Picture it…a room full of thirsty beer bloggers, media and industry types seated at tables with tasting glasses. It can be daunting to pour beers for such a discerning crowd—especially one with plenty of dump buckets at their disposal. But that was the mission at hand during a session of the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference, during which representatives from a number of quality craft breweries (including our friends at The Lost Abbey and Firestone Walker Brewing Company) sought to wow these 150-plus beer enthusiasts with their latest creations. Now, we weren’t nervous. We’re Stone. We save jitters and anxiety for others. We had total faith in what we had to offer, but even so, found ourselves pleasantly surprised with the incredible reception our beer was afforded as well as the myriad compliments it earned. Like us, these people have devoted their entire lives to beer, so to be lauded with kudos and positive reviews was high praise, indeed. Today, that beer, Chris Banker/Stone/Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout, begins showing up on store shelves and draft accounts across the country.
It’s easy to look at craft beer as some sort of underground club, with all of the secret passwords (Reinheitsgebot?) and acronyms (IBU, OG and CO2 to name a few). Plus, you know some particularly beer geeky bottle-shares must have unique and complicated (if not completely dorky) handshakes. But once you get into the world of beer, it isn’t so intimidating. The hardest part is becoming aware that the world of craft beer exists at all. Having a guide already privy to the lingo, hot spots and best brews makes things a lot easier. Nearly every craft beer fan has a good-hearted shepherd to thank for taking the time to expose them to something better, and we want to recognize these people for the good they do. To put it simply, by selflessly guiding people toward the promised land, they make the world a better place. That’s why we’re asking you to take a moment to call them out for their good deeds on social media. Go online and tell us who showed you the light by telling your story and tagging them on Facebook or calling them out on Twitter using #craftbeershepherd. When doing so, take a second and ponder where you would you be without them—perhaps falling for gimmicks like Vortex bottles, black crowns, crafty branding and subsisting solely on American adjunct-laced swill. Praise be to the #craftbeersheperd!
By now, many are familiar with our newest brewing foray, the Stone Stochasticity Project. But even two brews in, you may not be familiar with the term “stochastic,” especially in the context of brewing. The definition of stochasticity is wordy and probably only truly makes sense if you’ve studied Probability Theory in depth (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy doesn’t count—that’s Improbability Theory), but even our one-track minds picked up on the potential and complexity of this idea. In layman’s terms, stochastic is a non-deterministic, or random, state. So, why not just say that? For one, the scientific background would be lost, and random just doesn’t have the same ring as Stochasticity, nor all the connotation. Two, the Stone Stochasticity Project is much more than just brewing beer. It involves delving beyond what most people think about beyond beer’s four main ingredients. So where does that leave us in our ever-evolving quest for good craft beer? Right at the newest member of this series, Stone Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale, a beer that holds up to the stochastic and technical nature of this venture.
Our new double India pale ale, Kyle Hollingsworth / Keri Kelli / Stone Collective Distortion IPA recently wrapped up a whirlwind, coast-to-coast pre-release tour. Considering this fruity and pleasantly earthy brew’s rock star status, it seemed fitting to afford it the touring band treatment its co-creators are used to. That duo consists of The String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth and guitarist Keri Kelli of Alice Cooper and Skid Row fame. Together, like savants providing a reliable backbeat for a most magnificent jam session, the duo guided us toward the recipe for this neo-traditional beer. The hop bill consists of Calypso, Comet and Nugget hops, given staccato-esque punctuation thanks to healthy dry-hopping with Vic’s Secret, a recently introduced hop from Australia. But anybody can come up with an out-there (or Down Under) assemblage of hops. What turns this already blaring imperial IPA up to 11 is spicing from coriander seeds and—a first for us—elderberries. It’s unlike any IPA we’ve ever made…and we’ve made a lot of IPAs!
Most of our fans are under the impression Stone Smoked Porter w/Chipotle Peppers debuted in 2012. There’s good reason for this. In May of that year, we launched a website, announcing the existence of that beer along with its cousin, Stone Smoked Porter w/Vanilla Bean. This coincided with our national launch of both beers, but as those whose fanatic-level knowledge of our humble brewing company know, both beers came into being years before, though their impetuses were quite different. The epiphany for the bean-bolstered brew came when one of our small batch brewers plopped a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream into a pint of Stone Smoked Porter, while the smoked jalapeño-infused version was presented as an alternative to thin, fizzy, low-flavor macro-lagers offered around Cinco de Mayo.
Stone makes nine year-round beers. For most brewing companies, that’d be enough, especially when you add in the massive number of specialty beers, collaborative ales and other cool non-year-round stuff we cram into the brew schedule. But we’re not most brewing companies. We know that the face of American craft beer is constantly evolving, and with it, the tastes of beer drinkers across the nation. While we’ll never follow trends (but will absolutely do our darndest to start a few), it’s important to keep our eyes, ears and palates open to what our fans desire, and we’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb (in the literal sense) to fail to see beer fans’ love of session India pale ales. They’re popping up everywhere as folks look for lower-alcohol beers delivering the poignant flavors of imperial IPAs. There’s definitely a plethora of modern day scenarios and a need for lighter ABV brews. These served as the impetus for brewing our Great American Beer Festival gold medal-winning session beer, Stone Levitation Ale in 2006. But beer lovers cannot survive on amber ales alone—even if they are intensely hoppy and just 4.4% ABV—so we spent much of 2013 working on several recipes for our very own session IPA, and now, that fruity, piney, altogether hoppy newcomer, Stone Go To IPA, will be available to fulfill your big flavor sans overwhelming ABV needs all year long.
At Stone, our philosophy has always been to follow our own muse, ignoring naysayers and skeptics to create beers that we are not only enthused to drink, but excited to share with the rest of the world. Interestingly enough, being true to ourselves has helped us to reach more and more fans of our style of outwardly flavorful and innovative brews. We’re proud to have brought so many well-received beers to our devotees, but this isn’t a one-way street. We’re in this craft brewing movement together, and we listen to our fans, many of whom are extremely vocal (our kind of people), especially where beer is involved. Over the last several years, few of our ales have been as talked about, requested and outright clamored for via our social media channels and face-to-face meetings with fans as Stone Smoked Porter w/Vanilla Bean. So, we’re bringing it back in a big way!
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.
To the casual observer, our newest collaboration beer may be perceived as an attempt to make a statement about gender equality in the brewing industry. How could someone not think that? After all, we’re no strangers to making statements through the ale medium and, c’mon, we went and tapped two of the country’s best female brewers—Tonya Cornett from Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company; and Megan O’Leary Parisi, the fermentation mastermind behind Washington, DC’s highly anticipated Bluejacket. We get it, but honestly, the only things we were looking to secure when getting these two into our brewhouse were beer smarts, creativity and enthusiasm, and these two brought all three in sudsy spades! Need proof? Well, we’ve got it, and it goes by the name 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter.
At Stone, it’s common to see lengthy beer monikers as long and winding as the 17-year road that’s taken us from the little industrial suite beer-makers that could (though many, back then, didn’t share such an encouraging opinion of our start-up) to the tenth largest craft brewing company in the United States of Ale-merica. We revel in challenging the number of alpha-numeric characters and volume of verbiage a brown glass receptacle can hold. Heck, if we hadn’t switched to 22-ounce bombers for our annual collaboration series, our Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout Ale Brewed with Pecans, Wheat & Rye with One Quarter Aged in Bourbon Barrels might have incited bouts of stress-induced agony among our Art Department savants. To give them a break, we honed in on a much shorter name for this year’s anniversary beer, but fear not, though briefer, it will still provide the fun type of challenge fans have come to expect. Our vehicle for accomplishing that in five words or less—sprechen die Deutsch. Try pronouncing this one—Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA—then watch our beer video and feel a whole lot better about your linguistic capabilities as you watch Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele stumble his way through five syllables of German diaeresis-bred intricacy.