A beautifully sunny day, 400 people, 30 unique beers on tap and unlimited pours—what might sound like the foundation for a ruckus affair of over-indulgence and belligerence was anything but. In fact, it was one of the tamest event days in the history of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. That’s what happens when you pack the joint with homebrewers and genuine craft beer connoisseurs united in their noble mission to not only taste, but evaluate the merits of each beer for the purpose of selecting a champion to grace store shelves nationwide. Enter Stone’s fifth annual AHA Rally and Homebrew Competition.
It took just a few short hours after the big keg drop at the Stone New Year’s Celebration for us to get to work planning another big year at our Southern California digs. After a few weeks of scheming, tweaking, revising and fine-tuning, we’re ready to share our entire schedule of momentous events that will come to pass at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens* in 2013! Get out your calendar and prepare to “X” out a great many dates. See you soon!
We took a different approach to formulating this year’s Stone Vertical Epic Ale – the last in the series. Co-founder and original Stone Brewmaster Steve Wagner and I had agreed that we wanted to brew a Belgian-style holiday ale, given the release date of 12.12.12 and the celebratory nature of this beer. Armed with that baseline, I decided to open up the formulation to our team of brewers, who are a talented and creative bunch, to say the least.
So in early summer, we told our team the goal for the Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale and allowed anyone who wanted to brew a pilot batch to take a turn on our More Beer 20-gallon brew sculpture. A total of eight recipes were brewed and they were all fantastic. Ultimately, we chose this one from brewer Josh Jordan because it was so smooth, dark and luscious, and the spice combinations were amazing.
He shared that recipe with us and, in the spirit of the rapidly fleeting holiday season, now we want to share it with you. So here is the recipe we went with and, per long-standing tradition, I’ve suggested some musical selections that I think will pair well with each step of the brewing process. Have fun!
Surely by now you know the name Ken Schmidt. After all, he’s the homebrew mastermind behind not just one of our handsome collaboration beers, but two of em! You undoubtedly recall the glory that was the Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, yes? When Ken took first place at our 2009 March Madness Homebrew Competition & AHA Rally with what he’d named “Aloha Plenty,” we knew we’d made a new friend.
Fast forward to 2012, and Ken came back with yet another winning combination that he called “Pillow Mint at the Ritz.” After taking the champion title for the second time, he worked with our illustrious brewmaster Mitch Steele to select Brandon Sieminski of nearby Iron Fist Brewing as our third partner in crime to help scale this awesome recipe up for our big 120bbl system. The result? A decadently rich, decidedly bold, and oh-so-delicious libation we call Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a pretty sweet Google+ hangout all about our awesome collaboration beer that we recently re-brewed: Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF. Our very own Greg Koch joined Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and moderator Wil Wheaton for a live video broadcast devoted to that very subject. (Victory’s Bill Covaleski was unfortunately plagued by technical difficulties. Bummer.)
Well, besides having a great time chatting and drinking beer, Wil at one point asked if it would be possible for us to share the homebrew recipe for Saison du BUFF. While Greg and Sam discussed it, I reminded Greg from off-camera that it was already available, courtesy of our amazing book: The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance! </plug> And that we’d also of course be more than glad to share it on our blog.
Well, well well. 11.11.11. Hmmm. A very special day on several levels. First, it was the Veteran’s Day of all Veteran’s Days. A perfect day to pay tribute and honor those who have served in our country’s military. And perhaps, on a less serious side, 11.11.11 was also Nigel Tufnel Day (who is Nigel Tufnel you ask?…lead guitarist for the legendary band Spinal Tap…made famous for having his Marshall amplifiers custom built with volume knobs that go to “11”…not 10.)
And 11.11 also was the birthday of two wonderful members of Team Stone, Marty Saylor and Laura Ulrich, so raise a glass to them!
And finally, 11.11.11 signifies the release of the second to last in our Stone Vertical Epic Ale series: the penultimate Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale.
We started off developing this beer by brewing a pilot size amber Belgian style ale using a nice variety of German and Belgian amber malts. It was a good start, a very nice beer, but was just missing that special something, that “twist” we like to have in the Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Then, one day last spring, I was in the Temecula Spice Shop in Old Town Temecula, just browsing around. I always like to look for interesting spices and teas and such, and I was looking at some chilies to possibly use for brewing…or to make a great chili for our annual Superbowl Chili Cookoff. The woman in the store told me that she had only one more bag of this wonderful Hatch Green Chili left, and she raved about the flavors from these chilies from New Mexico.
So I bought that last bag, and rather than cook with it, I decided we should try it in a pilot brew. As much as I love chilies, I’m not very well schooled in the different varieties, so I did a little research on the Hatch Chili, and was impressed by their reputation, and the idea of getting great, intense and unique chili flavor without a lot of heat. We also added a touch of cinnamon to that pilot brew, giving it a bit of a Mexican flair, and found the flavors worked amazingly well together, better than I had hoped for!
So here is the homebrew recipe. It’s a pretty basic brew in a lot of ways, so have fun with it. It’s 100% malt this year, no Belgian Syrup or Candi Sugar, so the beer ends up being a little fuller bodied than in the past few years. And as always, we suggest some musical selections that we think will pair well with each brewing step along the way.
Here is the grain bill:
Pale Malt 80.25%
Light Munich Malt 9.10%
Special B Malt 5.6%
CaraBohemian Malt 4%
Crystal 75-80°L 1.05%
As always, I am only providing the all grain version of the recipe, and just percentages, so you can figure out the weights based on the size of your brewing system and your normal efficiencies.
Target OG: 20.5°P (1.082 SG.)
OK, 11.11.11 is a Spinal Tap kind of day, so let’s start things off with the classic “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” which should get all of us in the mood for an Epic Brew Day!
Use a 30 minute conversion rest at 150°F. This is a moderately low conversion temperature for a relatively short time that should provide a nice balance of malt dextrins in the finished beer. If you are keeping up with these recipes, this particular mash scheme was designed to make a bit maltier, fuller beer than what we’ve done the past few years. If you can, raise your mash temperature up to 165°F after conversion rest to stop the enzymatic conversion of starches to sugars before lautering.
Recirculate your wort gently from the bottom over the top of the mash to deposit the fine particles of malt on the top of the grain and to “set” your bed. Avoid splashing the wort. Recirculate for 5-15 minutes, depending on your system, before diverting wort flow to your kettle/boiling vessel. You should remove almost all the malt particles from the wort flow, but some haze is ok.
Start sparging in the lauter when the wort level is about ½” above the grain bed. Starting earlier will decrease your efficiency, because the water will dilute your first wort. Sparge water should be between 165°F and 170°F to maximize extraction, but avoid going over 170°F or you’ll extract harsh compounds from the malt husks.
Fun trivia: Did you know the technique of sparging was invented by Scottish brewers in the 1700s? Up until that point, brewers would mash in, and then draw off all the liquid, and then add more water and mash again, repeating the process 3-4 times to obtain separate worts with decreasing gravities that were used for separate beers. Sparging as a standard brewing practice became common in the mid 1800s.
Sparge until you hit your target boil volume or until your wort gravity being drawn-off reaches 3°P (1.012 SG), whichever comes first. Don’t lauter past 3°P, because when the sparged wort coming off the lauter is that low in sugar content, you risk extracting tannins and other harsh character from the malt husks.
Be careful not to rush the mashing and lautering step, or your brewing efficiency will go down. These steps should be done gently, with care. A good music selection will assist in keeping things relaxed and gentle during lautering. Don’t go too mellow, just enough to keep you focused on the task at hand and inspired. Therefore, I suggest Spinal Tap’s “Hell Hole” or “Rock and Roll Creation” to keep things relaxed and focused.
Here is the hop bill:
2.9 grams per gallon Warrior hop pellets (15% AA)
2.9 grams per gallon Perle hop pellets (10% AA)
All added at the start of boil. There are no other hop additions during the boil. This should get you about 65 IBU’s. Boil for 90 minutes.
You do know that hops are the flowers produced by female hop vines, right? Therefore, a perfect song choice when adding hop flowers to the boil is “Listen To What The Flower People Said” by Spinal Tap.
Always be safety minded, and beware of spontaneous combustion during flameout…
Hop and Spice additions, to be added at the start of the whirlpool process:
2.9 grams per gallon New Zealand Pacific Jade hop pellets
1.4 grams per gallon U.K. Target hop pellets
1.4 grams per gallon New Mexico Hatch mild green chilies (dried and crushed)
1.4 grams per gallon crushed cinnamon stick
Pacific Jade is a newer hop variety from New Zealand, we first used it in the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (How much more black could that beer be? The answer is none. None more black.) We just love the pineapple, citrusy, and spicy herbal flavors it contributes. UK Target is a high alpha English hop that provides both a characteristic English earthy hop character and hints of Orange Marmalade and Tangerine. We used this hop in our Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.
The dried crushed chilies we got from Biad Chile in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We went with the mild version, not hot, because we really wanted the wonderful flavor without a lot of heat. The varieties are a blend of NM 6-4, AZ-20 and AZ-19, and are referred to as “Anaheim type” chilies, even though they come from New Mexico. So if you can’t find New Mexico mild green chilies, perhaps dried and crushed Anaheim chilies would be an acceptable substitute.
The chilies and cinnamon stick we put in a mesh bag and hung in the whirlpool. The addition rate is fairly low. To paraphrase our lab tech Rick Blankemeier, we didn’t want to brew a chili beer, we wanted to brew a great beer with chilies. The low addition rate allows all the other ingredients to blend in. You can taste the chilies, but this is far from a one-dimensional beer. Be sure to bust up the cinnamon stick into small pieces to maximize flavor extraction.
The whirlpool step is where you separate out your proteinaceous trub. This is called, in brewing techno-speak, the “trub break.” An appropriate song choice here could be Spinal Tap’s “Break Like The Wind.”
Yeast Addition: Pitch a Belgian yeast strain, enough to get 20-25 million cells per milliliter (requires a starter). We used the Wyeast 3220 Flanders Golden strain. This strain produces a lot of banana esters, which we found blended really well with the cinnamon flavors.
After the trub has been separated from the wort, chill the wort using an immersion chiller or a heat exchanger to about 65 °F. Add enough yeast to get a cell count of about 20-25 million cells per milliliter. We used a fairly high pitching rate (yeast addition rate) here, because we wanted to ferment at a lower temperature but still ensure the beer fermented out completely. This means that you will most likely have to build up your yeast culture at home using a starter. We fermented the Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale at 68°F to maximize fruity ester formation and minimize the clove/spicy flavor formations, which form at higher levels with warmer Belgian yeast fermentation temperatures.
One thing about this yeast: it’s a powerhouse and ferments well below normal gravity limits. In this case, we formulated the beer to finish out between 4 and 4.5°P, but the yeast took it down to about 2.5°P, which resulted in 9.4% abv.
By the time you are pitching, your brew day is just about complete….so you can spin some “All The Way Home,” the very first Spinal Tap song co-written by musical geniuses Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins.
After fermentation completes (should finish between 2.5 and 3°P), chill the beer down to about 35°F or so, and let it sit until the beer clarifies, at least one week.
Package the beer as normal.
Perhaps now is the time to start celebrating your successful brew, and celebrate by pondering the wonderful mysteries of brewing, a mysterious art which we now know was started in ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, by an ancient race of people… the Druids…. at their mystical brewing site “Stonehenge.” Nobody knows who taught the Druids how to brew, but their legacy lives on. Enjoy your brew day!
Try your hand at brewing all of the Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Homebrew recipes for each can be found at:
This beer started out as a pilot brew that we brewed for our annual company picnic. The original plan was to brew a Belgian style Quadruple with triticale (a cross of wheat and rye), and call the beer Quadrotriticale-a totally geeky reference to the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” When brew day came, we decided on the fly to brew a Strong Belgian Golden Ale instead-to better evaluate the flavors of triticale, and then changed our minds again and added some dried chamomile flowers on the back end in the whirlpool, just because we had tasted a similar beer before and thought it sounded good! The beer was a hit at our picnic, so we fully intended to brew this chamomile-spiced Strong Belgian Golden Ale as the Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale.
The idea of brewing a Belgian Imperial Porter was something that we had discussed a few times in the past few years, especially after taste panel sessions that had included Belgian Imperial Stouts and Belgian Black beers. Roasted malts and the spicy, fruity flavors from Belgian yeast strains combine surprisingly well, provided proper balance is maintained in the recipe. And we thought an Imperial Porter, with an intense chocolate malt character, might be a fun, and a bit different, version of a Belgian dark ale to try.
You may not have heard, but we have a really cool homebrew competition happening on Saturday, March 21st in the Gardens. It’s part of an American Homebrewer’s Association Rally we’re holding that day to get more people to join the AHA. By joining that day for $33 you get all the cool perks for being a member, but you also get to judge at our homebrew competition. This one has a really cool twist though, the winner of this homebrew competition gets the chance to brew their creation on our system and have it served here. Deciding such a fate for a single homebrew is quite a bit of power to wield, and with how great our local homebrew scene is – a damn delicious way to spend a Saturday if I say so. Hope to see you there! Get all the nitty gritty details here…
If you’ve been to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, you’ve probably noticed that we have an entire acre of completely organic, fully sustainable Gardens attached to the Bistro. Some refer to them as our “Beer Gardens,” not knowing just how accurate that label really is. Truth is, we maintain our Gardens using by-products from the brewing process, resulting in real honest to goodness “Beer Gardens.”
Maintaining such a large expanse of Gardens is no easy task. So how do we do it? Meet Chili, Stone’s resident botanical wizard, and the keeper of our beautiful Gardens (he earned his nickname because he grows chilies and likes his food HOT). By reusing by-products from our Brewery and Bistro, and utilizing a few clever gardening techniques, Chili maintains our Gardens using nothing but what Mother Nature provides.
I recently caught up with Chili in his natural environment, which he lovingly refers to as his “cage.” While it’s true it isn’t exactly a window office, his “cage” is actually a fenced-off, covered storage area wedged between the Gardens and the Bistro kitchen where he keeps his desk and all of his gardening tools. Despite the jokes, Chili is quite fond of his decidedly unconventional office, and I get the sense that he prefers it to a view of Fifth Avenue. Actually, the real reason we keep Chili in a cage is to contain his unbridled passion for gardening (I apologize for that one, I couldn’t resist).
I stopped by just as Chili was preparing to plant a few early yield tomatoes, and he was kind enough to share some of his secrets with me. He explained that the most important step in maintaining a healthy perma-culture is mixing the proper soil. He then divulged his secret recipe:
Chili’s Spent Grain Topsoil Recipe
Chili’s proprietary (patent pending) soil blend works wonders in our Gardens, contributing to a fruitful year-round harvest. We’ve also noticed it makes the food taste better, due to the proliferation of essential micro-nutrients that petrochemical fertilized foods lack.
When I asked Chili why he uses spent grain from the brewery in his soil recipe instead of another fertilizer, he responded with a straight-faced “because it’s there.” I promptly reminded him that gardening is no laughing matter, and he gave me the real reason. Apparently the spent grain flourishes in the soil, creating an abundance of microbial activity and general liveliness. Chili also emphasized that it’s time proven. He’s been using spent grain since his days as a gardener at Pizza Port, and it’s worked wonders time and again.
Spent grain isn’t the only brewing by-product that Chili recycles. He also snatches up the used oak chips that we use to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale. These lovely, odoriferous chips not only have a beautiful deep silky brown color, but they retain their alluring bourbony smell for about a week. Chili puts them to use as a decorative top layer, propagating the pleasing smell and thick brown sheen of OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale throughout our Gardens. Their purpose isn’t solely decorative, however, as their acidity helps neutralize the alkaline properties of the decomposed granite that makes up our natural topsoil.
Our Gardens are proof that sustainable gardening works. Aside from the occasional use of manure, Chili procures everything he needs for the Gardens here at the Brewery. He takes what would normally be discarded and sent to a landfill and re-uses it to create a vibrant, flourishing perma-culture. So the next time you see Chili sipping on an after shift beer or tending to the Gardens, be sure to raise him a glass on a job well done.
If you want to learn more about our Gardens, the plants therein, and lessons that could translate to your own garden, join us for “A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman” on March 15th from 1-3pm. Nan is a popular speaker at garden shows, botanical gardens, garden clubs, and botanical societies throughout the State, and she’ll provide insight into how we “created an imaginative garden from an ugly, hole-in-the-ground sedimentation basin.”
Check out the flickr set: Gardening Stone-style with Chili