This summer, we posed a simple yet serious question via our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ accounts—If Stone could brew ANY style of beer, what would you, our fans, want? Instantaneously, the interwebs started to buzz with ideas ranging from the outlandish to the ridiculous, straightforward to outrageous, adjunct-laced to style-stickling, best-drunk-fresh to barrel-aged. On Twitter and Google+ we were able to track responses using the #dreambeer hash-tag, which went crazy for the first 24 hours. After collecting all of the ideas that came through, we took some time to catalog them and do a bit of analysis. We discovered some things we already knew, like most of our fans crave IPAs and generally hop-forward beers, but we were surprised to find an overwhelming amount of interest in Stone brewing a hefeweizen or witbier (Not one, but two fans actually requested we bring back Stone Heat-Seeking Wheat?!?!). Actually, one of the coolest things that came out of the Stone #dreambeer experiment was seeing so many of our fans use their opportunity to have us make anything their mind could fathom to bring back beers we’ve already produced. Well, we listened and are bringing back one of our greatest hits!
Whenever we put out a new beer, I’m always asked “who came up with the recipe?”, and am always uncomfortable answering that question, because it is a simple answer that really doesn’t accurately convey why the beer is successful and tastes delicious.
Too much credit is given to the formulation/recipe for a beer’s success. I honestly believe that recipe formulation is the easiest part of making a great beer, and accounts for about 5% of its potential success. In my opinion, anyone with some understanding of ingredients and styles can create a great recipe, but actually working with that recipe to brew a great beer is the hard part.
We all know what we’ve come to expect from a visit to the airport, the whole experience can, and often does, inspire utterances of the phrase: “I need a beer!” Well, fliers, both frequent and infrequent, we have heard your cries and are doing our part to elevate the air travel experience with the installation of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens at the San Diego International Airport (SDIA).
In addition to the guarantee of authenticity, a major benefit of wearing one’s emotions and opinions on their sleeves is that such individuals are ready at the drop of a hat—or the click of a camera’s “on” switch—to share their beliefs in a cogent and intelligent manner. Our CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch is never shy about sharing his views where quality and consumers are concerned. Recently, a camera crew from UCTV, the television faction of the University of California education system, engaged him unexpectedly at the debut of Bottled & Kegged, an exhibit at the San Diego History Center chronicling the rise of craft brewing in San Diego County. What resulted is the video below, which eloquently outlines GK’s passionate beliefs on what people should not only desire, but demand for themselves—something better, something with heart, something crafted to be the best.
At Stone, it’s common to see lengthy beer monikers as long and winding as the 17-year road that’s taken us from the little industrial suite beer-makers that could (though many, back then, didn’t share such an encouraging opinion of our start-up) to the tenth largest craft brewing company in the United States of Ale-merica. We revel in challenging the number of alpha-numeric characters and volume of verbiage a brown glass receptacle can hold. Heck, if we hadn’t switched to 22-ounce bombers for our annual collaboration series, our Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout Ale Brewed with Pecans, Wheat & Rye with One Quarter Aged in Bourbon Barrels might have incited bouts of stress-induced agony among our Art Department savants. To give them a break, we honed in on a much shorter name for this year’s anniversary beer, but fear not, though briefer, it will still provide the fun type of challenge fans have come to expect. Our vehicle for accomplishing that in five words or less—sprechen die Deutsch. Try pronouncing this one—Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA—then watch our beer video and feel a whole lot better about your linguistic capabilities as you watch Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele stumble his way through five syllables of German diaeresis-bred intricacy.
Representing our part in an international Craft Brewer Exchange Program with our friends at BrewDog, our Brewhouse Supervisor Jeremy Moynier is jumping on a plane for Scotland today. We’ll be getting BrewDog’s Lead Brewer, Stewart Bowman, in return. Both brewers will spend two weeks getting their boots wet and learning the ins and outs of each other’s domain.
“I’m excited to go,” said Jeremy. “I’m looking forward to brewing on a smaller scale again and seeing how those guys do things. The Metric System should make things interesting.” Jeremy isn’t all work and no play. He said he’s also looking forward to pubs, food, scotch, sight-seeing, and traveling with his girlfriend, Andrea, who is meeting up with him after his two week stint at BrewDog to enjoy a bit more of the continent before flying back home on Thursday, November 12. Jeremy did express some hesitation about the weather. “Martin Dickie (BrewDog Brewmaster) said the weather in Scotland is ‘pretty miserable’ right now. You know that when a Scot says the weather is miserable it’s going to be BAD.” Stewart, on the other hand, gets to escape the misery to sunny San Diego and bask in our laughably mild 70-degree Fall weather (just watch, he’ll probably complain about the balmy heat).
The weather isn’t the only thing Stewart will enjoy when he flies in on Saturday night. He’ll also enjoy two weeks of Stone boot camp where he’ll better acquaint himself with brewing on a larger scale and perhaps glean a thing or two from our “we mean business” approach to brewing. He’ll also get a chance to learn from our mistakes and hopefully help BrewDog avoid some of the growing pains associated with rapid expansion. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to come over to Stone and work with some of the masters of the US craft brewing scene,” said Stewart. “I can’t wait get in there and help make some of the beers which have been so inspirational to all of us kids over at BrewDog.”
We don’t plan on letting the guys at BrewDog show us up with their hospitality; it’s our mission to show Stewart a damn good time. Unfortunately, he’ll be returning to Scotland right as San Diego Beer Week is revving up, but that won’t stop us from treating him to the time of his life in one of the most vibrant brewing scenes in the world. If you see him out around town you can help us out. Buy him a beer and show him that San Diego is where it’s at. Between that and the weather—and the beer of course—he may not want to leave.
Thought you might like to learn about the results of the recent epic “Beer vs. Wine Dinner” at the Rancho Bernardo Inn’s highly regarded “El Bizcocho” restaurant.
First, a short recap of what the dinner was all about….
- The recent October 16, 2009 dinner was the third in a 3-year series.
- The premise is simple: A multi-course fine-dining dinner served with a specially selected wine to go with each course, as well as a specially selected beer. All the attendees of the dinner get a specially prepared card to mark their preference for each course – either the beer or the wine. At the end of the dinner, the results are tallied and the one winner is announced based on the total number of votes for the evening. “Wine” was represented by Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Barry Wiss of Napa’s Trinchero Family Estates. Barry has flown down from Napa each year to participate in the challenge. Neither I nor Barry had any say in the creation of the menu — each year it was presented to us with a “Gentlemen, here you go…do your best!”
- In October 2007, “Beer” won. However, it was very close. Beer took three of the courses and wine won three. Yet, beer edged out with more total votes during the evening. This dinner was captured on film and an entertaining documentary was created by our friends at Redtail Media (the same team that created the viral I Am A Craft Brewer video with me). The “Beer vs. Wine 2007″ doc is on the promotional Stone DVD. If you haven’t found the opportunity to view it yet, grab the DVD and watch it. I think you’ll find it quite well done and entertaining. If you haven’t gotten one yet, it can be obtained at the Stone Store either at the brewery, or online here.
- This clip is a preview of the beginning of that 2007 documentary:
- And this 30-second clip featuring Chef Gavin Kaysen is from the middle of the 2007 documentary:
- In October 2008, “Wine” won. Again, very close with three courses to three courses, with wine winning more total votes in the evening. Again, documentary footage was shot, but it has not yet been edited. This 30-second promo spot was created. Hell, even knowing the results doesn’t stop you from wanting to see the whole match after watching this punchy spot:
- Thus, Friday, October 16th, 2009’s dinner was going to determine the “best two out of three” winner. The rubber match. The champion. Once more, our documentary film making friends at Redtail Media captured the action. While it may take several months for them to get the editing done, both the 2008 dinner and Friday’s dinner will be edited into episodes.
OK, so without further ado, I’ll now reveal the results: BEER! Yes, beer won the night. This time, it was so close that they had to recount…twice. Turned out WAY too close for comfort for me, but ultimately it was indeed Beer that won…and just by ONE vote.
This is a big deal. The premise of the dinner–the motivation for me to do it–was to prove a point. I intentionally picked a wine-centric fine dining chef-driven restaurant for the Beer vs. Wine Dinner. I wanted to show that even in this “hostile territory” the ability of great craft beer to pair amazingly with great food was equal, or better, to that of fine wine. And we succeeded. We ALL succeeded. This includes YOU because we are all a very important part of the craft brewing movement and we are collectively showing the world how wonderful and amazing the world of great craft beer can be.
I’d like to give special thanks to our Head Brewer, Mitch Steele, as he helped pick the selections with me for the beer pairings for each of the dinners.
You can view the grueling tasting and selection process in these two “Greg’s vBlog” clips (you’ll see that we should get a Medal of Valor or something for our willingness to self-sacrifice for the betterment of craft beer):
This year, we were further aided by the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens’ Beverage Coordinator, Dr. Bill, and his educated and insightful palate in the decision making process. Ultimately, we succeeded in our mission. We demonstrated that craft beer is to be reckoned with in the culinary world. You and I already knew that, and now even more people will have the opportunity to know it!
Here’s a picture that was shot just moments after the results were announced and I was given the trophy. Standing next to me is Barry Wiss of Trinchero Family Estates, the Napa-based Sommelier challenger who flew down for the event:
All in all we all had a terrific time. I gotta hand it to the wine guys, they were consummate good sports. Barry didn’t skip a beat in offering a genuine “Congrats!” when the voting results were announced, and even went on to tell me that the Beer vs. Wine dinners had really opened his eyes to the depth and complexity in the world of great beer. Barry’s compatriot at Trinchero, Chris Siconolfi, emailed me the next day writing “Thank you for the competition and the partnership last night, it is like we all agreed, at the end of the day it is about opening the consumers’ eyes and educating on the fact that beer and wine pair amazingly well with food.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Stay tuned as the Beer vs. Wine saga WILL continue. Barry and Chris have invited me to conduct a soon-to-be-scheduled Beer vs. Wine Dinner in the heart of Napa wine country. I can’t wait. And I’m gonna go in swinging.
Hey, just ’cause we’re all friendly and everything, and we are, doesn’t mean I’m going to pull any punches. When I go, I’ll go to win!
Greg Koch, CEO & co-founder
Stone Brewing Co.
Alas, the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is over. All 495 competing breweries have packed their beers and headed home, some with shiny pieces of bling dangling from their necks (or if you’re Jeff Bagby, A LOT of bling), others sans bling but with the bolstered pride that comes from wowing thousands of beer fans with their delicious creations. Ken Schmidt happened to be part of the latter camp, and although he didn’t win in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF, he came away with his head held high from the insane buzz that Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter generated. He called me during the fest to relay the results of the Pro-Am and left this message:
Just like at the Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival, Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter was the object of bountiful adoration. It was the first keg to blow at the Pro-Am table, and it generated the longest lines. Ken said that he had a blast competing in the GABF, but it was only part of the exhilarating journey that began with his victory at our homebrewing competition back in March. “Competing in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF was thrilling,” Ken said, “but being chosen by my brewing peers and the panel of eight from Stone (to help brew the Pro-Am selection with Stone) holds the greatest excitement for me. It has been a wonderful journey.”
We anticipate our next AHA Rally and homebrewing competition will be some time in March. Sign up for our homebrewing email newsletter for updates. When I talked to Ken on Monday, he said that he’s already brainstorming some more special brews to share. If they’re anything like his Aloha Plenty, we’ll be giddily awaiting their appearance.
It’s no secret that we’re fans of our friends James, Martin and the whole team over at Scotland’s BrewDog. We’ve brewed two collaboration beers with them – BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, and the more recent basha — and we admire them for having the guts to brew big, aggressive beers in the UK and the skill to succeed with it.
The last episode in the ongoing saga of Stone and BrewDog left off with a newly fermenting collaboration brew and some choice hand-selected Scotch whisky barrels stuffed with native Scottish fruit. So what’s next for our two breweries? Why, a Brewer Exchange Program of course.
From October 23rd to November 12th, we’ll be trading our very own Brewhouse Supervisor, Jeremy Moynier, for BrewDog’s Lead Brewer, Stewart Bowman in an open exchange of brewing acumen. Stewart will get a chance to experience brewing on a larger scale and get a feel for how we do things (or as Mitch put it, “learn from our mistakes”), and Jeremy will get a chance to experience brewing in a smaller, fast-growing brewery in an entirely different beer culture. However, since BrewDog will be out of their Lead Brewer for two weeks, Jeremy will definitely have to step up and fill his boots.
This will be a “working trip” rather than a vacation for both brewers, but they’ll probably manage to throw in some diversions along the way. Jeremy did express interest in visiting a Scottish distillery or two and scoping out some choice barrels (hint hint, James and Martin!).
We’re incredibly excited to take Stewart under our wing and to live vicariously through Jeremy and reap the benefits of his stint at BrewDog. Stay tuned as this story takes shape.
This month’s issue of Men’s Journal names San Diego the “beer capital of the U.S.” We San Diegans have been saying that for years, but it’s nice to see other slightly less biased sources come to the same conclusion. And the folks over at Men’s Journal aren’t the only ones praising San Diego as a barley and hops mecca. Food & Wine Magazine calls San Diego County “one of the most dynamic beer scenes in America and arguably the world,” and Sunset Magazine says “…when it comes to beer, all roads lead to San Diego.” While there are countless craft beer innovators in the great state of California and the entire nation, we agree that our little palm tree-bedizened county has earned a special place in the craft beer movement. That’s why we, along with our San Diego craft beer brethren, decided to start San Diego Beer Week.
San Diego Beer Week (SDBW) is a ten-day, county-wide festival from November 6-15th. We’ll be hosting special events here at Stone every day during SDBW, and our own “Grandfather of Beer Geeks” and infamous beer hoarder, Dr. Bill, has put together a phenomenal lineup of events so far. More will be announced in the coming weeks, but check out what’s planned so far:
Nov. 6 – Ten Year Lineup of Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Nov. 7 – Incredibly awesome party yet to be announced
Nov. 8 – Ultimate Beer & Chocolate Pairing
Nov. 9 – The Tomme Arthur Experience
Nov. 10 – Allagash/Russian River “Dual Not Duel” Beer Dinner with Vinnie Cilurzo & Rob Tod
Nov. 11 – Patrick Rue of The Bruery Meet the Brewer Night
Nov. 11 – Beer U: Craft Beer Appreciation w/special guest Patrick Rue
Nov. 12 – Wild and crazy bash still to be determined
Nov. 13 – Kick-ass event still in the works
Nov. 14 – Craft beer blowout yet to be finalized
Nov. 15 – Belgian Beer & Cheese Pairing
We’re not the only ones pulling out all the stops. Our craft beer compatriots are all upping the ante to ensure that SDBW is crammed full of spectacular events that will make even the most seasoned beer geeks squeal with joy. Stay tuned as more events take shape, and be sure to check the SDBW website for new developments and an ever-growing schedule of events.
With all the extraordinary brewing talent and craft beer fanaticism in this town, SDBW is destined to be one of the best beer weeks around. Sound a little too Arrogant for our first time? Well, San Diego didn’t rise to craft beer prominence by remaining meekly and humbly in the background.
Quite the opposite.