Looking Back (& Forward): Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival

We put in a full year of planning, effort and beer wrangling to make the annual Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival the best and biggest it can be. Considering it’s the largest annual beer fest on the West Coast, we’re inclined to believe we do a hell of a job. We just wish it didn’t go by so quick. In less than 24 hours, we blow through 364 days’ worth of work and just about as many (but even more) kegs! Take, for instance, this year. Over 50 breweries from around the country showed up and brought 187 beers. And that’s all in addition to the 50 Stone beers we busted out to celebrate 18 years in the craft brewing biz! It was the kind of fete we wished every fan that helped us get to this ripe (young?) age could have participated in. But alas, even with nearly 8,000 tickets sold (and more than a quarter million dollars raised for charity, thank you very much), some will only experience this special day via this blog post. So, we’re going to go as in depth as possible so those who couldn’t make it know what to expect when they hopefully come out next year, and those who did join us can have fun reliving the Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.

The crowd for the first session began building outside the festival gates at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) around 10 a.m. Thirty minutes later, that already sizeable mass had doubled. That was when we wisely opened the gates before chants of beer depravation began and people broke out their pitchforks. The space we had taken over this year was much bigger than last year thanks to recent expansions on the CSUSM campus. Sprawling across three levels and across nearly 300,000 square feet, the now placated fans had space to spare and plenty of room in which to expand their beer horizons. But even with so much acreage, the festival grounds were chocked full of revelers within the first 10 minutes (even with Russian River Brewing Company taking on the lion’s share of the initial onslaught of fest-goers thanks to dual tappings of Pliny the Elder and a pluot sour ale called Compunction). The festival was laid out so attendees could get plenty of food, music and shade on each level. Each tier was set up like its very own mini-festival, with visitors to the Rare Beer Tent being serenaded by acoustic artists Jimmy and Enrique with Steve’s Cigar Lounge setup right nextdoor. (Quite the irresistible combo, no?) Down the hall from that center of hedonistic connoisseurship was an assortment of 18 other brewery booths, including our own Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, as well as the Steph Johnson Band, who set up a smooth, folksy backdrop perfect for enjoying good times, good beer and the ever-popular Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings. (There was even a surprising side of ketchup…shh, we won’t tell if you won’t.). The Surfrider Foundation even set up a sunscreen booth for those of you who forgot it at home. Fortunately the sun seemed powerless to snuff out our fans’ craft beer enthusiasm…but we supplied roving Ambassadors with sun-brellas nonetheless! And that was just one level!

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The middle level of the festival (the largest of the three) housed tons of food and other delights, like our Hop Wagons, mobile beer-serving vehicles featuring the Hop Fiend. There were plenty of ale-infused snacks ranging from Arrogant Bastard Ale brownies to Stone Imperial Russian Stout ice cream, spring rolls to sausages and Mike’s Beer Cheese to home-brewed sodas (courtesy of the Society of Barley Engineers), so even the pickiest of eaters was bound to be satisfied (if the whole wide array of special beers thing didn’t do that in the first place). Conversations on beer and food pairings narrowly beat out discussions on sensory evaluation (with more than a few #PairedWith scenarios shared). Bottom line, this crowd was as knowledgeable as it was fun, and that was both and cool and gratifying for us. This level also included 12 cask beers our Brew Crew spent the past month developing just for this event. Combinations like Stone Smoked Porter w/Cacao Nibs, Pistachios, Peaches & African Basil; Stone Runiation IPA w/Pink Peppercorns, Lemongrass & Nelson Hops and Stone Go To IPA w/Lemon Zest & Vanilla.

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The lower level featured two more bands, Mohavi Soul and Stone’s house band The Flocculators, which received a sonic boost when professional guitarist and Stone collaborator, Keri Kelli (of Kyle Hollingsworth/Keri Kelli/Stone Collective Distortion IPA fame) joined Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his crew on stage in a different sort of collaborative effort. The music paired well with the beer, which, was in fact, in the Collaboration Court along with numerous other new and archived collaborations from the past several years.

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Even with all that, by far the most interesting part of the festival, in our opinion, were the people who joined us and made the event all that it turned out to be. The event space was massive, but without fans of quality craft beer to fill it, it would have meant nothing! Each year, we’re happy to give everyone a celebration that is as much about craft beer as it is the people who love it. That includes those who go the extra mile. Even though our Stone DyeHards philanthropic campaign didn’t happen this year (don’t worry, the charities that would have benefited were included in the Anniversary Celebration donations and we’ll bring back DyeHards for our 20th anniversary!) there was a noticeable presence of blue-haired beer enthusiasts. In addition to the people with oddly colored hair, there were droves of beach-themed groups, neon yellow shirted attendees and even a few people with an entirely plaid ensemble. And, as always, the brewery t-shirts outnumbered everything else. We even set up a temporary tattoo station for a less permanent show of support.

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The second session played out much like the first, with an equally enthusiastic (and bizarrely dressed) crowd, and by 6 p.m., a thoroughly pleased horde dispersed happy and even more at peace with the spirit of American craft brewing affection. But us…we were already thinking about our 19th Anniversary Celebration as we tore down and cleaned up after the big one-eight. Next year’s, almost assuredly will be bigger and better. We hope you can make it out to celebrate. In the meantime, keep enjoying craft beer and celebrating each day like it’s something special (because it is). And keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media accounts to find out when tickets to next year’s celebration go on sale.

Anything But Just Another IPA: Beachwood/Heretic/Stone Unapologetic IPA

We can see the headlines now: Stone makes another IPA! The world is shocked at such a divergence from a company that hardly ever explores hoppy beer styles. Yes, that’s sarcasm! Obviously, no one will be shocked to discover we’re making yet another aggressive IPA. We’ve never tried to hide our lust for hops. Heck, we freely fly our hophead flag. But we’re sure the question will arise. Stone has already made a bunch of IPAs, so why make another. Isn’t the already lupulin-obsessed market saturated with hoppy beers? And who says the world needs another IPA, anyway? We do!

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Follow the Leader: Who Was Your #CraftBeerShepherd?

It’s easy to look at craft beer as some sort of underground club, with all of the secret passwords (Reinheitsgebot?) and acronyms (IBU, OG and CO2 to name a few). Plus, you know some particularly beer geeky bottle-shares must have unique and complicated (if not completely dorky) handshakes. But once you get into the world of beer, it isn’t so intimidating. The hardest part is becoming aware that the world of craft beer exists at all. Having a guide already privy to the lingo, hot spots and best brews makes things a lot easier. Nearly every craft beer fan has a good-hearted shepherd to thank for taking the time to expose them to something better, and we want to recognize these people for the good they do. To put it simply, by selflessly guiding people toward the promised land, they make the world a better place. That’s why we’re asking you to take a moment to call them out for their good deeds on social media. Go online and tell us who showed you the light by telling your story and tagging them on Facebook or calling them out on Twitter using #craftbeershepherd. When doing so, take a second and ponder where you would you be without them—perhaps falling for gimmicks like Vortex bottles, black crowns, crafty branding and subsisting solely on American adjunct-laced swill. Praise be to the #craftbeersheperd!

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Long Lost Epic: Stone Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale

By now, many are familiar with our newest brewing foray, the Stone Stochasticity Project. But even two brews in, you may not be familiar with the term “stochastic,” especially in the context of brewing. The definition of stochasticity is wordy and probably only truly makes sense if you’ve studied Probability Theory in depth (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy doesn’t count—that’s Improbability Theory), but even our one-track minds picked up on the potential and complexity of this idea. In layman’s terms, stochastic is a non-deterministic, or random, state. So, why not just say that? For one, the scientific background would be lost, and random just doesn’t have the same ring as Stochasticity, nor all the connotation. Two, the Stone Stochasticity Project is much more than just brewing beer. It involves delving beyond what most people think about beyond beer’s four main ingredients. So where does that leave us in our ever-evolving quest for good craft beer? Right at the newest member of this series, Stone Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale, a beer that holds up to the stochastic and technical nature of this venture.

All Aboard: Team Stone Orientation

Even in the exciting brewing industry, starting a new job is a little daunting. Like any job, all the new people and pre-established dynamics can be tough to get a grip on…and then there’s all the work that has to be done on top of that. But add in the hundreds of new people and 18 years of pre-established liquid lore and well-documented ideologies associated with Stone Brewing Co., and it makes for a few abdominal butterflies. Even coming from a smaller but plenty reputable brewing company (well, two, technically, having worked for two brands under one roof, Port Brewing Co. and The Lost Abbey), this was a formidable new career undertaking to say the least. Thank goodness for what may possibly be the best employee orientation in the world—or at least the brewing industry.

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Arts & Drafts: Stone’s Fan-Made Gallery

Acting as a refreshing wind in an industry formerly dominated by watery lagers, craft breweries quench imbibers’ thirsts while also fueling their minds and imaginations. A stroll through any Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurant, Stone Company Store or even our flagship brewery, will turn up Stone-inspired artwork and aesthetic touches ingrained in those facilities’ architecture and design. While our signature style and imagination are highly visible to the public, for the most part, only members of Team Stone get to see the creative pieces designed for us by our fans, many of whom use Stone and our beer as their muses. Luckily for us, many of these artists gift us with their creations, allowing us to populate our venues with collections of fan-made art, ranging from sculptures to skateboards. We cherish their work and generosity, and are happy to share some of the fruits of their inventive labor with you here.

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