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.

Our Next Collaboration: A Pilsner?


One of the things we love about craft brewing is the great sense of camaraderie. The best craft brewers are more focused on expanding the market than competing against each other, and that’s why we love collaborating. Collaboration brings brewers with different attitudes, philosophies, and techniques together with the sole purpose of furthering our craft (ok, and having fun and sharing beers too!). Our last two collaboration beers were great successes, and testaments to the incredible talent of all involved.

When it came time to plan our next collaboration, Scottish brewery BrewDog seemed like a natural choice for Greg Koch and Mitch Steele. “Greg and I were introduced to James’ and Martin’s (BrewDog’s two business partners) beers about a year ago, when we traveled through Scotland,” said Mitch. “We were blown away by their ability to brew hoppy, assertive beers and get away with it in the UK.” James and Martin were inspired to start brewing by the American craft beer scene, and were stoked to take part.

From left to right: Brewmaster James Watt from BrewDog, Head Brewer Mitch Steele from Stone, and Brewmaster Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co.

Brewmaster James Watt from BrewDog (left), Head Brewer Mitch Steele from Stone (middle), and Brewmaster Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co. (right) hanging out at our "Collaboration Eve: Meet the Brewmasters" event in the Gardens

As soon as BrewDog was on board, Mitch made a phone call to Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co. Will and Mitch had known each other for about nine years and always thought it would be cool to brew together someday. When Will got a message from Mitch asking him to participate in the collaboration, he reacted accordingly. “After I got done doing a little beer dance around the cellar I called him back and the rest is history,” said Will. “I was familiar with BrewDog as I’d stumbled across their beer in England last June, and was psyched to be offered the opportunity to work with two other forward-thinking, ballsy brewers.”

Once both brewmasters were committed, the next step was to brew a pilot batch. The distance between the brewers provided a bit of a logistical challenge, so they opted to collaborate over email to brew the pilot batch here. Being the innovative brewers they are, they eventually decided to try something that none of them have ever brewed before, and for that matter, something that NO ONE has ever brewed before.

When Will and James flew in last Thursday and tried the pilot, they confirmed what they suspected—we had something very special on our hands. After agreeing to use a bit more dark malt, the brewmasters went over their game plan for the next day, then retreated to the Bistro where we celebrated with the help of local beer fans at our “Pilot-Palooza” event. It was a fitting start to an epic collaboration.

The next day the brewmasters got down to business, putting in a long hard day of brewing. They started by mash-hopping the brew, which is a first at Stone. The brewmasters adhered to their initial recipe for the most part, but were afforded the luxury of tweaking the recipe during the process (who says you can’t build a car while driving it?). For example, they decided to make a last minute hop addition to balance the bitterness. Will explains the reason for the decision in the clip below:

The immense scale of the batch amazed Will, who brews on a 10-barrel system back in his brewpub in Cambridge. Aside from using 10,000 lbs of malt, the batch required ten separate kettle hop additions, resulting in 326 lbs. total hops (3 lbs. per barrel!). Will remarked that he added more hops in one kettle addition than he uses in an entire batch at home. We’re no strangers to obscene amounts of hops, but according to Mitch, this is the HOPPIEST beer we’ve ever brewed.

At the end of the arduous brew day the brewmasters were satisfied with their creation. It turned out even better than they anticipated. It’s our pleasure to introduce the fruits of their labor, and the first lager EVER brewed at Stone: BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner.

BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

That’s right…a Black Pilsner (and at 10% abv, one might be tempted to call it a Double Black Pilsner…but we’re not…we’ll let the style zealots start endless discussion threads on their own on that…we’re just brewing the damn beer…everyone will have to figure out for themselves what the hell style it is…just sayin’). Aside from being the first lager ever brewed at Stone (and using Bohemian lager yeast no less), this beer represents several other Stone “firsts.” This is the first time we’ve used Japanese Sorachi Ace hops and Motueka hops from New Zealand (there are no American hops in this beer). It’s also our first time both mash-hopping and mash-wort hopping a brew, as well as our first time using more than two kettle hop additions (there were 9 hop additions throughout the wort boiling process).

Of course, as a lager, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner will have to sit in the fermenter tanks several more weeks than a typical batch, so we won’t be able to enjoy the final for a while. We haven’t picked a release date, but rest assured that we’ll let you know the second we do.

Will put it best when he said “We have a big freaking beer on our hands.” It’s bold, black, 10% abv, and over 100 IBU’s in wort. This beer isn’t for sissies. And if you’re saying “there’s no such thing as a Black Pilsner,” let us correct you—there is now. We just brewed it, and it will be amazing (so says us).

Check out the YouTube playlist below. We’ll be adding more videos from the brewing process soon! While you’re at it, check out the flickr set too!


-Matt Steele

AHA Rally: Winning Homebrewer to Brew at Stone!


Stone and homebrewers go way back. We’ve been hosting the monthly meetings of the local homebrew club, The Society of Barley Engineers, since 1996—back before we even had any tanks in our original building in San Marcos. To this day they still meet the first Wednesday of every month upstairs in the Bistro (the Barley Literates also meet in our Bistro). We’ve also offered up many of our recipes for homebrewers to attempt their own versions of our beers, including our Vertical Epic Challenge, which challenges homebrewers to brew clones of our various Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Steve Wagner, our Co-founder and Brewmaster, even got his start as a homebrewer:

Needless to say, we understand the importance of the homebrewing community. That’s why we’ve hosted an American Homebrewers Association Membership Rally every year since we opened the Bistro. Aside from bolstering the ranks of the AHA, these rallies provide a casual forum for homebrewers to share each other’s creations, chat with professional brewers, and bond with other homebrewers. Our rallies keep getting bigger and better every year.

Cheers!

Cheers!

When it came time to plan this year’s AHA Membership Rally, we decided to up the ante on our homebrewing competition. This time the winning brew would be brewed on our system to be served here at Stone. With the strength of our local homebrew scene, we knew the response would be phenomenal—and it was. Members of So. Cal. homebrew clubs delivered twenty-three incredibly tasty brews, along with four outstanding brews submitted by individual homebrewers.

List of Official Entries

List of Official Entries

We were quite pleased by the strong showing of enthusiastic homebrewers. According to AHA Director, Gary Glass, this was the biggest AHA Rally EVER in terms of RSVP’s and new members. That’s a stat to be proud of, and with the help of local homebrewers we’ll top that next year.

Homebrewers came from near and far to take part in the blind tasting and cast their vote for their favorite. Many drove several hours from neighboring counties to participate, but long time Stone fans Roberto and Jade Saldivar had them beat. They trekked all the way from Dublin, CA, (near San Francisco), where they are part of a homebrew club called Mad Zymurgists. Roberto and Jade displayed true dedication by making the long trip down to one of their “favorite places in the world” just to attend the rally. Noticing my age, they jokingly added “We’ve been Stone fans since way before you were here.”

As the polls closed, four beers emerged as fan favorites. Many attendees were impressed by Eric Holden’s The Event Horizon, an innovative Vanilla and Peppercorn Imperial Russian Stout, as well as Jeremy Jerome’s Admiral Nelson—a tasty Rye IPA. Attendees also delighted in Brad Sayles’s Kalifornien Kolsch, a refreshing take on a Kolsch beer, and Ken Schmidt’s fantastic Aloha Plenty Porter with Kona Coffee, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. After tallying all the votes, it turned out these were the top four beers.

Once the final four were determined, an all-star Stone tasting panel began the difficult task of judging the winner of Stone’s March Madness Competition. The panel consisted of Stone CEO Greg Koch, Head Brewer Mitch Steele, Beverage Coordinator “Dr.” Bill Sysak, Brewer Jeremy Moynier, Web Programmer (and member of Quaff) Bill Sobieski, Packaging Supervisor Kris Ketcham, Art Director Mike Palmer, and Marketing Director Chris Cochran.

All four beers were expertly crafted, but only one could prevail. After several minutes of tense deliberation, Ken Schmidt’s Aloha Plenty surfaced as the clear winner. Mitch Steele announced the four finalists, and then presented Ken Schmidt as the winner. Ken was psyched to claim the grand prize. “I had been thinking about the recipe for six years, said Ken, “but it was Garrett’s (Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing Co.) Coconut Porter that inspired me to go ahead with it. I wanted to brew something that infuses all of the elements of the islands and captures their essence.”

Winner Ken Schmidt (right) celebrating with Stone CEO Greg Koch

Winner Ken Schmidt (right) celebrating with Stone CEO Greg Koch

Mitch Steele was impressed with Ken’s Aloha Plenty, calling it “a phenomenal beer.” He’s looking forward to brewing it with Ken (and possibly Garret) here at Stone. “We’ll have to figure out how to toast a lot of coconut and get our hands on a lot of macadamia nuts,” he said, “but I think it’s going to be great.”

As promised, Ken will have the chance to brew his Aloha Plenty on our system to be served here, so watch out for it on tap in the Bistro. Also, because the brew had previously won a Beer Judge Certificate Program sanctioned homebrew competition, we’re submitting it to compete in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF. To top it off, Greg Koch hinted at a possible three-way collaboration with Ken, Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co. and Mitch Steele. Ken was all smiles, admitting that “it will be so cool to brew on Stone’s system.”

From left to right: Chris Cochran, Mitch Steele, Ken Schmidt, Gary Glass, Greg Koch, Mike Palmer

From left to right: Chris Cochran, Mitch Steele, Ken Schmidt, Gary Glass, Greg Koch, Mike Palmer

We were blown away by the quality of all the submissions. Our local homebrewers are arguably some of the best in the nation, and they once again proved that they’re capable of producing amazing beers. We can’t wait for next year’s AHA Rally, but in the meantime, head over to the AHA website to become a member and join some of the most prestigious homebrewers in the nation. Cheers to Ken for a job well done, and congrats to the runners-up. All the beers were phenomenal, but if you didn’t get a chance to taste Ken’s Aloha Plenty at the rally, you missed out. You don’t want to miss it again, so stay tuned for the upcoming collaboration, and get ready to taste “the essence of the islands.”

Check out the AHA Rally flickr set

-Matt Steele

Keg Masta Steve


Life on the keg line ain’t easy. Every shift is an eight-hour marathon of non-stop keg-filling, but Steve Via makes it look like a breeze. Steve recently shattered the record for amount of kegs filled in one eight-hour shift, filling a whopping 304 full-sized kegs—and all while the rest of the world was sleeping (he works the overnight shift).

The previous record was 282 kegs (nothing to scoff at!), held by Brandon Uhl who now works as an Assistant Brewer. Apparently Steve had a hunch that he was going to make Stone history. Before his shift he told Brandon, “Dude, I’m gonna break your record today.” Steve may have eaten his Wheaties and anticipated a stellar performance, but I doubt he expected to surpass the previous record by a staggering 22 kegs.

Steve Via, keg-filling machine

Steve Via, keg-filling machine

Steve is a keg-filling machine. Cheers to him for a job well done. Of course, kegging isn’t a completely solo affair; Steve had a bit of help from his compatriots. At the beginning and end of every shift, guys on the keg line clean up from the previous shift and set-up for the following shift. In Steve’s case, Rob Curnutt set up the equipment for Steve before his shift, and Erick Szaras cleaned up after Steve’s shift. That’s why it’s called “Team” Stone.

Steve has set the bar incredibly high, but we have no doubt that our fantastic keg line can rise to the challenge. Keep up the good work guys!

-Matt Steele

World Water Week at the Bistro


We all remember stories our parents told us about how much a dollar used to buy. Back in their day, a person could eat for a week on a dollar and still have enough for a haircut. With current inflation rates, it seems like such a world never existed. However, UNICEF is proving that a dollar can still go a long way.

UNICEF is a non-profit organization on a mission to provide clean drinking water to children around the world. As part of World Water Week (March 22-28), UNICEF is conducting the Tap Project in conjunction with restaurants around the country, and our Bistro is one of the participating restaurants. By donating one dollar, you can provide safe, clean drinking water to a child for 40 days. You can donate in one of three ways: ask your server to add $1 or more to your bill, text “TAP” to 864233 to make a $5 donation, or donate directly online. Check out their website to find a participating restaurant near you.

Donating is easy. Just fill out the card on your table and give it to a server or manager.

Donating is easy. Just fill out the card on your table and give it to a server or manager.

We’re proud to be participating in this worthy cause, and we hope you’ll come on down to the Bistro and join us in contributing to the health and well-being of children around the world. Cheers!

-Matt Steele

Beer Wars!


If you keep your finger on the pulse of the craft beer industry, then you may have caught wind that the upcoming documentary, Beer Wars, will be simulcast live from Royce Hall on UCLA’s campus to 440 theaters across America on April 16th. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out below. Also take a peek at a short clip from the documentary featuring our co-founder & CEO, Greg Koch, waxing poetic about our early history, our philosophy and our approach to the idea of “competition.” As part of the simulcast, Ben Stein will moderate a live panel discussion immediately after the movie with some of the leading independent brewers and experts from the film, including Todd Alstrom, Sam Calagione, Charlie Papazian, and  our very own Greg Koch.


Beer Wars Movie Trailer from Beer Wars on Vimeo.

We’re getting a Team Stone bus together to take a trip up to UCLA for the simulcast, and we’d love for you to join us. Unfortunately, we can’t take you with us on the Team Stone bus, so you’ll have to find a way to get there yourself (Note: parking at UCLA), but we’ll hook you up with the admission. If you want in, go here and RSVP. Due to limited capacity at the theater, not everyone will make it on our list. Reservations are first come first serve, so RSVP ASAP! You must be at Royce Hall by 4:30pm. Doors close at 4:45pm, so don’t be late!


Beer Wars Movie: Compatriots Clip from Beer Wars on Vimeo.

If you can’t join us in LA, you’ll have plenty of other screening options across the country. Check your local theaters and the Fathom Events website for official screening locations. San Diego beer fans will have three options: AMC Mission Valley 20, Regal Horton Plaza San Diego, and Regal Mira Mesa 18 with IMAX. Remember, all screenings will be broadcast live on April 16th, but be sure to check with your local theater for actual times.

We’re brimming with anticipation for this monumental one-time beer event, and we hope you’ll catch the simulcast on April 16th. Cheers!

-Matt Steele

Save 30% on your electric bill for only $2,600,000!


For eons the sun has perched brightly in the sky casting nurturing rays of light, heating our quaint little blue globe and making life possible. But every once in a while, we begrudge our beloved burning ball of gas for ruining the one thing many of us love most in life—BEER.

Yes it’s true; UV light can skunk even the stoutest beers. Most astute brewers and beer drinkers are well aware of this, and take preventative measures to reduce the amount of light that penetrates their beer. If you’ve taken one of our brewery tours, you’ve no doubt heard us lambaste the ill effects of UV light on beer, making a point to mention that, unlike some breweries, we use dark brown bottles to counter this effect. While we do safeguard our beer against UV light, we actually embrace light (specifically sunlight) in another, more practical way. How’s that? Two words: Solar Array.

Our 276.9-kilowatt AC Photovaltaic Solar Array. Beautiful, huh?

Back in February 2008 we had a 276.9-kilowatt AC photovoltaic solar panel system installed on the roof of our building. The $2.6 million dollar system includes 1,561 200-Watt Photo-Voltaic Modules, and produces about 30% of our brewery’s total electricity.

Rob Marshal

Although our system has a 331-kilowatt capacity, the amount of energy generated varies day to day, depending heavily on weather patterns and the amount of dirt build-up on the panels. Even with these minor limitations, our solar panels generate an impressive amount of energy. Rob Marshal, our IT Analyst, keeps track of our solar array data, and he provided me with all the juicy numbers.

Construction on our solar panels completed in May 2008, but they weren’t operational until June 2008, and they weren’t fully online until September 2008. With that in mind, our solar panels generated 243,393 kWh (Kilowatt Hours) of energy in all of 2008. The panels have generated a grand total of 316,146 kWh over the past six months.

A screen shot from Rob's computer.

The most power that our solar panels have ever generated in one day is 1,739 kWh. That was back on September 2, 2008, an arguably sunny day. To give you some perspective, at that rate we could generate 10,656 kWh in one week, which would power the average American household for an entire year. Even more impressive, our panels generated 95,390 kWh during the entire month of September, 2008. On the other hand, cloudier, drearier months like February see a drastic dip in energy production. The panels generated 29,680 kWh in February, averaging only 1,060 kWh a day. This is a direct result of meager sunlight and dirt buildup over the lifespan of the panels.

Less stellar numbers for a gloomy San Diego February

Less stellar numbers for a gloomy February in San Diego

While solar power can be incredibly effective, it isn’t exactly the infallible cure-all for our planet’s energy woes. As mentioned earlier, it’s overly dependent upon clear weather, and dirt buildup is problematic. Not only is it time-consuming and costly to clean the panels, but the run-off doesn’t meet storm drainage standards, and we’re still working on a solution to this environmental catch 22. As you know, going solar requires a significant initial investment that may not start paying off for many years. In our case, we won’t start reaping the benefits for about 6-8 years. However, we’ve decided that the long-term benefits will far outweigh the initial cost.

According to Hamann Construction, our system is one of the largest in the state, placing in the top 12% of solar systems in California, but we’re not the only brewery rectifying the once rocky relationship between beer and the sun. Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California, recently installed a 1.3-megawatt solar power system which provides about 34% of their brewery’s power.

As our industry continues to battle the dangers of dirty energy, breweries are exploring options beyond solar power to reduce their carbon footprint. Harpoon Brewery in Boston, for example, is taking advantage of the trend among utility companies to pay breweries for relieving stress on their grid by using less power. Making such seemingly minor changes as using more efficient light bulbs and installing light reflecting mirrors has saved them money and lifted some of the burden off of their local utility company. Measures like this, along with a myriad of government incentive programs, are making clean energy more attainable for small breweries.

Of course, we had our fair share of help. Harnessing the power of the sun wouldn’t be possible without assistance from a few upstanding organizations. The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE), a government program that offers incentives to homes and businesses for going solar, facilitated our participation in the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which was pivotal in assuring the financial feasibility of the project. Bank of America, with their innovative financing for green energy projects also played a crucial role. Lastly, our contractors Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. and Hamann Construction both did a fantastic job, and we’re very satisfied with the end result.

Our push for clean energy represents another step towards sustainable design, which was our goal from the beginning. Our solar array, along with other conservation initiatives at our brewery and restaurant, helps us make great beer with minimal impact on the environment. Thankfully, we’re not alone. We’re proud to be part of an industry that is leading the charge for sustainable energy and environmentally responsible business practices.

-Matt Steele

What's Growing in the Gardens?


If you read the blog about our Gardens, you know that our inventive gardener, Chili, re-uses by-products from our Brewery and Bistro in our topsoil. Buried within the accompanying flickr photo set, you may have missed an aerial mock-up of our Gardens with every single plant meticulously marked and labeled by Chili himself. It’s not a treasure map in the swashbuckling sense, but it does map out the locations of all of the botanical treasures in our Gardens. We think it’s a pretty good way to grasp the entirety of our thriving ecosystem and the plants therein, and Webmaster Mike has plans to work it into new content on our website. Also, if you plan on attending the event with Nan Sterman this Sunday, this layout offers a preview of what you’ll see and learn about.

-Matt Steele

Chili's Garden Map

Chili's Garden Map

Stone is using Google Calendars, finally.


As the title of this post indicates, I’m not taking the point of view that we came up with something entirely new or that we’re by any stretch of the imagination ahead of the curve on this one. You guys have been hounding me for well over 12 months to put upcoming events and growler fills on Google so you could subscribe via your web calendars, calendar applications and wireless devices. Instead of the marvel of global syncing updating your calendars, you had to visit a static web page to find out what was going on. Well, it’s not that I didn’t see the importance of this, it was just hard to keep up with everything we were doing day to day without updating another system outside our website.

So hey, it should have been done a long time ago – but nonetheless, it’s here! You can now find calendars for our Growler Fills, Bistro Beer Lineup, Stone Special Release Dates and Special Events. You can subscribe to them all or pick and choose right here…

http://www.stonebrew.com/googlecalendar/

You can thank Matt Steele for plugging away to fill up those calendar dates and our Graphic Artist, Jen Knudson, for embedding it into our site (you’ll find it on our calendar event page and growler fill page to start). You’ll also find these events entered into Facebook, posted on Twitter and showing up on Flickr once they pass. If you find us behind the curve on other things, please let me know!

Beer & Chocolate Pairing: Someone has to do it…


Beer and chocolate are two of my favorite things on the planet. If you asked me to define myself in one sentence, the words beer and chocolate would probably be in there somewhere. So you can imagine my dismay when I was burdened with the arduous task of helping pair Stone beer with the innovative artisinal offerings of Eclipse Chocolat for our Beer & Chocolate Pairing event on May 3rd. But I’m not one to complain. Rather than drag my feet and mope about the daunting task ahead of me, I decided to tackle it head-on and get it over with, and so did my equally apprehensive compatriots, Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright and Brewer Jeremy Moynier.

Eclipse Chocolat

Eclipse Chocolat

We arrived at Eclipse late in the afternoon, just as rush hour traffic was rearing its ugly head on El Cajon Boulevard. Immediately upon entering the reasonably populated, pleasantly decorated dessert cafe, we were greeted by Chocolatier Extraordinaire Will Gustwiller, the Owner of Eclipse Chocolat. After exchanging customary introductions, we tended to the irksome job before us.

The first piece of chocolate that Will offered us was one of his first creations—a Lavender Sea-Salted Caramel truffle. This creamy milk chocolate delicacy is Eclipse’s most popular truffle, and it’s easy to see why. After striking out with Stone Levitation Ale, we decided to pair it with Stone IPA. Success. The prevailing salt and herbal notes of the truffle harmonized beautifully with the citrusy, hoppy bite of Stone IPA. We were off to a promising start.

Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle

Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle

Next up was Will’s Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle, a chili-infused dark chocolate truffle with a subtle, delayed spicy note. Will warned us that this would be the most difficult truffle to pair, due to its overwhelming flavor profile. We promptly assured him that we rarely encounter food capable of smothering the bold flavors of our beers, but sure enough, we were wrong. The truffle overwhelmed several of our beers before we finally stumbled upon a winner. The long-lasting bitter finish of Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was the only heavy-hitting flavor that could stand up to the prolonged chili spice of the truffle. When the ooh’s and ahh’s subsided, they were replaced by talk of using this pairing as the finale of the pairing on May 3rd. And for good reason.

Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle

Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle

The next truffle, Will’s Balsamic Pink Peppercorn truffle, was a definite departure from the previous offerings. If you’re thinking of the slight spicy flavor found in commercial peppercorn dressings and such, think again. Will uses actual fresh peppercorns for the filling of this truffle, resulting in an earthy sweet flavor that is enhanced by raspberry balsamic vinegar sweetened dark chocolate. Double Bastard Ale and Stone Cali-Belgique IPA weren’t a match, but we eventually found the right supplement. The smoky, roasted barley note and strong hop finish of Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale proved a perfect mate for the unique truffle.

At this point our spirits were low as the backbreaking labor began to take its toll, but somehow we mustered the strength and determination to persist. Will introduced the next delicacy, a Black Sesame Anise truffle, and we valiantly resumed. This dark chocolate ganache-infused creation comes packed with anise seed and star anise, and is topped with toasted black sesame seeds. Again we tried to pair it with Stone Levitation Ale, along with a few other Stone beers, all to no avail. At last we found a champion in the form of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. The dense fruity note of the Belgian Yeast provided the perfect contrast to the bittersweet anise and the toasty sesame seeds.

The next chocolate was met with desperate cries for mercy as the unceasing consumption of gourmet chocolate and delicious craft beer began to erode our morale, but the painful ordeal was almost over. We knew that once we found a pairing with Will’s Macadamia Ginger White Chocolate, we could go home. So we found one in the form of 2009 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine. The sweet tang of the lemon sang in perfect harmony with Old Guardian’s hoppy finish, and the ginger in the chocolate worked opposite of the bold barley presence of the barley wine. And for all of you who think white chocolate isn’t real chocolate, let there be no mistake. White chocolate is indeed chocolate if it has real cocoa butter in it. Many commercially available white chocolates opt for vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter because it’s significantly cheaper. Will does no such thing. His white chocolate is the real deal.

Stone Brewer Jeremy Moynier (left), Tour Guide Kathryn Bouscaren, and Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright (right) hard at work

Stone Brewer Jeremy Moynier (left), Tour Guide Kathryn Bouscaren, and Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright (right) hard at work

But alas, there was more! Will cemented his standing as a wizard of chocolate with his last delicacy—a Banana Rum Cigar truffle. Will explained that he deftly weaved actual cigar leaf into this rare truffle, immediately dropping our jaws and leaving us mystified. Unfortunately, the Valentine’s Day rush depleted Will’s inventory, and he didn’t have enough of this spectacular truffle to finish the pairing. Thankfully, he offered to send us more so we could finish the pairing here at the brewery. So let it be known that there will be a surprise pairing in store for you on May 3rd, should you choose to attend Beer & Chocolate.

Eclipse Chocolat Owner, Will Gustwiller, now the proud owner of leftover Stone beer

Eclipse Chocolat Owner, Will Gustwiller, now the proud owner of leftover Stone beer

After nearly two hours of drudgery and copious amounts of beer and chocolate, we emerged with five spectacular pairings and one “to be announced” pairing. We would like to thank our gracious host and culinary genius Will Gustwiller for offering us a glimpse of his wildly imaginative take on chocolate. If you like Stone beer, and you like equally bold-flavored chocolate, you’d be crazy not to enjoy the fruits of his (and our) labor on May 3rd. Though we won’t discourage you from arming yourself with our tasting notes and going down to Eclipse to try the pairings we came up with, we do hope that you send us your suggestions for the sixth pairing. We’d really appreciate your help!

-Matt Steele

www.eclipsechocolat.com

http://www.stonebrew.com/calendar/#090503