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)
We took a different approach to formulating this year’s Stone Vertical Epic Ale – the last in the series. Co-founder and original Stone Brewmaster Steve Wagner and I had agreed that we wanted to brew a Belgian-style holiday ale, given the release date of 12.12.12 and the celebratory nature of this beer. Armed with that baseline, I decided to open up the formulation to our team of brewers, who are a talented and creative bunch, to say the least.
So in early summer, we told our team the goal for the Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale and allowed anyone who wanted to brew a pilot batch to take a turn on our More Beer 20-gallon brew sculpture. A total of eight recipes were brewed and they were all fantastic. Ultimately, we chose this one from brewer Josh Jordan because it was so smooth, dark and luscious, and the spice combinations were amazing.
He shared that recipe with us and, in the spirit of the rapidly fleeting holiday season, now we want to share it with you. So here is the recipe we went with and, per long-standing tradition, I’ve suggested some musical selections that I think will pair well with each step of the brewing process. Have fun!
Y’know… it seems like hops get a heck of a lot of attention for their delightfully flavorful contributions to our awesome beers. Rightly deserved, but there’s a little unsung hero that we feel is finally due some credit: our yeast strain.
To tell the truth, my favorite part of putting together our book—The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance—with Steve and Greg was getting the low-down on where the Stone yeast strain came from. You see, when a mommy and daddy yeast cell love each other very much… no, not really. (They don’t even get to have that much fun; yeast cells reproduce asexually through a process called budding… but I digress.) Our yeast’s ultimate origins were told to me by Steve, and I laughed my ass off when he told me the story. From the aforementioned book, I quoteth:
They say all good things come to an end. And as much as it pains me to admit it, I think they’re right. Unfair? Absolutely! Especially while some of the most awful atrocities refuse to go away. (Can you believe that Kenny G is still churning out new CDs?)
But enough about the bad. Let’s focus on the good… the REALLY good. I’m talkin bout Stone Vertical Epic Ale. Travel back in time with me to February 2nd, 2002, before someone inexplicably thought to give Dr. Phil his own show when the groundbreaking Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale came to be. The premise was visionary, and hadn’t ever been tried with beer before. Eleven beers in total—each one with its own unique twist and turn in the saga—were to be released one year, one month, and one day after the previous edition (i.e. 03.03.03, 04.04.04, etc.), with the intention of aging them all until at least December 12, 2012, when the series would officially draw to an end with its final delicious release: Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale.
Did a little light go off in your brain to make you look at your calendar just now? You’re right, that is, like, two months away! So, what are we planning to do? Go gentle into that good night? Hell naw! We’re Stone! And as usual, we’ve got BIG plans…
Just like the universe, we’re expanding. All the time. You may recall from our big announcements back in May 2011 that we were embarking on a $50M+ expansion plan to include several new adventures including: Stone Farms, Stone Catering, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, and arguably the coolest of all, the Stone Hotel. While some of those super sweet items have already been completed and others (like the Liberty Station restaurant and hotel) have been slightly delayed, we’re very excited to announce that ground has officially been broken on the brand new Stone Packaging Hall!
So what does that mean for you? Simple: MORE BEER. You see, we’ve been working ’round the clock to get our new 120bbl brewhouse installed next to our current one, but it’s displaced quite a few fermentation tanks. The bottom line? We’re running out of room!
Some might be content with a folding table in a bookstore for (their) book release, but you know us better than that. After all, The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. is the first (ever) book about us, and we spent over a year writing it. Tomorrow (9/27/11) is the big national release day, and here’s what we have planned to celebrate at the brewery…
Greg Koch, Steve Wagner & Randy Clemens will be signing your books and graciously posing for pictures out in the gardens starting at 5pm. We’ll even have staff on hand to take the picture for you. So that you don’t have to wait in a never-ending line for your coveted signatures, we’ll be calling people to the table in groups. If your group isn’t up yet, you can go get a beer in the meantime. Pretty good customer service, huh? Well, it gets even better when you look at the tap list…
- Stone Ruination IPA Double Dry Hopped w/ Delta & Galaxy Hops
- Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale Double Dry Hopped w/ Apollo & Target Hops
- Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA Double Dry Hopped w/ Motueka and Pacific Jade Hops
- Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
- 2004 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine*
- Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF*
- Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout in bottles*
*Look for these homebrew recipes of these beers in the book!
You can pick up the book for $25 +tax at the store starting at 11am. We’ve released three rare Quingenti Millilitre beers that will only be available for purchase by those who own The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.. Each copy of the book you own* entitles you to buy ($25 +tax and crv) one of the following 500ml bottles:
2010 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Aged in Bourbon Barrels
2010 Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine Aged in Bourbon Barrels**
2010 Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine Aged in Red Wine Barrels**
*Regardless of where you bought it. This offer is good to anyone visiting our store in Escondido until 9/30/12 or until we run out of bottles. (If you pre-ordered through Warwick’s or at the GABF, you are still guaranteed the right to purchase a bottle through 9/30/12.)
**the BELGO versions are in very limited supply. First come, first served.
Chef Alex Carballo will be hosting a complimentary cooking demonstration of recipes from the book on the upstairs balcony from 6pm – 7:30pm, with tasting included. Not cool enough? “Dr.” Bill Sysak will be with him expounding the art of food and beer pairing and providing corresponding samples of beer.
So there you have it!
The book and bottles are on sale all day long, but the bulk of festivities start at 5pm. Hope to see you at the brewery tomorrow. If you can’t make it, there are plenty of options to buy the book online – or at the GABF!
Graeme Wallace, Steve Wagner, Martin Dickie, Greg Koch and Mitch Steele. Just about to mash in!
Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele, all of Stone Brewing Co. from California, have spent the last couple of days at BrewDog. Stone, and in particular the approach of founders Greg and Steve, was a huge inspiration to Martin and myself when we started BrewDog. For all at BrewDog, having Greg, Steve and Mitch over and brewing with us is pretty much like a crazy music fan being able to go on stage and rock out with their favourite band.
Matteo Milan, Graeme Wallace, Stewart Bowman and Mitch Steele checking on the mash.
We brewed a special Stone-BrewDog collaborative beer, a double black Belgian IPA called bashah. We are going to release some more details about the beer itself later; there are a few pretty exciting twists to it.
Matteo Milan (our Italian Brewer) prepared a stunning BBQ at the end of the brew-day; our brewing system is quite labour intensive so everyone worked up a good appetite.
We had some amazing beers with our food including a 2003 Stone Vertical Epic and a 2003 Speedway Stout, oh and some Tokyo* (much to our amazement, drinking this beer did not lead to the downfall of Western Civilization). Narayanan gave us some excellent signing and Martin conducted a kick-ass whiskey and chocolate tasting. We also shot the first few scenes of a soon to be huge hit movie, The Bare Mitch Project, a porn-horror thriller starring Mitch Steele and Graeme Wallace shot in our very own Canteen of Death.
Stars of the new movie: Graeme Wallace and Mitch Steele.
On Friday Greg, Mitch and I went lobster fishing, caught some mackerel then sweet-talked my Grandmother into cooking the mackerel when we got safely back into port. Other highlights of the visit included a beer and food extravaganza at Musa which is our favourite restaurant in Aberdeen and a tour and whiskey tasting with the guys from Duncan Taylor.
Greg and Mitch doing some North Atlantic lobster fishing.
The label text for bashah was written by Greg and myself while driving to dinner on Friday evening, hopefully that is not going to show too much in the final copy!
We all had a blast brewing and hanging out with the Stone crew, for us their visit is the most exciting thing that has ever happened at BrewDog – it was a real privilege to be able to brew with our heroes!
The first release of the beer should be around mid September. Watch this space.
Greg Koch’s thoughts on the collaboration:
“James, Martin and the entire team at BrewDog really went to a lot of energy to show us a great time…and they sure did! We packed the two-and-a-half days (just 1 1/2 for Steve) solid. Castle visiting, distillery visiting, brewing, dining in a 150+ year old banana hanging warehouse in Aberdeen, selecting used single malt Scotch whiskey casks from a rare whiskey collector/broker (by tasting the whiskeys that used to be in them of course) for diversion of some of the bashah for aging, touring the small, lonely, windy roads of the countryside and seaside in Jame’s hold-on-for-dear-life driving style, BBQing at the brewery, lobstering and mackerel fishing w/James’ father and granddad (w/said mackerel subsequently being artfully cooked up by his epitome-of-hospitality grandmother), and finally as a testament to the sheer exhaustion at the end of the day: successfully falling asleep in the little hotel with the pub attached on Friday night at Midnight in the middle of horrid karaoke renditions of Bon Jovi songs in Scottish accents by the local, VERY inebriated town folk (We momentarily thought about checking out the pub, but then Mitch and I decided that the risk of accidentally offending the wrong soccer team — with something presumably as simple as a “sorry…what did you say?” — and thus leading to an even quicker “lights out” might not have been worth it. Sure we would have risked it for a pint of BrewDog but they didn’t have the good taste to serve their beer, and we definitely weren’t going to go in for an uninspired pint of Euro lager! It’s not like we’d had a shortage of beer after all.).
“I definitely can’t wait to taste the result of ‘bashah’– the world’s first ever (as far as we know) commercially brewed Black Belgian Double IPA!”
-GK ( @StoneGreg )
It’s official: The papa birds have left the nest. For the next few weeks, our fearless leaders Greg Koch, Steve Wagner, and Mitch Steele will be kicking ass all across the European continent brewing amazing beer with fellow craft brewers, schmoozing at various beer events, and fervidly spreading the Arrogance. Sure, the beer will still flow and things will pretty much be the same around here, but we can’t help feel that brief exhilaration we used to get as kids when the teacher stepped out into the hall. I’m dodging spitballs as I type…
So what exactly will our beloved beer patriarchs be up to in the Old World? Well, Greg left on Sunday to attend the TEDGlobal 2009 conference at Hogwarts…err…Oxford, England. From there he’ll be heading to Norway on July 27th, where he’ll be joined by Steve and Mitch to brew the final iteration of Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale with Kjetil Jikiun at Nøgne-Ø (check out Greg’s last visit to Norway). The second, “funkier” iteration was brewed back in April with Ron Jeffries at Jolly Pumpkin, and this version is sure to be equally unique (Steve is actually bringing the San Diegan White Sage with him for the brew).
The three Stone beer diplomats will then be off to Scotland on July 30th to brew a new collaboration beer with our friends James Watt and Martin Dickie at BrewDog. They’re not sure exactly what they’re going to brew there, but one thing’s certain—the beer will be aged in Scotch Whiskey barrels, hand selected by the Stone crew and their brewing brethren at BrewDog. Steve will then depart the day after brewing, and Greg and Mitch will head off to London to appear at a slew of Stone events, as well as attend the Great British Beer Festival. For a full run-down of where they’ll be, check out our UK Stone Events google calendar (scroll to August). Event details may change, so call ahead before attending!
We wish Greg, Steve, and Mitch a safe, and most importantly, FREAKIN’ AWESOME, inter-continental beer adventure. It’ll be business as usual until they get back, but watch out for paper airplanes.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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