Looking Back (& Forward): Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival

We put in a full year of planning, effort and beer wrangling to make the annual Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival the best and biggest it can be. Considering it’s the largest annual beer fest on the West Coast, we’re inclined to believe we do a hell of a job. We just wish it didn’t go by so quick. In less than 24 hours, we blow through 364 days’ worth of work and just about as many (but even more) kegs! Take, for instance, this year. Over 50 breweries from around the country showed up and brought 187 beers. And that’s all in addition to the 50 Stone beers we busted out to celebrate 18 years in the craft brewing biz! It was the kind of fete we wished every fan that helped us get to this ripe (young?) age could have participated in. But alas, even with nearly 8,000 tickets sold (and more than a quarter million dollars raised for charity, thank you very much), some will only experience this special day via this blog post. So, we’re going to go as in depth as possible so those who couldn’t make it know what to expect when they hopefully come out next year, and those who did join us can have fun reliving the Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.

The crowd for the first session began building outside the festival gates at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) around 10 a.m. Thirty minutes later, that already sizeable mass had doubled. That was when we wisely opened the gates before chants of beer depravation began and people broke out their pitchforks. The space we had taken over this year was much bigger than last year thanks to recent expansions on the CSUSM campus. Sprawling across three levels and across nearly 300,000 square feet, the now placated fans had space to spare and plenty of room in which to expand their beer horizons. But even with so much acreage, the festival grounds were chocked full of revelers within the first 10 minutes (even with Russian River Brewing Company taking on the lion’s share of the initial onslaught of fest-goers thanks to dual tappings of Pliny the Elder and a pluot sour ale called Compunction). The festival was laid out so attendees could get plenty of food, music and shade on each level. Each tier was set up like its very own mini-festival, with visitors to the Rare Beer Tent being serenaded by acoustic artists Jimmy and Enrique with Steve’s Cigar Lounge setup right nextdoor. (Quite the irresistible combo, no?) Down the hall from that center of hedonistic connoisseurship was an assortment of 18 other brewery booths, including our own Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, as well as the Steph Johnson Band, who set up a smooth, folksy backdrop perfect for enjoying good times, good beer and the ever-popular Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings. (There was even a surprising side of ketchup…shh, we won’t tell if you won’t.). The Surfrider Foundation even set up a sunscreen booth for those of you who forgot it at home. Fortunately the sun seemed powerless to snuff out our fans’ craft beer enthusiasm…but we supplied roving Ambassadors with sun-brellas nonetheless! And that was just one level!

hopwagon

The middle level of the festival (the largest of the three) housed tons of food and other delights, like our Hop Wagons, mobile beer-serving vehicles featuring the Hop Fiend. There were plenty of ale-infused snacks ranging from Arrogant Bastard Ale brownies to Stone Imperial Russian Stout ice cream, spring rolls to sausages and Mike’s Beer Cheese to home-brewed sodas (courtesy of the Society of Barley Engineers), so even the pickiest of eaters was bound to be satisfied (if the whole wide array of special beers thing didn’t do that in the first place). Conversations on beer and food pairings narrowly beat out discussions on sensory evaluation (with more than a few #PairedWith scenarios shared). Bottom line, this crowd was as knowledgeable as it was fun, and that was both and cool and gratifying for us. This level also included 12 cask beers our Brew Crew spent the past month developing just for this event. Combinations like Stone Smoked Porter w/Cacao Nibs, Pistachios, Peaches & African Basil; Stone Runiation IPA w/Pink Peppercorns, Lemongrass & Nelson Hops and Stone Go To IPA w/Lemon Zest & Vanilla.

casks

The lower level featured two more bands, Mohavi Soul and Stone’s house band The Flocculators, which received a sonic boost when professional guitarist and Stone collaborator, Keri Kelli (of Kyle Hollingsworth/Keri Kelli/Stone Collective Distortion IPA fame) joined Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his crew on stage in a different sort of collaborative effort. The music paired well with the beer, which, was in fact, in the Collaboration Court along with numerous other new and archived collaborations from the past several years.

guitars

Even with all that, by far the most interesting part of the festival, in our opinion, were the people who joined us and made the event all that it turned out to be. The event space was massive, but without fans of quality craft beer to fill it, it would have meant nothing! Each year, we’re happy to give everyone a celebration that is as much about craft beer as it is the people who love it. That includes those who go the extra mile. Even though our Stone DyeHards philanthropic campaign didn’t happen this year (don’t worry, the charities that would have benefited were included in the Anniversary Celebration donations and we’ll bring back DyeHards for our 20th anniversary!) there was a noticeable presence of blue-haired beer enthusiasts. In addition to the people with oddly colored hair, there were droves of beach-themed groups, neon yellow shirted attendees and even a few people with an entirely plaid ensemble. And, as always, the brewery t-shirts outnumbered everything else. We even set up a temporary tattoo station for a less permanent show of support.

hawaiianshirts

The second session played out much like the first, with an equally enthusiastic (and bizarrely dressed) crowd, and by 6 p.m., a thoroughly pleased horde dispersed happy and even more at peace with the spirit of American craft brewing affection. But us…we were already thinking about our 19th Anniversary Celebration as we tore down and cleaned up after the big one-eight. Next year’s, almost assuredly will be bigger and better. We hope you can make it out to celebrate. In the meantime, keep enjoying craft beer and celebrating each day like it’s something special (because it is). And keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media accounts to find out when tickets to next year’s celebration go on sale.

The Whole Story: Stone Stochasticity Project

There’s been some major buzz around a new beer lately. Maybe you’ve heard about it…a double IPA infused with a grove’s worth of hand-peeled grapefruit zest. For devout Stone fans (or more casual visitors to our booth at last year’s Great American Beer Festival), the name of this beer—Grapefruit Slam IPA—probably sounded quite familiar. After all, one of the one-offs we received the most compliments on from beer lovers was our Stone Ruination IPA – Grapefruit Slam Edition. Given this, of course, those deeper down the Stone rabbit hole wondered if we were behind this mysterious new Stochasticity Project brand, despite the fact the beer was registered under a different entity, Koochenvagner Brewing Company. We have something to say to those questioners, especially those who were most vocal—thank you.

Peoples’ Choice: Stone #dreambeer

This summer, we posed a simple yet serious question via our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ accounts—If Stone could brew ANY style of beer, what would you, our fans, want? Instantaneously, the interwebs started to buzz with ideas ranging from the outlandish to the ridiculous, straightforward to outrageous, adjunct-laced to style-stickling, best-drunk-fresh to barrel-aged. On Twitter and Google+ we were able to track responses using the #dreambeer hash-tag, which went crazy for the first 24 hours. After collecting all of the ideas that came through, we took some time to catalog them and do a bit of analysis. We discovered some things we already knew, like most of our fans crave IPAs and generally hop-forward beers, but we were surprised to find an overwhelming amount of interest in Stone brewing a hefeweizen or witbier (Not one, but two fans actually requested we bring back Stone Heat-Seeking Wheat?!?!). Actually, one of the coolest things that came out of the Stone #dreambeer experiment was seeing so many of our fans use their opportunity to have us make anything their mind could fathom to bring back beers we’ve already produced. Well, we listened and are bringing back one of our greatest hits!

Meet the Brewers: 12 Brewers 12 Casks 12 Mallets Summer Edition

What began as a San Diego Beer Week show of brewing solidarity has metamorphosized into a quarterly tradition that brings out not only fans of Stone beer, but members of Team Stone looking to check out inventive takes on the brewery’s year-round beers. Every three months, we round up a dozen of our brewery staff and invite them to build casks incorporating tasty ingredients ranging from fruits and herbs to tea, specialty hops and different varieties of wood. Then, to stay true to the camaraderie theme that inspired the event in the first place, we hand them mallets (customized to include each brewer’s name and the date of the event) and have them simultaneously tap their casks in the midst of a crowd of thirsty attendees. The next 12 Brewers 12 Casks 12 Mallets event will take place on August 22, 2013 at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido. The beers being offered up are…

  • Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA w/Lychee Fruit & Hersbrucker Hops by Callaway Ryan
  • Stone IPA w/Cacao Nibs & Plums by Zach Goldstein
  • Stone IPA w/Chervil, Savory, Thyme & Lavender by Laura Mirsch
  • Stone IPA w/Tamarind, Lemongrass & Ginger by Josh Hagquist
  • Stone Levitation Ale w/Peppercorn & Cilantro by Kihei Hutchinson
  • Stone Pale Ale w/Lemon Verbena & Bergamot by Steve Via
  • Stone Pale Ale w/Spanish Cedar & Spirals & Szechuan Peppercorns by Jeff Fanno
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/El Dorado Hops, Cilantro & Pineapple by Sander Banta
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/Kumquats & American Oak Chips by Ben Maushardt
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/White Peaches & Chamomile by Anthony Tallman
  • Stone Ruination IPA w/Moroccan Mint Green Tea, Cacao Black Tea & Toasted American Oak Chips by Justinian Caire
  • Stone Smoked Porter w/Shaved Coconut & Toasted Almonds by Joaquin Bowman

We added a new riff to this tradition during its spring rendition, holding a lottery among all members of Team Stone who were interested in participating but had jobs outside the brewery component of our business. The winner that time around was one of our graphic artists, who busted out a cask of Stone Smoked Porter w/Toasted Hazelnuts. This time around, we invited two non-brewers to the festivities, our EH&S Manager and an Assistant Supervisor from Stone Company Store – Escondido. And they’re no slouches. Their casks are every bit as ambitious and slobber-provoking as their fermentation specialist comrades. Take a moment to meet this dastardly dozen before coming out to sample their creations.

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!

Quingenti Millilitre: 500 ml and So Much More

Thanks to Stone Enjoy By IPA and our hop-forward brewing style, our brewery is viewed as a vocal proponent of the drink-fresh-beer-now movement. That’s fitting. We believe in that big time—when it’s appropriate. At the same time, we’re not above taking a quality brew (even an IPA) and aging it in oak barrels if we think we can morph that fine ale into an other-worldly, delicious, wine- or spirit-laced concoction. Such is the modus operandi behind our Quingenti Millilitre line of barrel-aged Stone beers.

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)