Stone has some pretty strict philosophies when it comes to food. We stand by local and organically cultivated ingredients because we know they’re better for the environment, and they taste pretty darn good, too. You can get amazing items prepared with truly farm-to-table ingredients every day at our three Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens locations, but there are a few nights out of the year where we take it to the next level of freshitude—Fresh Dinners. These feasts are made solely from ingredients procured the very same day, and some of those ingredients come from our very own Stone Farms.
Back in 2006, when we decided to branch into the restaurant business, we admittedly didn’t know a lot about what we were getting ourselves into. Up until that point, we had breathed, slept, ate and, of course, drank beer and only beer. But one thing we did know was that quality was going to be at the forefront of our foray into the restaurant biz, and that so long as we held fast to that and our personal philosophies on how to provide said quality, we’d be alright…and so would fans who came to visit. Fast forward seven plus years and you’ll see we’ve done a damn good job (becoming the highest volume joint in the region), and as we predicted, the vast majority of our restaurateur successes have come from staying true to ourselves and our ethics.
Whenever we put out a new beer, I’m always asked “who came up with the recipe?”, and am always uncomfortable answering that question, because it is a simple answer that really doesn’t accurately convey why the beer is successful and tastes delicious.
Too much credit is given to the formulation/recipe for a beer’s success. I honestly believe that recipe formulation is the easiest part of making a great beer, and accounts for about 5% of its potential success. In my opinion, anyone with some understanding of ingredients and styles can create a great recipe, but actually working with that recipe to brew a great beer is the hard part.
In addition to the obvious mission of fighting to make exceptional beer available to the people and freeing shelf space from the white knuckled “Me me me!” grip of the industrialized fizzy yellow facsimile of beer in the process, I’ve always strived to leverage my position to make positive changes within the craft beer culture.
Some know me to be fairly vocal, and yes, even a bit disruptive at times. To that, I say, “Thanks for noticing. I’ll take those as compliments.” In my opinion, it’s the responsibility of people in craft brewing to be stewards of our industry and help move things in the right direction—by sheer force of will if necessary. (It’s taken a lot more than great beer to get our industry this far. If not, all us craft beer guys would have turned totally fat and lazy by now.) Truth be told, there continues to be room for craft breweries to improve our collective efforts and keep this wonderful thing we love called “craft beer” going.
But to put the onus solely on those in the business of making beer would be short-sighted. There’s also a lot beer fans can do to keep craft something we can all enjoy and be both proud of and excited about. Quite often it can all come down to acceptance, civility, understanding and, dare I say it, basic courtesy. The beautiful thing is that, even with diverse opinions and perspectives, this civility is not only possible, but bonus, our industry flourishes best when civility is a leading attribute.
Let me tell you about this amazing, invigorating health drink known as craft beer. For decades, red wine has received nearly all the publicity when it comes to the health benefits of alcoholic beverages, but I’m here to tell you that craft beer has just as many, if not more, health benefits than vino rosso. Please follow along as I explain.
It seems like we say this every twelve months (probably because we do), but this has been a huge year for us at Stone. Perhaps the biggest yet. Things never slow down here, and that’s the way we like it. Truth be told, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we had a spare moment! So a heartfelt thank you goes out to each and every one of our fans for ensuring we maintain the breakneck pace we’ve become so accustomed to.
Despite our infatuation with constant rapid progress, we feel compelled to take a moment, be it ever so brief, to reflect on the year gone by. A lot happened in our brewhouse, at our restaurant, in our community and beyond. This was a very good year, one that should be fully remembered for years to come. In that spirit, we submit to you, our valued fans, a retrospective of 2012 at Stone.
No secret that school gets back in session for most of the country about now. No matter if you are a student yourself, or have kids going to school, you could not have possibly missed annual barrage of Back to School ads, promos, sales, and such. You know, the annual tradition that begins barking to us in the dog days of August as an unwelcome reminder that in a few preciously short more weeks summer will be drawing to a close. August also, oddly, seems to spawn forth the release of seasonal (?) pumpkin beers, which at this point have already been on the shelves for several weeks. But the process of getting them there started much, much earlier.
With an average brewing time presumably in the 2-3 week range, after which they are then stockpiled and sent to wholesalers around the country to eventually hit retailers’ shelves by—in some seasonally-challenged instances—early- to mid- August. That means that while you were only a month or so into your summer tan and more concerned with your beer-geek friends critiquing you for pouring your local brewery’s summer wheat into a freezer-kept mug (after all, it’s so damn hot today right? Well, I actually agree with them…), your favorite pumpkin ale brewer was taking delivery of massive loads of pumpkin and working on their posters reading “Get Yours Today!!” (complete with fallen leaves, dried cornstalks and other autumnal imagery that Mother Nature will be catching up with three months later).
It’s the way of the world. Hell, I remember one summer many many years ago in Los Angeles I was dating a girl that was a personal assistant to Neil Diamond, and I recall her bemoaning that she was growing sick of hearing the Christmas songs he was working on recording for his upcoming holiday release. (Never mind that Neil is Jewish; I thought the end result was a great effort.) And y’know, I never have really forgiven myself for not taking at least enough advantage of that previous relationship to swing by the offices for a pic and an autograph.
Anywho. While you were diving into the pool / lake / river / ocean / sprinklers / hydrant in the middle of the summer, your fall sweaters are receiving their final stitching in China and Bangladesh. Or thereabouts.
But I digress. We were talking about Back to School, which, as I haven’t managed to get to yet but will now, reminded me of my relatively recent commencement speech I gave to the 2012 graduating class at Cuyamaca College just a few short months ago. Why would anyone ask me to give a Commencement speech one might reasonably ask? Well, the previous spring I’d been invited to give an environmental keynote to a Green Business Symposium that was being held on the campus, and I guess they liked my message. And delivery. I’d hoped they did, but I admittedly get a little bombastic at times, especially if it’s a topic that I care about, and I was pretty certain that I was either going to eventually get invited to give another talk perhaps, or politely asked never to set foot on campus again. Fortunately it was the former, but I hadn’t expected to get elevated to Commencement-delivery status. I was honored. And gave an enthusiastic Yes!
But what would I say to a group of students about to head out into the quote-unquote “real world”? As I contemplated my own graduation some 25 years previous (not that I can even recall who gave my university’s commencement or any of the words of wisdom that they gave unfortunately), I tried to think about what I wish I’d been told when I was handed my degree, and the pen just couldn’t stop flowing. The proverbial pen, that is. I actually used my laptop, as I am now.
Anyway, I think I did OK, if I may say so myself. And I really enjoyed getting a chance to share my thoughts and perspectives with the young and not-so-young minds (Cuyamaca is quite delightfully diverse, with graduating students from the 2012 class ranging from a brilliant 18 year old, and an equally-inspiriational-but-in-a-different-way octogenarian gearing up to take their next step. Since then, I’ve seen some nice feedback from a snippet of my speech that was posted by the college, and I thought, well heck! Why not share my thoughts with the world? Or at least the thin slice of the world that’s represented by you, my dear readers.
Yes, some people might disagree or scrunch their noses at some of my suggestions, but that’s alright as it’s quite impossible to say anything that’s worth saying at all without at least a modest percentage of scrunched noses… so if you feel inclined, please do scrunch away. While I may not agree with the scrunching of your nose, I will defend to the death your right to scrunch it. Or something. No matter. I wrote it for those who, like me, are rarely satisfied with the status quo… those who are always looking for ways to innovate, improvise, and improve along the way. If you’re of that cloth, feel free to read on. And if you’re not, you may benefit from reading it most.
So, without further delay, mention of sweaters, Christmas albums from Jewish singers, August onslaughts of pumpkin beers, or other asides, here is the text of my 2012 Cuyamaca College Commencement Speech: