Community Supported Agriculture: Stone’s Next Frontier

Jacob McKean

NOTE: You must place your order at the Stone Company Store-Escondido at least one week in advance of your first pick-up date.

As loyal blog readers, you are undoubtedly aware of Stone Farms, our 18-acres of beautiful farmland and oak-covered hills located just 8 miles north of our brewery in Escondido.

While only about 4.5 acres of the property are actually farmable, this marvelous plot of land has thus far yielded a gorgeous array of vegetables for the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens and the Stone Farms stand, which is set up right in front of the brewery every Friday from 2:30-6pm. The biodynamically managed farm has been producing a bounty of heirloom vegetables, whose remarkably vivid flavors and bright colors have been exceedingly popular with farm stand regulars.

An example of a Stone Farms C.S.A. box

Now we’re taking it up a notch and allowing folks to buy into a Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A. AKA “veggie box”) program. Here’s how it works:

  1. Every Thursday, the Stone Farms crew harvests veggies to be sold the next day. From the earth to your plate in under 24 hours!
  2. The crew puts together boxes featuring a variety of these amazing veggies, generally 8-12 different items per box along with a loaf of fresh baked bread from our kitchen…about enough for 2 hungry people for a week.
  3. You, the organic vegetable loving craft beer drinker, come to our farm stand on Fridays from 2:30-6pm and pick up your box every week for 10 weeks. The boxes cost $25 each.
  4. While you’re here, you might decide to get your growler filled with something spectacular, like Stone Ruination IPA Dry Hopped with Citra & Centennial Hops, for example. A calendar of our special Friday growler fills can be found here. These typically cost between $7-$14 depending on the size of the growler.
  5. You return home stocked with some of the freshest veggies & beer imaginable. You rejoice, hard.
  6. Wash, rinse, repeat.

How do you get to take advantage of this staggeringly amazing opportunity, you ask? By buying your C.S.A. share at the Stone Company Store—Escondido. It’s that simple. Available while supplies last.

Stone New Year’s Countdown Keg A.K.A. The Doomsday Keg of Radness

Here at Stone, I get the privilege of working on some really fun, random projects. Greg will turn to me and say something like, “What if we put a 17 foot tall gargoyle into the inside wall of the Bistro?” From there, I figure out how to make it work and pull the resources and people together to make it happen.

Well, another opportunity to have some fun recently presented itself when we decided to throw our most lavish party ever for New Year’s Eve. With a swing band, jazz band, laser light show and DJ all performing at the same time–along with the amazing beer and food–we needed a midnight countdown that could be monumentous enough to equal the festivities.

I thought about using projectors to play a countdown video, but that just seemed boring. The ceremony of the ball dropping has become synonymous with New Year’s Eve, but we wouldn’t just copy that–we had to do this Stone style. And that’s how we arrived at the Stone New Year’s Countdown Keg. Here’s how it all went down:

The Keg
First, we found a defective keg to play the leading role in this bit of theatrical awesomeness. Our Maintenance crew then plasma cut the top off and drilled out the keg for lighting effects.

The Computer and Monitor
This is the part that really ties together the whole countdown. There’s an old Macbook laptop inside the keg that is hooked up to a 24″ monitor that is mounted to the front of the keg. This displays a countdown timer that our Web Programmer, Bill Sobieski, wrote that displays hours, minutes, and seconds. At 10 minutes to midnight, an iCal event will open a video that one of our graphic Artists, Sergio Salgado, is working on.

The Lighting
I opted for all LED lights. There were some cheaper non-LED effects that may have been brighter, but the space constraints within the keg and the temperature were my first concern.

So here’s what I went with: four motion LED tube lights on the sides to give it the feeling of motion, 3 LED strobe lights inside that flash through the holes in the keg, and a color light show that comes out a hole in the bottom of the keg where we mounted a Moonflower LED light (watch the video to see these in action.) The last effect is really pronounced by the fog machine that we’ll have on the floor, which the beams of colored light seem solid. Each lighting effect is controlled remotely by an RF transmitter.

The Drop
This whole thing is going to be suspended 20 feet above the fountain in the middle of the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. We’ll be attaching this to an electric winch so our Brewmaster, Steve Wagner, can lower the keg at midnight while Stone CEO and Co-Founder Greg Koch MC’s the countdown.

So there you have it. We had some fun yesterday doing a test run in the office and making a video of it. I’m really happy with how it turned out and look forward to seeing it in action on New Year’s. See you there!

Meatless Mondays Help You Eat Like A Caveman

Greg Koch

If you’ve ever visited the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, you know that we’re pretty obsessed with where our food comes from. We only use in-season, locally, regionally, and organically grown produce. We serve grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and we’re certified by the World Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals as a restaurant that serves humanely-raised meat and dairy products.

So we’re pretty satisfied with the degree to which the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens lives up to our ideals. However, there’s always room for improvement, especially when it comes to health and environmental sustainability, so we’ve decided to take things up a notch by participating in the international movement called Meatless Mondays.


Deep Fried Avocado Tacos with Arrogant Bastard Ale batter, one of the many insanely delicious Meatless Monday's menu items at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Don’t panic. It’s voluntary. Think of us as enablers.

As in, we’re going to enable you to live a little longer. A little healthier. And benefit our planet in the process.

You see, our society has a great challenge upon us. Over the last few generations, America has modified its eating habits at the hands of the mass marketers (we’ve collectively doubled per capita meat consumption has increased by 65% since 1950 in the U.S.) If you thought YOU were in control, looking at the big picture we can see that has not been the case at all. Instead, we have been doing what we’ve been told, and we’ve been fooled into thinking it was our own choice. We have been told to bite down, and Americans have said “How big a bite?”

We’ve been programmed. The very fact that you may be feeling that the above does NOT apply to you—“I exhibit free will. No one tells me what to eat!”—is the first sign that they have you. They don’t want you to know about, or to personally admit to, the manipulation. Face it, we’ve been owned. They told us to eat meat and processed foods. More meat. More processed foods. And we listened. We now eat more meat than nearly every other society on the planet. And our health problems have skyrocketed right along with it.

However, we know you are not a mindless automaton, and we refuse to treat you like one.

“But I eat only eat locally raised meat,” you say. Well that’s great, certainly a step in the right direction (a step we ourselves have taken.) But the distance food travels only accounts for 11% of its carbon footprint.

The fact is, meat is far more energy, water, and land intensive than vegetables.  Conveniently, this means that reducing your meat intake is the easiest, healthiest, and cheapest way to minimize your personal impact on the environment.

It’s time that we throw off these chains of oppression.  It’s time that we say “No more…you can no longer treat me like a gullible, uninformed serf of the marketers.” It’s time we say, “I take my health, my happiness, my responsibility to society, my life into my own hands.”  It’s time we celebrate the vegetable!  And to that, we offer you the opportunity to celebrate Meatless Mondays with us as a step towards a brighter future!

Caution: if you howl in protest as a devout meat-eater over the lack of choice, you’re marking yourself as someone who’s not paying attention. You see, you are not being forced to eat meatless on Mondays. You still have the choice to request meat dishes if you so desire.

However, if you’d like to be true to our mutual heritage and eat like a caveman, then you’ll embrace a day without meat, as cavemen ate far less meat then we do!

Lastly, in the unlikely event anyone has the idea that this is a ploy by us to make more money, please note that our vegetarian items are generally less profitable. That’s OK, we’ll survive…and likely so will you!

EDIT: Here’s a link to the Meatless Mondays menu at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Or, download a PDF of the menu.

Oakquinox: Celestial Indeed

Jacob McKean

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.

Hey! Down in front!

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

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!”

StoneWall Ale: A Flavor Riot for a Good Cause

Jacob McKean

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.

"Master Pairings: Beer & Desserts" Goes Bananas

Jacob McKean

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.

Master Pairings: Beer and Desserts 1:19:10 - 03

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.

Master Pairings: Beer and Desserts 1:19:10 - 13

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.

Master Pairings: Beer and Desserts 1:19:10 - 02

Four of the six superb beer pairings selected by Dr. Bill

More pictures of Andrew’s incredible desserts can be found here.

Master Pairings: Around the World, an international odyssey of beer and food pairings, is next in the series on Feb. 25th.

Women and Craft Beer, or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pints!

Kathryn Bouscaren
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.)

Beer U: Women Only

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!

Women Only: We Can Brew It

*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.

The Newest Olympic Event – Synchronized Beer Drinking?!

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.

-Kathryn Bouscaren

Beer & Desserts – Total Beer Pairing Domination (Phase 1)

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

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

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

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.

- Matt Steele

Egg Huntin' Stone-style

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

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….

-Matt Steele