We’ve said it time and time again—one of the most rewarding aspects of being in the craft beer biz is engaging with fans who are not just proponents of ours, but fellow appreciators of high quality beer. Like us, our fans help to spread the good word about what good craft beer is all about. That pushing forward of information and education about a superior quaffable medium has been extraordinarily apparent in the engagement and interaction inspired by our über-fresh, über-hoppy Stone Enjoy By IPA.
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.
The Vertical Epic Ale series started simply enough in 2001, with Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch suggesting we release a different Belgian-inspired beer suitable for aging each year on the date when the day, month and year registered by the same digit. The brewhouse forged forward with this initiative, producing 11 beers that, unlike many on the market at the time, were intended to be laid down so they could be opened when the last of those dates came to pass on December 12, 2012.
Eleven years later, we’re excited to announce today’s arrival of Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale. Soon, it will be time to uncap all 11 of the Vertical Epic Ale vintages and enjoy them together. Certainly, it will be a glorious capping to one of the most ambitious brewing projects ever undertaken, even for those with a few or maybe even one or two of these widely varied brews. We’re pleased with how each of them turned out and what we’ve accomplished, but at the same time, we admit to being a bit sad. This was an incredible series that we’re bummed to see come to an end, but, we’re going out in a blaze of beery glory. Enter Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale!
Hopheads, you’re officially on the clock! You’ve got 35 days to uncap and savor the abundantly fresh hoppiness of Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA. But before you start grousing about being given the directive to consume your beer (at this point, it’s good to realize that there is absolutely nothing to complain about here), know this—we’re not the ones with the death-grip on the stopwatch. This quite literal “deadline” has been decreed by the ancient Mayan civilization.
Years spent as close colleagues with a bent for the gypsy lifestyle have bred a great deal between brewers Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing Company and Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales: respect, friendship, creativity…and a wee bit of deviance. The latter remained pensively dormant for a long while until one night in Copenhagen, greased by firewater and many pints’ worth of fine craft beer, the unlawful wheels inside their heads began to turn. It was a process that could not be reversed, at least not until that overbearing beast’s appetite for havoc had been satisfied.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.”