Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA

It’s no secret that we love making collaboration beers. We always have an amazing time brewing them, they’ve turned out great (if we may say so ourselves), and it gives us a chance to play around a little bit. To go a little further outside of the proverbial box. (Though admittedly, we were never quite certain about where this so-called box is/was, or how so many folks managed to find their way into it.) Each collaboration has its own story, its own inspiration, its own unique set of attributes.

Our first collab of 2012 starts rolling out today, and we’ll go ahead and say it: We’ve got another winner on our hands. “Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA,” as the name implies, is the work of Bear Republic Brewing Co. Brewmaster Richard Norgrove, Jr. (you can call him Ricardo), Fat Head’s Brewery Head Brewer Matt Cole, and our own Brewmaster Mitch Steele.

But what of the rest of the name: TBA? Like, as in… To Be Announced? Trusted Business Advisor? Text-Based Adventure? Tracheobronchial aspirate? Mmm… not quite. The acronym alludes to a classic but little-known beer style called Texas Brown Ale, which, strangely enough, has its roots in California. You see, back in the 80s, there was this homebrew recipe for a brown ale supercharged with Cascade hops that was floating around NorCal homebrew circles. And even while it started gaining popularity, beers that were made in this style failed to fare well in homebrew competitions since there was no recognized category they could be entered in. (They were wayyyy too hoppy and bitter to be considered a traditional brown ale.) But when a competition in Houston, TX, decided to judge such entries in what they would call the “California Dark” category, the American Homebrewers Association followed suit soon after, though they perplexingly changed the name to Texas Brown Ale.

We’ve Exported Mitch Steele

Jacob McKean

That’s right, his last blog post on our struggles to control chill haze in Stone IPA was such a hit, we rewarded him with a free trip to the U.K. Well, that may not be how it actually went down, but what the hell.

Here’s what’s happening: we shipped Stone’s Brewmaster, Mitch Steele, off to England on Monday to brew a collaboration beer at Wadworth’s historic Northgate Brewery in Wiltshire. Why, you ask? Because an 800-strong chain of pubs called Wetherspoon’s & Lloyd’s #1 are holding a two and a half week long Real Ale & Cider Festival, during which Mitch’s collaboration beer will be served.

The idea? To brew a Stone-style Wadworth beer. Just what in the hell does that mean? It means a 4.5% ABV beer called “San Diego Session IPA”, and as the name implies, it’s  a comparatively low alcohol beer hopped like crazy with a combination of British & American hops, including some exciting newfangled varieties.

For those of you who brew your own beer or just like to geek out on beer recipes, here’s the run down. The malt bill consists of all English malts, primarily pale malt with 5% each of crystal & Munich malt. The hop situation is this: Target for bittering and Centennial, Columbus, Amarillo, Delta, and Calypso for flavoring & dry-hopping. The beer will be fermented with Wadworth’s house yeast strain, a traditional English variety that will contribute a bit more sulfur than Stone’s yeast.

This decidedly unique mash-up of Stone’s and Wadworth’s brewing style will be served on cask starting October 5th at the aforementioned Wetherspoon’s festival. A variety of other American craft brewers are in the U.K. to brew beers for the festival as well, so the American brewing renaissance should be well represented.

One interesting tidbit about Wadworth: the brewery employs the last Master Brewery Cooper (maker of wooden barrels) in the U.K., which allows them to serve some of their beer from fresh wooden casks. Pretty cool, eh?

A Bitter Collaboration

Jacob McKean

As loyal readers of this blog may remember, Kelsey McNair brewed the champion beer at our hotly contested 2010 March Madness Homebrew Competition & AHA Rally, an intensely hoppy session brew dubbed “West Coast Bitter.” Impressed with his creativity, craftsmanship, and distinctly Southern California flair, the esteemed panel of judges chose West Coast Bitter to be brewed here at Stone as one of our collaboration beers.

Like celebrity deaths, Stone collaborators always come in threes, so there was the small matter of picking a third collaborator. Kelsey picked Colby Chandler of Ballast Point, a San Diego brewer of great skill and acclaim, for his expertise in crafting exceptionally hoppy session brews, a choice heartily endorsed by Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele.

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Kelsey, Colby, and Mitch discuss the finer points of scaling up homebrew batches

Kelsey and Mitch made the trip over to Ballast Point’s Linda Vista brewery  and homebrew shop to meet up with Colby and finalize the recipe for West Coast Bitter’s large-scale incarnation. Kelsey brought in a growler of his latest batch of the award-winning brew, which the three brewers sampled alongside Stone’s previous collaboration beers and a generous slew of rare offerings from Ballast Point.

Such exceptional beers proved to be the perfect fuel for figuring out the nitty gritty of brewing a full size batch of West Coast Bitter. Kelsey is nothing if not hardcore about his brewing, and the process of scaling up his recipe to the 120-barrel batches brewed on our somewhat-more-elaborate-than-a-homebrew-setup brewing system tickled his beer geek fancy in a big way.

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Colby demonstrates the proper way to pour a sample

Adding to the excitement, we’re also pleased to announce that West Coast Bitter will be Stone’s official entry at the Great American Beer Fest’s Pro-Am Competition! The Pro-Am Competition allows breweries and homebrewers from all over the country to collaborate on recipes and see how they stack up on craft beer’s biggest stage.

Indeed, all were stoked about the upcoming brew day on July 12th, sure to be the hoppiest in Stone collaboration history. If all goes according to plan, the beer itself should be available in the late summer/early fall, leaving plenty of time for warm weather quaffing.

Our First Collaboration Brew of 2010

Jacob McKean

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Shaun, Mitch, and Matt do "the Greg"

On Friday, we had an all-star cast of brewers in the house working on our first collaboration beer of 2010. Shaun O’Sullivan of 21st Amendment and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker joined our very own Head Brewer Mitch Steele for one of our coolest collaborations yet. Since this was an all-California brewing team, they decided to expand upon that theme by using indigenous California ingredients in the beer, including chia seeds, pink peppercorns, fennel seeds, and 35 lbs. of Mission figs Shaun brought from a friends’ farm.

The result of this momentous collaboration will be a strong black ale of distinctly Californian pedigree. Named El Camino (un)Real Black Ale in honor of the historic Spanish mission trail connecting Northern and Southern California, this beer is going to be pitch-black monster loaded with roasty, spicy flavors.

The wort was completely opaque

The wort was completely opaque

A friendly debate developed around the quantity of hops this luscious beast would require. Although all agreed on a selection of British hop varieties, Shaun lobbied for upping the quantities after sampling our previous collaborations (most of which, for the record, are not exactly restrained in the hops department.)  Matt begged to differ, and jested that, “Over-hopped beers are, like, so 1990s!”

Mitch refereed as Shaun and Matt playfully negotiated the hop additions, chiming-in to explain the particulars of the brewhouse and the results of past experiences. Matt finally emerged victorious by brandishing his trusty Ti-89 scientific calculator to estimate the IBUs, cementing his reputation as an unparalleled process geek (post-production note: it looks like this one will clock-in around 80 IBUs.)

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Matt busting out his trusty Ti-89

Taking the collaboration one step further, Matt brought some oak barrels down with him, which the team used to build a miniature version of Firestone Walker’s famed Union fermentation system, within which 15% of this 90-barrel batch will be fermented.

The miniature Firestone Walker Union in action

The miniature Firestone Walker Union in action

After a long day of brewing—nearly derailed by a serious bunghole issue (if you’re laughing like a 12 year old right now, it’s time to bone-up on your brewing terminology)—the unfermented wort was finally sampled by the weary brewers. Much to their delight, it exhibited an exceptionally smooth roastiness, which all agreed would meld beautifully with the oak from the wooden barrels.

The brewers tasting the wort

The brewers tasting the wort

The brewers ended the day by sharing beers and general merriment at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens back patio bar. Local homebrewers shared their concoctions with the brewing icons late into the night, capping another collaboration brew in appropriate fashion.

Look for this beer to hit the shelves sometime in March 2010.*

*Since there’s only 90-barrels of this sweet nectar being made, we probably won’t be able to distribute it in every single market in which Stone beers are usually found.

More photos can be found here.

Stone Skips Across The Pond: Part 1

Jacob McKean

Here at Stone Brewing Co., we’re not content to merely work with awesome brewers from around the world on our collaboration beers. That’s why we’ve taken it a step further, by visiting a couple of our collaborators in their exotic homelands, brewing at their breweries, drinking their native beverages, and…eating their whales(?!)

To capture these madcap adventures, we’ve created a documentary of Greg, Mitch, and Steve’s trip to Norway and Scotland, where they brewed-up batches of collaboration beers at Nøgne-Ø and BrewDog. Along the way, watch as our intrepid crew relishes a Viking feast, braves the choppy waters of the North Atlantic, and seemingly attempts to bribe their way (with beer) into owning a lighthouse.

And that’s just the first installment, which is now live. Check back every Thursday for the next three weeks as this indomitable crew continues their escapades in Norway before traveling to Scotland for some serious carousing with the punks over at BrewDog.


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Brewer Exchange Program Kicks Off Next Week

Matt Steele
Representing our part in an international Craft Brewer Exchange Program with our friends at BrewDog, our Brewhouse Supervisor Jeremy Moynier is jumping on a plane for Scotland today. We’ll be getting BrewDog’s Lead Brewer, Stewart Bowman, in return. Both brewers will spend two weeks getting their boots wet and learning the ins and outs of each other’s domain.

“I’m excited to go,” said Jeremy. “I’m looking forward to brewing on a smaller scale again and seeing how those guys do things. The Metric System should make things interesting.” Jeremy isn’t all work and no play. He said he’s also looking forward to pubs, food, scotch, sight-seeing, and traveling with his girlfriend, Andrea, who is meeting up with him after his two week stint at BrewDog to enjoy a bit more of the continent before flying back home on Thursday, November 12. Jeremy did express some hesitation about the weather. “Martin Dickie (BrewDog Brewmaster) said the weather in Scotland is ‘pretty miserable’ right now. You know that when a Scot says the weather is miserable it’s going to be BAD.” Stewart, on the other hand, gets to escape the misery to sunny San Diego and bask in our laughably mild 70-degree Fall weather (just watch, he’ll probably complain about the balmy heat).

Brewhouse Supervisor Jeremy Moynier

Stone Brewhouse Supervisor Jeremy Moynier

The weather isn’t the only thing Stewart will enjoy when he flies in on Saturday night. He’ll also enjoy two weeks of Stone boot camp where he’ll better acquaint himself with brewing on a larger scale and perhaps glean a thing or two from our “we mean business” approach to brewing. He’ll also get a chance to learn from our mistakes and hopefully help BrewDog avoid some of the growing pains associated with rapid expansion. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to come over to Stone and work with some of the masters of the US craft brewing scene,” said Stewart. “I can’t wait get in there and help make some of the beers which have been so inspirational to all of us kids over at BrewDog.”

BrewDog's Stewart Bowman cozying up to a lovely cask of bashah maturing with tayberries

BrewDog's Stewart Bowman cozying up to a lovely cask of bashah maturing with tayberries

We don’t plan on letting the guys at BrewDog show us up with their hospitality; it’s our mission to show Stewart a damn good time. Unfortunately, he’ll be returning to Scotland right as San Diego Beer Week is revving up, but that won’t stop us from treating him to the time of his life in one of the most vibrant brewing scenes in the world. If you see him out around town you can help us out. Buy him a beer and show him that San Diego is where it’s at. Between that and the weather—and the beer of course—he may not want to leave.

-Matt Steele

Ken Schmidt Returns Home From GABF

Matt Steele
Alas, the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is over. All 495 competing breweries have packed their beers and headed home, some with shiny pieces of bling dangling from their necks (or if you’re Jeff Bagby, A LOT of bling), others sans bling but with the bolstered pride that comes from wowing thousands of beer fans with their delicious creations. Ken Schmidt happened to be part of the latter camp, and although he didn’t win in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF, he came away with his head held high from the insane buzz that Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter generated. He called me during the fest to relay the results of the Pro-Am and left this message:

Ken Schmidt Voice Message from GABF

Just like at the Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival, Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter was the object of bountiful adoration. It was the first keg to blow at the Pro-Am table, and it generated the longest lines. Ken said that he had a blast competing in the GABF, but it was only part of the exhilarating journey that began with his victory at our homebrewing competition back in March. “Competing in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF was thrilling,” Ken said, “but being chosen by my brewing peers and the panel of eight from Stone (to help brew the Pro-Am selection with Stone) holds the greatest excitement for me. It has been a wonderful journey.”

Ken Schmidt toasting with fans at our GABF send-off party on September 21

Ken Schmidt toasting with fans at our GABF send-off party on September 21

We anticipate our next AHA Rally and homebrewing competition will be some time in March. Sign up for our homebrewing email newsletter for updates. When I talked to Ken on Monday, he said that he’s already brainstorming some more special brews to share. If they’re anything like his Aloha Plenty, we’ll be giddily awaiting their appearance.

-Matt Steele

The Stone and BrewDog Saga Continues…

Matt Steele
It’s no secret that we’re fans of our friends James, Martin and the whole team over at Scotland’s BrewDog. We’ve brewed two collaboration beers with them – BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, and the more recent basha — and we admire them for having the guts to brew big, aggressive beers in the UK and the skill to succeed with it.

The last episode in the ongoing saga of Stone and BrewDog left off with a newly fermenting collaboration brew and some choice hand-selected Scotch whisky barrels stuffed with native Scottish fruit. So what’s next for our two breweries? Why, a Brewer Exchange Program of course.

Our Brewhouse Supervisor, Jeremy Moynier, playing with malt

Our Brewhouse Supervisor, Jeremy Moynier, playing in the malt

From October 23rd to November 12th, we’ll be trading our very own Brewhouse Supervisor, Jeremy Moynier, for BrewDog’s Lead Brewer, Stewart Bowman in an open exchange of brewing acumen. Stewart will get a chance to experience brewing on a larger scale and get a feel for how we do things (or as Mitch put it, “learn from our mistakes”), and Jeremy will get a chance to experience brewing in a smaller, fast-growing brewery in an entirely different beer culture. However, since BrewDog will be out of their Lead Brewer for two weeks, Jeremy will definitely have to step up and fill his boots.

This will be a “working trip” rather than a vacation for both brewers, but they’ll probably manage to throw in some diversions along the way. Jeremy did express interest in visiting a Scottish distillery or two and scoping out some choice barrels (hint hint, James and Martin!).

We’re incredibly excited to take Stewart under our wing and to live vicariously through Jeremy and reap the benefits of his stint at BrewDog. Stay tuned as this story takes shape.

-Matt Steele

The Papa Birds Have Left the Nest


It’s official: The papa birds have left the nest. For the next few weeks, our fearless leaders Greg Koch, Steve Wagner, and Mitch Steele will be kicking ass all across the European continent brewing amazing beer with fellow craft brewers, schmoozing at various beer events, and fervidly spreading the Arrogance. Sure, the beer will still flow and things will pretty much be the same around here, but we can’t help feel that brief exhilaration we used to get as kids when the teacher stepped out into the hall. I’m dodging spitballs as I type…

So what exactly will our beloved beer patriarchs be up to in the Old World? Well, Greg left on Sunday to attend the TEDGlobal 2009 conference at Hogwarts…err…Oxford, England. From there he’ll be heading to Norway on July 27th, where he’ll be joined by Steve and Mitch to brew the final iteration of Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale with Kjetil Jikiun at Nøgne-Ø (check out Greg’s last visit to Norway). The second, “funkier” iteration was brewed back in April with Ron Jeffries at Jolly Pumpkin, and this version is sure to be equally unique (Steve is actually bringing the San Diegan White Sage with him for the brew).

Remember this awesome graphic, well now it's July and we're on the third & final stop - Nøgne-ø in Norway

Remember this awesome graphic? Well now we're on the 3rd & final stop. Nøgne-Ø, here we come...

The three Stone beer diplomats will then be off to Scotland on July 30th to brew a new collaboration beer with our friends James Watt and Martin Dickie at BrewDog. They’re not sure exactly what they’re going to brew there, but one thing’s certain—the beer will be aged in Scotch Whiskey barrels, hand selected by the Stone crew and their brewing brethren at BrewDog. Steve will then depart the day after brewing, and Greg and Mitch will head off to London to appear at a slew of Stone events, as well as attend the Great British Beer Festival. For a full run-down of where they’ll be, check out our UK Stone Events google calendar (scroll to August). Event details may change, so call ahead before attending!

We wish Greg, Steve, and Mitch a safe, and most importantly, FREAKIN’ AWESOME, inter-continental beer adventure. It’ll be business as usual until they get back, but watch out for paper airplanes.

-Matt Steele