Sudsy Civic Pride: San Diego Beer Week 2014

San Diego Beer Week in America’s craft beer Mecca means more beer, food, pairings, nth level and over-the-top events than one person can attend. This excess of events naturally has heads turning in every direction, trying to figure out where to spend their time and sate their thirst for incredible beer. To make this process easier, here’s a complete run down of all the events we have planned at our two Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido and Liberty Station.

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Number One Bastard: A First Tangle with Liquid Arrogance

There are watershed moments in everyone’s existences where they look back and see that an event, perhaps comprised of little more than a few seconds and seemingly meaningless at the time, changes the trajectory of one’s life forever. For some, it can be sage words from a wise individual or exorcising themselves from the grip of a premature demise. For others, a chance encounter with the love of their lives or a moment of introspection so deep it inspires sea change, the pursuit of lifelong dreams or the abandonment of ill-conceived ventures in favor of aspiring to something better. And then, for some, there’s the discovery of something life-changing—an artifact, an heirloom, a new technology, a book, a religion, a field of study…or a beer. At first blush, that last one seems like an exaggeration; something you’d expect from a macrobeer commercial wherein some heretofore severely lame, nerdy member of society cracks open a cold-as-the-Rockies can of lo-cal, lo-flavor adjunct pilsner, then suddenly finds himself surrounded by a harem of supermodels on the deck of his new yacht as it pulls into the personal dock at his annexed island mansion in the Bahamas. My story does not end like this, but the tale of my first encounter with Arrogant Bastard Ale does lead to a very happy ending.

Picture it, a Friday night in San Diego during the fall of 1998—a young man yet to quaff his first beer saunters into a low-frills, seemingly Irish-themed bar on the edge of a strip mall that, otherwise, is completely occupied by Asian restaurants. The name of that establishment—O’Brien’s Pub. The mission of the group—beers to kick-start the weekend. Did anybody in the quintet know this was an early Mecca for craft beer in a city that would evolve to become, arguably, the epicenter for craft beer in the United States? Nope. They all just happened to work a half-mile away at a microelectronics manufacturer that often inspired them to seek out adult beverages to help erode the stress of the nine-to-five. The other four laborers in my group hit up O’Brien’s pretty regularly and, thinking I’d make a decent addition to their social circle, had asked me to come along. A fan of friends and adult beverages, I took them up on their invite.

Upon entering the pub, as if by fate, a group of five cleared out from a table in the otherwise packed-to-capacity bar. We scurried over to claim their vacated territory as our own and, as my friends perused a whiteboard with a bunch of foreign-sounding names messily scrawled upon it—Bear Republic Racer 5, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot—I thought to myself: Crap, I’ve never had a beer before and I don’t want to sound like a loser. What am I going to order? I started combing over my severely limited vernacular where beer brands were concerned, weighing each against the criteria that television ads and billboards had provided to tell me which was the fanciest, top tier choice. A waitress came to the table and, as if sensing the opportunity to completely humiliate a beer rookie, asked me what I’d like to drink. I cleared my throat and, in my deepest, manliest voice, replied: “Um, a Heineken?”

I’d hoped for the others to not even hear me or, if they did, only passively acknowledge the selection as they proceeded to issue their orders…but that didn’t happen. Instead, each of their faces elongated to gaping caricatures akin to Edvard Munch’s famed masterpiece, The Scream. It was as if their jaw muscles had gelatinized at the mere utterance of the Dutch macrobrew. I thought for sure at that moment that my drinking buddies had gone from to-be to would-be status, but then they exhibited the positive behavior that I would later learn is the hallmark of any good craft beer fan. Rather than shame me for being so ignorant to the craft culture, they had the waitress cancel my order and told her, “He’ll have an Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Rather than feel belittled or inferior, I felt gratitude that they’d taken me under their wing and helped me out. And, though I had no idea what Arrogant Bastard Ale was, I had to admit, it sounded a heck of a lot more interesting than any beer I’d heard of up to that point.

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Stone Co-founders Greg Koch (left, and kinda hard to recognize without that beard) and Steve Wagner etch signatures into 3-litre bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale in the VERY early days of this watershed beer.

Looking Back (& Forward): Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival

We put in a full year of planning, effort and beer wrangling to make the annual Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival the best and biggest it can be. Considering it’s the largest annual beer fest on the West Coast, we’re inclined to believe we do a hell of a job. We just wish it didn’t go by so quick. In less than 24 hours, we blow through 364 days’ worth of work and just about as many (but even more) kegs! Take, for instance, this year. Over 50 breweries from around the country showed up and brought 187 beers. And that’s all in addition to the 50 Stone beers we busted out to celebrate 18 years in the craft brewing biz! It was the kind of fete we wished every fan that helped us get to this ripe (young?) age could have participated in. But alas, even with nearly 8,000 tickets sold (and more than a quarter million dollars raised for charity, thank you very much), some will only experience this special day via this blog post. So, we’re going to go as in depth as possible so those who couldn’t make it know what to expect when they hopefully come out next year, and those who did join us can have fun reliving the Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.

Senses Working Overtime: Beer Appreciation 101

You don’t have to be a certified beer judge or Cicerone to know when the taste of a beer strikes your fancy. But pinpointing exactly what you’re experiencing—that mysterious connection between your brain and taste buds—can be tricky. Fortunately, there is a quite enjoyable remedy for this: Taste more beer! But also smell more beer and visually examine more beer. It takes all of one’s senses to thoroughly evaluate ales and lagers. (OK, you don’t need to hear beer, but one can’t deny the anticipatory delight that stems from the sound of a bottle being opened or the sadness brought on by the last gasps of an emptied keg.) Practice makes perfect when it comes to exercising and refining your palate as well as the way you interpret beer’s appearance, scents and flavors. Many reading this have had a lot of practice drinking beer, but read on for a crash course on how to really appreciate it.

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Fem-”Ale”: International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day

I was dumping a 55-pound bag of malted barley into a hopper when something occurred to me: I have probably never used more than 20 pounds of grain in a beer recipe, let alone the 500 pounds I was helping mill at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. Usually Liberty Station Brewing Manager Kris Ketchum takes on this laborious task all by himself, but on March 8, a dozen women clad in pink boots and armed with can-do attitudes descended on the 10-barrel brewhouse to participate in the first ever International Women’s Collaboration Brew (IWCB) Day!

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Happy New Beer: Stone’s 2014 Events Calendar

We don’t have a crystal ball, but no bogus future-telling devices are necessary to assure our fans that the New Year holds much promise and a full slate of fun-filled beer-centric events here at Stone. From some of the country’s most highly anticipated beer festivals to educational session and outright gorge-fests, there’s something for every kind of beer lover, and we’re proud to bring as much variety as we will delicious craft ales and lagers. The following is a breakdown of what we have in store for you in 2014!

Beerophiles, Start Your Engines: San Diego Beer Week 2013

A tradition a half-decade in the making, few happenings pack as much inventive beer, education and sheer enjoyment as the ten-day journey to the center of the country’s craft beer epicenter, San Diego Beer Week. All of the nearly eighty breweries in our extensive home county push the envelope to provide the most incredible events they can, and we are no different. Each year is an opportunity to cull through our cellars for rare and just plain phenomenal beer, collaborate with our brewing friends, invite in our beer-loving fans and put on a show in support of our industry, region and craft beer in general. If you’re planning to take in this year’s festivities, read on for a complete schedule of what we’ll be doing to celebrate, then make time in your beery, breakneck itinerary to spend some time sipping in San Diego Beer Week with us.

Rolling Stones: The 2013 Great American Beer Festival

You’ve heard the legend of a cavernous hall filled to the brim with beer from around the country. Maybe you’ve even experienced for yourself the glories of unlimited pours of more than 3,100 brews. But you haven’t seen the Great American Beer Festival—the country’s largest annual suds celebration—from the perspective of Team Stone before…until now. We just got back from this massive and spectacular event, and are ready to give you a behind-the-scenes view of our GABF experience

Meet the Brewers: 12 Brewers 12 Casks 12 Mallets Summer Edition

What began as a San Diego Beer Week show of brewing solidarity has metamorphosized into a quarterly tradition that brings out not only fans of Stone beer, but members of Team Stone looking to check out inventive takes on the brewery’s year-round beers. Every three months, we round up a dozen of our brewery staff and invite them to build casks incorporating tasty ingredients ranging from fruits and herbs to tea, specialty hops and different varieties of wood. Then, to stay true to the camaraderie theme that inspired the event in the first place, we hand them mallets (customized to include each brewer’s name and the date of the event) and have them simultaneously tap their casks in the midst of a crowd of thirsty attendees. The next 12 Brewers 12 Casks 12 Mallets event will take place on August 22, 2013 at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido. The beers being offered up are…

  • Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA w/Lychee Fruit & Hersbrucker Hops by Callaway Ryan
  • Stone IPA w/Cacao Nibs & Plums by Zach Goldstein
  • Stone IPA w/Chervil, Savory, Thyme & Lavender by Laura Mirsch
  • Stone IPA w/Tamarind, Lemongrass & Ginger by Josh Hagquist
  • Stone Levitation Ale w/Peppercorn & Cilantro by Kihei Hutchinson
  • Stone Pale Ale w/Lemon Verbena & Bergamot by Steve Via
  • Stone Pale Ale w/Spanish Cedar & Spirals & Szechuan Peppercorns by Jeff Fanno
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/El Dorado Hops, Cilantro & Pineapple by Sander Banta
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/Kumquats & American Oak Chips by Ben Maushardt
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/White Peaches & Chamomile by Anthony Tallman
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/Moroccan Mint Green Tea, Cacao Black Tea & Toasted American Oak Chips by Justinian Caire
  • Stone Smoked Porter w/Shaved Coconut & Toasted Almonds by Joaquin Bowman

We added a new riff to this tradition during its spring rendition, holding a lottery among all members of Team Stone who were interested in participating but had jobs outside the brewery component of our business. The winner that time around was one of our graphic artists, who busted out a cask of Stone Smoked Porter w/Toasted Hazelnuts. This time around, we invited two non-brewers to the festivities, our EH&S Manager and an Assistant Supervisor from Stone Company Store – Escondido. And they’re no slouches. Their casks are every bit as ambitious and slobber-provoking as their fermentation specialist comrades. Take a moment to meet this dastardly dozen before coming out to sample their creations.

Better Than Ever: Stone 17th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival

Stone Brewing Co. has been in business now for 17 years. (We know, we can hardly believe how quickly the time has flown, either.) Over that span, we’ve lifted pints, snifters, bombers and magnums of aggressively hopped, intensely flavored craft beer like vibrant, flashy banners proclaiming our mission and progress in pushing the American craft beer movement forward. But accomplishing that has been about more than making great beer. We aim to elevate everything about the craft beer culture. That includes events ranging from beer education to food-and-beer symbiosis to beer festivals. We think we’ve done a heck of a job with the latter, offering fests devoted to sour beer, barrel-aged beer and dark beer. But our expertise at putting on grand-scale festivals springs from extensive experience putting on our yearly, incrementally more incredible Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival. It’s never the same, yet it never disappoints, and this year will be no different.