News flash—even the über-talented members of Team Stone who bring phenomenal craft beer to masses of fans with stellar taste are, brace yourselves for this one…only human. Like everyone else on this blue-green, spinning orb we call home, we make mistakes. Some of them turn out to be triumphs—hey, we wouldn’t have Arrogant Bastard Ale if it hadn’t been for errant mathematical calculations one fateful brew day, and we all know how that turned out! So, to an extent, we embrace our human nature, especially since that’s where discovery and new ideas often come from. Well, as some of you astute Stone fans may have noticed when picking up our new Stone Mixed 12 Pack featuring four rotating varieties of our year-round beers, there’s a goof-up we didn’t catch in time. The first edition of the Stone Mixed 12 Pack included OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale, Stone Levitation Ale, Stone IPA and…Stone Runination IPA.
In addition to the guarantee of authenticity, a major benefit of wearing one’s emotions and opinions on their sleeves is that such individuals are ready at the drop of a hat—or the click of a camera’s “on” switch—to share their beliefs in a cogent and intelligent manner. Our CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch is never shy about sharing his views where quality and consumers are concerned. Recently, a camera crew from UCTV, the television faction of the University of California education system, engaged him unexpectedly at the debut of Bottled & Kegged, an exhibit at the San Diego History Center chronicling the rise of craft brewing in San Diego County. What resulted is the video below, which eloquently outlines GK’s passionate beliefs on what people should not only desire, but demand for themselves—something better, something with heart, something crafted to be the best.
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.
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:
It’s apparently mind blowing to some folks that for our first 15+ years, we’d never used Cascade hops in any of our beers. And now, seemingly out of the blue, we’ve gone and used Cascade in our two most recent beer releases: 2012 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine and the Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA. Interestingly enough, we got a fair amount of (unexpected) reactions at this news. Some people laughed. Others cried. (Not really. At least as far as we know.) Some made conclusions about what they thought the beers would taste like before even trying them. (Hardly unusual.) Though most just happily went to their local craft beer bar or trusty bottle shop, picked one up and thoroughly enjoyed it without knowing or caring that the use of Cascade hops was a new endeavor for us. Cool.
Then we got a few strange comments scattered about our multiple social media channels. This one in particular made us scratch our heads: “Stone using Cascade hops? What the hell? I thought you guys wanted to stay a Cascade free brewery.” Wait… what? We never said that. At least that we can recall. Clearly, some folks felt we had some ‘splaining to do. Et voilà… here we are.
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.
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:
- Every Thursday, the Stone Farms crew harvests veggies to be sold the next day. From the earth to your plate in under 24 hours!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You return home stocked with some of the freshest veggies & beer imaginable. You rejoice, hard.
- 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.
You’re probably familiar with our Head Brewer, Mitch Steele. When you think of Mitch, you may think, “Being the Head brewer at Stone Brewing Co. must be a pretty sweet deal. I bet that guy just dances around in the beer version of Candyland all day, rolling in hop bales and brewing up whatever he feels like.”
You may have similar thoughts about Stone’s Brewmaster and President, Steve Wagner. Perhaps something along the lines of: “When he’s not reading adoring fan letters from Stone devotees, I bet Steve swims in an IPA fountain and wanders the fermenter farm with his bottomless mug.”
You’re jealous, aren’t you?
In an effort to inject a dose of reality into that wildly unrealistic fantasy, let me tell you about the unbelievably sweet paid vacation (ed. note: this may not be how Mitch and Steve would characterize this particular trip) they’re going on together next week.
Here’s the deal: Mitch and Steve have been commissioned by the esteemed authorities at Brewers Publications to write their next book on beer styles. The subject is, what else, the beloved art of India Pale Ales. That’s right, our Brewmaster and Head Brewer are literally writing the book on IPAs.
As you’ve undoubtedly gathered from drinking Stone beers, Mitch and Steve are not the type to deliver the bare minimum. Writing a dry treatise with basic information and received wisdom is just not their style. So they are travelling to Britain to dig through archives, interview retired brewers, powwow with British beer writers, interrogate beer historians, and examine breweries…all in an effort to learn the true history of the beer style that we eventually made our own…and made San Diego famous. Oh, and they’re going to drink some beer, too.
Now you have a damn good reason to be jealous.
While the book isn’t projected to hit shelves until Fall 2011, Stone fans might get to enjoy the fruits of their labor a bit sooner. A big part of the book will consist of historical IPA recipes Mitch and Steve discover on their trip, and they plan on brewing a few when they get back. So if all goes well, you may get to take a hoppy trip back in time, care of Mitch and Steve’s Excellent IPA Adventure.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine baby turtles hatching on a beach. Squinty from their first view of the warm tropical sun, they are full of cuteness and potential, the majestic sea sheep of tomorrow.
But wait, what’s that in the distance? Oh, no! Rapacious sea gulls have spotted the hatchlings and are swooping in for the kill. Endangered and facing long odds in a world hostile to their very existence, the fate of the entire sea turtle species depends on the success of these little reptiles.
Fortunately, a member of the sea turtle’s professional association has spotted the danger and is attempting to mitigate the seagull’s hunger so that enough baby turtles can survive. Why? Not to deny the gulls their justly deserved meal, but for the mutual benefit of both species. You see, with a healthy and stable turtle population, the gulls will eat sustainably for generations to come and the world will get to delight in oceans full of handsome sea turtles.
Just what in the hell am I talking about, you ask? Obviously I am talking about H.R. 4278, the Bill the Brewers Association is championing in Congress to reduce the tax burden on the smallest craft breweries. Let me explain.
Since 1996, Stone has come a long way. What started as a two-person operation tucked into a little industrial park has become a 56,000 sq. ft. (and growing) brewery and Bistro employing nearly 300 people and brewing close to 100,000 barrels of beer a year. We’re thrilled by our success and thankful to be well established.
But along the way there were plenty of dicey moments, any one of which could have doomed this whole operation. And while the world is a friendlier place for craft beer today than it was in 1996, the path to starting a successful brewery is still rife with challenges far too numerous to name, just like baby sea turtles. Well, sort of.
So if you’d like to improve the odds for the small brewers that contribute so much to the diversity and fun of craft beer, you might want to get in touch with your Representative in Congress and encourage them to co-sponsor the bill.
Here’s how. First, go to the Brewers Association’s H.R. 4278 Resource Page and read up on the bill.
Next, find your Representatives’ contact info by entering your zip code into the search field on the upper left hand corner of the U.S. House of Representatives page.
Finally, write an upbeat, polite e-mail to your Representative supporting the bill. Something along the lines of, “As one of your constituents, I want you to know that I support America’s craft brewers, especially in these difficult economic times, which is why I’m asking you to co-sponsor H.R. 4278.”
It’s actually quite easy. Do it now. For you, for craft beer, and for the baby sea turtles!
Cheers, and support your local brewery, wherever you are!
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.
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.
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.
When we opened the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in 2006, we knew we wanted our menu to feature the highest quality ingredients, and beef was no exception. We knew very little about the beef industry, but once we did our homework, we chose grass-fed/grass-finished beef because it’s all-natural, healthy, and most importantly—it’s freakin’ delicious!
In case you’re wondering, there is a difference between grass-fed beef and grass-fed/grass-finished beef. The majority of cattle are grass-fed at some point, but it’s the final months of their lives that really make the difference. Most cattle are shipped to feed lots and fed grain in their final months to fatten them up, which alters their flavor. We predominantly serve beef that has been grass-fed throughout its entire life cycle, hence grass-fed/grass-finished (the one exception is our Prime Rib Melt, which uses all-natural grass-fed/grain-finished Meyer’s beef to achieve a different flavor).
Today, grass-fed/grass-finished beef could draw similarities to the earlier days of craft beer. There were folks that wanted it, but distributors and retailers often felt there wasn’t sufficient demand to make it available. “Grass-fed/grass-finished was an item we were looking into anyway because of the recent industry leaning towards more naturally raised beef,” said Jonathan Sachs from Hamilton Meats, “but there was no interest from any of our current clients to justify offering the product.”
That was about to change, as consumers and restaurants became interested in grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Together with three other local restaurants, including our good friend Jay Porter, proprietor of The Linkery in North Park, we were able to raise demand enough for Hamilton Meats to offer grass-fed/grass-finished beef.
Most of our beef now comes from verdant pastures thanks to Tallgrass Beef, a company dedicated to all-natural, great-tasting grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Their cattle live stress-free, roaming freely and eating lush natural grasses throughout their lives. Brad Schoenberg, Vice President of Sales & Business Development at Tallgrass Beef, gave us the rundown on why grass-fed/grass-finished is a good way to go:
“The most important thing that people should know about grass-fed/grass-finished is that it is good for the animal…but the health and nutritional benefit for us is the real key. Tallgrass Beef contains a higher level of omega 3′s, high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acids (an anti-carcinogen), and is lower in saturated fats and cholesterol.”
Brad poses an interesting question—“Can you imagine your doctor telling you to eat more beef?” While it may be difficult to imagine a medical professional advocating increased consumption of beef, it’s not difficult to imagine your tongue advocating increased consumption of grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Sure it’s healthy and at the top of the ethical and environmental scales, but just as important–it’s damn good.
- Matt Steele