When Dr. Bill tells you he’s assembling a legendary collection of wood-aged beers for a festival in our gardens, it’s best to take him seriously. After the veritable tsunami of awesomeness that was Stone Oakquinox, it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t.
The 112 beers on-tap and in bottles represented a mighty collection of wood-aged deliciousness. With so many highlights on the beer list, some Oakquinoxers ended up sporting a deer-in-headlights look, their faces frozen in a rictus of pleasure at the site of so many rare and sought-after beers.
Oakquinoxers proved to be a lively bunch
Fortunately, the shock wore off quickly, and all in attendance began the serious business of sampling these oaky beasts. Based on the exuberant pictures, thunderous toasts, and vocal praise, we feel confident concluding that Oakquinox was a tremendous success, one that will most certainly be repeated next year.
Your hankering for beer festivals needn’t go unfulfilled for an entire year, however. On July 18th, Stone Sour Fest will be taking over the gardens in similar fashion, featuring mouth-puckering, horizon-expanding brews made with wild yeasts and bacteria (if you’ve never tried sour beers, they’re far more appetizing than that description may sound.)
The forecast for Oakquinox was sunny and beautiful, with a 100% chance of wood-aged beer
In addition to Stone Winter Storm, Oakquinox, and Sour Fest, next year Dr. Bill will introduce a 4th festival, the theme of which is top secret. That’s right folks, quarterly beer festivals at Stone. Set your tasters to “Yum!”
If you’ve been paying close attention to the beer line-up for the upcoming bonanza that is 2010 Stone Winter Storm, you may have spotted StoneWall Ale on the list—a sighting so rare, some might call it the Jackalope of the craft beer world.
But what is StoneWall Ale, you mumble feebly, humiliated by your ignorance of this arcane bit of Stone history? Were you truly a Level-7 Beer Geek, you’d know that it’s the strongest beer Stone has ever brewed, a 12.2% American Barley Wine that tastes like it was milked from a dragon’s udder…if that dragon ate nothing but malt, hops, hop extract, and Belgian candi sugar…and then let the mix ferment inside its fiery gut almost 4 years ago.
The rare StoneWall Ale in all its inscribed glory
OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but the beer is indeed incredible and very hard to come by. Ironically, that’s only the second coolest thing about it. The coolest thing is that it was part of a charity fundraiser we held that raised over $85,000 for local charities.
It worked like this: way back in 2005 when we were building our brewery and gardens in Escondido, we asked our fans to sponsor stones in the wall that connects the inside of our brewery to the patio and bar outside. 472 people stepped up and put their stones in the wall, and aside from the knowledge that they were supporting important local charities, they received bottles of the specially-brewed StoneWall Ale, the bottles of which bore the names of the generous donors.
The StoneWall during construction of the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
That was the one and only time we brewed the mythic StoneWall Ale, but we stashed some in our archives to break out on special occasions, like Winter Storm. In keeping with the spirit in which it was brewed, 100% of the proceeds still go to charity. So go ahead and drink this sweet nectar, knowing that you’re lending a hand while carving yet another notch in your beer geek belt.
Beer and desserts…seems like a natural combination, right? Well, we thought so too, especially since we’ve been looking for an excuse to show off the skills of our new Pastry Chef, Andrew Higgins.
Pastry Chef Andrew Higgins prepares the Maracaibo Panforte di Siena: Blueberry Honey Cake with Drunken Morello Cherry au Jus
We knew Andrew was crazy good, but when we paired him up with our in-house beer czar, Dr. Bill, for the latest installment in our Master Pairings series, the results were insane. Andrew whipped up 6 amazing and utterly unique desserts (imagine the guilty pleasure of eating exhibits in a modern art museum), which Dr. Bill complimented with some unexpectedly well-suited beers.
This Brown Butter Financier with Crows Pass Berries & Calvados Creme Anglaise was later freed from its sugary captivity by one of our merciful guests
“Double IPA” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think “dessert beers”, but Dr. Bill showed why it should. His pairing of Andrew’s Citrus Trio of Blood Orange Sorbet, Lemon Tart, & Minted Citrus Salad with Russian River’s Pliny The Elder was a palate-tickling citrus synergy. The pairing showcased just how versatile and complimentary beer can be, even at the uber-hoppy end of the scale.
The sell-out crowd of 50+ seemed to agree. Most impressive of all, I was the only one who had to be carted out of the Bistro in a wheelbarrow after consuming 6 beers and 6 desserts, but maybe I just have a flimsy constitution. It was delicious, and well worth the trouble.
Four of the six superb beer pairings selected by Dr. Bill
More pictures of Andrew’s incredible desserts can be found here.
I’ve participated in well over a dozen of our previous Beer U’s, so I can say with authority that this was one of the best ones yet. Beer U: Women Only rocked! Laura Ulrich and Jessica Gilman, two of our brewers here at Stone, led the class with me and we all had a blast. And no, we didn’t sit around gabbing about shoes and manicures the whole time. As a matter of fact, there was no mention of shopping, clothes, hormonal issues, or the shortcomings of our husbands or boyfriends* the entire evening. We talked about beer. A lot! (*I believe the salient point here is that our husbands and boyfriends don’t have any shortcomings. Women who like craft beer obviously have an abundance of good taste and sound judgment, and couldn’t possibly choose partners who were anything short of stellar.)
Class photo! A group of passionate, intelligent, and inspiring women.
The diversity of the attendees impressed me—there was a significant range of ages, careers, and beer knowledge represented. Several women were recent converts to the craft beer scene while others had been brewing their own for years. I asked for a show of hands at the beginning and counted eight homebrewers out of a group of 44 women! The energy in the room was lively from the beginning—and only got more “lively” as more beers were sampled.
All the beers we tasted that night were from breweries that employ prominent female brewers, and in a few cases, the brewmaster and/or owner is a woman. Surprised? Don’t be. While women are definitely still a minority in the craft brewing industry, there are a lot more of us around than you might think. During the Beer U we enjoyed some exceptionally tasty beers, like Moylan’s Hopsickle, Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, Traquair House Jacobite, and the ever-popular Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans, Laura’s tasty signature creation. After taking informal polls, I was happily validated—women’s tastes definitely range beyond the mild (wimpy), less hoppy (boring), and pale (where’s my malt?) flavors we’re taught that we should like. Many preferred Hopsickle’s huge hoppy punch to the sweeter, malty, and mildly spicy Jacobite, blowing stereotypes out of the water.
The beer was absolutely awesome, but the real highlight of the event was the sense of camaraderie we all enjoyed, and it only increased throughout the evening (hope it wasn’t just the beer!). And by the time it was over, many of the women were totally pumped up and inspired to go home and start brewing. There was even talk of beginning an all-female homebrewing club (count me in!!). We owe a big round of gratitude to all who made this happen, and especially to the women who attended. Thanks so much, ladies, for making our inaugural* women’s only event such a huge success!
*In case you didn’t catch the significance of that word there—we’re doing this again. We know that a lot of women didn’t get the chance to go, so we’re doing the same thing this month, too. Monday, November 23rd will be the occasion of our next women’s only event: the same class, but with a different name. Get the scoop on “We Can Brew It” here.
Wow, just when you thought we were done with our collaboration shenanigans for a while…we bring you the first ever Synchronized Beer Tapping event (at least we think it’s the first–please don’t check that with the Guinness book or anything)! Here’s our grand plan: at precisely 4pm San Diego time and 7pm Boston time, we will be simultaneously tapping our very first kegs of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner both here at Stone and at Cambridge Brewing Co. (CBC). What’s so special about this, you ask? Several things. For one (and it’s a really big ONE), kegs of this beer are an endangered species, and you may never see it on tap again–although occasional bottle sightings continue to be reported. Reason number two: Will Meyers, head brewer at CBC, tells us they pretty much never have guest beers on tap at their brewpub, so this is quite a rare occurrence. Reason number three: it’s a damn good beer. Duh.
Joining Will at the New England portion of this historic event will be our own East Coast Regional Brewery Representative and general Cool Dude and Nice Guy, Michael Saklad. If you live in the area and haven’t had the chance to meet him, you might want to seriously consider introducing yourself. When is it NOT a good idea to make friends with someone who peddles beer for a living? And to make Saturday even more memorable, Will tells us that alongside this beautiful black collaboration brew, CBC will also be proudly serving up some really stellar beers from the other two members of this team brewing effort. Here’s what lucky Bostonians have to look forward to: 2007 Stone Imperial Russian Stout, wine barrel-aged 2008 Stone Old Guardian Barleywine, BrewDog Dogma, and whiskey cask-conditioned BrewDog Paradox. As Will says, “Obviously, we’re super excited!” So are we, Will, so are we.
And just in case you somehow have not managed to appreciate the gravity of the situation, just in case you’re thinking, “Meh, I’ll try some next time,” ponder this: only 12 kegs of this black sheep of a beer were ever produced. TWELVE. As Ben Lee, our Production Coordinator, pointed out to me, that is the smallest number of kegs we’ve made of any of our beers in the history of us making beer. So this means that after we’ve finished the two we’re tapping on Saturday, the two that will be pouring at CBC, the one we’re sending to BrewDog, and one that some lucky Bastards down in San Diego already got their hands on, there will only be six kegs left in existence. Six. And no, you can’t have them.
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!