Even with enthusiasm and knowledge at an all-time high among craft brewing fans, certain styles come across as a bit mysterious to the average beer nerd. Chief among those head-scratchers is barley wine. Is it a wine?—No. Is it a strong ale? –Yes. Is it an old ale?—Well, kinda. Is it delicious?—In the case of Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, absolutely! Ditto a number of versions both European and American (the latter being Anchor Old Foghorn and Rogue Old Crustacean), which led our co-founder and original brewmaster, Steve Wagner, to create his own take on it in 1998. Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (or O.G. as we refer to it around the brewery) has since gone on to become one of our most happily anticipated annual releases.
When Stone’s co-founder and original brewmaster, Steve Wagner, set out to brew our company’s first beer, he led with his love for the old English standard—pale ale. This was a common style among the small but rising number of American microbreweries at the time; however, Wagner decided early on that Stone Pale Ale would be anything but common.
A porter brewed with peat-smoked malt and enough hops to bring the IBU (International bittering unit) count to 53 is undoubtedly innovative. That beer concept is right up there with the plethora of novel smoked ales and lagers that have become so prominent across the county over the past several years. But the beer we’re referring to, Stone Smoked Porter, isn’t among that new wave. It’s been tantalizing taste buds while hovering within the top layer of craft beer’s cloud of smoke since 1996!
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 )