When a brewing company grows to a certain size, there’s the natural perception that, as said organization’s demand dictates the production of more and more beer, with heightened quantities comes lowered artisanship. Sadly, in the case of numerous big beer operations (we won’t name names—they…and likely you…know who they are already), this is true. But craft beer, by its very nature, is about inventiveness, creativity and…we’ll say it…FUN! Without those, what’s the point of getting into craft brewing in the first place? We don’t know the answer and, in to keep the ingenuity and enjoyability factors up at our brewery, we engaged in a year-long intra-company brewing competition that pitted single members of our brew staff and two-brewer teams against each other in a light-hearted yet extremely serious battle to see whose beer dream reigned supreme. That competition was dubbed the Stone Spotlight Series.
It’s rare that we at Stone are lost for words, yet, in remembering our dear friend Matt Courtright, it’s tough to even know where to begin. But it seems the most appropriate place is with the very special person that we miss so much. Mattwas an architect from Michigan who followed his passion for craft beer beyond his vocational and geographic boundaries, making a drastic career change to become a professional brewer. From the moment he came aboard, we knew we had someone special within our ranks. And not just because he was an extraordinary brewer—which he most certainly was. No, there was much more to Matt than his workplace assets. So much more.
To the casual observer, our newest collaboration beer may be perceived as an attempt to make a statement about gender equality in the brewing industry. How could someone not think that? After all, we’re no strangers to making statements through the ale medium and, c’mon, we went and tapped two of the country’s best female brewers—Tonya Cornett from Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company; and Megan O’Leary Parisi, the fermentation mastermind behind Washington, DC’s highly anticipated Bluejacket. We get it, but honestly, the only things we were looking to secure when getting these two into our brewhouse were beer smarts, creativity and enthusiasm, and these two brought all three in sudsy spades! Need proof? Well, we’ve got it, and it goes by the name 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter.
Whenever we put out a new beer, I’m always asked “who came up with the recipe?”, and am always uncomfortable answering that question, because it is a simple answer that really doesn’t accurately convey why the beer is successful and tastes delicious.
Too much credit is given to the formulation/recipe for a beer’s success. I honestly believe that recipe formulation is the easiest part of making a great beer, and accounts for about 5% of its potential success. In my opinion, anyone with some understanding of ingredients and styles can create a great recipe, but actually working with that recipe to brew a great beer is the hard part.
What began as a San Diego Beer Week show of brewing solidarity has metamorphosized into a quarterly tradition that brings out not only fans of Stone beer, but members of Team Stone looking to check out inventive takes on the brewery’s year-round beers. Every three months, we round up a dozen of our brewery staff and invite them to build casks incorporating tasty ingredients ranging from fruits and herbs to tea, specialty hops and different varieties of wood. Then, to stay true to the camaraderie theme that inspired the event in the first place, we hand them mallets (customized to include each brewer’s name and the date of the event) and have them simultaneously tap their casks in the midst of a crowd of thirsty attendees. The next 12 Brewers 12 Casks 12 Malletsevent will take place on August 22, 2013 at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido. The beers being offered up are…
Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA w/Lychee Fruit & Hersbrucker Hops by Callaway Ryan
Stone IPA w/Cacao Nibs & Plums by Zach Goldstein
Stone IPA w/Chervil, Savory, Thyme & Lavender by Laura Mirsch
Stone IPA w/Tamarind, Lemongrass & Ginger by Josh Hagquist
Stone Levitation Ale w/Peppercorn & Cilantro by Kihei Hutchinson
Stone Pale Ale w/Lemon Verbena & Bergamot by Steve Via
Stone Pale Ale w/Spanish Cedar & Spirals & Szechuan Peppercorns by Jeff Fanno
Stone Ruination IPA w/El Dorado Hops, Cilantro & Pineapple by Sander Banta
Stone Ruination IPA w/Kumquats & American Oak Chips by Ben Maushardt
Stone Ruination IPA w/White Peaches & Chamomile by Anthony Tallman
Stone Ruination IPA w/Moroccan Mint Green Tea, Cacao Black Tea & Toasted American Oak Chips by Justinian Caire
Stone Smoked Porter w/Shaved Coconut & Toasted Almonds by Joaquin Bowman
We added a new riff to this tradition during its spring rendition, holding a lottery among all members of Team Stone who were interested in participating but had jobs outside the brewery component of our business. The winner that time around was one of our graphic artists, who busted out a cask of Stone Smoked Porter w/Toasted Hazelnuts. This time around, we invited two non-brewers to the festivities, our EH&S Manager and an Assistant Supervisor from Stone Company Store – Escondido. And they’re no slouches. Their casks are every bit as ambitious and slobber-provoking as their fermentation specialist comrades. Take a moment to meet this dastardly dozen before coming out to sample their creations.
Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA—the mere mention of these five words (well, four words and an acronym, which technically equates to seven words) incites a Pavlovian brand of salivation among those who quest for maximum hoppage. We know this, not only because last year’s decadal release of this amped-up tribute to our double India pale ale, Stone Ruination IPA, gave us cause to wear bibs at work, but because Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA was so openly and vocally beloved by our fan base, that they requested—check that, demanded—it be brought back on an annual basis. We love our fans. We love hops. So, we listened to the former, secured a boatload of the latter, and now submit for the approval of slobbering masses throughout the country, Stone RuinTen IPA.
They say good things come to those who wait. Fermentation has proven this true for us time and time again; however, we are, at our core, pretty darn impatient. We have grand aspirations and want to push the craft beer envelope by providing new ways for people to experience hand-crafted ales and lagers. Grand aspirations require grand gestures. Grand gestures take grand effort. Grand effort mandates a boatload of time, and that equates to a whole lot of waiting for our grand aspirations to be forged into reality. Never has this been truer than in the case of construction of our second farm-to-table restaurant, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. It took us years to take it from the grand aspiration phase to the tangible and absolutely magnificent (if we do say so ourselves, and we just did) brick-and-mortar bastion of good beer and quality cuisine it’s become. The waiting was the hardest part, but, once again, it was all worth it. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station is open for business and Worthy all of the hard work it took to get it to that point. Allow us to show you around…
The main dining room at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station
While we hold true to time-honored traditional brewing processes, we’re anything but conformists. Ours is a brewery where, rather than blindly adhering to methods and styles simply because “that’s the way it’s been done for hundreds of years,” we make a practice of regularly taking a step back, clearing our minds of all we know and contemplating simple but essential queries like “why not?” and “what if?” Our beers are founded on the logic gained from centuries’ worth of brewmasters who mashed in ahead of us, but their true flavor and character is a result of our inquisitive, experimental nature. A poignant example of this is presented in our Belgian-style India pale ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA.
Craft beer is life here at Stone. In the best cases, however, our beer has the ability to make positive impacts on the lives of others. Such is the case with one of the first beers brewed up on our brand new ten-barrel brewhouse at our equally new second farm-to-table restaurant, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station: Operation Homefront IPA. Liberty Station Brewing Manager Kris Ketcham joined the ranks of several brewers across the country to craft this beer for Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization supporting and bettering the lives of U.S. Military families, as part of their Hops For Heroes initiative. That program was supported not only by American craft breweries including Left Hand Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewingand 21st Amendment Brewery, but also Major League Baseball and Louisville Slugger, making for a great example of strength in numbers being channeled into making a big difference through great beer and even better intentions.
Here at Stone, our brewers love to create aggressive, high octane beers like Stone Ruination IPA, Stone Imperial Russian Stout and, of course, the Arrogant Bastard Ale family of in-your-face goliaths. But even we, the challengers of beer’s historic limitations, realize that for every beer drinker there is a time, place and need for something sessionable. So, in 2002, we took our first swipe at crafting a libation under five percent ABV to give our fans a lower-alcohol option packed with big-time flavor. That creation would come to be known as Stone Levitation Ale.