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.
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.
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.
Today we unleash upon an unsuspecting world the latest installment in our collaboration series: Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF. Three great breweries, three old friends, one hellaciously herbaceous beer.
Before divulging any more details, let’s fire up the flux capacitor and set the Delorean to 2003. That’s the year Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Bill Covaleski of Victory, and our own Greg Koch formed the ill-fated Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor (BUFF), a three person organization with the mission of “flex[ing] their verbal muscles in a no-holds barred attack on mindless video-drone beer attitudes,” in the words of the original press release.
BUFF held a single press conference in an aisle of a Boston liquor store. Despite sending invitations to a slew of mainstream media contacts, a single member of the beer press deemed the event worthy of attendance.
Seven years later, Greg, Sam, and Bill felt that the time was right to commemorate that abortive shot across the bow of brewing mediocrity, and a collaboration beer seemed the perfect forum for their unique brand of sudsy activism.
Amazingly, despite having brewed well over a hundred different beers between the three of them, none had made a beer like Saison du BUFF, which takes the earthy quaffability of a Belgian farmhouse ale and adds the kind of twist you’d expect from these three brewing miscreants: sage, thyme, parsley, and Stone Estate (i.e. our parking lot) grown rosemary.
As you can imagine given the personalities involved, the Saison du BUFF brew day was like watching a gaggle of crazed lemurs operate heavy machinery. Fortunately, someone was there to film it:
So what does Saison du BUFF taste like, you ask? How about we have Sam explain:
“Minty, piney, estery nose to it…Ohhh, that’s a good beer, starts out kind of marmaladey and sweet, and then it gets kind of clovey and dry…rustic, earthy, and hay[-like], wheaty. Beautiful, complex, very drinkable saison. First one came out awesome!”
Not to be left out, Bill sent us these tasting notes: “Fluffy white head is taut over golden incense burner of inviting aromas. Bright hops evident on the nose but deeper notes of oily sage also very apparent. Or was that the rosemary…? A sip and I am no closer to the truth but totally enthralled with this brew. It makes me hungry as the herbal flavors are both bright and savory with the lemony hops lifting all impressions. Body is firm and food friendly. Bon appétit!”
If that sounds up your alley, you should be able to find Saison du BUFF wherever you can find Stone. If you don’t get Stone, but you do get Dogfish Head or Victory, you’re in luck because Greg, Sam, and Bill will be brewing two more batches of Saison du BUFF, once at Dogfish Head on June 6th and again at Victory on June 10th. So keep your eyes peeled and your noses primed for this pungent, uniformity-smashing collaboration beer.
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.
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.)
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Thanks to passionate craft beer lovers everywhere, I Am A Craft Brewer took on more of a life online than it did at the CBC. To borrow a trite social media buzzword, it went “viral.” Within four hours of being posted on Vimeo it was viewed 1,500 times, and it sailed past 20,000 views just five days later. The video is currently hovering around a respectable 33,700 views.
While the video stands alone as a testament to the camaraderie and integrity of the craft brewing industry, it was actually shown as the introduction to Greg’s keynote speech at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference in Boston, titled “Be Remarkable: Collaboration Ethics Camaraderie Passion.” Famed beer writer Harry Schuhmacher said “It was the best speech I have ever seen,” and while it isn’t perfect, Greg’s inspirational keynote successfully illuminates the many strengths of the craft brewing industry and demonstrates that “if we don’t screw it up,” craft brewing stands poised to thrive for many years to come.
You can see Greg’s keynote speech, complete with an impromptu musical performance with craft beer compatriots (perhaps they should stick to beer), at IAmACraftBrewer.com. Pour yourself a tall glass and settle into a comfy chair because Greg had a lot on his mind (the speech clocks in at 46 minutes). You can also find two different versions of I Am A Craft Brewer on IAmACraftBrewer.com, as well as a bevy of quotes from bloggers and media types raving about the video and Greg’s keynote, and a short guide on how to share the video with as many people as possible to keep the movement rolling. Remember, we’re all craft beer crusaders, and it’s our job to spread the word about the spirit and integrity of the industry. Onward craft beer enthusiasts!