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

Our Beer Gardens…Literally


If you’ve been to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, you’ve probably noticed that we have an entire acre of completely organic, fully sustainable Gardens attached to the Bistro. Some refer to them as our “Beer Gardens,” not knowing just how accurate that label really is. Truth is, we maintain our Gardens using by-products from the brewing process, resulting in real honest to goodness “Beer Gardens.”

Maintaining such a large expanse of Gardens is no easy task. So how do we do it? Meet Chili, Stone’s resident botanical wizard, and the keeper of our beautiful Gardens (he earned his nickname because he grows chilies and likes his food HOT). By reusing by-products from our Brewery and Bistro, and utilizing a few clever gardening techniques, Chili maintains our Gardens using nothing but what Mother Nature provides.

The man behind our Gardens

The man behind our Gardens

I recently caught up with Chili in his natural environment, which he lovingly refers to as his “cage.” While it’s true it isn’t exactly a window office, his “cage” is actually a fenced-off, covered storage area wedged between the Gardens and the Bistro kitchen where he keeps his desk and all of his gardening tools. Despite the jokes, Chili is quite fond of his decidedly unconventional office, and I get the sense that he prefers it to a view of Fifth Avenue. Actually, the real reason we keep Chili in a cage is to contain his unbridled passion for gardening (I apologize for that one, I couldn’t resist).

Chili working hard in his "cage"

Chili hard at work in his "cage"

I stopped by just as Chili was preparing to plant a few early yield tomatoes, and he was kind enough to share some of his secrets with me. He explained that the most important step in maintaining a healthy perma-culture is mixing the proper soil. He then divulged his secret recipe:

Chili’s Spent Grain Topsoil Recipe

Ingredients:
- 2 shovels of spent grain from the Brewery
- 2 shovels of decomposed granite (Escondido’s natural topsoil)
- 2 shovels of vegetable compost from the Bistro kitchen
- A few handfuls of nicely aged mulch from the chipper

Directions:
Combine two shovels of spent grain and two shovels of decomposed granite in a large bucket. The spent grain should contain little green specks from the hops used in the brewing process, and be slightly damp from the remnant wort (notice the desirable beery fragrance). The decomposed granite should be brown in color and have a moist dirt-like consistency. Mix together thoroughly. Add two shovels of vegetable compost from the Bistro kitchen. Make sure there is plenty of insect and worm life in the compost, and that it has a fresh earthy smell. This indicates an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Mix thoroughly with the spent grain and decomposed granite until mixture is consistent. Add a few handfuls of aged mulch (the mulch consists of fallen branches, twigs and leaves from the Gardens that have been fed through the chipper and aged in large barrels), blend thoroughly and voila! Once the topsoil is nicely mixed, it’s time to plant. Chili recommends filling the bottom of the chosen pot with gravel for drainage, and surrounding the fledgling plant with the fresh soil mix up to the first few branches. Then top it off with a bit of aged mulch, lightly water it, and watch it thrive. Once the roots have grown deep and strong, delicately transplant it to its final destination. In this case, the final destination for our vigorous little tomatoes is the Southeast nook of our Gardens (on the bank next to the gazebo/lounge/peat gravel area), where we keep a variety of seasonal vegetables. Check out a map of everything we have growing in our Gardens.

Chili’s proprietary (patent pending) soil blend works wonders in our Gardens, contributing to a fruitful year-round harvest. We’ve also noticed it makes the food taste better, due to the proliferation of essential micro-nutrients that petrochemical fertilized foods lack.

When I asked Chili why he uses spent grain from the brewery in his soil recipe instead of another fertilizer, he responded with a straight-faced “because it’s there.” I promptly reminded him that gardening is no laughing matter, and he gave me the real reason. Apparently the spent grain flourishes in the soil, creating an abundance of microbial activity and general liveliness. Chili also emphasized that it’s time proven. He’s been using spent grain since his days as a gardener at Pizza Port, and it’s worked wonders time and again.

Chili procuring spent grain from the Brewery

Chili gathering spent grain from the Brewery

Spent grain isn’t the only brewing by-product that Chili recycles. He also snatches up the used oak chips that we use to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale. These lovely, odoriferous chips not only have a beautiful deep silky brown color, but they retain their alluring bourbony smell for about a week. Chili puts them to use as a decorative top layer, propagating the pleasing smell and thick brown sheen of OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale throughout our Gardens. Their purpose isn’t solely decorative, however, as their acidity helps neutralize the alkaline properties of the decomposed granite that makes up our natural topsoil.

The fragrant Oak chips used to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale

The fragrant Oak chips used to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale

Our Gardens are proof that sustainable gardening works. Aside from the occasional use of manure, Chili procures everything he needs for the Gardens here at the Brewery. He takes what would normally be discarded and sent to a landfill and re-uses it to create a vibrant, flourishing perma-culture. So the next time you see Chili sipping on an after shift beer or tending to the Gardens, be sure to raise him a glass on a job well done.

If you want to learn more about our Gardens, the plants therein, and lessons that could translate to your own garden, join us for “A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman” on March 15th from 1-3pm. Nan is a popular speaker at garden shows, botanical gardens, garden clubs, and botanical societies throughout the State, and she’ll provide insight into how we “created an imaginative garden from an ugly, hole-in-the-ground sedimentation basin.”

-Matt Steele

Check out the flickr set: Gardening Stone-style with Chili

A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman

Click for more information about this upcoming event

The Most Arrogant Bar in America

Matt Steele
The title of “Most Arrogant Bar in America” is not a distinction we bestow lightly. We receive enthusiastic support from countless worthy establishments in all the vast reaches of this fine country, and we appreciate all the love. Really, we do. Sadly, there can be only one. Yes, that’s us for brewing…but in the world of Most Arrogant Bar in 2008, that distinction goes elsewhere.

Enter: Boston’s Bistro & Pub in Dayton, Ohio.

In a stunning performance, and for the second time in its illustrious history, Boston’s Bistro & Pub has snagged the title of “Most Arrogant Bar in America.” During the Most Arrogant Bar competition this past November, they served more Arrogant Bastard Ale, OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale and Double Bastard Ale than any other establishment on the planet.  And they lived to tell the tale.

We would like all Stone fans to join us in congratulating Dave Boston and his crew for another lively display of no-holds-barred Arrogance.

Bravo, gentlemen. Bra-vo!

Oooh...shiny!

To celebrate this less-than humble occasion, Boston’s Bistro & Pub and Stone Brewing Co. are hosting a formal presentation of “Most Arrogant Bar” to Boston’s on Monday, January 19. Stone’s own Martin Saylor will be on hand, along with 12 half-barrels of Stone beer, including some tasty rarities such as Dry-Hopped Double Bastard Ale (the first half-barrel of this incredible beer to EVER land in the state of Ohio) and Stone Imperial Russian Stout, which placed second on BeerAdvocate’s list of “All-Time Top Beers on Planet Earth.” The festivities begin at 6pm and go till 8pm. If you’re within driving distance and you consider yourself a bit on the Arrogant side, have your teetotalling neighbor drive you instead. Better that way.

Check out the BeerAdvocate event page or Boston’s official website for more details.

Dave Boston, proud proprietor of the "Most Arrogant Bar in America"

Once again, congrats to those Bastards over at Boston’s Bistro & Pub. They truly are an Arrogant bunch.

-Matt Steele