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

What the Hell is Stone Bombastic Lager?


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.

-Matt Steele

John Egan Brews His Own Fuel Too


Remember last summer when gas prices were ridiculously inflated? Remember wiping away the tears while your hard-earned cash ticked away at the pump faster than our national debt? John Egan doesn’t. While the rest of us were subject to the tyranny of fossil fuels, John avoided gas stations entirely, comfortably enjoying his wallet-friendly biofuel solution. When John isn’t supervising our brewing team, managing our cask and barrel aging program, and watching over our prized special creation beers (like Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans), he’s indulging in his green side by converting 100% of our Bistro’s waste oil into biodiesel fuel to power his truck. So how does he do it?

John Egan’s 1999 Dodge Ram 2500, which weighs 7,000 lbs., can get up to 24 mpg using biodiesel. John also uses biodiesel in his 1980 Mercedes Benz 300D.

Every other week, John uses an electric pump powered by his truck battery to extract waste oil from a 50-gallon drum behind our Bistro. Once the oil is filled back into the containers it first came in, he takes it home, processes it in the custom-built system in his garage, dumps it in the tank of his truck, and voila!

So what does biodiesel have to do with beer? Well, according to John, being a brewer comes in handy. “There are a tremendous amount of parallels between biodiesel and brewing,” said John. “You take raw materials and turn them into something else, and quality is extremely important. Much of the same equipment is used such as pumps, hoses, valves, tanks, filters, etc.  Actually, used brewing equipment would work exceptionally well to make biodiesel with.”

While John genuinely enjoys “taking waste materials and turning them into something of value,” he admits that brewing biodiesel isn’t a walk in the park. “It’s quite involved and takes effort,” said John. “It’s not one of those things that you try out, and then decide to scrap after a few months.”

John extracting the oil from the 50 gallon drum behind our Bistro

John extracting the oil from the 50 gallon drum behind our Bistro. Before our Bistro opened in November 2006, John acquired waste oil by other means, including reclaiming the oil used to make the Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings at our Anniversary parties.

Sure, brewing biodiesel isn’t easy, but it is easy on the wallet. After processing, one gallon of biofuel comes out to about $1. Aside from being outrageously cheap, biodiesel also runs a lot cleaner than regular diesel, and emits a pleasing french fry smell as an added bonus. It can be slightly less efficient than regular diesel, though still more efficient than regular gasoline.

John is obviously a fan of the environment, but he’s also realistic. He feels that biofuels are “an important part of our energy matrix as a supplement, but they aren’t the solution to our energy problems.” Sure, biofuel may not be the magical panacea for our energy woes, but it definitely helps. John put it best when he said “it feels very good to reuse things that would otherwise find their way into a landfill.” That’s something I think we can all agree on.

-Matt Steele

Check out the press release we wrote about our Delivery Truck Fleet running on biodiesel.

Collaboration REDUX at Jolly Pumpkin this Sunday!


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

Greg Gets by With a Little Help From His Friends


If you’ve been following us on Twitter, you know that the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference kicked off yesterday after a rousing keynote speech delivered by our very own Greg Koch. If you know Greg, you know he’s not one to do things the ordinary way. He wanted to deliver the most rockin’ oration in the conference’s history, and by all accounts (including his Tweet in the middle of the speech!), he succeeded.

However, Greg didn’t do it alone. Some compatriots in the craft brewing industry, along with our friends at Red Tail Media, helped him put together a video tribute to the craft beer industry to kick off the speech. Various collaboration beers were poured for attendees as the video was playing, and when it finished, Greg led all 1,700 fired-up attendees in a heartfelt toast to the communal spirit of the industry. So share this video with a friend, crack open a beer, and raise a glass to the enduring camaraderie of craft beer!


I Am A Craft Brewer from I Am A Craft Brewer on Vimeo.

DESCRIPTION FROM THE VIMEO PAGE:

“I Am A Craft Brewer” is a collaborative video representing the camaraderie, character and integrity of the American Craft Brewing movement. Created by Greg Koch, CEO of the Stone Brewing Co. and Chris & Jared of Redtail Media…and more than 35 amazing craft brewers from all over the country. The video was shown to a packed audience of 1700 craft brewers and industry members at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference as an introduction to Greg’s Keynote Speech entitled “Be Remarkable: Collaboration Ethics Camaraderie Passion.” As is tradition for the CBC Keynote, a toast to the audience was offered. This time, the beers offered for the toast were all collaboratively brewed craft beers including Isabella Proximus, Collaboration Not Litigation, AleSmith/Mikkeller/Stone Belgian Style Triple, Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale, and 2009 Symposium Ale “Audacity of Hops.”

A re-cut version will be posted as soon as possible, and a program is in development to include even more of America’s amazing craft brewers. Please stay tuned!

The video of Greg’s entire keynote speech will be available some time within the next two weeks. We’ll post it in all of its plaid jacket glory as soon as it’s available. As a teaser, it features musical appearances by some familiar faces around Stone and the craft beer industry (when I said rockin’ I meant it).

-Matt Steele

137,088 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, 137,088 Bottles of Beer…


If you read the blog, you know that Steve Via broke our keg line record a few weeks ago. Well, Keg Masta Steve isn’t the only one around here kicking ass and taking names. Our bottling line crew recently set a new record by bottling a staggering 137,088 12-ounce bottles of Stone IPA and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale (95 pallets and 12 cases) in one day!

The previous record was 130,728 bottles (90 pallets and 47 cases), set on December 17, 2008, with each person clocking thirty minutes of overtime that day. Not only did the bottling line break the old record by 6,360 bottles, but they did it with significantly less overtime.

The Bottling Line Crew

Our record-breaking bottling line crew, from left to right: Steve Parks, Manny Amador, Kevin Nolan, Eric Szaras, Nelson Clara, Zack Robertson, Caitlin Misner, Ryan Roersma, Zack Soderbeck, and Beau Bratton

Our bottling line has come a long way since Ben Lee, our Production Coordinator, started on the bottling line over six years ago. “A 21,600 bottle day was a huge deal back in the day,” said Ben. Ben remembers having to place bottles onto the line manually, and then load them into boxes by hand after being filled. Bruised and swollen hands weren’t the only fun side effect. “We had to wrap our fingers in duct tape to avoid getting shredded by the bottle caps.” After one person loaded the bottles manually, another person had to stamp the boxes, load them onto the pallet, and repeat.

Lee Chase and Steve Wagner showcasing our first ever 12 oz. bottle with Stone Brewer, Toshi Ishii looking on. Note that the "Maheen" bottling machine in the background is roughly the size of the three of them.

April 14th, 1999: Lee Chase and Steve Wagner celebrating our first ever bottling run, with Stone Brewer, Toshi Ishii (right) loading bottles into the "Maheen" bottling machine. Note that the "Maheen" is roughly the size of the three of them combined.

Though our bottling line was still pretty rudimentary during Ben’s days on the line, he was at least lucky enough to start right after we bought our first Filler machine. Before the Filler, we employed two old “Maheen” bottling machines (one for 12oz. bottles and one for 22oz. bottles), which required a minimum of two people to operate. We taxed the Maheens to their limit, running them for two shifts a day. “We were doing about 60 cases an hour with them,” said Stone President & Brewmaster Steve Wagner, recollecting the “rudimentary, highly manual” pieces of machinery. “We thought that was a huge amount of beer at the time.”

Bottling Line Operator Bryce Williams-Tuttle managing the Filler

Bottling Line Operator Bryce Williams-Tuttle managing the Filler. About 3/4 of the machinery on our bottling line is used and/or refurbished.

A lot has happened since Ben or Steve worked on the line (most notably, the extinction of the dinosaurs). The crew has doubled in size, and the level of automation has increased exponentially. As mentioned before, we eventually installed a Filler, which we bought used from the Molson plant in St. John, Newfoundland. We acquired a second used filler from Pyramid Brewing on August 20, 2007, and later installed a Climax Uncaser and extra Accumulation Conveyors on July 19th, 2008.

The newest addition to the line is a Slitter-Sealer machine, which we obtained from Abita Brewing in Louisiana. The gently used Slitter-Sealer was installed last Friday (the day after the bottling crew broke the record), and it makes the crews’ lives a hell of a lot easier. Instead of having to manually break tabs, fold, and seal about 20 boxes per minute, the machine will take over, sealing about 50 boxes per minute (once it’s running at full speed). Bill Sherwood, our Facilities Manager, likes the “chop-chop, flip-flap” action of the Slitter-Sealer, calling it a “Dr. Seuss kind of machine.”

Beau Bratton manually breaking box tabs, folding, and sealing.

Beau Bratton manually breaking box tabs, folding, and sealing.

According to Packaging Supervisor, Kris Ketcham, breaking the bottling record was “a perfect ending to the last day that we will probably ever have to manually break box tabs, fold, and seal.” Breaking the record was indeed a fitting end to the last day ever manually sealing boxes—but not the end of the story. We’re sure our stellar bottling line crew will continue to rock our socks off, and we can’t wait until they reach their next milestone.

-Matt Steele

Washington Approves Stone's Pilsner Stimulus Plan


We know many of you are chomping at the bit for news about our collaboration brew, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, so we’ll throw you a bone. The brew is still fermenting, so we don’t have a release date yet (don’t worry, we’ll let you know the second we do!), but we do have some news about the bottle label. Jen Knudson, our talented graphic designer, just got word from the feds that the label design was approved and ready to rock!

Staying true to our collaboration bottle design motif, there are three versions, each dedicated to one of the three Brewmasters. Check em out below!

-Matt Steele

James' Bottle Notes

James' Label

Will's Bottle Notes

Will's Label

Mitch's Bottle Notes

Mitch's Label

Egg Huntin' Stone-style


While the origins of our culture’s oddball Easter traditions are convoluted, one thing’s for certain—our egg hunts rock. There’s nothing kids like more than descending upon our beautiful Gardens in search of a thousand candy and prize-filled eggs, and there’s nothing parents like more than redeeming a certificate for some awesome Stone merchandise that their industrious offspring lovingly procured for them.

Huntin' in style

Huntin' in style (click above for more photos)

Our annual Egg Hunt & Brunch was a huge success, with over a hundred kids partaking, but we’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Congrats to all the successful hunters, and cheers to all the fortunate merchandise-winning parents. Until next year….

-Matt Steele

Why we use Grass-fed/Grass-finished Beef


When we opened the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in 2006, we knew we wanted our menu to feature the highest quality ingredients, and beef was no exception. We knew very little about the beef industry, but once we did our homework, we chose grass-fed/grass-finished beef because it’s all-natural, healthy, and most importantly—it’s freakin’ delicious!

In case you’re wondering, there is a difference between grass-fed beef and grass-fed/grass-finished beef. The majority of cattle are grass-fed at some point, but it’s the final months of their lives that really make the difference. Most cattle are shipped to feed lots and fed grain in their final months to fatten them up, which alters their flavor. We predominantly serve beef that has been grass-fed throughout its entire life cycle, hence grass-fed/grass-finished (the one exception is our Prime Rib Melt, which uses all-natural grass-fed/grain-finished Meyer’s beef to achieve a different flavor).

All of our meat, including chicken and fish, is hormone and anti-biotic free, or never-never, as it's called in the industry.

All of our meat, including chicken and fish, is hormone and anti-biotic free (or never-never as it's called in the industry).

Today, grass-fed/grass-finished beef could draw similarities to the earlier days of craft beer. There were folks that wanted it, but distributors and retailers often felt there wasn’t sufficient demand to make it available. “Grass-fed/grass-finished was an item we were looking into anyway because of the recent industry leaning towards more naturally raised beef,” said Jonathan Sachs from Hamilton Meats, “but there was no interest from any of our current clients to justify offering the product.”

That was about to change, as consumers and restaurants became interested in grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Together with three other local restaurants, including our good friend Jay Porter, proprietor of The Linkery in North Park, we were able to raise demand enough for Hamilton Meats to offer grass-fed/grass-finished beef.

Red Buffalo Ranch, home to Tallgrass Beef's grass-fed/grass-finished cattle

Red Buffalo Ranch, "the home and genesis" of Tallgrass Beef

Most of our beef now comes from verdant pastures thanks to Tallgrass Beef, a company dedicated to all-natural, great-tasting grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Their cattle live stress-free, roaming freely and eating lush natural grasses throughout their lives. Brad Schoenberg, Vice President of Sales & Business Development at Tallgrass Beef, gave us the rundown on why grass-fed/grass-finished is a good way to go:

“The most important thing that people should know about grass-fed/grass-finished is that it is good for the animal…but the health and nutritional benefit for us is the real key. Tallgrass Beef contains a higher level of omega 3′s, high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acids (an anti-carcinogen), and is lower in saturated fats and cholesterol.”

Brad poses an interesting question—“Can you imagine your doctor telling you to eat more beef?” While it may be difficult to imagine a medical professional advocating increased consumption of beef, it’s not difficult to imagine your tongue advocating increased consumption of grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Sure it’s healthy and at the top of the ethical and environmental scales, but just as important–it’s damn good.

- Matt Steele

The Newest Additions to our Gardens… Ducklings!


Our beloved gardener, Chili, stumbled upon a pleasant surprise this morning as he was mowing the lawn in our Gardens. We thought we would share his discovery with you…

The ducklings are the newest additions to our Gardens, which have been enjoying a Springtime boom. We’re glad to be graced with their presence, brightening an already tranquil Tuesday morning here at Stone.

At a whopping eleven ducklings, this is the largest hatching we've ever had. Check out the flickr set for more photos.

At a whopping eleven ducklings, this is the largest clutch we've had yet. Click the picture for the flickr set.

-Matt Steele