All About Our Yeast: Part Deux

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

Gone, but in no way forgotten (guys as extraordinary as our former media and communications linchpin are impossible to forget), Randy Clemens is returning with a special edition Stone Blog post to close-out his two part series on Stone Brewing Co.’s yeast. Enjoy!

When we last left off, you’ll recall that we’d taken a trip down to see our friends at White Labs to learn a bit more about the unsung hero of our beer: the Stone yeast strain. We got to see where the yeast was stored and how it was cared for, but what happens once it gets into our hands?

Stone's yeast strain under 40x magnification at a 2x dilution from a batch of fermenting IPA.

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All About Our Yeast: Part One

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

Y’know… it seems like hops get a heck of a lot of attention for their delightfully flavorful contributions to our awesome beers. Rightly deserved, but there’s a little unsung hero that we feel is finally due some credit: our yeast strain.

A plate of Stone Brewing Co. yeast colonies at White Labs

BOW BEFORE SACCHAROMYCES CEREVISIAE! Wha.. No! We were kidding! Get up!

To tell the truth, my favorite part of putting together our book—The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance—with Steve and Greg was getting the low-down on where the Stone yeast strain came from. You see, when a mommy and daddy yeast cell love each other very much… no, not really. (They don’t even get to have that much fun; yeast cells reproduce asexually through a process called budding… but I digress.) Our yeast’s ultimate origins were told to me by Steve, and I laughed my ass off when he told me the story. From the aforementioned book, I quoteth:

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2012 GABF: We Loved You

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

Great American Beer Festival… the name says it all. Heck, I’ll go out on a limb and say those four words strung together in that order is darn near poetic. Every year, many of the nation’s greatest breweries descend upon Denver for a three-day beer-a-thon, much to the delight of the ecstatic 49,000+ attendees that are lucky enough to nab tickets.

Beyond pouring about 36,000 gallons of beer (check out some other cool GABF stats from the Brewers Association), this is also the premier beer judging competition for U.S. brewers. And while we don’t always walk away festooned with shiny medals, we ALWAYS have a damn good time. This year was no exception. Though we did get some neat-o awards!

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Stone Vertical Epic Ale: Going Out In Style

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

They say all good things come to an end. And as much as it pains me to admit it, I think they’re right. Unfair? Absolutely! Especially while some of the most awful atrocities refuse to go away. (Can you believe that Kenny G is still churning out new CDs?)

But enough about the bad. Let’s focus on the good… the REALLY good. I’m talkin bout Stone Vertical Epic Ale. Travel back in time with me to February 2nd, 2002, before someone inexplicably thought to give Dr. Phil his own show when the groundbreaking Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale came to be. The premise was visionary, and hadn’t ever been tried with beer before. Eleven beers in total—each one with its own unique twist and turn in the saga—were to be released one year, one month, and one day after the previous edition (i.e. 03.03.03, 04.04.04, etc.), with the intention of aging them all until at least December 12, 2012, when the series would officially draw to an end with its final delicious release: Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale.

Did a little light go off in your brain to make you look at your calendar just now? You’re right, that is, like, two months away! So, what are we planning to do? Go gentle into that good night? Hell naw! We’re Stone! And as usual, we’ve got BIG plans…

Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale label

The end of an era

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Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

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.

Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

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Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF Homebrew Recipe

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

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.)

Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF bottle

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.

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An unsolicited delivery of solicited advice for the next generation

The Stone Blog -- by Greg Koch

No secret that school gets back in session for most of the country about now. No matter if you are a student yourself, or have kids going to school, you could not have possibly missed annual barrage of Back to School ads, promos, sales, and such. You know, the annual tradition that begins barking to us in the dog days of August as an unwelcome reminder that in a few preciously short more weeks summer will be drawing to a close. August also, oddly, seems to spawn forth the release of seasonal (?) pumpkin beers, which at this point have already been on the shelves for several weeks. But the process of getting them there started much, much earlier.

With an average brewing time presumably in the 2-3 week range, after which they are then stockpiled and sent to wholesalers around the country to eventually hit retailers’ shelves by—in some seasonally-challenged instances—early- to mid- August. That means that while you were only a month or so into your summer tan and more concerned with your beer-geek friends critiquing you for pouring your local brewery’s summer wheat into a freezer-kept mug (after all, it’s so damn hot today right? Well, I actually agree with them…), your favorite pumpkin ale brewer was taking delivery of massive loads of pumpkin and working on their posters reading “Get Yours Today!!” (complete with fallen leaves, dried cornstalks and other autumnal imagery that Mother Nature will be catching up with three months later).

It’s the way of the world. Hell, I remember one summer many many years ago in Los Angeles I was dating a girl that was a personal assistant to Neil Diamond, and I recall her bemoaning that she was growing sick of hearing the Christmas songs he was working on recording for his upcoming holiday release. (Never mind that Neil is Jewish; I thought the end result was a great effort.) And y’know, I never have really forgiven myself for not taking at least enough advantage of that previous relationship to swing by the offices for a pic and an autograph.

Anywho. While you were diving into the pool / lake / river / ocean / sprinklers / hydrant in the middle of the summer, your fall sweaters are receiving their final stitching in China and Bangladesh. Or thereabouts.

But I digress. We were talking about Back to School, which, as I haven’t managed to get to yet but will now, reminded me of my relatively recent commencement speech I gave to the 2012 graduating class at Cuyamaca College just a few short months ago. Why would anyone ask me to give a Commencement speech one might reasonably ask? Well, the previous spring I’d been invited to give an environmental keynote to a Green Business Symposium that was being held on the campus, and I guess they liked my message. And delivery. I’d hoped they did, but I admittedly get a little bombastic at times, especially if it’s a topic that I care about, and I was pretty certain that I was either going to eventually get invited to give another talk perhaps, or politely asked never to set foot on campus again. Fortunately it was the former, but I hadn’t expected to get elevated to Commencement-delivery status. I was honored. And gave an enthusiastic Yes!

But what would I say to a group of students about to head out into the quote-unquote “real world”? As I contemplated my own graduation some 25 years previous (not that I can even recall who gave my university’s commencement or any of the words of wisdom that they gave unfortunately), I tried to think about what I wish I’d been told when I was handed my degree, and the pen just couldn’t stop flowing. The proverbial pen, that is. I actually used my laptop, as I am now.

Anyway, I think I did OK, if I may say so myself. And I really enjoyed getting a chance to share my thoughts and perspectives with the young and not-so-young minds (Cuyamaca is quite delightfully diverse, with graduating students from the 2012 class ranging from a brilliant 18 year old, and an equally-inspiriational-but-in-a-different-way octogenarian gearing up to take their next step. Since then, I’ve seen some nice feedback from a snippet of my speech that was posted by the college, and I thought, well heck! Why not share my thoughts with the world? Or at least the thin slice of the world that’s represented by you, my dear readers.

Yes, some people might disagree or scrunch their noses at some of my suggestions, but that’s alright as it’s quite impossible to say anything that’s worth saying at all without at least a modest percentage of scrunched noses… so if you feel inclined, please do scrunch away. While I may not agree with the scrunching of your nose, I will defend to the death your right to scrunch it. Or something. No matter. I wrote it for those who, like me, are rarely satisfied with the status quo… those who are always looking for ways to innovate, improvise, and improve along the way. If you’re of that cloth, feel free to read on. And if you’re not, you may benefit from reading it most.

So, without further delay, mention of sweaters, Christmas albums from Jewish singers, August onslaughts of pumpkin beers, or other asides, here is the text of my 2012 Cuyamaca College Commencement Speech:

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Stone Enjoy By IPA

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

We take a lot of things seriously here at Stone. (Not ourselves.) Freshness is definitely one of them. You see, as beer ages, the first thing that starts to fade is the flavor and aroma contributed by the hops. The olfactory glory that they impart is extremely volatile, and from the moment the beer finishes fermenting, the hop character starts to go bye bye, and unfortunately, there’s just no bringing it back.

Of course, there are things you can do to help prolong the hoppy goodness, like protecting your almighty beer from light and keeping it cool. (We store and ship all of our beer under refrigeration, btw.) Under regular conditions, we’ve tasted our beers at different intervals and found that they still taste just as great as we originally intended as much as 90 days after bottling. This finding, coupled with our unrelenting commitment to freshness, enticed us to begin laser-etching enjoy by dates on each bottle. With that process, we also instituted new measures that allow our wonderful fans, like yourself, to report expired beer. We love our beer, and we want to make sure it’s fresh!

But then, we thought, “Hey! Why not brew a big double IPA that is meant to be consumed even fresher? Why not put a date right up on the front of the bottle, and gave it a MUCH shorter shelf life?” It wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t be able to go everywhere. But it would be damn delicious, and it would be a mighty interesting undertaking. Sure, we discussed it in a few more meetings, but by this time, we’d already talked ourselves into it: the concept for Stone Enjoy By IPA was born.

Stone Enjoy By IPA

Stone Enjoy By IPA -- so fresh and so clean clean! (Photo by StudioSchulz.com)

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Stone 16th Anniversary IPA

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

As you may recall, we celebrated our true 16th anniversary just a few weeks ago. (On July 26th, to be exact.) And of course we’ve been kind enough to politely remind you about the upcoming Stone 16th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival. (On August 17-18, to be exact.) But what kind of anniversary celebration would it be without a new libation, amirite?

In keeping with our yearly tradition of making an excellent beer to ring in our happy day of birth, our stellar brewing crew is proud to present the deliciously hoppy Stone 16th Anniversary IPA. It’s actually a double IPA (don’t pretend to be surprised) spiked with a touch of lemon verbena and lemon oil, which Brewmaster Mitch Steele tells us “combines wonderfully with the peach and tropical mango flavors from the Amarillo hops, and with the apple and berry notes from the Calypso hops.”

Stone 16th Anniversary IPA (photo by StudioSchulz.com)

Stone 16th Anniversary IPA... it's like a lemon party for your mouth. (photo by StudioSchulz.com)

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Ground Breaking Ceremony: Stone Packaging Hall

Stone Brewing Co. Blog -- by Randy Clemens

Just like the universe, we’re expanding. All the time. You may recall from our big announcements back in May 2011 that we were embarking on a $50M+ expansion plan to include several new adventures including: Stone Farms, Stone Catering, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, and arguably the coolest of all, the Stone Hotel. While some of those super sweet items have already been completed and others (like the Liberty Station restaurant and hotel) have been slightly delayed, we’re very excited to announce that ground has officially been broken on the brand new Stone Packaging Hall!

So what does that mean for you? Simple: MORE BEER. You see, we’ve been working ’round the clock to get our new 120bbl brewhouse installed next to our current one, but it’s displaced quite a few fermentation tanks. The bottom line? We’re running out of room!

Stone Packaging Hall renderings

Stone Packaging Hall renderings

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