The American craft brewing industry is extremely cohesive, with businesses mirroring each other from the West Coast to the East Coast, North to South, Alaska to Hawaii. Even so, San Diego is very unique. With more than 100 brewhouses having opened throughout the county over the past 25 years, the question we hear most is about competition within the industry. It’s an understandable inquiry (imagine having 100 cheese-makers in one county…yeah, we’re looking at you, Wisconsin!), but it always makes San Diego brewers scratch their heads. For the most part, we really don’t see other breweries as competitors. To us, they are our comrades in the fight for the rise in awareness and availability of high-quality beer in a world dominated by macrobeer. That’s the great thing about artisanal industries like craft beer—just like us, our compatriots are working on bettering the craft, and each great new beer gives us, and other breweries opportunities and ideas. It’s a “collaboration not competition” mindset, a constant alliance and source of inspiration among our breweries. We’ll admit that it’s far from the norm for most industries, so one feels compelled to pose the question: How did such a unique business culture arise?
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.
Years spent as close colleagues with a bent for the gypsy lifestyle have bred a great deal between brewers Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing Company and Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales: respect, friendship, creativity…and a wee bit of deviance. The latter remained pensively dormant for a long while until one night in Copenhagen, greased by firewater and many pints’ worth of fine craft beer, the unlawful wheels inside their heads began to turn. It was a process that could not be reversed, at least not until that overbearing beast’s appetite for havoc had been satisfied.
Editor’s Note: Here are Mitch’s tasting notes for our upcoming collaboration brew, Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. You’ll be able to judge the flavor profile for yourself when the beer starts hitting shelves (in very limited quantities!) on September 21. Until then, enjoy Mitch’s take on this delicious brew!
Deep brown, opaque with a creamy light brown head of foam.
Intense Kona Coffee combined with chocolate malts. The toasted coconut is also prominent, and when combined with the coffee and roasted malts, helps make this beer’s aroma reminiscent of a chocolate macaroon!
Coconut is more intense in the flavor with the coffee notes fading a bit to the background. Roasted chocolate malt and fruity esters make more of an impact here also, and the finish is where the macadamia nuts come in. It’s amazing how the flavor changes as this beer travels across the palate, and how all three of the special ingredients make their presence known in different stages.
Full bodied, rich and luscious. It is simply incredible how smooth and silky this beer is.
This is just an amazing beer to taste. The 3 special ingredients, Kona Coffee, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts combine wonderfully, and come across at three distinct stages of tasting this beer. Just a wonderful beer to relax with and drink slowly, especially while thinking about the islands!
Wow, just when you thought we were done with our collaboration shenanigans for a while…we bring you the first ever Synchronized Beer Tapping event (at least we think it’s the first–please don’t check that with the Guinness book or anything)! Here’s our grand plan: at precisely 4pm San Diego time and 7pm Boston time, we will be simultaneously tapping our very first kegs of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner both here at Stone and at Cambridge Brewing Co. (CBC). What’s so special about this, you ask? Several things. For one (and it’s a really big ONE), kegs of this beer are an endangered species, and you may never see it on tap again–although occasional bottle sightings continue to be reported. Reason number two: Will Meyers, head brewer at CBC, tells us they pretty much never have guest beers on tap at their brewpub, so this is quite a rare occurrence. Reason number three: it’s a damn good beer. Duh.
Joining Will at the New England portion of this historic event will be our own East Coast Regional Brewery Representative and general Cool Dude and Nice Guy, Michael Saklad. If you live in the area and haven’t had the chance to meet him, you might want to seriously consider introducing yourself. When is it NOT a good idea to make friends with someone who peddles beer for a living? And to make Saturday even more memorable, Will tells us that alongside this beautiful black collaboration brew, CBC will also be proudly serving up some really stellar beers from the other two members of this team brewing effort. Here’s what lucky Bostonians have to look forward to: 2007 Stone Imperial Russian Stout, wine barrel-aged 2008 Stone Old Guardian Barleywine, BrewDog Dogma, and whiskey cask-conditioned BrewDog Paradox. As Will says, “Obviously, we’re super excited!” So are we, Will, so are we.
And just in case you somehow have not managed to appreciate the gravity of the situation, just in case you’re thinking, “Meh, I’ll try some next time,” ponder this: only 12 kegs of this black sheep of a beer were ever produced. TWELVE. As Ben Lee, our Production Coordinator, pointed out to me, that is the smallest number of kegs we’ve made of any of our beers in the history of us making beer. So this means that after we’ve finished the two we’re tapping on Saturday, the two that will be pouring at CBC, the one we’re sending to BrewDog, and one that some lucky Bastards down in San Diego already got their hands on, there will only be six kegs left in existence. Six. And no, you can’t have them.
Graeme Wallace, Steve Wagner, Martin Dickie, Greg Koch and Mitch Steele. Just about to mash in!
Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele, all of Stone Brewing Co. from California, have spent the last couple of days at BrewDog. Stone, and in particular the approach of founders Greg and Steve, was a huge inspiration to Martin and myself when we started BrewDog. For all at BrewDog, having Greg, Steve and Mitch over and brewing with us is pretty much like a crazy music fan being able to go on stage and rock out with their favourite band.
Matteo Milan, Graeme Wallace, Stewart Bowman and Mitch Steele checking on the mash.
We brewed a special Stone-BrewDog collaborative beer, a double black Belgian IPA called bashah. We are going to release some more details about the beer itself later; there are a few pretty exciting twists to it.
Matteo Milan (our Italian Brewer) prepared a stunning BBQ at the end of the brew-day; our brewing system is quite labour intensive so everyone worked up a good appetite.
We had some amazing beers with our food including a 2003 Stone Vertical Epic and a 2003 Speedway Stout, oh and some Tokyo* (much to our amazement, drinking this beer did not lead to the downfall of Western Civilization). Narayanan gave us some excellent signing and Martin conducted a kick-ass whiskey and chocolate tasting. We also shot the first few scenes of a soon to be huge hit movie, The Bare Mitch Project, a porn-horror thriller starring Mitch Steele and Graeme Wallace shot in our very own Canteen of Death.
Stars of the new movie: Graeme Wallace and Mitch Steele.
On Friday Greg, Mitch and I went lobster fishing, caught some mackerel then sweet-talked my Grandmother into cooking the mackerel when we got safely back into port. Other highlights of the visit included a beer and food extravaganza at Musa which is our favourite restaurant in Aberdeen and a tour and whiskey tasting with the guys from Duncan Taylor.
Greg and Mitch doing some North Atlantic lobster fishing.
The label text for bashah was written by Greg and myself while driving to dinner on Friday evening, hopefully that is not going to show too much in the final copy!
We all had a blast brewing and hanging out with the Stone crew, for us their visit is the most exciting thing that has ever happened at BrewDog – it was a real privilege to be able to brew with our heroes!
The first release of the beer should be around mid September. Watch this space.
Greg Koch’s thoughts on the collaboration:
“James, Martin and the entire team at BrewDog really went to a lot of energy to show us a great time…and they sure did! We packed the two-and-a-half days (just 1 1/2 for Steve) solid. Castle visiting, distillery visiting, brewing, dining in a 150+ year old banana hanging warehouse in Aberdeen, selecting used single malt Scotch whiskey casks from a rare whiskey collector/broker (by tasting the whiskeys that used to be in them of course) for diversion of some of the bashah for aging, touring the small, lonely, windy roads of the countryside and seaside in Jame’s hold-on-for-dear-life driving style, BBQing at the brewery, lobstering and mackerel fishing w/James’ father and granddad (w/said mackerel subsequently being artfully cooked up by his epitome-of-hospitality grandmother), and finally as a testament to the sheer exhaustion at the end of the day: successfully falling asleep in the little hotel with the pub attached on Friday night at Midnight in the middle of horrid karaoke renditions of Bon Jovi songs in Scottish accents by the local, VERY inebriated town folk (We momentarily thought about checking out the pub, but then Mitch and I decided that the risk of accidentally offending the wrong soccer team — with something presumably as simple as a “sorry…what did you say?” — and thus leading to an even quicker “lights out” might not have been worth it. Sure we would have risked it for a pint of BrewDog but they didn’t have the good taste to serve their beer, and we definitely weren’t going to go in for an uninspired pint of Euro lager! It’s not like we’d had a shortage of beer after all.).
“I definitely can’t wait to taste the result of ‘bashah’– the world’s first ever (as far as we know) commercially brewed Black Belgian Double IPA!”
-GK ( @StoneGreg )
When I think of Hawaii, I think of the usual clichés: tropical beaches, hula dancers, sunburned tourists with fanny packs, coup-d’états by fruit corporations (true story), and pit-roasted pork. I certainly don’t think of craft beer. However, I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I realize my cartoonish perception of the islands is almost completely influenced by clever marketing campaigns and ill-informed pop culture references (Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii, anyone?). Truth is, Hawaii does have great beer (as evident by Maui’s CoCoNut Porter & Kona’s Pipeline Porter), but all of the exotic flavors of the islands are under-represented in craft beer. Thankfully, talented homebrewer and Hawaii lover, Ken Schmidt, is helping to change that.
Remember when Ken won our March Madness Competition at our AHA Rally with his Aloha Plenty Porter? Well, we were stoked to brew with Ken and replicate his decadent creation on a larger scale, and Greg got the bright idea to invite Garrett Marerro from Maui Brewing Co. to join in on the collaboration and bring his CoCoNut Porter brewing expertise to the table. Garrett agreed to come on board, and thus the beer officially became Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter.
As Mitch started converting the recipe, he was blown away by the ingredients required. Not only were they going to be ridiculously expensive, but he had no idea where he was going to get 1,000 lbs. of coconut, 300 lbs. of macadamia nuts, and 200 lbs. of 100% Kona Coffee. The easy answer would have been to use cheap extracts and adjuncts, but as you know—we don’t take shortcuts. Fortunately, Garrett hooked us up with the same distributor that his company uses for ingredients, and gave us some pointers on how to toast the coconut and make sure the right amount of flavor is imparted into the beer.
Our collaborations are usually between three brewers, but this time there was a fourth player that deserves some credit. Our Bistro team put in some long hard hours toasting 1,000 lbs. of coconut in our relatively tiny oven in the Bistro Kitchen, a process that spanned four eight-hour shifts. When Garrett heard of the Bistro staff’s contribution, he cringed and said “I hope someone’s buying those guys beers!”
After spending several weeks accruing all the rare ingredients, it finally came time to brew the beer on June 29th. However, preparing all the ingredients took way longer than expected, and we even came up short on steeping bags (think giant tea bags). In the true spirit of collaboration, Garrett enlisted the aid of another local brewery to resolve our steeping bag shortage: “I said ‘Hey call Green Flash,’ and sure enough they had a bunch they could lend to us, so we went and picked ‘em up. We wouldn’t have been able to get the coconut and the coffee and everything in there if we hadn’t gotten those bags, so the collaboration reaches really far beyond just us.”
The brewers decided to load all 22 steeping bags into the whirlpool, which resulted in a near-comical, yet delicious display of flailing steeping bags full of ingredients tethered to the manway, flopping around in a tangled mess as they bestowed their delectable flavors upon the beer.
Despite a few minor hiccups (and a hell of a time removing the incredibly heavy saturated steeping bags), the brew went through the brewhouse spectacularly and is now fermenting. So what happens next? According to Mitch, the beer will go through a dry-hopping process of sorts, in which more Kona Coffee, macadamia nuts, and toasted coconut will be added to the beer post-fermentation.
Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter is unlike anything we’ve ever brewed here at Stone, and Ken, Garrett, and Mitch all had an awesome time brewing it. The day after brewing, Ken seemed to have an excitement hangover: “It’s one of those rare days in a person’s life that’s really extra special, and when you’re coming down you can’t quite take it all in quick enough.”
Expect to see Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on shelves in late August or early September.
It’s official: The papa birds have left the nest. For the next few weeks, our fearless leaders Greg Koch, Steve Wagner, and Mitch Steele will be kicking ass all across the European continent brewing amazing beer with fellow craft brewers, schmoozing at various beer events, and fervidly spreading the Arrogance. Sure, the beer will still flow and things will pretty much be the same around here, but we can’t help feel that brief exhilaration we used to get as kids when the teacher stepped out into the hall. I’m dodging spitballs as I type…
So what exactly will our beloved beer patriarchs be up to in the Old World? Well, Greg left on Sunday to attend the TEDGlobal 2009 conference at Hogwarts…err…Oxford, England. From there he’ll be heading to Norway on July 27th, where he’ll be joined by Steve and Mitch to brew the final iteration of Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale with Kjetil Jikiun at Nøgne-Ø (check out Greg’s last visit to Norway). The second, “funkier” iteration was brewed back in April with Ron Jeffries at Jolly Pumpkin, and this version is sure to be equally unique (Steve is actually bringing the San Diegan White Sage with him for the brew).
The three Stone beer diplomats will then be off to Scotland on July 30th to brew a new collaboration beer with our friends James Watt and Martin Dickie at BrewDog. They’re not sure exactly what they’re going to brew there, but one thing’s certain—the beer will be aged in Scotch Whiskey barrels, hand selected by the Stone crew and their brewing brethren at BrewDog. Steve will then depart the day after brewing, and Greg and Mitch will head off to London to appear at a slew of Stone events, as well as attend the Great British Beer Festival. For a full run-down of where they’ll be, check out our UK Stone Events google calendar (scroll to August). Event details may change, so call ahead before attending!
We wish Greg, Steve, and Mitch a safe, and most importantly, FREAKIN’ AWESOME, inter-continental beer adventure. It’ll be business as usual until they get back, but watch out for paper airplanes.
That’s the exact same question I asked our Lead Brewer (and infamous biofueler) John Egan after seeing the pompously named beer rear its head in various places, such as on the tap list for Southern California Storm and on the Stone Company Store’s growler fill schedule. So what’s the official word?
To sum it up, Stone Bombastic Lager is the beer left over from propagating the pilsner yeast we used in BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner. What does that mean? Let me explain.
When we acquire new yeast to propogate (pilsner yeast in this case), we throw it in our yeast propagating tank, and over the course of a few days we continually add wort to “feed” it and facilitate yeast growth. To feed the pilsner yeast, we added Stone Pale Ale, Stone IPA, and Stone Imperial Russian Stout wort straight from the brewhouse into the yeast propogating tank over several days. Once we were confident that there was enough growth, we pumped the yeast off the bottom (lager yeast is bottom-fermenting) and sent it over to the fermenting tank to ferment the Collaboration brew. John then transferred the leftover beer into another tank, but before transferring it he had a spark of creativity and decided to add some crushed coriander, french oak chips, and “literally a handful” of chopped vanilla beans. It sat for about a week or so, and then we gassed it up and put it in kegs. There were no additional hops or malt added; it was just a blend of a few worts.
“As far as style goes, I have no idea,” said John. “It’s kind of a ‘suicide’ like we did as kids with our sodas; just a mix of whatever is available. It tastes like an ale to me, but it’s a lager—and a weird lager at that!” John added that the brew weighs in at 6.8% abv.
So there you have it. Now when you stumble across Stone Bombastic Lager on the tap list at Southern California Storm or on tap for growler fills in the Stone Company Store on May 15th and July 10th, you can wow your dumbfounded friends with your in-depth knowledge, complete with a healthy dose of bombast.
You may remember a tasty little beer with a long name (no surprise there) that was brewed here with Ron Jefferies of Jolly Pumpkin and Kjetil Jikiun of Nøgne-ø and released last holiday season. Well, the brewmasters had such an awesome time brewing it that they decided to brew it again—but with a slight twist. Since the original brew included ingredients from each brewery’s region, the guys thought it would be cool to brew it in each of the three regions, on three different systems, with three unique takes on the same kick-ass recipe.
With the first award-winning interpretation already under our collective belt, Mitch Steele and Steve Wagner will be heading straight from the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston to Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Michigan this Sunday to brew the second batch on Ron’s system. Jolly Pumpkin’s emphasis on open fermentation and oak aging will impart some intriguing gustatory nuances. Here’s what Mitch had to say about it (Spoiler Alert!):
“The brew is a repeat of the Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale, but it will be fermented ‘Jolly Pumpkin’ style, meaning Brettanomyces and barrels. The idea is to use the exact same recipe in the brewhouse, but I know Ron ferments everything in barrels, and he’s got a lot of funk in his barrels, so the beer’s gonna go through this nice funkification process.”
Although the recipe will be exactly the same (we’re even sending some of the ingredients over to Ron for consistency), we’re excited to see how the brew will fare after the prolonged “funkification” process and extended barrel aging. Having had Ron’s beers, Mitch expects the beer to be “softer, a little funky, and a little tarter than our version.”
The bad news is that the beer won’t be released until holiday season 2010 to allow for barrel aging, so it’ll be a while until we can treat our taste buds to Jolly Pumpkin’s take on the brew. The good news is that Steve and Mitch are heading to Norway to brew the third iteration on Kjetil’s system at Nøgne-ø in July (Greg got to visit Nøgne-ø last year, now it’s Steve’s and Mitch’s turn!). That version, with all of the intricacies imparted by Kjetil’s system, will be released this holiday season 2009. We’ll have more information when Steve and Mitch visit Kjetil in July. One thing’s for sure—these beers will be worth the wait.
- Matt Steele