Constants & Variables: The Lupulin Loop

As the Brewing Manager at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. I would like to introduce a new series of beers that will rotate through our central San Diego brewery-restaurant. We at Stone make no secret of our love for hops and are always pushing the boundaries with beer experimentations—especially when it comes to hops. For years, we’ve played with multiple hop varieties, and the impact to our IPAs has been immense. One may ask, with so many hop varieties out there, how we do we continue to develop so many new and successful IPAs? Truth is it’s never as easy as throwing a bunch of hops into our wort and crossing our fingers. Every hop is different, unique and complex with a wide range of flavors and aromas that could be compared to fruits, spices and even vegetables. We spend a lot of time getting intimately acquainted with the myriad of hops in our chilled down lockers, and now it’s time for our fans to get in on that familiarization.

Enter what I have come to refer to as, “The Lupulin Loop.” Why the Lupulin Loop? Maybe I just watched Groundhog’s Day too much as a kid. Maybe it’s because Tom Cruise just came out with that movie Edge of Tomorrow. Or maybe I’m still trying to play through Bioshock Infinite and I learned that when Elizabeth goes through the tears she goes to another dimension where everything looks the same but it’s actually different. Regardless, it’s all about constants and variables. With these beers, they’ll always have the same malts, alcohol, IBU (international bittering units), PH, color…or as close to the same as I can possibly get them. The only thing that will change in the beer is the single variety of hop being used (even for bittering). The base of the beer is the constant (the loop), while the hop (Lupulin…the compound in hops that provides that addictive bitterness we all love) is the sole variable.

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Fans who frequent Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station (you try fitting that on your business card!) have already experienced some of these single-hop beers, and both smelled and tasted how much each hop impacts the beer all by its lonesome. For those that haven’t, here’s what’s spun from The Lupulin Loop so far:

  • Bite the Bullet (Green Bullet single-hop): Tropical fruit, citrus and pine with herbal, dank notes
  • AleBelma (Belma single-hop): Strawberries and grape jam mixed with stone fruits
  • Lost City of Liquid Gold (El Dorado single-hop): Citrus, tropical fruits and lemon Starburst candy
  • Bear Tales From Polaria (Polaris single-hop): Intense garlic and onion, mint and mild citrus
  • Simcoe’s for Sartori (Simcoe single-hop): Citrus-flavored, piney and dank

So why go with The Lupulin Loop instead of coming up with more of these cute, fun names for our single-hop beers. To be honest, I’m a busy man and so is everyone else working at Stone. Each time I create a new beer with a new name I have to do this really fun thing called paperwork (definition: sit a desk longer than I want to when I’d rather be brewing…ha), which in return creates more paperwork for everyone else (when they’d rather be brewing or doing beer-related things, too). The creation of The Lupulin Loop equals way less paperwork, less confusion and easier to remember single-hop beers for everyone. Plus, come on, The Lupulin Loop is an awesome name.

The first creation under the The Lupulin Loop flag features Australian Topaz hops. At 16.4% alpha acid, this hop has great stone fruit qualities mixed with notes of garlic, pineapple and grassy dankness. Those are just the first notes that come through, though. Come out and try it for your-self.

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And Now, Some Hophead Q&A

How do you select the hops?

Sometimes the hops are new hop varieties (e.g., Belma, El Dorado, Polaris) that we have done some small batch dry-hop trials with and found quite exceptional. There have also been instances where we are considering using the hop in a new large-scale beer, so want to get a better feel for it. Other times, I pick the hops to pay tribute to my Team Stone co-workers (Simcoe for Brewhouse Supervisor Chris Sartori and Topaz for Cellar Supervisor Mike Richmond). Other times, we do it just for the hell of it because we think a particular hop kicks ass and want to exploit it (Green Bullet).

What becomes of the hops after the single hop trial?

Depending on if we like the hop variety or not, we will use it for new beers. For example, all of us at Stone were extremely impressed with the El Dorado hop and have used it in a local-release beer called Stone Delicious IPA, and as the exclusive hop used to dry-hop Stone 18th Anniversary IPA. Others like Belma and Green Bullet have been used in various other Liberty Station beers like Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Sesquipedalian IPA.

What’s next?

There are lots of hops to choose from and I can’t wait to catch them all (ha!). As a little teaser, up next we will be showcasing Comet followed by Jarrylo (Yar-I-Lo).

When can I expect Citra, Mosaic or Nelson?

Shut up! (Just kidding.) Those hops are awesome, but are in extremely limited supply. Our primary focus for these hops is for Stone Go To IPA and Stone Enjoy By IPA…for now.

Hoppy Uncharted Territory: Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

We pride ourselves on being unpredictable, but we’re able to be honest with ourselves and say that, when it comes to our annual anniversary beer releases, fans know what to expect—something extremely hoppy! And most years, that means an over-the-top India pale ale. Ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs, including the past four consecutive years. So, it should come as no surprise that this year, our milestone-celebrating beer is another IPA. But, much as we’ve refused to be completely predictable with our anniversary IPAs (the past four years have featured an imperial British-style IPA, double black IPA, lemon verbena-infused imperial rye IPA, and 100% German-hopped double IPA), 2014’s commemorative hop monster is extremely original. In fact, we’re billing Stone 18th Anniversary IPA as the “hoppiest golden-brown IPA on Earth!” (Yes, that’s our subtle brand of sarcasm you’re picking up there!)

El Dorado hops make up a large part of the hop bill—the beer is dry-hopped with a whopping two pounds per barrel of it. Brewmaster Mitch Steele first fell in love with this citrusy hop when he brewed a 100% El Dorado collaboration ale with Northern California’s Drake’s Brewing Company in 2013. It’s since found its way into a number of new brews, including Stone Go To IPA and a little ditty released in our hometown of San Diego called Stone Delicious IPA. But this beer isn’t all about hops. If anything, it’s the specialty malts that give it most of its uniqueness. English Brown Coffee, Cara Munich and Chocolate Wheat malts bring on more than the heralded golden-brown hue—they also provide plenty of flavor and texture. The resulting brew is, appropriately, one for the ages. Sweet-tart flavors of lemon candy come on strong on the front palate, giving way to a sharp grapefruit bitterness accompanied by bready, biscuit character in the finish. It’s a testament to how well hops and malts can marry when properly balanced, and Steele and the Brew Crew nailed it with this golden-brown all-star.

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If you’re like us, you read something like “ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs,” and your inner beer geek wants to know what those brews were. We totally get that, so here is a list of the past 18 years-worth of Stone celebratory offerings.

  • Stone 1st Anniversary IPA (now Stone IPA)
  • Stone 2nd Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 3rd Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 4th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 5th Anniversary IPA (now Stone Ruination IPA)
  • Stone 6th Anniversary Porter
  • Stone 7th Anniversary Ale (“Super Special Pale Ale”)
  • Stone 8th Anniversary Ale (Imperial Mild)
  • Stone 9th Anniversary Ale (Imperial Wheat)
  • Stone 10th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 11th Anniversary Ale (now Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA)
  • Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
  • Stone 13th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
  • Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
  • Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA
  • Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

Even with all these hop-heavy brews under our belts, we continue to push the envelope. We thank you for coming along for the ride and look forward to another 18 years (and more) of anniversary-inspired exploration!

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Photo by StudioSchulz.com

Stats & Tasting Notes by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • ABV: 8.5%
  • IBUs: 75
  • Availability: Limited 22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning August 11
  • Hop Bill: Nugget, Centennial, Belma, Sterling, Hopsteiner 06300, El Dorado
  • Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, and Puerto Rico
  • Appearance: Pours deep amber with a reddish-brown hue and an off-white-colored head.
  • Aroma: Herbal, lemon and lemongrass hop notes, combined with very light levels of cocoa, coffee and roasted malts.
  • Taste: Fruity hops, lemon, orange zest and tropical fruit, with a complex malt base featuring coffee and toffee elements. The hop finish is very lemony.
  • Palate: Full bodied with a bitter, dry finish.
  • Overall: This beer was conceptualized a bit later than usual, and several iterations were created before we settled on this recipe. Using a small amount of English Brown Coffee Malt in a double IPA seemed like an interesting idea to me, and was inspired in part by the success we had brewing Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone DayMan Coffee IPA and The Alchemist/Ninkasi/Stone More Brown Than Black IPA. The malt character is rich and complex, with hints of cocoa and coffee that don’t interfere with the hop intensity. We used one of our favorite new hop varieties, El Dorado, 100 percent in the dry-hop stage, which provides a distinctive lemony character in the aroma and taste that we’ve come to affectionately describe as “lemon candy.”

Suggested Food Pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

  • Appetizers: Blistered shishito peppers, grilled prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, sweet potato fries with roasted garlic aioli, fried pork wontons
  • Soups and Salads: Kale & white bean soup, miso ramen, tortilla soup, chicken salad, green mango salad
  • Entrees: Roasted chicken, pad Thai, stuffed acorn squash, pork chops, carnitas tacos
  • Cheeses: Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, Idiazabal, Cypress Grove Chevre Lamb Chopper®, Bellwether Farms San Andreas
  • Desserts: Peach cobbler, apricot cheesecake, carrot cake, baked nectarines with pistachios
  • Cigars: Drew Estate Herrera Esteli Piramide, Tatuaje Cabaiguan, Rocky Patel Connecticut, L’Atelier Lat56

Crank It Up: Kyle Hollingsworth / Keri Kelli / Stone Collective Distortion IPA

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!

Hop Bursted: Stone Go To IPA

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.

Stone RuinTen IPA…You’re Welcome (Again!)

Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA—the mere mention of these five words (well, four words and an acronym, which technically equates to seven words) incites a Pavlovian brand of salivation among those who quest for maximum hoppage. We know this, not only because last year’s decadal release of this amped-up tribute to our double India pale ale, Stone Ruination IPA, gave us cause to wear bibs at work, but because Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA was so openly and vocally beloved by our fan base, that they requested—check that, demanded—it be brought back on an annual basis. We love our fans. We love hops. So, we listened to the former, secured a boatload of the latter, and now submit for the approval of slobbering masses throughout the country, Stone RuinTen IPA.

Wring Around the Brewhouse: Stone Ruination IPA

We’ll be the first to agree that brewing is an art, but as anyone who’s ever tried to scale up a recipe or dial in ABV for consistency knows, it’s also a science. As exemplified by the consistency of our beers, our brewers have the smarts to turn out well-engineered ales. That said, whenever we can, we like to keep the math as simple as possible. Take, for instance, one of our most popular beers, Stone Ruination IPA. That hop-heavy double India pale ale is a result of a basic mathematical equation—one-times-two—and proof that sometimes in life, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. When in doubt, just max it out!

Amber that’s Pure Gold: Stone Levitation Ale

Here at Stone, our brewers love to create aggressive, high octane beers like Stone Ruination IPA, Stone Imperial Russian Stout and, of course, the Arrogant Bastard Ale family of in-your-face goliaths. But even we, the challengers of beer’s historic limitations, realize that for every beer drinker there is a time, place and need for something sessionable. So, in 2002, we took our first swipe at crafting a libation under five percent ABV to give our fans a lower-alcohol option packed with big-time flavor. That creation would come to be known as Stone Levitation Ale.

Lasting Innovation: Stone Smoked Porter

A porter brewed with peat-smoked malt and enough hops to bring the IBU (International bittering unit) count to 53 is undoubtedly innovative. That beer concept is right up there with the plethora of novel smoked ales and lagers that have become so prominent across the county over the past several years. But the beer we’re referring to, Stone Smoked Porter, isn’t among that new wave. It’s been tantalizing taste buds while hovering within the top layer of craft beer’s cloud of smoke since 1996!

A Hoppy Standard Bearer: Stone IPA

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)

Stone Enjoy By IPA

We take a lot of things seriously here at Stone. (Not ourselves.) Freshness is definitely one of them. You see, as beer ages, the first thing that starts to fade is the flavor and aroma contributed by the hops. The olfactory glory that they impart is extremely volatile, and from the moment the beer finishes fermenting, the hop character starts to go bye bye, and unfortunately, there’s just no bringing it back.

Of course, there are things you can do to help prolong the hoppy goodness, like protecting your almighty beer from light and keeping it cool. (We store and ship all of our beer under refrigeration, btw.) Under regular conditions, we’ve tasted our beers at different intervals and found that they still taste just as great as we originally intended as much as 90 days after bottling. This finding, coupled with our unrelenting commitment to freshness, enticed us to begin laser-etching enjoy by dates on each bottle. With that process, we also instituted new measures that allow our wonderful fans, like yourself, to report expired beer. We love our beer, and we want to make sure it’s fresh!

But then, we thought, “Hey! Why not brew a big double IPA that is meant to be consumed even fresher? Why not put a date right up on the front of the bottle, and gave it a MUCH shorter shelf life?” It wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t be able to go everywhere. But it would be damn delicious, and it would be a mighty interesting undertaking. Sure, we discussed it in a few more meetings, but by this time, we’d already talked ourselves into it: the concept for Stone Enjoy By IPA was born.

Stone Enjoy By IPA

Stone Enjoy By IPA — so fresh and so clean clean! (Photo by StudioSchulz.com)