When Stone co-founder and original brewmaster Steve Wagner crafted our initial batch of Stone IPA, little could he have known that that highly hopped first attempt at amplifying a British classic would become so popular and, for many beer drinkers, an India pale ale by which all future New World interpretations of the style would be judged. For many, Wagner’s bright, potent creation was their first IPA. (Was it yours? If so, let us know on social media using #StoneIPA)
It took just a few short hours after the big keg drop at the Stone New Year’s Celebration for us to get to work planning another big year at our Southern California digs. After a few weeks of scheming, tweaking, revising and fine-tuning, we’re ready to share our entire schedule of momentous events that will come to pass at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens* in 2013! Get out your calendar and prepare to “X” out a great many dates. See you soon!
We’ve said it time and time again—one of the most rewarding aspects of being in the craft beer biz is engaging with fans who are not just proponents of ours, but fellow appreciators of high quality beer. Like us, our fans help to spread the good word about what good craft beer is all about. That pushing forward of information and education about a superior quaffable medium has been extraordinarily apparent in the engagement and interaction inspired by our über-fresh, über-hoppy Stone Enjoy By IPA.
We took a different approach to formulating this year’s Stone Vertical Epic Ale – the last in the series. Co-founder and original Stone Brewmaster Steve Wagner and I had agreed that we wanted to brew a Belgian-style holiday ale, given the release date of 12.12.12 and the celebratory nature of this beer. Armed with that baseline, I decided to open up the formulation to our team of brewers, who are a talented and creative bunch, to say the least.
So in early summer, we told our team the goal for the Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale and allowed anyone who wanted to brew a pilot batch to take a turn on our More Beer 20-gallon brew sculpture. A total of eight recipes were brewed and they were all fantastic. Ultimately, we chose this one from brewer Josh Jordan because it was so smooth, dark and luscious, and the spice combinations were amazing.
He shared that recipe with us and, in the spirit of the rapidly fleeting holiday season, now we want to share it with you. So here is the recipe we went with and, per long-standing tradition, I’ve suggested some musical selections that I think will pair well with each step of the brewing process. Have fun!
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.
In preparation for our Epic Eve Dinner and the Stone Epic Festival: The Final Chapter, our all-out festival celebrating all 11 vintages in our Vertical Epic Ale series, Chef Alex Carballo and “Dr.” Bill Sysak teamed up to develop nearly two-dozen recipes for dishes that pair with each of the beers.
Realizing not all of our fans will be able to make it out for these events, but are as amped up as we are to uncap their bottles of Vertical Epic Ale at their own tastings, we wanted to provide the means by which to prepare food that will fall perfectly in sync with those beers. The following are recipes for four dishes that, when put together, make up a comprehensive meal.
It’s our hope that this will excel what will likely already be one of the most heightened and interesting beer tasting sessions of your life. Bon apetit!
Gone, but in no way forgotten (guys as extraordinary as our former media and communications linchpin are impossible to forget), Randy Clemens is returning with a special edition Stone Blog post to close-out his two part series on Stone Brewing Co.’s yeast. Enjoy!
When we last left off, you’ll recall that we’d taken a trip down to see our friends at White Labs to learn a bit more about the unsung hero of our beer: the Stone yeast strain. We got to see where the yeast was stored and how it was cared for, but what happens once it gets into our hands?
Hopheads, you’re officially on the clock! You’ve got 35 days to uncap and savor the abundantly fresh hoppiness of Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA. But before you start grousing about being given the directive to consume your beer (at this point, it’s good to realize that there is absolutely nothing to complain about here), know this—we’re not the ones with the death-grip on the stopwatch. This quite literal “deadline” has been decreed by the ancient Mayan civilization.
Well, well well. 11.11.11. Hmmm. A very special day on several levels. First, it was the Veteran’s Day of all Veteran’s Days. A perfect day to pay tribute and honor those who have served in our country’s military. And perhaps, on a less serious side, 11.11.11 was also Nigel Tufnel Day (who is Nigel Tufnel you ask?…lead guitarist for the legendary band Spinal Tap…made famous for having his Marshall amplifiers custom built with volume knobs that go to “11”…not 10.)
And 11.11 also was the birthday of two wonderful members of Team Stone, Marty Saylor and Laura Ulrich, so raise a glass to them!
And finally, 11.11.11 signifies the release of the second to last in our Stone Vertical Epic Ale series: the penultimate Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale.
We started off developing this beer by brewing a pilot size amber Belgian style ale using a nice variety of German and Belgian amber malts. It was a good start, a very nice beer, but was just missing that special something, that “twist” we like to have in the Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Then, one day last spring, I was in the Temecula Spice Shop in Old Town Temecula, just browsing around. I always like to look for interesting spices and teas and such, and I was looking at some chilies to possibly use for brewing…or to make a great chili for our annual Superbowl Chili Cookoff. The woman in the store told me that she had only one more bag of this wonderful Hatch Green Chili left, and she raved about the flavors from these chilies from New Mexico.
So I bought that last bag, and rather than cook with it, I decided we should try it in a pilot brew. As much as I love chilies, I’m not very well schooled in the different varieties, so I did a little research on the Hatch Chili, and was impressed by their reputation, and the idea of getting great, intense and unique chili flavor without a lot of heat. We also added a touch of cinnamon to that pilot brew, giving it a bit of a Mexican flair, and found the flavors worked amazingly well together, better than I had hoped for!
So here is the homebrew recipe. It’s a pretty basic brew in a lot of ways, so have fun with it. It’s 100% malt this year, no Belgian Syrup or Candi Sugar, so the beer ends up being a little fuller bodied than in the past few years. And as always, we suggest some musical selections that we think will pair well with each brewing step along the way.
Here is the grain bill:
Pale Malt 80.25%
Light Munich Malt 9.10%
Special B Malt 5.6%
CaraBohemian Malt 4%
Crystal 75-80°L 1.05%
As always, I am only providing the all grain version of the recipe, and just percentages, so you can figure out the weights based on the size of your brewing system and your normal efficiencies.
Target OG: 20.5°P (1.082 SG.)
OK, 11.11.11 is a Spinal Tap kind of day, so let’s start things off with the classic “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” which should get all of us in the mood for an Epic Brew Day!
Use a 30 minute conversion rest at 150°F. This is a moderately low conversion temperature for a relatively short time that should provide a nice balance of malt dextrins in the finished beer. If you are keeping up with these recipes, this particular mash scheme was designed to make a bit maltier, fuller beer than what we’ve done the past few years. If you can, raise your mash temperature up to 165°F after conversion rest to stop the enzymatic conversion of starches to sugars before lautering.
Recirculate your wort gently from the bottom over the top of the mash to deposit the fine particles of malt on the top of the grain and to “set” your bed. Avoid splashing the wort. Recirculate for 5-15 minutes, depending on your system, before diverting wort flow to your kettle/boiling vessel. You should remove almost all the malt particles from the wort flow, but some haze is ok.
Start sparging in the lauter when the wort level is about ½” above the grain bed. Starting earlier will decrease your efficiency, because the water will dilute your first wort. Sparge water should be between 165°F and 170°F to maximize extraction, but avoid going over 170°F or you’ll extract harsh compounds from the malt husks.
Fun trivia: Did you know the technique of sparging was invented by Scottish brewers in the 1700s? Up until that point, brewers would mash in, and then draw off all the liquid, and then add more water and mash again, repeating the process 3-4 times to obtain separate worts with decreasing gravities that were used for separate beers. Sparging as a standard brewing practice became common in the mid 1800s.
Sparge until you hit your target boil volume or until your wort gravity being drawn-off reaches 3°P (1.012 SG), whichever comes first. Don’t lauter past 3°P, because when the sparged wort coming off the lauter is that low in sugar content, you risk extracting tannins and other harsh character from the malt husks.
Be careful not to rush the mashing and lautering step, or your brewing efficiency will go down. These steps should be done gently, with care. A good music selection will assist in keeping things relaxed and gentle during lautering. Don’t go too mellow, just enough to keep you focused on the task at hand and inspired. Therefore, I suggest Spinal Tap’s “Hell Hole” or “Rock and Roll Creation” to keep things relaxed and focused.
Here is the hop bill:
2.9 grams per gallon Warrior hop pellets (15% AA)
2.9 grams per gallon Perle hop pellets (10% AA)
All added at the start of boil. There are no other hop additions during the boil. This should get you about 65 IBU’s. Boil for 90 minutes.
You do know that hops are the flowers produced by female hop vines, right? Therefore, a perfect song choice when adding hop flowers to the boil is “Listen To What The Flower People Said” by Spinal Tap.
Always be safety minded, and beware of spontaneous combustion during flameout…
Hop and Spice additions, to be added at the start of the whirlpool process:
2.9 grams per gallon New Zealand Pacific Jade hop pellets
1.4 grams per gallon U.K. Target hop pellets
1.4 grams per gallon New Mexico Hatch mild green chilies (dried and crushed)
1.4 grams per gallon crushed cinnamon stick
Pacific Jade is a newer hop variety from New Zealand, we first used it in the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (How much more black could that beer be? The answer is none. None more black.) We just love the pineapple, citrusy, and spicy herbal flavors it contributes. UK Target is a high alpha English hop that provides both a characteristic English earthy hop character and hints of Orange Marmalade and Tangerine. We used this hop in our Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.
The dried crushed chilies we got from Biad Chile in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We went with the mild version, not hot, because we really wanted the wonderful flavor without a lot of heat. The varieties are a blend of NM 6-4, AZ-20 and AZ-19, and are referred to as “Anaheim type” chilies, even though they come from New Mexico. So if you can’t find New Mexico mild green chilies, perhaps dried and crushed Anaheim chilies would be an acceptable substitute.
The chilies and cinnamon stick we put in a mesh bag and hung in the whirlpool. The addition rate is fairly low. To paraphrase our lab tech Rick Blankemeier, we didn’t want to brew a chili beer, we wanted to brew a great beer with chilies. The low addition rate allows all the other ingredients to blend in. You can taste the chilies, but this is far from a one-dimensional beer. Be sure to bust up the cinnamon stick into small pieces to maximize flavor extraction.
The whirlpool step is where you separate out your proteinaceous trub. This is called, in brewing techno-speak, the “trub break.” An appropriate song choice here could be Spinal Tap’s “Break Like The Wind.”
Yeast Addition: Pitch a Belgian yeast strain, enough to get 20-25 million cells per milliliter (requires a starter). We used the Wyeast 3220 Flanders Golden strain. This strain produces a lot of banana esters, which we found blended really well with the cinnamon flavors.
After the trub has been separated from the wort, chill the wort using an immersion chiller or a heat exchanger to about 65 °F. Add enough yeast to get a cell count of about 20-25 million cells per milliliter. We used a fairly high pitching rate (yeast addition rate) here, because we wanted to ferment at a lower temperature but still ensure the beer fermented out completely. This means that you will most likely have to build up your yeast culture at home using a starter. We fermented the Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale at 68°F to maximize fruity ester formation and minimize the clove/spicy flavor formations, which form at higher levels with warmer Belgian yeast fermentation temperatures.
One thing about this yeast: it’s a powerhouse and ferments well below normal gravity limits. In this case, we formulated the beer to finish out between 4 and 4.5°P, but the yeast took it down to about 2.5°P, which resulted in 9.4% abv.
By the time you are pitching, your brew day is just about complete….so you can spin some “All The Way Home,” the very first Spinal Tap song co-written by musical geniuses Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins.
After fermentation completes (should finish between 2.5 and 3°P), chill the beer down to about 35°F or so, and let it sit until the beer clarifies, at least one week.
Package the beer as normal.
Perhaps now is the time to start celebrating your successful brew, and celebrate by pondering the wonderful mysteries of brewing, a mysterious art which we now know was started in ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, by an ancient race of people… the Druids…. at their mystical brewing site “Stonehenge.” Nobody knows who taught the Druids how to brew, but their legacy lives on. Enjoy your brew day!
Try your hand at brewing all of the Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Homebrew recipes for each can be found at:
As loyal readers of this blog, you undoubtedly remember that our Head Brewer Mitch Steele and Brewmaster Steve Wagner took a cushy paid vacation to Britain back in February, allegedly to research a book they’re writing on IPAs.
Well now they’ve gotten down to business; specifically, the business of brewing this summer’s Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA. Unsurprisingly, the trip provided some liquid inspiration for the Anniversary brew. Here’s Mitch and Steve explaining their vision for this most unusual beer: