As a fanatical beer geek, it’s easy to forget that when some non beer-drinkers hear the words “beer” and “dessert” in the same sentence they experience a wave of skepticism. When Pastry Chef Devin McKenna told his mother he was going to pair some of his decadent creations with some the finest beers around, her reaction was “Eeew.” Not “I’m so proud of you,” or “I can’t wait to try it,” but “Eeew.” Part of the problem is that most people have a sadly limited view of beer, but not us. We’re avid students of craft beer and gustatory delights, and it’s time to show the world that beer—good beer—is the ultimate libation to pair with gourmet food…dammit.
Dark Chocolate-malted Panna Cotta with Barley-Malt Anglaise, paired with Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Thankfully, we have two secret weapons: Dr. Bill and Pastry Chef McKenna. Their one-two punch is enough to reduce the most seasoned food critics to giddy little schoolgirls. Don’t believe me? Check out the pictures of Chef McKenna’s ridiculously decadent creations and imagine enjoying them with Dr. Bill’s expertly paired beers and try—just try not to giggle uncontrollably.
Strawberry and African Blue Basil Stack with Black Sticky Rice, paired with Dupont Saison
So just how did McKenna come up with such blissful desserts as “Honey and Lemon Thyme Grilled Apricots with Sweet Cheese Donuts?” No, God didn’t speak to him in a dream. He said the idea actually came from a picture he saw in a bookstore. “I saw a picture of some donuts covered in melted goat cheese, and then I thought what if we reverse that and pair it with what’s in season. One of the first things I saw in the grocery store were apricots, so it started coming together.” Such a complex dessert called for an equally complex beer. That’s where Dr. Bill’s pairing expertise came in: “The Moortgat Maredsous 10 Triple is fairly high in alcohol and has a clean profile without being overly bitter. It’s nice and sweet but still bright, and it went very well with the fruit and the cheeses.”
Honey and Lemon Thyme-grilled Apricots with Sweet Cheese Donuts, paired with Moortgat Maredsous 10 Triple. Hey, are you reading the blog or just looking at the pictures?
I had the poor misfortune of getting paid to attend Beer & Desserts, and amid my moping and self-pity, I heard ample oohs and ahs from other guests throughout the pairing. People were getting it—good beer goes with good food.
Click for more glorious pictures of Beer & Desserts
Beer & Desserts wasn’t the first time we convinced people that beer is the ultimate pairing. We’ve already proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that beer is the clear champion of cheese and chocolate, but it’s time to expand beer’s dominion over the culinary world. With the help of our incredibly talented crew, we’re poised to open minds and expand palates. “We definitely wanted to show off McKenna’s talents with Beer & Desserts,” said Dr. Bill, “but next we want to show off our Chef De Cuisine Brian LaBonte’s talents with our upcoming Beer & Sushi pairing.” That’s right, you heard the man: Beer & Sushi. We announced Beer & Sushi at the end of the night, and by the next morning we had already sold nearly ¼ of the tickets. People are getting it.
While the origins of our culture’s oddball Easter traditions are convoluted, one thing’s for certain—our egg hunts rock. There’s nothing kids like more than descending upon our beautiful Gardens in search of a thousand candy and prize-filled eggs, and there’s nothing parents like more than redeeming a certificate for some awesome Stone merchandise that their industrious offspring lovingly procured for them.
Huntin' in style (click above for more photos)
Our annual Egg Hunt & Brunch was a huge success, with over a hundred kids partaking, but we’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Congrats to all the successful hunters, and cheers to all the fortunate merchandise-winning parents. Until next year….
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.
List of Official Entries
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.”
Winner Ken Schmidt (right) celebrating with Stone CEO Greg Koch
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.”
From left to right: Chris Cochran, Mitch Steele, Ken Schmidt, Gary Glass, Greg Koch, Mike Palmer
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.”
Hello everyone, “Dr” Bill here. We have some exciting new beers coming on tap this week at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens.
This Thursday, we’re putting some special brews on tap to celebrate the arrival of our friends Will from Cambridge Brewing Co. and James from BrewDog. Will and James will be brewing our next collaboration beer with Mitch Steele the following day, and to honor the spirit of collaboration, we’re putting previous Stone Collaboration Ales and select BrewDog beers on tap. To top it off, the pilot brew for their collaboration will also be available to taste for those who have made reservations.
While we’re sharing pilot brews, we thought we would tap a few of the pilot brews that our talented brewers create, but that never reach the general public. I’m happy to inform you, our loyal customers, that this Thursday, March 26th, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens will have not one, but FIVE of these pilot brews on tap! Here’s what we’ll have:
Pilot Brew #1: Stone Imperial Red
Pilot Brew #2: Stone Imperial Porter
Pilot Brew #3: Stone Belgian Porter with Vanilla Bean and Tangerine Peel
Pilot Brew #4: Stone Peated Scotch Ale
Pilot Brew #5: Stone Everything but the Kitchen Sink Stout
The beer goodness doesn’t stop there. As an added treat, we are going to have both a filtered and unfiltered version of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA on tap. Our brewers are looking for feedback on these two versions, so please try both and let your server or bartender know which you prefer, or you can e-mail me at Bill-dot-Sysak at Stonebrew.com and I’ll give the brewers your input.
Don’t miss the opportunity to try these unique Stone Brewing Co. Beers!
We all remember stories our parents told us about how much a dollar used to buy. Back in their day, a person could eat for a week on a dollar and still have enough for a haircut. With current inflation rates, it seems like such a world never existed. However, UNICEF is proving that a dollar can still go a long way.
UNICEF is a non-profit organization on a mission to provide clean drinking water to children around the world. As part of World Water Week (March 22-28), UNICEF is conducting the Tap Project in conjunction with restaurants around the country, and our Bistro is one of the participating restaurants. By donating one dollar, you can provide safe, clean drinking water to a child for 40 days. You can donate in one of three ways: ask your server to add $1 or more to your bill, text “TAP” to 864233 to make a $5 donation, or donate directly online. Check out their website to find a participating restaurant near you.
Donating is easy. Just fill out the card on your table and give it to a server or manager.
We’re proud to be participating in this worthy cause, and we hope you’ll come on down to the Bistro and join us in contributing to the health and well-being of children around the world. Cheers!
Gold Medal for Winter Ales, and tied #2 on the highest overall score!
We were stoked to find out that our last collaboration ale, Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale, took a gold medal in the Winter Ale category of the World Beer Championships. We’re glad to see our collaboration with Ron Jefferies of Jolly Pumpkin and Kjetil Jikiun from Nøgne-Ø achieve such success. Cheers guys!
Kjetil Jikiun, Ron Jefferies, Mitch Steele and Greg Koch
In case you haven’t heard, our Head Brewer Mitch Steele will be brewing our next collaboration beer next week with James Watt of BrewDog and Will Meyers of Cambridge Brewing Co. James and Will are true innovators and we can’t wait to taste what the three of them come up with.
Just like last time, to further honor the spirit of collaboration, we’re hosting a meet the brewmasters event at the Bistro on March 26th—the night before they brew the collaboration beer. It will be a very casual meet and greet event where you can grab dinner and a beer with James, Will, and Mitch, talk some shop, and share a homebrew or two. You’ll even get to taste the pilot batch of the collaboration beer and let the brewmasters know what you think.
We’re not divulging any details about the beer, so don’t flood our inboxes with inquiries. Will Meyers summed it up when he said, “The first rule of Stone Collaboration is we don’t talk about Stone Collaboration.” If you’re dying to know more, then make sure to be there. Head over to the website for more information. We hope to see you there!
You may not have heard, but we have a really cool homebrew competition happening on Saturday, March 21st in the Gardens. It’s part of an American Homebrewer’s Association Rally we’re holding that day to get more people to join the AHA. By joining that day for $33 you get all the cool perks for being a member, but you also get to judge at our homebrew competition. This one has a really cool twist though, the winner of this homebrew competition gets the chance to brew their creation on our system and have it served here. Deciding such a fate for a single homebrew is quite a bit of power to wield, and with how great our local homebrew scene is – a damn delicious way to spend a Saturday if I say so. Hope to see you there! Get all the nitty gritty details here…
If you read the blog about our Gardens, you know that our inventive gardener, Chili, re-uses by-products from our Brewery and Bistro in our topsoil. Buried within the accompanying flickr photo set, you may have missed an aerial mock-up of our Gardens with every single plant meticulously marked and labeled by Chili himself. It’s not a treasure map in the swashbuckling sense, but it does map out the locations of all of the botanical treasures in our Gardens. We think it’s a pretty good way to grasp the entirety of our thriving ecosystem and the plants therein, and Webmaster Mike has plans to work it into new content on our website. Also, if you plan on attending the event with Nan Sterman this Sunday, this layout offers a preview of what you’ll see and learn about.
Beer and chocolate are two of my favorite things on the planet. If you asked me to define myself in one sentence, the words beer and chocolate would probably be in there somewhere. So you can imagine my dismay when I was burdened with the arduous task of helping pair Stone beer with the innovative artisinal offerings of Eclipse Chocolat for our Beer & Chocolate Pairing event on May 3rd. But I’m not one to complain. Rather than drag my feet and mope about the daunting task ahead of me, I decided to tackle it head-on and get it over with, and so did my equally apprehensive compatriots, Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright and Brewer Jeremy Moynier.
We arrived at Eclipse late in the afternoon, just as rush hour traffic was rearing its ugly head on El Cajon Boulevard. Immediately upon entering the reasonably populated, pleasantly decorated dessert cafe, we were greeted by Chocolatier Extraordinaire Will Gustwiller, the Owner of Eclipse Chocolat. After exchanging customary introductions, we tended to the irksome job before us.
The first piece of chocolate that Will offered us was one of his first creations—a Lavender Sea-Salted Caramel truffle. This creamy milk chocolate delicacy is Eclipse’s most popular truffle, and it’s easy to see why. After striking out with Stone Levitation Ale, we decided to pair it with Stone IPA. Success. The prevailing salt and herbal notes of the truffle harmonized beautifully with the citrusy, hoppy bite of Stone IPA. We were off to a promising start.
Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle
Next up was Will’s Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle, a chili-infused dark chocolate truffle with a subtle, delayed spicy note. Will warned us that this would be the most difficult truffle to pair, due to its overwhelming flavor profile. We promptly assured him that we rarely encounter food capable of smothering the bold flavors of our beers, but sure enough, we were wrong. The truffle overwhelmed several of our beers before we finally stumbled upon a winner. The long-lasting bitter finish of Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was the only heavy-hitting flavor that could stand up to the prolonged chili spice of the truffle. When the ooh’s and ahh’s subsided, they were replaced by talk of using this pairing as the finale of the pairing on May 3rd. And for good reason.
Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle
The next truffle, Will’s Balsamic Pink Peppercorn truffle, was a definite departure from the previous offerings. If you’re thinking of the slight spicy flavor found in commercial peppercorn dressings and such, think again. Will uses actual fresh peppercorns for the filling of this truffle, resulting in an earthy sweet flavor that is enhanced by raspberry balsamic vinegar sweetened dark chocolate. Double Bastard Ale and Stone Cali-Belgique IPA weren’t a match, but we eventually found the right supplement. The smoky, roasted barley note and strong hop finish of Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale proved a perfect mate for the unique truffle.
At this point our spirits were low as the backbreaking labor began to take its toll, but somehow we mustered the strength and determination to persist. Will introduced the next delicacy, a Black Sesame Anise truffle, and we valiantly resumed. This dark chocolate ganache-infused creation comes packed with anise seed and star anise, and is topped with toasted black sesame seeds. Again we tried to pair it with Stone Levitation Ale, along with a few other Stone beers, all to no avail. At last we found a champion in the form of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. The dense fruity note of the Belgian Yeast provided the perfect contrast to the bittersweet anise and the toasty sesame seeds.
The next chocolate was met with desperate cries for mercy as the unceasing consumption of gourmet chocolate and delicious craft beer began to erode our morale, but the painful ordeal was almost over. We knew that once we found a pairing with Will’s Macadamia Ginger White Chocolate, we could go home. So we found one in the form of 2009 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine. The sweet tang of the lemon sang in perfect harmony with Old Guardian’s hoppy finish, and the ginger in the chocolate worked opposite of the bold barley presence of the barley wine. And for all of you who think white chocolate isn’t real chocolate, let there be no mistake. White chocolate is indeed chocolate if it has real cocoa butter in it. Many commercially available white chocolates opt for vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter because it’s significantly cheaper. Will does no such thing. His white chocolate is the real deal.
Stone Brewer Jeremy Moynier (left), Tour Guide Kathryn Bouscaren, and Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright (right) hard at work
But alas, there was more! Will cemented his standing as a wizard of chocolate with his last delicacy—a Banana Rum Cigar truffle. Will explained that he deftly weaved actual cigar leaf into this rare truffle, immediately dropping our jaws and leaving us mystified. Unfortunately, the Valentine’s Day rush depleted Will’s inventory, and he didn’t have enough of this spectacular truffle to finish the pairing. Thankfully, he offered to send us more so we could finish the pairing here at the brewery. So let it be known that there will be a surprise pairing in store for you on May 3rd, should you choose to attend Beer & Chocolate.
Eclipse Chocolat Owner, Will Gustwiller, now the proud owner of leftover Stone beer
After nearly two hours of drudgery and copious amounts of beer and chocolate, we emerged with five spectacular pairings and one “to be announced” pairing. We would like to thank our gracious host and culinary genius Will Gustwiller for offering us a glimpse of his wildly imaginative take on chocolate. If you like Stone beer, and you like equally bold-flavored chocolate, you’d be crazy not to enjoy the fruits of his (and our) labor on May 3rd. Though we won’t discourage you from arming yourself with our tasting notes and going down to Eclipse to try the pairings we came up with, we do hope that you send us your suggestions for the sixth pairing. We’d really appreciate your help!
It’s difficult to write about our FRESH! Dinners without resorting to cheesy puns or distasteful allusions to outdated television programs. It’s been a struggle, but thankfully I’ve managed to abstain from phrases such as “Keepin’ it FRESH!” or “Come get FRESH! with Stone!” More importantly, I’ve avoided referring to Executive Chef Alex Carballo as “The FRESH! Prince of Stone Brewing,” thus foregoing an awkward confrontation and subsequent apology. Whew. Crisis averted.
While it’s hard to elude the trappings of bland prose, it’s not hard to convey a genuine sense of excitement about our FRESH! Dinners. They are truly one-of-a-kind, and attendees agree. If you know nothing about these dinners, get out from under that rock you’ve been living under and educate yourself. If you were there, you know that Monday night’s FRESH! Dinner was one of the best yet.
In order to give attendees a rare behind the scenes look into the FRESH! Dinner, Chef Alex and his team brought cameras with them to all the local farms they visited Monday morning to procure ingredients. The colorful pictures were projected in a slide show during the dinner, along with play-by-play shots taken in the kitchen of the actual preparation. The crew’s photos demystified the meal, giving guests an intimate glimpse into the process involved in bringing local, farm-fresh food to their table. Many guests agreed that this was a nice touch.
Chef Gordon Smith showing off his unique contribution to the FRESH! Dinner
The illuminating slide show wasn’t the only new addition to the dinner. FRESH! attendees were treated to an extra special reception this time around. Before ascending the stairs to the Mezzanine, guests were directed to the cocktail section of our Bistro where Chef Gordon Smith and Peter Halmay were showing off the ocean-fresh taste of their San Diego Red Sea Urchins. Otherwise known as “Uni,” these salt-water delicacies were cracked open live and offered Sashimi style or as a shooter with fresh Stone beer. With open minds and hungry stomachs, FRESH! attendees delighted in this rare indulgence, setting the tone for a very unique dining experience.
Spinach Ravioli with Wild Mushroom Filling in a Light Herb Sauce
Filling in a Light Herb Sauce, when the pasta press malfunctioned, and so did the backup. Thinking quickly, Chef Alex decided to plate the remainder of the filling alongside the ravioli to complete the dish. This decision was a popular one.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pixie Tangerine Gelée and Lavender Tuille Cookies (what a mouthful)
If you were fortunate enough to taste the food (like me), I’m sure your body thanked you for treating it to a delicious night devoid of chemical preservatives and artificial food substances shipped from faraway lands. If it didn’t, you have an ungrateful, masochistic body, and you should consider getting a new one.
We want to thank all those who attended for making our latest FRESH! Dinner a memorable farm-to-table experience. We would also like to thank Chef Gordon Smith and Peter Halmay for bringing their spiny little friends to the party. I doubt that’s the last we’ll see of those prickly sea-dwelling delicacies.
Satisfied FRESH! Enthusiasts
We can’t wait for the next opportunity to showcase the word-class flavors of San Diego and the equally world-class talent of our Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens crew. Stay tuned for the next one!