No Foolin’: Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise

You know what the big problem is with being well known for playing epic April Fool’s Day jokes on the public at large? The public at large starts to expect them, thus rendering such gags nearly impossible to pull off. Still, building up the status as a supremely self-righteous April Fooler was a fun process for the creative minds at Stone. Announcing we would start brewing a lemon-lime “malternative” beverage, a 27.3% ABV extra-strong ale, and a “lo-carb” beer (“Lite™” was trademarked), we’ve used this faux holiday to explore miles of territory we’d never tread in real life…and even some we would.

On April 1, 2010, we told our fans we’d be teaming with our Scottish brewing comrades at BrewDog to craft BrewDog / Stone Luciferin Golden Imperial Stout, a high-alcohol stout coming in at 11.8% alcohol-by-volume with plenty of roasty flavor. There was just one catch—it wouldn’t incorporate any roasted malts and it wouldn’t be brown in color. So, basically, it would be different from every stout on the planet. Nobody with a working knowledge of calendars bought it and, though it was, essentially a joke, our brewmaster, Mitch Steele, filed that idea away and spent the next four years secretly pondering how he’d create a golden-hued stout. And we’re glad he did, because now that imaginary beer has been brewed into brilliant reality. Enter, Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise.

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While this beer, the latest in our experimental and otherwise avant-garde series of Stochasticity Project brews, is slightly lower in alcohol than its fictitious predecessor—9.7%, to be exact—it’s actually quite similar to the concept for the prank that inspired it. In teasing BrewDog / Stone Luciferin Golden Imperial Stout, we said it relied on cacao nibs and coffee to mimic the chocolaty, roast-heavy flavors of a traditional imperial stout, and pale and extra pale malts to keep the color in the lower expanses of the SRM scale (the Standard Reference Method used to grade beer’s color). For Master of Disguise, Steele employed all of these tactics, and more!

Steele reached out to familiar conspirators, Ryan Bros. Coffee and Chocovivo. The latter provides pure cocoa in large, thin sheets, which add tremendous chocolate character as shown in Chris Banker/Stone/Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout, while the former is based a few short miles from our brewery and has contributed roasted beans for use in numerous beers, including Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone DayMan Coffee IPA, 2013 Stone ESPRESSO Imperial Russian Stout and Stone Coffee Milk Stout. The fruits of our suppliers’ labors played a big part in helping Steele pull off this charade, as did the malt bill, which consisted purely of lighter varieties including Caraplis, and English amber and pale malts. Flaked oats were also added to give the beer a thicker mouth-feel more in line with what one expects from a smooth, velvety stout.

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So, Master of Disguise looks like a pale ale or IPA, but there was more to this endeavor than aesthetics. The aroma, taste and composition were every bit as important—what good is a beer if it doesn’t taste delicious, after all? Fortunately, the chocolate, coffee and oats did the trick with this treat of a beer, which presents notes of java in the bouquet and the front palate. Chocolate comes through mid-sip, conveyed by a slightly viscous body akin to an oatmeal stout in its creaminess, and the finish features a light yet lasting roastiness. Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise is the physically embodied proof of a lofty hypothesis. Let’s just hope Steele isn’t as keen to realize other Stone April Foolery like Bastard Oxide, a metal-laced energy drink, or BastardSHOTZ, 22 ounces of Arrogant Bastard Ale condensed into three ounces of gel conveniently doled into three-ounce, EZ-squeeze “Gel Pakz” for on-the-go American strong ale enthusiasts, or the canned and helium-infused Stochasticity Project CrHeam Ale.

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Stats & Tasting Notes by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • ABV: 9.7%
  • IBUs: 55 IBUs
  • Availability: Limited22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning November 17
  • Hop Bill: Liberty and Nugget
  • 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 and WA
  • Appearance: Pours deep gold, with a light tan head.
  • Aroma: Coffee aromatics dominate. Roasted notes and cocoa play in the background, until the beer warms in the glass, and then they are pleasantly apparent along with fruity esters from the yeast and hints of vanilla.
  • Taste: At first, the flavor is mostly coffee and fruity esters from the fermentation. As the flavor progresses, more cocoa comes out, along with a balanced bitterness.
  • Palate: Full-bodied and smooth
  • Overall: After we brewed Stone 11th Anniversary Ale, a black IPA, someone on the brewery team joked that our next beer should be a golden stout. We then used that joke for an April Fool’s gag one year, and I’ve been wondering if we could pull it off ever since. The resulting beer here is a rich strong ale with prevalent coffee and cocoa notes.

Suggested Pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

  • Appetizers: Bacon-wrapped dates, coconut shrimp, blue cheese-stuffed mushrooms, spiced pumpkin seeds
  • Soups: French onion, beef stew, lentils, chili con carne
  • Entrées: Lamb chops, coffee-rubbed venison, mushroom risotto, red lentil curry
  • Cheeses: Aged Cheddar, Maytag Blue, Grana Padano, Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue
  • Desserts: Brownies, vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, tiramisu
  • Cigars: Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Maduro, Liga Privada No. 9 by Drew Estate, Illusione MJ12 Maduro, Arturo Fuente Opus X

 

We Three Bastards: Arrogant Bastard Ale’s Extended Family

‘Tis almost the time of year when children of all ages shall belt out in their most joyous tones the tale-telling tune of three kings bringing forth gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (looks like two of these regal sorts were slightly less generous than the golden one). But before the season of yule arrives, the attention of those with the power to discern what is truly excellent from what is only marketed to appear superior shall fall upon what is truly the most wonderful time of the year—Bastard Season. As if my birthday (November 7 for those looking to graduate from ignoramus to Worthy) and Arrogant Bastard Day (#BastardDay is November 1) weren’t reason enough to celebrate (it is), the proverbial ante is upped each November when I bring the lesser-seen members of my Liquid Arrogance lineage into the equation, sharing the spotlight just long enough to take the revelry to the utmost level before plunging my spawn back behind the curtain for another 11 months. Given the brief nature of their time at center-stage, I shall throw them—and you—a bone, allowing them to bask in your adoration as you take in their magnificence. Just remember who was first. These Bastards would literally be nothing without Yours Truly.

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Once one has discovered they possess the gene that allows them to not only comprehend, but greatly appreciate the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a 22-ounce enigma that is Arrogant Bastard Ale, they do not go back to mass-produced industrial swill. In fact, they find themselves succumbing to the sudden urge to go even further. My answer to that is Double Bastard Ale, a version of the Liquid Arrogance brewed to be brawnier, not as an enticing value-added to blockheads and frat bros looking to beat the bar or get, as they so eloquently put it, “crunk.” Hardly. Double Bastard Ale registers higher on the ABV scale because that makes this mighty spawn of my liquid loins ideal for aging, not just a few months (or days if you, like so many others, find it irresistible to wait much longer than that to quaff such an other-worldly brew), but years. The eldest of this proud creation, the original vintage dating back to 1998, is not only holding up, but holding its own, bringing new and poignant meaning to the term timeless.

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Double Bastard Ale plays an integral role in the every-other-year conjuring of another form of Liquid Arrogance, Lukcy Basartd Ale. And so do I. Lukcy Basard Ale is something so ambitious, it’s best if mere mortals attempt it just once every 730 days, lest their puny brains buckle under the pressure of harnessing not one, but three editions of the Arrogance to produce one grand cru cuvee of such magnificence it will bring tears to the eyes of both the Worthy and inferior. The latter will cry as their faces contort into an expression resembling that of the “bitter beer face” ad campaign run by Big Beer Sellouts R Us back in the ‘80s, while the former will shed salty streams of fluid joy. Lukcy Basartd Ale is a masterful blending of Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale (the last of which just joined my other relatives as a once-in-a-while release after several years trying to hang with me year-round) designed to be consumed at the peak of freshness—yes, astute reader, the opposite of the cellarable Double Bastard Ale. It’s more than most can handle, making it all the more special for those who’ve proven up to that feat since Lukcy Basartd Ale’s 2010 debut.

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Then there’s the youngster of the bunch, a limb on the family tree that, while presently short and stubby, is oaken to the core and will undoubtedly grow to scrape the sky with the rest of the upper echelon members of this storied clan—Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale. Life has nothing to do with killing time, but to make this no-brainer of an American strong ale a reality, I endured months of sequestering in the pitch-black, closed quarters of a vanillin- and whiskey-laced oak vessel. Normally, being relegated to solitary confinement would anger me, but knowing it was for the greater good of mankind, and the proliferation of the most noble bloodline within the netherworld of craft beer, I bore down (there was no way you’d find me grinning), bided my time and spent those months contemplating what I would become, figuring if something as puny as a caterpillar can, by virtue of little more than time spent in a chrysalis, can emerge as a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly, there would be no words to describe the magnificence of what an already incredible specimen such as myself would become after emerging, born anew, from those bourbon barrels. Adjectives fail as adequate descriptors, but I’ll venture some all the same: amazing, awe-inspiring, hellishly heavenly, jaw-dropping, life-changing and myriad other synonyms plucked from the second half of the alphabet.

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Myself and the esteemed aforementioned relatives have been crammed unceremoniously into a snug and simple-yet-stylish Arrogant Bastard Box so that those who aspire to experience the best of the best may do so in ceremonious fashion. And though the niche component of the population that can step to this level of amazingness is rather small, these legions grow larger every day, meaning that red-and-black box of awesome shalt last long. (Read: Hurry up or be the sad sack that misses the bus and has to watch as the truly Worthy—and immensely elated—pull out of the depot.)

Post-Script: If you have the gall and daring to climb even higher up my family tree or peek into its dark knothole, the origins of three more of my other descendants, Crime, Punishment and Southern Charred can be found here.

Number One Bastard: A First Tangle with Liquid Arrogance

There are watershed moments in everyone’s existences where they look back and see that an event, perhaps comprised of little more than a few seconds and seemingly meaningless at the time, changes the trajectory of one’s life forever. For some, it can be sage words from a wise individual or exorcising themselves from the grip of a premature demise. For others, a chance encounter with the love of their lives or a moment of introspection so deep it inspires sea change, the pursuit of lifelong dreams or the abandonment of ill-conceived ventures in favor of aspiring to something better. And then, for some, there’s the discovery of something life-changing—an artifact, an heirloom, a new technology, a book, a religion, a field of study…or a beer. At first blush, that last one seems like an exaggeration; something you’d expect from a macrobeer commercial wherein some heretofore severely lame, nerdy member of society cracks open a cold-as-the-Rockies can of lo-cal, lo-flavor adjunct pilsner, then suddenly finds himself surrounded by a harem of supermodels on the deck of his new yacht as it pulls into the personal dock at his annexed island mansion in the Bahamas. My story does not end like this, but the tale of my first encounter with Arrogant Bastard Ale does lead to a very happy ending.

Picture it, a Friday night in San Diego during the fall of 1998—a young man yet to quaff his first beer saunters into a low-frills, seemingly Irish-themed bar on the edge of a strip mall that, otherwise, is completely occupied by Asian restaurants. The name of that establishment—O’Brien’s Pub. The mission of the group—beers to kick-start the weekend. Did anybody in the quintet know this was an early Mecca for craft beer in a city that would evolve to become, arguably, the epicenter for craft beer in the United States? Nope. They all just happened to work a half-mile away at a microelectronics manufacturer that often inspired them to seek out adult beverages to help erode the stress of the nine-to-five. The other four laborers in my group hit up O’Brien’s pretty regularly and, thinking I’d make a decent addition to their social circle, had asked me to come along. A fan of friends and adult beverages, I took them up on their invite.

Upon entering the pub, as if by fate, a group of five cleared out from a table in the otherwise packed-to-capacity bar. We scurried over to claim their vacated territory as our own and, as my friends perused a whiteboard with a bunch of foreign-sounding names messily scrawled upon it—Bear Republic Racer 5, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot—I thought to myself: Crap, I’ve never had a beer before and I don’t want to sound like a loser. What am I going to order? I started combing over my severely limited vernacular where beer brands were concerned, weighing each against the criteria that television ads and billboards had provided to tell me which was the fanciest, top tier choice. A waitress came to the table and, as if sensing the opportunity to completely humiliate a beer rookie, asked me what I’d like to drink. I cleared my throat and, in my deepest, manliest voice, replied: “Um, a Heineken?”

I’d hoped for the others to not even hear me or, if they did, only passively acknowledge the selection as they proceeded to issue their orders…but that didn’t happen. Instead, each of their faces elongated to gaping caricatures akin to Edvard Munch’s famed masterpiece, The Scream. It was as if their jaw muscles had gelatinized at the mere utterance of the Dutch macrobrew. I thought for sure at that moment that my drinking buddies had gone from to-be to would-be status, but then they exhibited the positive behavior that I would later learn is the hallmark of any good craft beer fan. Rather than shame me for being so ignorant to the craft culture, they had the waitress cancel my order and told her, “He’ll have an Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Rather than feel belittled or inferior, I felt gratitude that they’d taken me under their wing and helped me out. And, though I had no idea what Arrogant Bastard Ale was, I had to admit, it sounded a heck of a lot more interesting than any beer I’d heard of up to that point.

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Stone Co-founders Greg Koch (left, and kinda hard to recognize without that beard) and Steve Wagner etch signatures into 3-litre bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale in the VERY early days of this watershed beer.

Tongue Twister: Stochasticity Project Hibiscusicity

Today, we released upon this nation a beer with the most challenging name in the history of our 18-years-young operation. That’s saying a lot considering we’re the craft brewers who brought you such multi-syllabic wonders as Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout, Stone Mixtape Ale vol.9 – Goats in the VIP Room Blend, The Bruery/Elysian/Stone La Citrueille Celeste De Citracado and, of course, Stone Suitable For Cave Aging – An Imperial Smoked Porter Tribute to Danny Williams. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Of course, odd nomenclature is the rule of thumb for the Stochasticity Project, which, since its debut earlier this year, has yielded ales called Varna Necropolis and Quadrotriticale. Before unleashing this new moniker on you, perhaps its best to go back a step and examine a term that’s both plenty perplexing and worth taking a look at—Stochasticity.

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Crowd Pleaser: Chris Banker/Stone/Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout

Picture it…a room full of thirsty beer bloggers, media and industry types seated at tables with tasting glasses. It can be daunting to pour beers for such a discerning crowd—especially one with plenty of dump buckets at their disposal. But that was the mission at hand during a session of the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference, during which representatives from a number of quality craft breweries (including our friends at The Lost Abbey and Firestone Walker Brewing Company) sought to wow these 150-plus beer enthusiasts with their latest creations. Now, we weren’t nervous. We’re Stone. We save jitters and anxiety for others. We had total faith in what we had to offer, but even so, found ourselves pleasantly surprised with the incredible reception our beer was afforded as well as the myriad compliments it earned. Like us, these people have devoted their entire lives to beer, so to be lauded with kudos and positive reviews was high praise, indeed. Today, that beer, Chris Banker/Stone/Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout, begins showing up on store shelves and draft accounts across the country.

Barrel Aging Part III: What the Funk?

Let’s talk about funk. No, no…put away the slap bass, hi-hat and wah pedal. We’re talking about the tart, earthy, barnyardy, almost indescribable (unless you employ terms like “barnyardy”) and extremely wide-ranging characters brought on in the process of aging certain beers. While some may quaff a beverage and use that term “funky” to describe it in a negative way, the funk we go for here at Stone is an objective from the outset; a means by which to add character to already flavorful beer as a way for the base ale to be reborn as a new and deliciously provocative offspring of itself. Great examples of this funk come through in barrel-aged versions of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, Stone “The Tiger Cub” Saison and certain additions of Stone Vertical Epic Ale. But how do we rein in the wild yeast and other organisms that create funkiness or, worse yet, infection and the “bad funk” through the lengthy evolution of our barrel-aged brews? Stone fans hit us with questions via social media and our Research & Small Batch Manager Steve Gonzalez has provided some answers to the proverbial question: What the funk?

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Constants & Variables: The Lupulin Loop

As the Brewing Manager at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. I would like to introduce a new series of beers that will rotate through our central San Diego brewery-restaurant. We at Stone make no secret of our love for hops and are always pushing the boundaries with beer experimentations—especially when it comes to hops. For years, we’ve played with multiple hop varieties, and the impact to our IPAs has been immense. One may ask, with so many hop varieties out there, how we do we continue to develop so many new and successful IPAs? Truth is it’s never as easy as throwing a bunch of hops into our wort and crossing our fingers. Every hop is different, unique and complex with a wide range of flavors and aromas that could be compared to fruits, spices and even vegetables. We spend a lot of time getting intimately acquainted with the myriad of hops in our chilled down lockers, and now it’s time for our fans to get in on that familiarization.

Enter what I have come to refer to as, “The Lupulin Loop.” Why the Lupulin Loop? Maybe I just watched Groundhog’s Day too much as a kid. Maybe it’s because Tom Cruise just came out with that movie Edge of Tomorrow. Or maybe I’m still trying to play through Bioshock Infinite and I learned that when Elizabeth goes through the tears she goes to another dimension where everything looks the same but it’s actually different. Regardless, it’s all about constants and variables. With these beers, they’ll always have the same malts, alcohol, IBU (international bittering units), PH, color…or as close to the same as I can possibly get them. The only thing that will change in the beer is the single variety of hop being used (even for bittering). The base of the beer is the constant (the loop), while the hop (Lupulin…the compound in hops that provides that addictive bitterness we all love) is the sole variable.

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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.

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!)

#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.