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!
It seems like we say this every twelve months (probably because we do), but this has been a huge year for us at Stone. Perhaps the biggest yet. Things never slow down here, and that’s the way we like it. Truth be told, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we had a spare moment! So a heartfelt thank you goes out to each and every one of our fans for ensuring we maintain the breakneck pace we’ve become so accustomed to.
Despite our infatuation with constant rapid progress, we feel compelled to take a moment, be it ever so brief, to reflect on the year gone by. A lot happened in our brewhouse, at our restaurant, in our community and beyond. This was a very good year, one that should be fully remembered for years to come. In that spirit, we submit to you, our valued fans, a retrospective of 2012 at Stone.
Do I attend a grandiose meet-the-brewer dinner, an outrageous vertical tasting, a one-time only beer release or a massive total tap takeover? From November 2 through 11, this will be the sort of daily dilemma plaguing beer enthusiasts as San Diego Beer Week saturates America’s Finest City. With hundreds of events and 10 days to take it all in, we realize advanced scheduling is a must. Submitted for your calendaring pleasure is the full slate of SDBW events taking place at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
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.
Alas, the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is over. All 495 competing breweries have packed their beers and headed home, some with shiny pieces of bling dangling from their necks (or if you’re Jeff Bagby, A LOT of bling), others sans bling but with the bolstered pride that comes from wowing thousands of beer fans with their delicious creations. Ken Schmidt happened to be part of the latter camp, and although he didn’t win in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF, he came away with his head held high from the insane buzz that Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter generated. He called me during the fest to relay the results of the Pro-Am and left this message:
Just like at the Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival, Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter was the object of bountiful adoration. It was the first keg to blow at the Pro-Am table, and it generated the longest lines. Ken said that he had a blast competing in the GABF, but it was only part of the exhilarating journey that began with his victory at our homebrewing competition back in March. “Competing in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF was thrilling,” Ken said, “but being chosen by my brewing peers and the panel of eight from Stone (to help brew the Pro-Am selection with Stone) holds the greatest excitement for me. It has been a wonderful journey.”
We anticipate our next AHA Rally and homebrewing competition will be some time in March. Sign up for our homebrewing email newsletter for updates. When I talked to Ken on Monday, he said that he’s already brainstorming some more special brews to share. If they’re anything like his Aloha Plenty, we’ll be giddily awaiting their appearance.
Monday night we had a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) send-off party in the Bistro for Ken Schmidt, the gifted home brewer behind the Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter recipe. Local beer enthusiasts came by to wish Ken luck and to taste some of the delectable beer he’ll be competing with in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF. Word on the street is that the beer is maturing nicely, with the coffee notes prevailing in the beginning and the coconut and macadamia nut coming on later as the beer warms up. Some starry-eyed beer geeks were so impressed with the beer and its creator that they even asked Ken to sign their bottles—proof that Ken is a bone-fide beer-lebrity now.
Word spread so fast about the deliciousness of the revered brew that all the cases allocated to the Stone Company Store sold out by 7pm Monday night. The beer only enjoyed a brief 8 hours of shelf life before every last bottle found it’s way into the anxious hands of local beer enthusiasts. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens also drained their allocated keg, so don’t expect to get it here any time soon (we are sometimes able to squirrel away a little for special appearances, so keep your eyes peeled for it in the future). Lest you now feel in the depths of despair, here’s some good news: we’re still distributing the beer to certain lucky locales, and we put together a list of places where you can find it. Southern and Northern California, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, Massachusetts, Washington, New York, and Colorado will all be getting some eventually, but it may not arrive until as late as mid-October, so ask your local specialty bottle shop and be patient. Our collaboration brews are notoriously low yield and extremely limited in availability, so count your blessings if you’re in one of the above locations.
If you are fortunate enough to find Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, then raise a glass to Ken for fashioning such divine nectar, and wish him luck at the GABF!
Editor’s Note: Here are Mitch’s tasting notes for our upcoming collaboration brew, Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. You’ll be able to judge the flavor profile for yourself when the beer starts hitting shelves (in very limited quantities!) on September 21. Until then, enjoy Mitch’s take on this delicious brew!
Deep brown, opaque with a creamy light brown head of foam.
Intense Kona Coffee combined with chocolate malts. The toasted coconut is also prominent, and when combined with the coffee and roasted malts, helps make this beer’s aroma reminiscent of a chocolate macaroon!
Coconut is more intense in the flavor with the coffee notes fading a bit to the background. Roasted chocolate malt and fruity esters make more of an impact here also, and the finish is where the macadamia nuts come in. It’s amazing how the flavor changes as this beer travels across the palate, and how all three of the special ingredients make their presence known in different stages.
Full bodied, rich and luscious. It is simply incredible how smooth and silky this beer is.
This is just an amazing beer to taste. The 3 special ingredients, Kona Coffee, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts combine wonderfully, and come across at three distinct stages of tasting this beer. Just a wonderful beer to relax with and drink slowly, especially while thinking about the islands!
When I think of Hawaii, I think of the usual clichés: tropical beaches, hula dancers, sunburned tourists with fanny packs, coup-d’états by fruit corporations (true story), and pit-roasted pork. I certainly don’t think of craft beer. However, I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I realize my cartoonish perception of the islands is almost completely influenced by clever marketing campaigns and ill-informed pop culture references (Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii, anyone?). Truth is, Hawaii does have great beer (as evident by Maui’s CoCoNut Porter & Kona’s Pipeline Porter), but all of the exotic flavors of the islands are under-represented in craft beer. Thankfully, talented homebrewer and Hawaii lover, Ken Schmidt, is helping to change that.
Remember when Ken won our March Madness Competition at our AHA Rally with his Aloha Plenty Porter? Well, we were stoked to brew with Ken and replicate his decadent creation on a larger scale, and Greg got the bright idea to invite Garrett Marerro from Maui Brewing Co. to join in on the collaboration and bring his CoCoNut Porter brewing expertise to the table. Garrett agreed to come on board, and thus the beer officially became Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter.
As Mitch started converting the recipe, he was blown away by the ingredients required. Not only were they going to be ridiculously expensive, but he had no idea where he was going to get 1,000 lbs. of coconut, 300 lbs. of macadamia nuts, and 200 lbs. of 100% Kona Coffee. The easy answer would have been to use cheap extracts and adjuncts, but as you know—we don’t take shortcuts. Fortunately, Garrett hooked us up with the same distributor that his company uses for ingredients, and gave us some pointers on how to toast the coconut and make sure the right amount of flavor is imparted into the beer.
Our collaborations are usually between three brewers, but this time there was a fourth player that deserves some credit. Our Bistro team put in some long hard hours toasting 1,000 lbs. of coconut in our relatively tiny oven in the Bistro Kitchen, a process that spanned four eight-hour shifts. When Garrett heard of the Bistro staff’s contribution, he cringed and said “I hope someone’s buying those guys beers!”
After spending several weeks accruing all the rare ingredients, it finally came time to brew the beer on June 29th. However, preparing all the ingredients took way longer than expected, and we even came up short on steeping bags (think giant tea bags). In the true spirit of collaboration, Garrett enlisted the aid of another local brewery to resolve our steeping bag shortage: “I said ‘Hey call Green Flash,’ and sure enough they had a bunch they could lend to us, so we went and picked ‘em up. We wouldn’t have been able to get the coconut and the coffee and everything in there if we hadn’t gotten those bags, so the collaboration reaches really far beyond just us.”
The brewers decided to load all 22 steeping bags into the whirlpool, which resulted in a near-comical, yet delicious display of flailing steeping bags full of ingredients tethered to the manway, flopping around in a tangled mess as they bestowed their delectable flavors upon the beer.
Despite a few minor hiccups (and a hell of a time removing the incredibly heavy saturated steeping bags), the brew went through the brewhouse spectacularly and is now fermenting. So what happens next? According to Mitch, the beer will go through a dry-hopping process of sorts, in which more Kona Coffee, macadamia nuts, and toasted coconut will be added to the beer post-fermentation.
Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter is unlike anything we’ve ever brewed here at Stone, and Ken, Garrett, and Mitch all had an awesome time brewing it. The day after brewing, Ken seemed to have an excitement hangover: “It’s one of those rare days in a person’s life that’s really extra special, and when you’re coming down you can’t quite take it all in quick enough.”
Expect to see Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on shelves in late August or early September.
Our friends Chris and Jared over at the Local Brew just finished editing a video they filmed on Friday for our next collaboration release, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner…
While we’re talking about collaborations, Garret Marrero from Maui Brewing accepted our invitation on lending a hand to help brew Aloha Plenty. If you haven’t kept up on the blog, Aloha Plenty is Ken Schmidt’s homebrew that won our 2009 AHA Rally Homebrew Competition. Since this is a collaboration between Ken Schmidt, Mitch Steele and Garrett Marrero – we’ve green lighted this beer as another part of our collaboration series. That’s right, the full treatment of not only being brewed on our system and served on draft, but also bottled for nationwide distribution. There is one difference in this collaboration though, this won’t exactly be a meld of each brewer’s creativity. Instead, Mitch and Garrett will be taking a supporting role in helping Ken keep his homebrewed masterpiece true to the original when being brewed on a large scale. Aloha Plenty is a Robust Porter made with Kona Coffee, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. I was lucky enough to taste it during the AHA Rally judging and was impressed on how each one of these ingredients were present in both the aroma and the flavor the whole way through. You’re in for a real treat, but then again – I’m talking about something way down the road that we haven’t even brewed yet. Oh well, at least you’ll have an amazing Black Pilsner to help pass the time before that collaboration comes down the pike.
Stone and homebrewers go way back. We’ve been hosting the monthly meetings of the local homebrew club, The Society of Barley Engineers, since 1996—back before we even had any tanks in our original building in San Marcos. To this day they still meet the first Wednesday of every month upstairs in the Bistro (the Barley Literates also meet in our Bistro). We’ve also offered up many of our recipes for homebrewers to attempt their own versions of our beers, including our Vertical Epic Challenge, which challenges homebrewers to brew clones of our various Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Steve Wagner, our Co-founder and Brewmaster, even got his start as a homebrewer:
Needless to say, we understand the importance of the homebrewing community. That’s why we’ve hosted an American Homebrewers Association Membership Rally every year since we opened the Bistro. Aside from bolstering the ranks of the AHA, these rallies provide a casual forum for homebrewers to share each other’s creations, chat with professional brewers, and bond with other homebrewers. Our rallies keep getting bigger and better every year.
When it came time to plan this year’s AHA Membership Rally, we decided to up the ante on our homebrewing competition. This time the winning brew would be brewed on our system to be served here at Stone. With the strength of our local homebrew scene, we knew the response would be phenomenal—and it was. Members of So. Cal. homebrew clubs delivered twenty-three incredibly tasty brews, along with four outstanding brews submitted by individual homebrewers.
We were quite pleased by the strong showing of enthusiastic homebrewers. According to AHA Director, Gary Glass, this was the biggest AHA Rally EVER in terms of RSVP’s and new members. That’s a stat to be proud of, and with the help of local homebrewers we’ll top that next year.
Homebrewers came from near and far to take part in the blind tasting and cast their vote for their favorite. Many drove several hours from neighboring counties to participate, but long time Stone fans Roberto and Jade Saldivar had them beat. They trekked all the way from Dublin, CA, (near San Francisco), where they are part of a homebrew club called Mad Zymurgists. Roberto and Jade displayed true dedication by making the long trip down to one of their “favorite places in the world” just to attend the rally. Noticing my age, they jokingly added “We’ve been Stone fans since way before you were here.”
As the polls closed, four beers emerged as fan favorites. Many attendees were impressed by Eric Holden’s The Event Horizon, an innovative Vanilla and Peppercorn Imperial Russian Stout, as well as Jeremy Jerome’s Admiral Nelson—a tasty Rye IPA. Attendees also delighted in Brad Sayles’s Kalifornien Kolsch, a refreshing take on a Kolsch beer, and Ken Schmidt’s fantastic Aloha Plenty Porter with Kona Coffee, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. After tallying all the votes, it turned out these were the top four beers.
Once the final four were determined, an all-star Stone tasting panel began the difficult task of judging the winner of Stone’s March Madness Competition. The panel consisted of Stone CEO Greg Koch, Head Brewer Mitch Steele, Beverage Coordinator “Dr.” Bill Sysak, Brewer Jeremy Moynier, Web Programmer (and member of Quaff) Bill Sobieski, Packaging Supervisor Kris Ketcham, Art Director Mike Palmer, and Marketing Director Chris Cochran.
All four beers were expertly crafted, but only one could prevail. After several minutes of tense deliberation, Ken Schmidt’s Aloha Plenty surfaced as the clear winner. Mitch Steele announced the four finalists, and then presented Ken Schmidt as the winner. Ken was psyched to claim the grand prize. “I had been thinking about the recipe for six years, said Ken, “but it was Garrett’s (Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing Co.) Coconut Porter that inspired me to go ahead with it. I wanted to brew something that infuses all of the elements of the islands and captures their essence.”
Mitch Steele was impressed with Ken’s Aloha Plenty, calling it “a phenomenal beer.” He’s looking forward to brewing it with Ken (and possibly Garret) here at Stone. “We’ll have to figure out how to toast a lot of coconut and get our hands on a lot of macadamia nuts,” he said, “but I think it’s going to be great.”
As promised, Ken will have the chance to brew his Aloha Plenty on our system to be served here, so watch out for it on tap in the Bistro. Also, because the brew had previously won a Beer Judge Certificate Program sanctioned homebrew competition, we’re submitting it to compete in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF. To top it off, Greg Koch hinted at a possible three-way collaboration with Ken, Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co. and Mitch Steele. Ken was all smiles, admitting that “it will be so cool to brew on Stone’s system.”
We were blown away by the quality of all the submissions. Our local homebrewers are arguably some of the best in the nation, and they once again proved that they’re capable of producing amazing beers. We can’t wait for next year’s AHA Rally, but in the meantime, head over to the AHA website to become a member and join some of the most prestigious homebrewers in the nation. Cheers to Ken for a job well done, and congrats to the runners-up. All the beers were phenomenal, but if you didn’t get a chance to taste Ken’s Aloha Plenty at the rally, you missed out. You don’t want to miss it again, so stay tuned for the upcoming collaboration, and get ready to taste “the essence of the islands.”
Check out the AHA Rally flickr set