The Fight Against Expired Beer

Jacob McKean

It is hard to overstate the importance of drinking fresh beer. But it may not be immediately obvious to the uninitiated that beer is best served fresh in the first place. It is, after all, fermented, and fermented foods often get better with age. Kimchi, yogurt, miso, kefir, kombucha: these are foods whose quality depends on the serene patience of their creators, a willingness to let the invisible magic of fermentation happen at its own pace, and be ready to enjoy when it’s ready.

Further complicating matters is the fact that some beers do indeed improve with a degree of age. Properly cellared (55 degrees or less, dark, cozy), beers on the robust, high ABV end of the spectrum can evolve & improve with time.

The nine year-round beers we brew DO NOT fall into this category. They are—dare we say—delicate creatures that only express the full-spectrum of their brilliance when FRESH. Freshly brewed beer is bright & fragrant, with clean, well-defined flavors that reflect our brewer’s intent.

Once expired, beer can become a sad, faded reflection of its former self, as age, oxygen, and light sinfully corrode the precious liquid. Drinking such beer can leave a less than favorable impression that’s hard to shake.

For that reason, we go to tremendous, expensive lengths to ensure that fresh beer is available to you. But we can’t be everywhere at once. That’s why we need YOU to join in the fight against expired beer. Read More

New Hops Arrive at Stone

Jacob McKean

In a recent post, I discussed Baird / Ishii / Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA, a beer we’re brewing to benefit Japanese tsunami relief. You undoubtedly noted the bit about Aramis hops, a new hop variety from the Alsace region of France, which we’re using in that beer.

For those of you that maintain an interest in all matters hop-related, we’re going to delve a bit deeper into the new hop varietal situation here at Stone.

We work with several hop suppliers to keep us stocked with the bitter, aromatic flowers you all know and love. Occasionally, those suppliers will offer us a brand new hop variety, and if it sounds like the flavor and aroma is up our alley, Brewmaster Mitch Steele usually orders a little bit. This occurs infrequently because it can take many years and a significant amount of money to develop a new hop variety.

Once the hops arrive at Stone, Mitch rips open the bag, gives them a sniff, reads up on their stats, then concocts a small-scale pilot recipe that prominently features the new hops. Depending on the results of that experiment, the new hops may be incorporated into a special release (the hops for our core line-up are pretty much fixed.)

Aramis hops getting a close inspection

Which brings us to Aramis hops. As far as we know, we’re the first brewery to brew a commercial beer with Aramis. So what does it taste/smell like, you ask? I conducted an informal poll around the brewery and these are some of the descriptors I got: floral, earthy, woody, Earl Grey, lemon, hay, herbal.

We then went a step further and did a taste test, which needlessly confirmed that eating hops—no matter what the varietal—is a terrible idea.

But that’s not all folks! We have an 11-pound bag of Calypso hops—a fun-sounding newish variety—sitting in our cold box, and we recently ripped that sucker open too. Calypso is an American hop derived from Nugget and USDA 19058m (my personal fav) packing considerably more punch than Aramis. Calypso clocks in at 12-14% alpha acid (the chemical component in hops that contribute bitterness to beer), making it useful as both a bittering and flavor/aroma hop.

Stone Community Relations Manager Chris Cochran gives Calypso hops a sniff

And what an aroma it has! Another informal brewery poll—conducted with a pint glass full of fresh hop pellets—netted these descriptors: lemons, tart apples, cherry blossoms, black pepper, bitter orange, mint, pear. The aroma is at once distinctly American, insofar as it is remarkably unsubtle and sappy, while also being very fruity, a combination unlike any other hops I’ve smelled. It was almost universally well liked by those polled. A 15-gallon single hop IPA is Calypso’s next stop.

And there are still more new hop varieties to come. Columbia, Sonnet, Delta, and Bravo hops will all arrive in the next few months, giving us a remarkably broad new palette of hop flavors with which to experiment. Naturally, we’ll keep you updated.

Our Estate Hops


If you’ve ever enjoyed a leisurely beer in our Gardens, you may have noticed a few clusters of that magical flower that we embrace so ardently: Humulus lupulus—or the Hop. Not only do we jam our beers packed full of this heavenly little plant, but we also deck our Gardens with beautiful vines of Chinook Hops. September is a common harvesting time for Hops, and it just so happens that ours are about as ripe as they come.

Our resident Botanical Wizard, Chili, is picking the cream of the crop from our Gardens today for later use in specialty casks. Whenever you see a cask in the Bistro or on our growler fill schedule with the words “Estate-grown hops” written next to it, you know exactly what you’re getting: fresh, organic Chinook Hops sustainably grown right here at Stone. Enjoy the stunning, Eden-like pictures, and raise a glass to the glory of the hop!

-Matt Steele

HOPPY 13th Anniversary To Us…


With all the latest beer gossip just a click away, it’s near impossible to keep a secret these days. Many of you may have heard rumors about Stone 13th Anniversary Ale, but it’s time we set the record straight. Here’s the official word:

Take your idea of a hoppy Stone beer and throw it out the window, because Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is the hoppiest beer we’ve ever brewed. Just how much hops is in this year’s batch? You may want to sit down for this…4.5 lbs. PER BARREL! To lend you a bit of perspective, Stone 10th Anniversary IPA, revered by many as the quintessential hopped-up Stone Anniversary Ale, had about 2.5 lbs. per barrel.

Brewers Mitch Steele, John Egan, and Tom Garcia showing off their creation

Brewers Mitch Steele, John Egan, and Tom Garcia showing off our latest creation

Stone 13th Anniversary Ale has officially trumped our collaboration brew, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, as our hoppiest beer. Of course, all those hops would be worthless if the beer wasn’t balanced. That’s where brewers Mitch Steele, Tom Garcia, and John Egan came in.

When Steve and Greg gave the green light, Mitch, Tom, and John took the reins of the recipe. The beer went through three iterations before they dialed it in, finally deciding on Chinook hops for bittering and a 50/50 blend of Centennial and Simcoe hops for dry hopping. The careful blend of hops, combined with pale malt, various crystal malts, amber malts, and just a touch of chocolate malt, resulted in a rather tasty 7% abv red ale—but it just wasn’t quite worthy of a Stone Anniversary Ale yet. “It had a nice hop character,” said Mitch, “but it didn’t have that extra something that I thought the beer needed.” After tasting it, Greg even asked Mitch “It’s going to be bigger, right?” To which Mitch replied “Yeah, it’s going to be bigger.” The solution was to bump up the hopping and alcohol a bit, and the result was a very big, very Stone 9.5% abv Ale. As if that wasn’t enough, the brew crew decided to dry-hop it again just prior to filtering and packaging.

Click above to check out the Stone 13th Anniversary Ale web page

Click above to check out the Stone 13th Anniversary Ale web page

When asked to describe Stone 13th Anniversary Ale in one word, guess which word Mitch chose? You guessed it–“Hoppy.” Sure, it’s a monstrously hopped, extremely bitter beer, but it also has a bold malty character that balances out the bitterness. “It’s really bitter, but it’s also malty,” said Mitch. “It’s pretty well balanced; not as dry as you’d think.” Dr. Bill agreed with Mitch when he tasted it. “It’s really well balanced for as hoppy as it is,” said Dr. Bill. “And it has a nice malt complexity with hops throughout.”

Mitch knows that hop-heads who missed hops in last year’s Stone Anniversary Ale will rejoice, not only because Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is a hop monster, but because it’s damn good. “I think it’s going to be right up there with some of the older Anniversary IPA’s,” he said, “and if all goes well, right up there with the Tenth.” We’ll let you decide when Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is released on June 29th.

-Matt Steele

2009 Stone Imperial Russian Stout Starts Hitting Store Shelves April 6th!


Time to don your ushanka and grab a pint of thick black goodness once again. Monday’s roll-out marks our tenth annual release of Stone Imperial Russian Stout. A full decade and still going strong.

2009 Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Our stellar distribution crew is gearing up for the big roll-out on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled in So. Cal. for your friendly neighborhood Stone Distributing truck.

If you’ve had the foresight to cellar previous vintages, you already know that the recipe has changed very little throughout the beer’s tenure, but this time around we did increase the amber malt a bit. According to Stone Brewer, John Egan, the increased amount of malt “gives the beer a little more body on the mouth feel, and a little bit less of a dry finish.” John felt compelled to add, “the beer is awesome!”

So where can you get it? This year’s release will initially be available in twenty-seven states. If your state is highlighted in SIRS blue in the diagram below, rejoice, for the iron curtain will soon be lifted on your state!


IRS may not be available right away in every state, so be patient.

The slick diagram above isn’t the only thing that our talented Graphic Designer, Jen Knudson, has created. She also designed the wicked 2009 Stone Imperial Russian Stout logo and t-shirt in the style of classic Russian propaganda. It’s a fitting design that you’ll be fitting into soon (if you have any semblance of style, that is).


Jen Knudson, resident Graphic Artist

There you have it. Go forth and cellar, Stone Imperial Russian Stout lovers!

-Matt Steele

See what Ratebeer and Beeradvocate are saying about Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Check out what RateBeer and BeerAdvocate are saying about Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Ever wonder why it’s called Stone Imperial Russian Stout? This video from 2005 with Greg Koch and Chris Cochran will fill you in.