really came together on this one.

Wow!

Wow!

Our production crew has been awaiting a shipment of glass so they can start bottling, and I heard the machinery spring into action as I finished up these last few sentences. We’ll be rushing bottles to the Stone Company Store cooler, and you’ll be able to stop by and pick some up on Friday, November 21st (that’s tomorrow!) and we’ll be distributing limited amounts to AZ, MA, CA, OH, WA, OR, CO, VA, MI and NY on Monday. Happy Holidays, indeed!

One last note: I’ve been informed that we’re still awaiting formal approval to distribute this beer in Washington and Virginia. We expect to get it any day now, so hopefully folks in these states will be able to get some within the next few weeks.

- Matt Steirnagle

Related Links:

Greg’s vBlog from his trip to Norway

Photo gallery of Ron and Kjetil’s visit

We got some great video and photos of the bottling run

Full sized bottle designs with text from all three brewers

http://www.jollypumpkin.com

http://www.nogne-o.com/

40 comments

  1. Mark Hall
    /

    What about Maine? Don’t forget about us!

    Mark Hall
    Southern Maine Beer Supervisor
    Central Distributors, Inc.

  2. I pray we are able to enjoy the fruits of your collaboration . As Sales Manager I know that anything Stone will move quickly, as we are the #1 pimp for Stone ales in southwest Ohio.

  3. I know we’d kill for this stuff at my store in MD, we sell the hell out of Stone products.

  4. I can’t wait to order some of this for my place at U of Cincinnati. We already have some Double Bastard and Ron’s Noel de Calabaza making up part of our winter brew selection. This one will be a treat to offer up to the students and faculty stopping by for a beer. Hopefully Cavalier gets plenty to spread around the area.

    Cheers!
    Adam
    Manager, Catskeller

  5. Karl Straus
    /

    All this reading i still don;t see what the beer is supposed to taste like?

  6. Hey Greg & the rest of the Stone Crew…

    How many Arrogant Bastard converts do I need to turn to get my hands on a few bottles here in NJ?? I have space for them in the beer fridge right next to the Nogne O Peculiar Yule and Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire!!

    Consider this a beg…. trust me, I’m typing on two knees here….

    Cheers!

    Joel
    The Alemonger
    http://www.alemonger.wordpress.com

  7. Pingback: Jolly pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale « The Beer Wench

  8. Just cracked open a bottle of this brew, and I must say, well done! Just what I would imagined a Stone holiday ale would taste like.

  9. This is a fantastic brew. Had a pour at the Linkery tonight with dinner. Easily one of the best winter warmers I’ve had.

  10. Nathan Hoffman
    /

    I am a huge fan of all stone products but I live in Boise Idaho and we don’t have a real selection of your beers. Are we going to be able to get more of the good beer that I crave every day? If so where do I go?

  11. Lerxst
    /

    I just scored a bottle of this today and couldn’t wait to try it. All I can say is “Wow!”. Now this is the way to brew a spiced holiday beer! Definitely best when not served too cold. A snifter works nicely. Huge, complex, and delicious. And the color is gorgeous! I’ll be running back to buy more before they run out!

  12. Hey Nathan, thanks for your interest! You can click the “USA Areas of Distribution” link under the “Find Stone” section of our main page and click on your state, or just follow this link: http://www.stonebrew.com/about_us/distributors/#ID John Kevo, our Pacific Northwest Regional Sales Manager, is available to assist you in your quest for Stone beer. Good luck!

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  14. Just had a bottle of Special Holiday Ale. Amazing, never have tasted something so intriguing and mysterious! I got one of the last 5 bottles at our local in Colorado. Awesome stuff. My favorite beer is Franzischkaner’s Hefe-Weisse Dunkel but now I have to add the Special Holiday Ale to the top of the list. A job well done.

  15. Fishy Pete
    /

    This stuff is awesome..Had a bottle at the Pub here in Michigan and want more.. How do I buy this brew?

  16. We had this at our local beer club on 12/26 here in Michigan. Wow, nicely done! It defiantely had a holiday flavor to it, almost like a pine tree note in the nose. I grabbed a couple bottles off the shelf to cellar for a while.

  17. Dave Malone
    /

    Amazing. I love the sage in this beer.

  18. Brian
    /

    I just tasted this brew a few days ago…simply amazing. I hope to find this in the stores soon!

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  21. I am very sorry for all those far away from here. I live within bicycle distance and enjoy the brew frequently!

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  23. Amazing beer. I hope you decide to keep the production going and brew it for ’10 and beyond.

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  27. John Birkrem
    /

    My favorite California brewery teaming up with my favorite Norse brewery, oh what heaven!!!!! I am sorry I missed seeing this collaboration earlier. Excellent international relations I love it.

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  33. I have been looking around blog.stonebrew.com and really am impressed by the awesome content here. I work the nightshift at my job and it really gets boring. I’ve been coming here for the past couple nights and reading. I just needed to let you know that I’ve been enjoying what I have seen and I look ahead to reading more.

  34. We had this at our local beer association on 12/26 here in Chicago. Wow, nicely done! It defiantely had a leisure savor to it, nigh equivalent a pine tree tone in the poke. I grabbed a match bottles off the shelf to story for a piece.
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