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.

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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.

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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.

Hoppy Uncharted Territory: Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

We pride ourselves on being unpredictable, but we’re able to be honest with ourselves and say that, when it comes to our annual anniversary beer releases, fans know what to expect—something extremely hoppy! And most years, that means an over-the-top India pale ale. Ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs, including the past four consecutive years. So, it should come as no surprise that this year, our milestone-celebrating beer is another IPA. But, much as we’ve refused to be completely predictable with our anniversary IPAs (the past four years have featured an imperial British-style IPA, double black IPA, lemon verbena-infused imperial rye IPA, and 100% German-hopped double IPA), 2014’s commemorative hop monster is extremely original. In fact, we’re billing Stone 18th Anniversary IPA as the “hoppiest golden-brown IPA on Earth!” (Yes, that’s our subtle brand of sarcasm you’re picking up there!)

El Dorado hops make up a large part of the hop bill—the beer is dry-hopped with a whopping two pounds per barrel of it. Brewmaster Mitch Steele first fell in love with this citrusy hop when he brewed a 100% El Dorado collaboration ale with Northern California’s Drake’s Brewing Company in 2013. It’s since found its way into a number of new brews, including Stone Go To IPA and a little ditty released in our hometown of San Diego called Stone Delicious IPA. But this beer isn’t all about hops. If anything, it’s the specialty malts that give it most of its uniqueness. English Brown Coffee, Cara Munich and Chocolate Wheat malts bring on more than the heralded golden-brown hue—they also provide plenty of flavor and texture. The resulting brew is, appropriately, one for the ages. Sweet-tart flavors of lemon candy come on strong on the front palate, giving way to a sharp grapefruit bitterness accompanied by bready, biscuit character in the finish. It’s a testament to how well hops and malts can marry when properly balanced, and Steele and the Brew Crew nailed it with this golden-brown all-star.

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If you’re like us, you read something like “ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs,” and your inner beer geek wants to know what those brews were. We totally get that, so here is a list of the past 18 years-worth of Stone celebratory offerings.

  • Stone 1st Anniversary IPA (now Stone IPA)
  • Stone 2nd Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 3rd Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 4th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 5th Anniversary IPA (now Stone Ruination IPA)
  • Stone 6th Anniversary Porter
  • Stone 7th Anniversary Ale (“Super Special Pale Ale”)
  • Stone 8th Anniversary Ale (Imperial Mild)
  • Stone 9th Anniversary Ale (Imperial Wheat)
  • Stone 10th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 11th Anniversary Ale (now Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA)
  • Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
  • Stone 13th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
  • Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
  • Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
  • Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA
  • Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

Even with all these hop-heavy brews under our belts, we continue to push the envelope. We thank you for coming along for the ride and look forward to another 18 years (and more) of anniversary-inspired exploration!

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Photo by StudioSchulz.com

Stats & Tasting Notes by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • ABV: 8.5%
  • IBUs: 75
  • Availability: Limited 22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning August 11
  • Hop Bill: Nugget, Centennial, Belma, Sterling, Hopsteiner 06300, El Dorado
  • Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, and Puerto Rico
  • Appearance: Pours deep amber with a reddish-brown hue and an off-white-colored head.
  • Aroma: Herbal, lemon and lemongrass hop notes, combined with very light levels of cocoa, coffee and roasted malts.
  • Taste: Fruity hops, lemon, orange zest and tropical fruit, with a complex malt base featuring coffee and toffee elements. The hop finish is very lemony.
  • Palate: Full bodied with a bitter, dry finish.
  • Overall: This beer was conceptualized a bit later than usual, and several iterations were created before we settled on this recipe. Using a small amount of English Brown Coffee Malt in a double IPA seemed like an interesting idea to me, and was inspired in part by the success we had brewing Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone DayMan Coffee IPA and The Alchemist/Ninkasi/Stone More Brown Than Black IPA. The malt character is rich and complex, with hints of cocoa and coffee that don’t interfere with the hop intensity. We used one of our favorite new hop varieties, El Dorado, 100 percent in the dry-hop stage, which provides a distinctive lemony character in the aroma and taste that we’ve come to affectionately describe as “lemon candy.”

Suggested Food Pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

  • Appetizers: Blistered shishito peppers, grilled prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, sweet potato fries with roasted garlic aioli, fried pork wontons
  • Soups and Salads: Kale & white bean soup, miso ramen, tortilla soup, chicken salad, green mango salad
  • Entrees: Roasted chicken, pad Thai, stuffed acorn squash, pork chops, carnitas tacos
  • Cheeses: Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, Idiazabal, Cypress Grove Chevre Lamb Chopper®, Bellwether Farms San Andreas
  • Desserts: Peach cobbler, apricot cheesecake, carrot cake, baked nectarines with pistachios
  • Cigars: Drew Estate Herrera Esteli Piramide, Tatuaje Cabaiguan, Rocky Patel Connecticut, L’Atelier Lat56

#PairedWith Wages On: Stone Coffee Milk Stout

When we debuted Stone Saison, we did more than introduce our unique spin on a Belgian-style ale. We also ushered in a new age that allows our fans to get involved with discovering the best-suited edible vehicles for maximum enjoyment of our beers, all thanks to a hashtag—#PairedWith. When Stone Saison came out, we provided a quartet of recipes constructed to pair perfectly with the beer, so fans could prepare them and experience food-and-beer symbiosis for themselves. But we also asked fans to experiment with dishes and ingredients they thought would go well with Stone Saison and share their most successful pairings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest using #PairedWith. It was fun, educational and, at times, even surprising, and lots of people from beer- and food-bloggers to everyday craft beer nuts, got involved. So, we’re moving forward with our #PairedWith initiative, this time with a beer that’s completely different but amazingly well-suited for sidling up beside a variety of dishes, both savory and sweet—our new Stone Coffee Milk Stout.

Smooth, satiny and malt-forward, Stone Coffee Milk Stout is all fans of this style could want…and more. Not only is it rich yet highly drinkable, but thanks to an infusion of coffee beans from our North County San Diego neighbors at Ryan Bros. Coffee, a nice roastiness permeates this quaff, bringing in familiar flavors that sync with a wide-ranging array of culinary offerings from chocolate, caramel, dark berries, nuts, grains, maple and molasses to beef, lamb, bacon, mushrooms, soups, sauces and a variety of charred, smoked, grilled and roasted items. That increased versatility sprouts from Stone Brewer Brian Gallagher’s decision to add coffee beans early in the brewing process when taking his homebrew recipe to the next level as a small batch brew at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. Gallagher studied brewing in the U.K. In the process, he gained a deep appreciation for traditional beer styles and developed a recipe for a spot-on milk stout. It was so good that, upon tasting it, the powers that be here at Stone decided it should be brewed on an even larger scale and distributed nationwide.

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Now that Stone Coffee Milk Stout is on (or on its way to) shelves, it’s ready to not only be enjoyed on its own, but in tandem with a plethora of edibles of our fans’ choosing. Get inventive or stay traditional, but whatever you do, please share it with us using #PairedWith. We’ll be ready to share and retweet your pairings so that everybody out there can get a taste of what works. It’s a team effort and we’re glad to have you on the roster. To get you started, we’ve included some suggested pairings from our in-house bon vivant, Craft Beer Ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak, but don’t stop there…get involved and start pairing this beer up with some of your favorite dishes and ingredients, then tell us about it on social media. Or try our recipe for Chocolate Coffee Milk Stout Cheesecake with Espresso Crust, Coffee Milk Stout Ganache and Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Beans (developed by yours truly), then check out Stone Coffee Milk Stout’s webpage for three other Stone recipes developed specifically to succinctly marry with this malt-forward, java-laced brew.

Photo by Studio Schulz

Photo by Studio Schulz

Stats & Tasting Notes by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • ABV: 4.2%
  • Availability: Limited 12-ounce bottles in six-pack and draft, beginning August 4
  • Hops Bill: Magnum
  • Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA & Puerto Rico
  • Appearance: Pours black with a thick brown head.
  • Aroma: Dark-roasted malts give off coffee and cocoa, with hints of smokiness.
  • Taste: Pronounced coffee and dark-roasted malt flavors that contain hints of cocoa and licorice, and a lot of fruit esters from the fermentation. This is a very malty beer.
  • Palate: Light-bodied and smooth, with a semisweet but also slightly dry finish.
  • Overall: Several unique things about this formulation make the beer special, including the addition of San Diego roaster Ryan Bros Coffee beans in the mash. We also use British mild ale malt as the base malt and the addition of milk sugar, which brewer’s yeast does not ferment. These components add some body and a touch of sweetness to the resulting beer. At only 4.2 percent ABV, some might expect this beer to be thin, but that’s far from the truth– it is a smooth and satisfying beer.

Suggested Food Pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

  • Appetizers: Bacon-wrapped dates, roasted chestnuts, leek-stuffed mushrooms, beef satay, oysters on the half shell
  • Soups: Cream of mushroom, beef and barley, French onion, split pea
  • Entrees: Prime rib, baby back ribs, blue cheese Portobello burgers, black bean and cheese enchiladas
  • Desserts: Chocolate lava cake, tiramisu, vanilla ice cream, s’mores
  • Cheeses: Aged Gouda, Gorgonzola Dolce, Maytag Blue, Tumalo Farms Pondhopper
  • Cigars: Padrón 3000, Rocky Patel Decade, Gurkha Park Avenue Maduro, Oliva Serie G Maduro

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Chocolate Coffee Milk Stout Cheesecake

with Espresso Crust, Coffee Milk Stout Ganache & Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Beans

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

  • 2 cups Stone Coffee Milk Stout
  • 11 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies, crème removed, pulverized into crumbs
  • 1 ounce instant espresso powder
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1½ pounds cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate, melted
  • 6 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 cup Coffee Milk Stout Ganache (recipe follows)
  • 2 cups sweetened whipped cream
  • chocolate-covered espresso beans

Bring the beer to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce by 80% then set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cookie crumbs, espresso powder and butter to form a moist mixture. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch round spring-form pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Cream the cream cheese, granulated sugar and cocoa powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix in the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix until smooth. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl. Add the flour and mix, slowly at first, until it is fully incorporated. Fold in the melted chocolate, heavy cream and beer reduction. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the spring-form pan and bake until the cheesecake is fully set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the cake from the oven and pour the ganache into the pan. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. To serve, slice the cake into individual servings, place a dollop of whipped cream atop each slice and garnish with espresso beans.

Coffee Milk Stout Ganache

  • ½ cup Stone Coffee Milk Stout
  • ½ Tbsp granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Bring the beer to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the sugar, reduce to 1½ tablespoons. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir in the beer reduction. Stir in the butter, 1 cube at a time, and mix until it is fully incorporated. Remove from the heat.

—Recipe courtesy Brandon Hernández, beer-and-food journalist / Senior Communications Specialist, Stone Brewing Co.

Ich Bin Ein Berliner Brauer: Greg Koch Announces Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin

On July 19, 2014, Stone CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch stood before an esteemed crowd of European friends, compatriots, media and soon-to-be-neighbors in Germany to announce that Stone Brewing Co. is coming to Berlin. The site of the announcement was the historic former gasworks that Koch and company will transform into an equal-parts traditional and modern campus including a state-of-the-art brewery, packaging hall, restaurant and gardens. The following is the speech Greg gave, which lays out Stone’s reasoning, logic, plans, philosophies, passion and intentions for its new space and future in Europe…

Guten abend! Es ist mir eine grosse freude sie heute abend hier zu begrüssen.

As CEO and Co-founder of Stone Brewing Co., it is my sincere pleasure to welcome you. We are here today to celebrate something we are wildly enthusiastic about: fine…uncompromising…delicious…craft beer. And there’s no better way to celebrate it, than to share some with our friends…all of you. Cheers.

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The future site of Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin, located at Lankwitzer Str. 45-57, 12107 Berlin, Germany

And speaking of friends, I’d like to acknowledge our friends in the craft brewing industry who have honored us with their presence today.

I see craft brewers from as far as Poland, Hungary, Northern Italy, Scotland, from all over Germany and, of course, from here in Berlin.

To make sure we’re giving a proper nod to the beer industry, and not just Stone during this event, I asked the event manager to survey average beer drinkers from Germany and other Europeans they found about what they felt were the very best beers on the market, so we could make them available to you, our guests. This is a grand assortment of what the populace feels best represents beer…

[At this point a canvas was pulled off of a stack of beer that turned out to be all industrial beers from a wide variety of countries.]

What the? Oh my. This is embarrassing. Scheisse. THIS is what people feel represents the best in beer? Well, this most certainly does not represent beer in my world. This is the industrial facsimile of beer and it has no place here.

This is what we call “fizzy yellow beer.” Schaales gelbes bier. This is not what Stone is about. We stand for more than pandering with cheap, commodity beer.

I can’t very well have this standing next to me as I share with you our special announcement, now can I?

I know!

[James Watt of Brewdog and Paulo Fontana of Birra Baladin come up and confer with Greg off the microphone.]

Excuse me for just a moment…I’ll be right back.

[As James and Paulo open the large door to Stone's future home in Berlin. GK retrieves a forklift with a boulder on it and proceeds to drive up to the stack of substandard suds and drop the boulder on top of the problematic stack of industrial beer.]

That’s better. Now that I have that corrected…and I suppose I made a bit of a mess, but hey it’s nothing compared to KuDamm last Sunday night after the final World Cup game [referring to Kurfürstendamm street, Berlin, where thousands gathered to celebrate until the wee hours after the World Cup win, leaving thousands of broken beer bottles in their wake]…speaking of which, congratulations Germany! You are Weld Meister!

OK, let’s get back to the business at hand…

This is a historic moment for Stone. I’ve been wanting to say these next words for many years: Stone is coming to Europe. Stone is coming to Germany. And more specifically, Stone is coming to BERLIN!

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CEO & Co-founder Greg Koch toasts Stone’s soon-to-be-neighbors

It’s been a long time coming. It was back in 2009 that we first announced our intentions to be the first American craft brewer to own and operate our own brewery in Europe. And now we’re doing it. But it’s not been without a lot of searching for just the right location.

I wanted to select a spot that was in a city of historical and cultural relevance. I wanted to find a unique property with historic structures that could also offer the ability for us to grow. I also wanted a place where we could build a magnificent restaurant and gardens of natural, rustic beauty.

My partner and co-founder Steve Wagner also had exacting specifications as to where we could locate, as he insisted specifically that in our search throughout Europe it be…and I quote…“Anywhere but France.”

In all seriousness, though, we wouldn’t have settled for just anywhere. The search was exhaustive. We put a great deal of thought into where we wanted to be and spent an incredible amount of time traveling Europe, ultimately inspecting more than 130 sites in nine countries. In fact, a location in the spectacular Alsace region of France actually made our top-three list, so we were just kidding about the earlier comment.

And all that searching has brought us to where we stand today—the capital city of Germany. Berlin is most certainly incredible. And so is this location.

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The story of this beautiful property began in 1901, and for a hundred years it was a critical part of the industrial infrastructure of the region. Now, what was once a gasworks building nearly unchanged for more than a century will be reborn, with one foot firmly in the past…a time when artisanship and craftsmanship meant something; when people didn’t just make things, they made them right; and the pride of a job well done was every bit as important as bringing home a paycheck…and one foot pointed in the direction of the future…where traditions are respected, but not blindly followed just because, “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it,” and we’re not afraid to take risks and go down new paths just because no one else thinks it’s a terribly good idea.

At Stone, we never limit ourselves to what people say we’re supposed to do. Instead, we follow our muse to create things we believe are truly great.

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Guests from far and wide assembled at a semi-nondescript red-brick building with nothing but a cryptic and über-vague invitation to go by

For centuries, brewing has been a noble art… an art of and for the people. Tragically, over the last several generations years, industrialization and pandering to the lowest common denominator have fueled brewing’s deterioration into a mere commodity. So much so, that most of the world no longer thinks of brewing as art. Far from it. Instead, they view it as something devoid of character to be purchased as cheaply as possible.

True, there have always been and continue to be brewers who have maintained the integrity of their art over the centuries. However, their work has largely been ignored by the average beer drinker in recent decades. The masses have instead been held sway with an endless barrage of advertising schemes and degradation of the art at the hands of pricing wars and accountants. Decades of consolidation and mass-homogenization has led to a loss of understanding of beer among the populace. Just try and explain saisons, IPAs, imperial stouts, American strong ales, or Belgian lambics to the uninitiated, and it’s a nearly impossible task as the beer drinker of today has been left with little frame of reference to understand the language of craft and artisan beer. In fact, many are confused just by the two words “craft beer.”

I hear people speak with apparent pride about “beer purity,” without them understanding what the phrase actually means, while at the same time accepting commodity brewers’ open adulteration of their beer…apparently without even noticing the irony.

If someone ever comes here and mixes our beer with sugary soft drinks, sweet lemonade or colored, flavored syrups, they will be asked to leave. If you choose to allow your beer—or your good taste as an adult—to be insulted, that is up to you. However, we will not tolerate it.

I believe we have a responsibility to bring forth our best possible work at all times, and nothing less. Ever.

This is the overriding ethos that guides everything Stone does as both a company and as a force for positive change. In addition to our admittedly aggressive, style-bending brewing, we are also known throughout the U.S. for railing against the industrialization of beer from something artisanal to something shallow.

Over our 18 years as a brewery, we’ve built a well-earned reputation as a company with intense drive, substance and individualism. We’ll be the first to admit that we’re different. That’s always been the case…and we’re proud of it. No, not everybody understands us or appreciates our aspirations. However, we know we’re on the right track for us. And it’s that track that has led us here today—the future home of the Stone Brewing Co. and Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – BERLIN!

We’re sure people will laugh at us. People will say we’re crazy. Some people will even say we’re stupid…dummköpfe.

I love that.

Let me explain.

Over the last few years, as I’ve made multiple trips to Germany looking at a variety of sites and, eventually, focusing on this one, I’d inevitably find myself in conversations with random Germans in bars over beers. At some point I’d mention what I did for a living, and they’d raise an eyebrow and ask what I was doing in Germany. Researching perhaps how to copy German beer styles to take back to the U.S.? No, I’d say, “I’m looking for a place in Europe to build a brewery and bring our styles over here.” “In Germany?” they’d ask incredulously. “Perhaps,” I’d say, “Germany is one of the countries we are considering.”

The reply I’d get was almost always the same: “A brewery? In Deutchland? But you’re American.”

I could see the thought behind their eyes “This guy doesn’t look that stupid, but that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

When I’m asked, “Aren’t you afraid Europeans won’t like Stone’s style of beer?” I simply chuckle and reply in all honesty: ”That’s O.K. When we opened in 1996, Americans didn’t like our style of beer. Even people in our own hometown didn’t like it. And many still don’t today.” But times have changed, palates have evolved, and Stone has grown to be the 10th largest craft brewing company in the United States. Some people love our beer. And we love brewing it.

Soon, the building in which we now stand will unfold a new chapter.

You see, this isn’t about building a manufacturing plant that just happens to produce beer. This is about bringing Europe a taste of our vision for craft beer. Just as we breathe new life into this historic space, we will join the German and European craft brewers who together are breathing fresh air into this country’s, and this continent’s, storied brewing culture.

As you know, a gargoyle is our emblem. It stands for our commitment to quality, character and an uncompromising approach to our craft. We respect our art, and we respect our fans. Period. Total respect, zero compromise. This is what Stone stands for. These are the simple philosophies and ideals we will bring with us across a vast ocean to implant in the soil on which we now stand.

Total respect. Zero compromise. We are the Stone Brewing Co., we are proud to be your brewery.

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So, we are ready to move ahead in constructing our brewery. In order for us to do it faster, we’re embarking on another road less traveled. Today, we launched a crowd participation campaign where Stone fans will be able to contribute funds toward our efforts to build the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens portion of this project. In exchange for their investment, we will offer them a variety of unique beers brewed in collaboration with some of our most highly esteemed craft brewing contemporaries from around the world.

Three of those collaborators are actually here with us today. I’d like to ask James and Martin from BrewDog and Paulo from Le Baladin to come back up here for a moment. Of course, they’ve already helped demonstrate a little earlier how craft brewers can collaborate together…heh, or is that conspire? No matter…

[The brewers proceeded to unveil the first three collaboration beers available via Stone's Indiegogo campaign]

We’re lucky to be a part of an industry where our would-be rivals are actually our friends. The American craft brewing industry, nay the craft brewing industry as a whole, is largely one of compatriotism over competition. This spirit also exists here in Berlin, and as I look into the audience, I see a strong representation of Berlin’s awesome craft brewing spirit and skill. I’d actually like to invite all our craft brewer friends in attendance, including our Berlin brewers of course, to stand up here with me today in solidarity of our movement.

We look forward to uniting with these leaders and other craft brewers. Together we are mighty, and we will change the course of beer in Europe for the better.

And not just here. We are also looking for another site in Berlin where we can build a separate Stone Brewing TapRoom. Berlin will not be our second home, but our home. Many years ago, a famous American came to Germany and proclaimed proudly: Ich bin ein Berliner. I look forward to a day in the very near future when we at Stone will be able to proudly shout from the rooftops of our German brewery: ICH BIN EIN BERLINER BRAUER. I am a Berlin brewer!

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The first of many, MANY future instances of brewers coming together at Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin

Thank you to all of you for coming today. I am proud to have been able to share this momentous occasion of our announcement with you!

I appreciate you all. We couldn’t have done this without your help, your inspiration and your friendship…and we’ll need that going forward. We hope to return it in kind.

Now, let’s enjoy more food, music, and of course, beer!

Check out some of the press clippings on our Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin project…

Berliner Kurier

CNBC

Der Tagesspiegel

FOX News

USA Today

U-T San Diego

The A’s To Your Q’s: Stone Groundbreaking Collaborations

The following are some more answers to questions you may have about our Stone Groundbreaking Collaborations. If you have further questions, please feel free to email revolution@stonebrewing.com.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why are you using IndieGoGo instead of Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is so passé! But seriously, folks—it all comes down to one site restricting alcohol sales and the other allowing us to give craft beer fans the kind of perks they, by definition, actually want—craft beer!

When will the beer be brewed?

Good question. We anticipate brewing the beers from late 2015 through late 2017. We’re promising amazing, mind-blowing beers—thus, they will take time. Not to mention the fact we have to first build our awesome Berlin brewery. Construction delays always have the potential of rearing their ugly heads, so it’s best not to talk in specifics at this juncture, but we’ll keep you abreast of the situation as we go and make sure everything’s crystal clear when the time comes for you to get your beer.

How much beer will there be and where will it be brewed?

During the course of the crowd participation campaign, we’ll announce new collaborations every three days or so. The beers will all be brewed in BERLIN. How many really depends on you guys. The more you front for, the more we’ll make.

How old must I be to purchase a collaboration beer?

In the U.S., you must be 21 years of age at the time of purchase. This is the law, so it’s best not to employ creative—nay, misguidedly hopeful—mathematics. Of course, for those outside the U.S., legal drinking ages are different, so make sure you meet individual requirements for your country of residence.

Can I buy beer now if I’m not 21 but will be 21 by 2015?

Again, you must be 21 years of age AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE. (Ditto the individual age requirements outside the U.S.)

Can I buy beer now if I’m not 21 but am giving it as a gift to someone who is 21?

Nope.

Just how rare are these beers?

Pretty damn rare! The bottles in this campaign will ONLY be produced in association with this crowd participation campaign—from the time of announcement until the time they sell out or the campaign ends, whichever comes first.

Will any of these beers be available for retail purchase later on?

Anyone, including distributing companies and retail operations, can purchase the beer during this campaign at the same price as the general public. There is no way for us to police who purchases the beer via this platform. However, if it should end up being resold at a retail establishment, it’s very likely the retailer will sell it at a substantially higher price. We may take some of the beer and package it for sale at a later date, as well,  however, if we do, we’ll package them in 750-milliliter non-commemorative bottles that we will sell for $30. Yes, that’s the same price as we’re offering the 1.5-liter bottles, so ordering now gets you double the beer at the same price. We recommend pre-ordering.

How many collaboration beers may I purchase?

First off, we LOVE your attitude, and are glad to say you can purchase AS MANY BOTTLES OF AS MANY OF THE BEERS AS YOU WOULD LIKE! How refreshing for ultra-rare brews, the majority of which are offered with a maximum per-person limit if you can even get your hands on them at all, right?

Can I purchase more than one beer at a time?

Yes and no. Yes, you may purchase more than one beer at a time, but only if you are selecting the case option where you get 12 bottles of the same beer. All other purchases must be made individually, one bottle at a time, per the limitations of Indiegogo.

Are there any discounts for bulk purchases?

We want to help appease the appetite of those who know they want a lot of a certain beer, so Cross-Planetary Brewing Revolutionaries will have the option of purchasing a case of 12 of any of the collaboration beers at the discounted rate of $300 (a $60 savings). Once this option has been selected, a Stone representative will contact you with an e-mail asking which beer you would like to select. Please note that all such selections are final.

What if I want to switch the collaboration beer I purchased to another collaboration beer in the series?

We understand being selective. We were VERY specific in our choices, too. Just wait until you see all the incredible folks we’ll be brewing with! We don’t well up with glee in making this decree, but NO CHANGES will be allowed. Once a decision is made, the die is cast.

Is there an option for me to cut to the chase and order all of the collaboration beers at once?

Due to certain restrictions beyond our control, beers must be purchased individually, however, it will be easy to stay on top of each beer release simply by checking in on our Indiegogo campaign page or following Stone on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+.

What if I have a change of heart and no longer want the collaboration beer I purchased?

Sorry, but all sales are final. Choose wisely and be at peace with your decision before clicking PURCHASE.

Why don’t you know what style of beers most of the collaborators will be brewing?

In the case of some of our collaboration beers, the ideas flowed instantaneously, so we’re able to disclose what those brews will be. However, in preparation for this campaign, rather than place deadlines on creativity, we vowed to give the brewers time to fully explore the depths of their imaginations so our fans get something truly special in the end.

Can you ship me my beer?

We’d love to ship beer to the U.S., but we’d be breaking so many laws that countless badges would be on us faster than you can say “Carmen San Diego.” You will be asked to choose your pick-up point from Stone locations on the West Coast, east of the Mississippi, and in Europe when the beer is almost ready.

If you are not shipping beer in the U.S., what are you sending me?

We’ll send you a delightfully rare, never-before-seen certificate that will be redeemable, at a time yet to be determined, for the precious bottle of beer you buy today. Don’t worry, when it gets closer to beer o’clock, we’ll send you an email with further instructions. You will also receive a high-resolution certificate via email recognizing you as an official Cross-Planetary Brewing Revolutionary.

Where will the pick-up spots be located?

That list currently includes Stone Company Store – Escondido, Stone Company Store – Pasadena, Stone Company Store – Berlin and the yet-to-be-determined site of our Eastern U.S. facility, but additional locations may be added between now and pick-up time.

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Where will the Eastern U.S. facility be located?

Well we just told you, we don’t know quite yet, but we are honing in on about a half-dozen locations that seem very well suited for our operations, and hope to announce the final spot by the end of September.

OK then, where will the Berlin facility be located?

At the historic site of a former gasworks operation dating back to 1901 in Berlin’s Mariendorf area.

What if I don’t live in an area where Stone has a pick-up location? How can I get my beer?

Your beer will be kept in the most optimal of conditions for up to one year after the announcement of its release. That will give you time to plan a trip to one of our designated pick-up locations, however, if you can’t get to us, there are options. It’s permissible to dispatch a mule 21 years of age or over to pick up your beer. Please note there is a chance that, should you select our Eastern U.S. location as a pick-up venue, it may not be fully constructed by the time your beer is ready for pick-up. At that point, you’ll need to wait until the Eastern U.S. location is officially open, however, you will still have until one year from the date of the beer’s release to pick it up.

What do I need in order to claim my beer?

The all-important redemption certificate and photo identification are all that is required if you are picking up the beer yourself. If you send a representative, the certificate and a communication authorizing a particular individual—who must then provide their photo ID—is required to claim the beer on your behalf. The last thing we want is for your spoils to get into the wrong hands!

What if I lose my voucher?

Don’t! ‘Tis a precious item. (But if you do, just shoot an email to revolution@stonebrewing.com)

How long will I have to claim my beer?

One year’s time from initial notification that your purchased beers are at your selected pick-up spot and waiting for you to claim them.

You still haven’t answered all of my questions. Where can I go for more information?

Your best bet is to go straight to the source—check out our Indiegogo campaign page.

Home Run: Stone Beer at the Ballpark

The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” evoke memories of sunny days, the scent of fresh-cut grass and the sharp crack of pine making forceful contact with a small, red-stitched orb. There’s nothing quite like baseball season. America’s Pastime stirs the souls and passions of people from all walks of life—young to old, blue collar to white collar, West Coast to East Coast. It also appeals to both craft beer fans and people who don’t give a rip what they swig while they take in the boys of summer, so long as it’s ice cold, triple-hopped, cold-filtered or [insert lame, meaningless macro-beer company's Madison Avenue-developed buzz term here]. For so long, those enthusiastic about quality beer and baseball had to forgo the former when enjoying the latter, which makes us all the happier that, this year, we were able to debut a number of ballpark craft beer options for those seeking ales of substance in our hometown. This is a major accomplishment that comes after many years of hard work and negotiation to gain access to the prestigious Petco Park. Check out our new locations then visit them the next time you take in a San Diego Padres game.

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The most prominent of our ballpark spots is the Stone Brewing TapRoom. Located adjacent to the stadium on the edge of the lush, green Park at the Park, it’s a 4,800 square foot space we spent the first quarter of 2014 converting from a wine bar into a craft beer refuge matching the décor of our industrial-modern Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurants. In many ways, it’s a scaled-down version of the Stone experience (we even have shelves of merchandise including baseball-themed items custom-made for this space), but you can expect the same vibrant flavor Stone beers are known for. A line of 12 taps keep our brews, including special releases, collaboration beers, and even unique casks and small batch creations, flowing.

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Stone Brewing TapRoom’s similarity to our Bistros carries over to the fact they serve up tasty edibles made from farm-fresh ingredients, some of which are harvested from our own Stone Farms. A pizza oven churns out an array of warm flatbreads. And we’re not talking boring pepperoni or Margherita. Our menu includes a spicy Thai curry Jidori chicken flatbread, barbecue duck with pineapple salsa and Stone Levitation Amber Ale BBQ Sauce, Arrogant Bastard Ale smoked pork and cheddar bratwursts with beer cheese, and a potato pie with Stone Farms kale and white sauce, to name a few. Our locally famous hemp seed pretzels and hummus are also available along with salads and a duo of desserts—the Arrogant Bastard Ale brownie Sundae and Stone Smoked Porter beer floats. The full menu is online. Best of all, Stone Brewing TapRoom is open all year long, so a devout love of baseball isn’t a requirement. (Though, during the season, you can see the games broadcast via the exterior Jumbotron on the ballpark’s perimeter—a definite bonus for sports fans!)

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So, we have your pre- and post-game imbibing needs covered (not to mention your entire off-season), but what about during the game? We’re glad you asked. Perched on the fifth floor of Petco Park between Sections 307 and 309 lies an aerial oasis just a footbridge removed from the macro-beer and processed foodstuff (not to mention ALL THAT KETCHUP!) being passed off as sustenance. We finally worked our way into the ballpark, so our fans can now enjoy Stone beers in a palm tree-adorned outdoor beer garden along with a sweeping view of downtown’s East Village and the San Diego Bayfront. It’s a beautiful space in keeping with our motif that even includes a stencil of our logo that fans can take a photo with. We encourage that as well as sharing your photo on social media using the hashtag #ImWithGargoyle.

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In addition to these new Stone-devoted spots, you can also get our beer from carts and craft beer-centric stands located on Petco Park’s concourse leading to field level seating. It’s awesome to see a major San Diego sports venue embracing one of the things that has made our county the focus (and envy) of the rest of the nation. No matter the outcome of the game, nine innings spent watching the Friars now feels like #winning for sure.

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#IMWITHGARGOYLE

Senses Working Overtime: Beer Appreciation 101

You don’t have to be a certified beer judge or Cicerone to know when the taste of a beer strikes your fancy. But pinpointing exactly what you’re experiencing—that mysterious connection between your brain and taste buds—can be tricky. Fortunately, there is a quite enjoyable remedy for this: Taste more beer! But also smell more beer and visually examine more beer. It takes all of one’s senses to thoroughly evaluate ales and lagers. (OK, you don’t need to hear beer, but one can’t deny the anticipatory delight that stems from the sound of a bottle being opened or the sadness brought on by the last gasps of an emptied keg.) Practice makes perfect when it comes to exercising and refining your palate as well as the way you interpret beer’s appearance, scents and flavors. Many reading this have had a lot of practice drinking beer, but read on for a crash course on how to really appreciate it.

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We spend a great deal of time on sensory analysis here at Stone, and encourage fans of good beer to take time out to really get to know the ales and lagers they consume. Take in a beer’s aroma, observe its color and clarity, feel the way it sits on or perhaps coats your tongue and, of course, partake in the all-important taste test. Doing so will help you to appreciate the brew’s charm as well as identify any possible deficiencies. The latter can stem from the brewing process, but there are numerous factors going beyond how a beer is made that can affect the way you experience it. Well maintained equipment, proper storage conditions and serving temperature are all important. In terms of temperature, many complexities will be hidden from one’s palate if the beer is served in frigid condition. Ever had a chilled imperial stout and found it to be pretty one-dimensional at first, only to discover rich overtones and a wealth of varying flavors as you near the last sip. It’s not that the stout’s flavorful compounds have settled in the bottom of the glass—increased temperature allows our taste buds to pick up on a beer’s subtler characteristics.

Let’s start with the sense of sight. What color is the beer when you hold it up to a light? Now, don’t just go with “light” or “dark”—beer covers a wide spectrum of hues ranging from pale gold to reds and near-blackish brown, and even a slight variation from garnet to chestnut can signify a deeper malt flavor. In addition to color, check to see if the beer is hazy or clear. Is the foamy head sparse or thick and fluffy, and what color is it—clear white, tan or cappuccino-toned perhaps? Sometimes a telltale difference in head color can point to a higher alcohol-by-volume (ABV), like the difference between the beige foam atop a glass of Stone Smoked Porter and the mocha-colored head on a snifter of Stone Imperial Russian Stout.

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Like appearance, the importance of aroma is often overlooked in favor of convenience when one drinks right from the bottle or can. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of this. Sometimes the thought of dirtying one more glass causes me to go against my better beer judgment. But the bottom line is if you are trying a beer for the first time, you will never truly taste it until you drink it from a glass. And glassware selection matters! The straight, up-and-down shape of a standard pint glasses allows aromas to escape, while a tulip-shaped glass or snifter captures them for maximum enjoyment. Personally, I like stemless wine glasses, which are great for those who enjoy both beer and wine on a regular basis. Swirling beer in your glass will also help regenerate foam and more fully release aromas. Just don’t go too swirl-crazy or you’ll shake all the carbonation out of the beer (or, even worse, some of the beer out of your glass)! And when you inhale, there’s no need to fill your lungs like you’re coming up out of the ocean for air. Just a quick sniff or two at first is good. While you’re drinking, aromas will also naturally make their way into your nose and mouth, so relax and let it happen.

Aroma is most often talked about with regards to hops, which are responsible for a lot of fruity, botanical elements mirroring the scents of citrus, tropical fruit, grass, pine and flowers. But there’s more to a beer’s olfactory hints than hops. A whiff of alcohol hiding behind that bouquet can point to a high ABV. Fruity or spicy esters produced by yeast, particularly in Belgian beer styles, produce compounds that bring out scents akin to banana and cloves among others. The up-front aroma can color your perception of a beer’s flavor before you even taste it, and even afterwards, as odor compounds can make their way to your olfactory glands through the nasal passages in the back of your throat. That’s part of why craft beer belches can taste like the ale you just enjoyed.

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Identifying aromas can be tricky sometimes, so follow your gut—or rather, your nose. Smelling chocolate in Arrogant Bastard Ale, even though nobody else picks that up or are focused mainly on the beer’s hop character? That doesn’t mean your nose is wrong. There are dozens of odor compounds that can emanate from a beer, and while some will certainly be more prominent than others, picking out the more subtle ones is possible. (Heck, maybe you just have a more advanced sense of smell than the rest of your beer buddies…pretty cool!)

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Now that you’ve stared at your beer and sniffed it within an inch of its life, you should already know a little bit about it before even tasting it (even more if you have a beer menu in front of you telling you the style and ABV). Before going in, remember that the first sip of a beer can comingle with flavors already on your palate from food, other beers, coffee, toothpaste or any of the host of other things that may have preceded this particular brew. The first thing you’ll want to do is sacrifice a small amount of your beverage for the purpose of cleansing your palate. Let the beer coat your tongue. Feel free to pick out any initial flavors at this point, but reserve final judgment for later sips. Pay attention to the texture and body of the beer as well. How lively or absent is the carbonation? Extreme? Inadequate? Just right? Does the beer feel thick and viscous? Sticky? Thin? And what about the finish or aftertaste? There’s a lot to consider, so keep more than just the most overt characteristic—flavor—in mind. Improper levels of carbonation or a strange mouthfeel can make or break an otherwise tasty beer. Too much bubbliness can distract from a beer’s flavors, and not enough bubbles, while fine for cask beers and stronger beers, might not be the best for IPAs.

If all this sounds like a lot of work just to drink a beer, that’s alright. You don’t need to have an internal debate with your senses every time, and it’s perfectly fine if sometimes you just feel like having a non-academic, purely-for-pleasure drink. But if you are truly tasting beer, or trying something for the first time, you owe it to the people who lovingly crafted that beverage—and more importantly, yourself—not to just funnel it down your gullet.

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And while we’re consciously thinking about the feelings of brewers everywhere, remember that when you like or dislike something, it’s your opinion. It’s fine if a particular beer isn’t for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Sometimes keeping an open mind and tasting things outside your comfort zone can make you grow to appreciate them more and more. (And yes, I’m talking to you, guy or gal who drinks nothing but IPAs then blasts barley wines, hefeweizens and witbiers simply because they are nothing like their hop-heavy standby!) But in all seriousness, there are some flavors and scents that never belong in beer. If you detect a buttery taste similar to the foodstuff used to flavor microwave popcorn or a tinny characteristic like what’s found in some canned vegetables, or smell rotten eggs, plastic, wet cardboard or vinegar, that’s bad. Pale ale with essence of Band-Aid strips and Del Monte corn kernels probably wasn’t what the brewer was going for, so let the brewery or bartender know. These are signs of problems that can arise in fermentation, packaging, storage or service.

For those near our Southern California home who would like to receive a crash course in analyzing beer conducted in tandem with a tasting of some of our small batch specialties, we will be conducting one of our educational Beer U courses all about sensory evaluation at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido on July 14. The class will be led by our Research and Small Batch Manager Steve Gonzalez, a long-time veteran of the beer, wine and spirits industry who will break out numerous rarities including Stone Passion Project, a Belgian-style abbey ale aged in wine barrels before being racked onto fresh passion fruit from our very own Stone Farms. Not familiar with the farm? You’re in luck. I just so happen to know of a brilliant blog post stocked with details on that lovely place!

The Thrilling Adventures of Team Spröcket: Part II

Last week, we allowed one half of the winning team from our in-house brewing competition, QA Supervisor Rick Blankemeier (you may recognize him from his work on the Stone Stochasticity Project), to tell the first half of he and Team Spröcket partner Robbie Chandler‘s U.S. tour, during which they introduced their first place black rye Kölsch, Spröcketbier, to the masses. Follow along as Rick closes out his cross-country tale in style (and if you haven’t already tried he and Robbie’s amazing beer, find it and fix that immediately).

Stop #4: Coloradical

Denver is a fun city. Now, I’m extremely biased since I grew up in Aurora, just southeast of the Mile High City, and went to college at CU-Boulder (Go Buffs!). Despite all that, Denver really is a rad city with lots of activities to keep you entertained and full of delicious craft beer. My wife (and fellow member of Team Stone), Jessica, flew in early to visit friends so we could have a long weekend together in our old stomping grounds. She picked us up from the airport and drove us to our first unofficial event at Hops and Pie. Before that, we stopped by a liquor store to pick up bottles of Spröcketbier to hand out to all of our local friends. It was admittedly weird to buy a bottle of the beer that had my name on it and we definitely gave the checkout person something to talk about for a while. She checked our ID’s and noticed our names matched those on the bottle, then kind of freaked out a bit. Yes, this made us freak out (or maybe the more apt term is “geek out”) a bit, internally.

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Hops and Pie is a glorious place with a nice, simple concept: craft pizza and craft beer. Located in Highlands just west of downtown Denver, it’s a place I always go whenever I’m in the area. They have an amazing beer selection and some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. The pizza of the day when we were there was a chicken-and-waffles pie with gravy. Can you even? Even with that culinary masterpiece up for grabs, the best part of being there was the outpouring of support from all of my friends and family in Colorado. I moved out to San Diego four years ago to work my dream job at a brewery. They all were bummed I was leaving, but kept in touch and have supported me through my beer-soaked journey. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me seeing everyone there congratulating us in person and trying our beer, which just so happens to pair well with chicken-and-waffles pizza…who knew?

Me, Robbie and our posse then journeyed over to the main Spröcketbier event at Denver craft beer nexus, Falling Rock Tap House. The place is packed during the week of the Great American Beer Festival, with craft beer celebrities and brewers drawing the general public in droves. Admittedly, I always try to avoid the place like the plague if I’m in town for GABF because it’s just too crazy packed, but it was perfect the day of our event. You can’t beat the draft selection or the ambiance when it’s busy but not crowded. We were a few minutes late and were told as much in a light-hearted way by Falling Rock owner Chris Black. I told him that brewers are never early or late, we arrive precisely when we mean to. Robbie and I had a very nice interview with a pair of bloggers, Chris and Chelsea, from PorchDrinking.com. We discussed the gamut of items about our beer, and how we picked the name and such. Then, Robbie and I did our usual rounds and talked it up with the locals. Our event ended promptly at 10 p.m. At that point, I had to show Robbie my favorite bar in Denver–The 1up.

When I was growing up, I loved to hang out at arcades, get a handful of quarters from my parents and just have at it for a couple of hours. I played the four-player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and six-player X-Men games religiously, trying my hardest to beat them. Now, imagine taking the best video games of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and transplanting them into a bar. Welcome to The 1up. It’s not like a Dave and Busters; it’s an actual dive bar that has Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, X-Men, TMNT, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and a bunch of pinball machines. The 1up also has a decent craft beer selection and full bar. It’s also the only bar I’ve been to where you can buy forties (which, as you’d expect, we steered clear of). Robbie and I immediately set out to right some of the wrongs of our childhood and beat TMNT (Donatello), X-Men (I was Wolverine) and the Simpsons (gotta love Marge swinging that vacuum cleaner). It was a beautiful thing. We left The 1up knowing that the ghosts of our childhood were finally were at peace. Magneto, Shredder and Mr. Burns were cast down and the Spröcketbier duo was triumphant. I hated to leave Denver, but we had one last stop on our tour: Seattle.

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Last Stop: The Emerald City

I had mixed feelings going into Seattle. On one hand, I was excited to see the trees and how beautiful the city on the Sound was. The flipside is that I’m a Broncos fan and the Super Bowl thrashing my Broncos received was still an open wound. When we flew in, everywhere I looked were wondrous vistas of a sea of green over seas of blue–and Seahawk jerseys. The Space Needle overlooking the Sound, paired with 12th Man banners. As painful as it might have been for yours truly, there was no way we were missing out on Seattle—it’s Robbie’s old stomping grounds. Well, technically the boonies outside of Tacoma are where he hails from. Robbie was a terror on the high school football field. He also lived off of the land like a real-life Grizzly Adams. He even had an epic beard back when he was 16. Even though he was clearly perfectly suited for life in the evergreen expanses of Washington, he eventually left the Tacoma area after school to join the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served in Iraq. After the Marines, he stayed in San Diego and decided to be our resident warehouse guru. I was excited to get some insight from him about the area.

It was raining when we flew into the Emerald City (shocker). We had access to a rental car and zoomed off (read: spent a lot of time stuck in traffic) to check into our hotel and head to our first event at Elliot Bay Pizza. We were greeted warmly and given a chance to try some Spröcketbier out of a boot (DAS BOOT!). Apparently, it’s tradition at Elliot Bay to fill a two-liter boot glass full of some craft beer and pass it around the bar. It was really fun despite the increased chance of contracting hepatitis. Stone Sales rep Jay Farias also passed around a bunch of tasters of Crime. For those of you not in the loop, Crime is our Lukcy Basartd Ale aged in bourbon barrels with super-hot peppers added to the mix. It’s essentially a hot sauce that we call beer. This batch had been aging for a number of months and was a lot less spicy than it used to be. It’s nice to get more of the pepper flavor and less of the burning. After eating some great pizza, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for another fun-filled day in the morning.

The first stop was at Malt and Vine, a cool little bottle shop with an amazing selection and a couple of draft handles. We took over most of the handles with Stone brews, including Spröcketbier, and were on-hand to sign bottles and take lunch-hour patrons through a guided tasting. It was fun to talk to a couple of hardcore beer geeks about the recipe and help them out with some recipe ideas of their own. Most of the crowd there was made up of workers on their lunch breaks who grabbed a bite to eat somewhere else, then brought it to Malt and Vine to enjoy with a taster or two of beer. I wholeheartedly support that sort of lunch break.

After grabbing some lunch, we went to our next event at the Total Wine in Lynnewood. That had to be the second largest liquor store I’ve ever been in (with the biggest being the appropriately named Tipsy’s in Lakewood, Colorado). It was the first liquor store I’ve seen with its own growler fill stations. We made camp in front of the draft system they use for growler fills and staked our claim to lure unsuspecting customers to their introduction to Spröcketbier. We completely owned that area and immediately had the crowd enthralled. Tasters of Spröcketbier certainly didn’t hurt, nor did the fact Robbie and I were streaming the NFL draft and calling out the draft picks to the rapidly assembling crowd. “This Sprocketbier goes excellent with Paul Richardson from Colorado going to the Seahawks in the second round.”

We were done with our official events for that day, so Jay took us around to his favorite haunts. My favorite stop was at Brouwer’s Café in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. They had an amazing selection of craft beer, but they also an incredible Scotch selection that we eagerly sampled. The bar manager took us on a tour of their cold box and it was pretty insane. Most good craft beer bars maintain their draft systems like a Swiss watch. They have a regular cleaning schedule where they use caustic cleaners to dissolve any protein or bacterial buildup in the lines and do acid cleans every couple of months to eliminate any mineral buildup. That whole system is too pedestrian for Brouwer’s Café, where they actually replace the draft lines themselves on a daily basis. That’s the equivalent of throwing out an empty beer glass instead of just washing it. That might be an unfair comparison, but it’s still amazing that they just cut the lines and hook up new ones for the following day. I’ve been to way too many bars that never clean their draft lines and all of their beer tastes sour, oxidized or buttery. It was refreshing to see a bar that takes the commitment to quality to the next level.

The next day, we played the role of tourists, visiting Pike Place Market for breakfast and beer. We journeyed around the maze of a market and found The Pike Brewing Company nestled in its depths. One of their brewers graciously gave us a tour of the place. They do production on three stories. The top level contained their grist case and mash/lauter tun, which is gravity fed down to their boil kettle on the pub level. All of the fermentation and bottling is done on the bottom level. It’s quite the engineering feat to conduct full production brewing on three levels while maintaining consistency and quality. It was really fun to see in action.

After a nap and hydration, it was time for our last scheduled event for the Spröcketbier tour at hunting-themed hotspot, The Lodge Sports Grille near Century Link Field. We occupied a table in the corner, ordered up some Spröcketbiers and awaited the throng of fans from the baseball game to show up. I have to mention that this place has themed burgers for all of the schools in the Pac-12. I had to get the University of Colorado Buffalo Burger for my dinner, and it was delicious. Speaking of which, I met up with an old friend of mine from my college days. He’s an investigative reporter for KOMO and a funny guy. We were both elated that the one good player for CU football was drafted in the second round (by the Seahawks of all teams), and are hopeful that our team does better next season. He also happens to be a Broncos fan living in Seattle, so we commiserated. Then, for the last time, Robbie and I went about coaxing people to try our beer. They were very receptive and it was a great way to cap off our final event. Jay then took us out for one last hurrah on the town. We ended up at Von Trapp’s where we enjoyed some German pilsner and attempted to play bocce ball (because I always think of Germans when I hear bocce ball). Unfortunately, it was a busy night and the place would be closed before we could play. Robbie ended up being the cheerleader/heckler for one team and I made inane observations about their technique and wondered where Liesl was.

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Our flight wasn’t until later the next day, so we decided to spend the morning do touristy things yet again. This time, we decided to visit a distillery out in Woodinville. Woodinville Whiskey has an impressive setup. They have a beautiful combination pot and two-column still they use for all of their spirit production. They produce vodka made from wheat, bourbon and a delicious rye whiskey. All of their ingredients are sourced locally out in Yakima Valley, which I thought was impressive since they’re the largest craft distillery in Washington and must use a lot of grain. We toured the place and spoke with one of their distillers afterwards. He was super nice and walked us through their control systems, having us smell and taste a bit of their white dog coming off of the still. It was amazing.

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Next, Robbie and I zoomed back down to Seattle to hang out in the Fremont neighborhood a little more. We visited the Fremont Brewing Company and bought some bottles to bring home with us. We had to visit the Fremont Troll and get the cliché photo in front of it under the bridge. We then ran down to have lunch at this hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop called Royal Grinders. They rank up there next to Cheba Hut as my sandwich shop of choice. Having a little more time to waste before going to the airport, we decided to watch the rest of the Clippers game at this little hipster bar called 9 Million in Unmarked Bills. It was reminiscent of the roaring ‘20s, and had a good beer selection and great cocktails. Robbie and I kept it easy with some Elysian IPAs and watched the rest of the game before we headed out of the Emerald City.

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Afterword

Reflecting back on our epic journey, Robbie and I came to a realization that we’d like to share with readers. Craft beer people are the best kind of people. Generally speaking, we found that people who enjoy craft beer are super nice and genuine. This is a general observation, but we think that people who are generally open-minded are attracted to the crazy varieties and styles of craft beer. Open-minded people tend to be non-judgmental as well as easy to talk to and visit with. We had a blast with the people we met on our trip. Thank you to all who came out and helped make this the tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime experience it was for both of us.

Anything But Just Another IPA: Beachwood/Heretic/Stone Unapologetic IPA

We can see the headlines now: Stone makes another IPA! The world is shocked at such a divergence from a company that hardly ever explores hoppy beer styles. Yes, that’s sarcasm! Obviously, no one will be shocked to discover we’re making yet another aggressive IPA. We’ve never tried to hide our lust for hops. Heck, we freely fly our hophead flag. But we’re sure the question will arise. Stone has already made a bunch of IPAs, so why make another. Isn’t the already lupulin-obsessed market saturated with hoppy beers? And who says the world needs another IPA, anyway? We do!

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The Thrilling Adventures of Team Spröcket: Part I

Earlier this year, we announced the winners of the inaugural edition of our annual company brewing competition, The Stone Spotlight Series. Taking first place for a black rye Kölsch-style brew our fans came to know as Spröcketbier (there’s still a bit of this delicious beer out there, so consult the Stone Beer Finder to get a taste) was Team Spröcket—QA Supervisor Rick Blankemeier and Warehouse Supervisor Robbie Chandler. This big win allowed the duo not only to brew this spicy, refreshing beer on Stone’s full-sized system and have it distributed nationally, but also to on tour with the beer, visiting a number of beery locations throughout the country. The following is Blankemeier’s account of what he calls a “thrilling adventure,” one in which he and Marshall met and shared many a pint with beer fans and brewers every bit as passionate as they are.

First Stop: Philly

The flight was way too early, but our spirits were high. Taking a couple of days off of work so we could fly to Philly to help sell our winning beer? You bet we were happy about that. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, but it’s fun to switch up the routine every now and again. This would be the first visit to Philly for me and Robbie, so we were excited to see what the City of Brotherly Love was all about (and maybe gain some insight on why they booed Santa).

After a six-hour direct flight (thanks Stone!), Stone Sales Rep, Lee Marren, was there to pick us up and put us through our paces. We knew Lee sells Stone beer in the Philly area, but what they neglected to tell us was that he is a cyborg intent on working us tirelessly the whole time we were there. Though Lee was hesitant that it’s taboo for a local to be within a certain radius of touristy spots, he started by taking us to Pat’s King of Steaks for some grub. The cheesesteak (whiz wit) was good, but even better was the show that Pat himself put on by yelling at some customers that nearly forgot their sandwich, and yelling at one of his line cooks for making two of the same sandwich and delaying the process by (gasp) 10 seconds. Another thing I learned about Philadelphians is that yelling at people who wronged you–however slight–is highly encouraged. I was raised in suburban Colorado, where that’s not a regional custom, so, as you can imagine, this was quite an experience for me.

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Stomachs full, we made our way to east Jersey for our first event at Chickie and Pete’s. The place was great—very low key and fun. The people were nice and the Spröcketbier flowed freely. Afterward, we made our merry way back to Philly and bar-hopped to check out the local craft beer scene before finally checking into our hotel at 2 a.m. to get a few hours of sleep before Lee the Cyborg got us awake and ready for a full day of—you guessed it—more beer.

Our first stop was the Food Market, a really cool deli/bottle shop where we conducted tastings of Sprocketbier and Stone Go To IPA during the lunch hour. We had some great interactions with Philadelphians. A highlight was a young gentleman who informed us he was sorry for being late for our tasting. He was so excited to try some of the new Sprocketbier and would have been on time, but a fight broke out on the train on the way over. This was the third time I noted someone telling me details of a recent fight they’d been in or around since arriving in Philly. A staggering stat, considering I’d barely been in the city for 18 hours!

Next stop was a fine establishment called the Hulmeville Inn. This was arguably my favorite event on the Philadelphia leg of the journey. We ran into a local homebrew club that was there for the event and spoke about nerdy beer geek things, which was a pleasure for me. I learned that the Hulmeville Inn was built in the 1780s and documented to be the overnight stopover for none other than George Washington when he was on his way to New York to be inaugurated our first President. I’m a history geek as well as a beer geek, so this fascinated me. I also learned that some jackass ran his car into the front patio of the place a couple of weeks before we got there and they had to renovate the whole area. The best part was when Rod Stewart came to sell us pickles. It wasn’t really Rod Stewart, of course, just a guy in a red tracksuit with a Stewart-esque hair wig that was selling pickles and pepperoni sticks to customers. He even had a teenaged minion that took the cash and distributed the goods. (Breaking Bad much?) I bought spicy horseradish pickles from him, and you know what…they were damn tasty.

Our final stop was the Perch Pub in downtown Philly, where we had a blast. The view was great, the beer was fresh and the food was awesome. The locals came out in droves for the event, and Robbie and I were kept busy talking about the beer, the process and what we had planned for the rest of the Spröcketbier Tour. It was a great ending to a whirlwind visit to the City of Brotherly Love. I was bugging Lee to take us to the Rocky statue so Robbie and I could take a triumphant picture next to the Italian Stallion, but he refused to be within a mile of it, explaining his Philly cred was already in jeopardy by his taking us to Pat’s and that if he was spotted near the statue, he might be banished. Oh well.

Next Stop: The ATL

Our flight from Philly to Atlanta began with what’s probably the shortest radio interview ever conducted. Robbie and I were scheduled to phone-in to a Philly-based craft beer radio show about the same time we were supposed to board the plane to the ATL. To paint the picture, Robbie and I were essentially cuddling in the airport waiting area by the gate while sharing ear buds connected to my smart-phone. We then had to get up to wait in line and continued our furious bro-cuddling while being pummeled with questions. Robbie and I basically spewed all of the info about the Stone Spotlight Series competition, described what we were going for while brewing Spröcketbier, and made a charming joke about how we were sharing ear buds and cuddling in the City of Brotherly Love–all in under a minute. It was arguably entertaining, but irrefutably efficient!

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Atlanta was the exact opposite of our whirlwind, manic go-round in Philly. We had lots of time to relax and chill between events. Our Georgia Sales Rep, Brett Collier, picked us up from the airport and took us to eat at a sports bar with fantastic wings and a great beer selection while we watched the Hawks game. He then dropped us off to check in at our hotel and take much-needed naps before we headed over to the The Marlay House for our keynote event. Located in Decatur, a really cool little suburb outside Atlanta with lots of locally-owned businesses and shops, the Marlay house is a beacon for this deceptively craft beer-centric city. I have to admit, the Atlanta area has a much better beer scene than I expected coming in. We ran into a bunch of homebrewers along with an all-female craft beer appreciation society called “Girls’ Pint Out.” We also met up with Stone Southeast regional Sales Manager Scott Sheridan. I think if you looked up the word “laidback” in the dictionary, you would find a picture of Scotty sitting on the beach with an IPA. There’d probably be a definition that read: adj. the opposite of Lee Marren. Bonus factoid: Scot also looks like Dean Martin. I’ll let that paint a picture in your mind-boxes. Everyone who came out was great and we had an awesome time chatting it up with the locals. I’m definitely going back to Atlanta at some point in the near future, because the 24 hours I spent there wasn’t nearly enough time.

Stop #3: C-Town

Another early flight, a changeover in Dallas, and we were on our way to the shining jewel of the upper Midwest…Cleveland. I know what you’re thinking, because everyone we ran into in Cleveland said the same thing: “Wait, you guys won a brewing competition and as a reward they sent you to Cleveland?! Are you sure you won?” I’ll admit, I was thinking along similar lines, but it turns out that Cleveland is an amazing craft beer town. Our local Sales Rep, Lairdy Lee, picked us up from the airport and drove us the short distance to the hotel to get checked in, then we were right back on the road en route to our first stop at The Brew Kettle. It’s an amazing place where they brew their own beer, smoke their own meat and you can even sign up to brew on their in-house brewing systems. They had Spröcketbier on tap, so that automatically upgraded them in my standings by a couple of points, and their smoked wings were amazing, as were the people, who took extra special care of us while we were putting food and beer in our faces. I highly recommend stopping by the place if you’re ever in the area.

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We had the first half of the next day completely open and Lairdy suggested we go over to the West Side Market area to visit a couple of breweries. This was the first chance for us to see another brewery whilst on our adventure, so we jumped at the chance. First stop was Great Lakes Brewing Company. Great Lakes is an amazing example of a rapidly growing craft brewery trying to squeeze every ounce of beer out of a limited area. This is definitely a common theme amongst most craft breweries today, Stone included. The industry is growing at an amazing rate and trying to keep up with an increase in demand requires some creative solutions. They had fermenters and production on multiple stories in an old building. Everyone was super friendly there and we ended up having lunch at their pub across the street from their production facility.

Next up on our impromptu brewery tour was just down the street at Market Garden Brewery. We met up with brewmaster Andy Tveekrem and he graciously let us sample some lagers off of the tanks. I’m a huge fan of a well-crafted pilsner, helles or dortmunder, and his beers were amazing. Andy’s brewing setup was small, but very well designed and laid-out. It was a thing of beauty. We didn’t have enough time to stick around too long, but the beers were great and the company was even better.

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The party at the Tremont Taphouse, our destination for the afternoon, was in full swing when we rolled in. A couple of very nice newspaper reporters interviewed us in a corner booth. We went into our usual, well-practiced description of the competition and the beer itself, wherein Robbie coined the term, “undrunkable,” to describe our beer. I’m not the biggest fan of the term personally, but it’s a fun way to describe how sessionable, yet tasty, our beer turned out. We also discussed the state of the craft beer industry and the generosity of craft breweries. Basically, we had fun being the rock stars and having people care about our opinions on matters great and small. The rest of the event was spent talking to the locals and going through tasting notes from the various beer enthusiasts trying to nail down the Spröcketbier recipe.

From there, we piled into a taxi and headed to Progressive Field to catch an Indians game. The stadium wasn’t far from Tremont, but we underestimated the popularity of Cher and it took us a while to beat traffic from her concert that evening. Progressive Field is a great place to catch a game. They have an impressive list of craft beers available and it’s pretty to boot. The Indians took on the White Sox. One of my best friends back in my home state of Colorado is a big White Sox fan, so I had to send him pictures and updates on how bad they were getting thrashed by the Tribe (final score: 12-5 Indians). It was a great time.

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Last stop before bedtime and another early flight the next day was to silence our gnawing hunger. We were told by numerous Cleveland veterans that there’s only one place we have to go to eat: Melt Bar and Grilled. And it was mind-blowing. They have an absurd number of variations on the classic grilled cheese sandwiches there. I had the buffalo chicken sandwich, and everyone else had the “Dude Abides,” homemade meatballs and fried Mozzarella with marinara sauce and, of course, more cheese. I can’t tell you how much that hit the spot after a long day of drinking.

I just want you all to know that while poor Cleveland may be the butt of many jokes, the people are awesome and, after being there, you can’t deny it’s one of the better craft beer towns out there. Throw in the fact that the food is some of the best I’ve had anywhere and it’s easy to recommend giving Cleveland a chance if you ever get the opportunity to go.