Hop Homage: Stone Do These Hops Make My Beer Look Big IPA

We hold many things dear at Stone Brewing Co. High on that list of items held on-high are hops. They are the lush foundation on which some of our greatest successes have been forged. They rest ever-presently at the core of what we do and are largely what have helped us to stand out over the past 18-plus years. We love them every bit as much as you lupulin-craving nuts. So, when we were afforded the opportunity to construct a beer to honor this country’s hop growers, you best believe we took it very seriously!

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Each year, USA Hops holds the American Hop Convention. For 2015, they chose the our very own San Diego, California as the site of this gathering, which brings together the men and women responsible for cultivating the oil-rich botanical cones lending craft beer its piney, citrus and tropical fruit aromas, and resinous, bitter bite. This year, we lobbied to craft a special beer to commemorate the occasion, and were happy to be granted permission to pay homage to the individuals who so deftly and caringly nurture hops both traditional and experimental. In doing so, we leaned heavily on the latter, utilizing a hop that isn’t yet widely grown and is so new it doesn’t even have a name yet. While HBC 291 might not sound all that sexy, its variety of citrus, pineapple, melon, tropical fruit flavors and inherent herbaceous spice proved plenty alluring; enough that we felt justified focusing on it as the primary ingredient in Stone Do These Hops Make My Beer Look Big IPA.

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This small-run beer, which came in at 8.8% alcohol-by-volume and 65 on the International bittering unit scale, was handed out to all of the attendees of the 59th American Hop Convention. It was rewarding, not only to get to work with this virgin hop and brew up a brand new beer, but to get to share it with the folks who work so hard to provide us the magical ingredient we and our fans have come to love and associate with Stone beers. There was even a small amount of the beer left for us to put on tap at our Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurants and on shelves at our Stone Company Stores so our fellow hop heads could get a taste. In the end, paying respect to hop growers via the fruits of their labor was just as much fun as the name we gave it, and using it to toast our industry allies was truly an honor.

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A Tribute to Hop Farmers from the Back of the Bottle

Can you imagine what Stone Brewing Co. would be like without hops? Neither can we! Those bright green, lupulin-rich cones are the cornerstone on which some of our most beloved beers—Stone IPA, Stone Go To IPA, Stone Ruination IPA, Stone Enjoy By IPA and lots more—were constructed. We’d like to think we’ve done as right by this bitter botanical as it has by us. Ditto the noble hop growers who’ve not only tilled the soil and tended the bines, but also forged ahead to breed new and exciting experimental hop varietals, many of which have charged to the head of the hoppy pack and found their way into some of the planet’s most coveted brews, including our own. So, it is with great pride that we crafted this one-time-only imperial IPA. But we’re Stone…double IPAs flow like water from our brewhouse. So what makes this one unique? Experimental hops! We dabbled with a number of new varietals, including the excitingly named HBC 291, which we brewed with for the very first time. It takes a heaping load of what-the-hell-let’s-go-for-it attitude to go full-brew with something so new, but fortunately, that’s something that flows like water around here, too. So enjoy this tribute to the almighty humulus lupulus. Get your nose in that glass and take in the complex assortment of vivid aromatic sensations in the bouquet, followed by flavors that are simultaneously citrus-like, foresty and altogether scrumptious. This gem proudly fits the bill as an IPA unique and special enough to serve as the official beer of the 2015 American Hop Convention…and the official IPA of you!

A Beer Befitting Its Name: Stone Delicious IPA

India pale ales are our bread-and-butter here at Stone. We love them as much as you do. Similarly, we get an immeasurable amount of satisfaction out of experimenting with new hop combinations to create IPAs with flavor profiles that vary from what we’ve thus far experienced. The arrival of Stone Delicious IPA provides a tangible example of why continual IPA and hop exploration are so fulfilling. With the new Lemondrop varietal as a centerpiece and a massive dry-hop comprised exclusively of lemony El Dorado hops from Washington State, this beer lives up to its name behind a plethora of tart, citrusy notes and a stunning grove-like, lemon tree bouquet, providing a graceful yet in no way subtle one-two punch to the senses. Our newest IPA is unique to our stable of beers in every way…including the fact it just so happens to be our first gluten-reduced offering.

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You read that right. In addition to being incredibly flavorful and hopped in our typically heavy-handed way, Stone Delicious IPA is also fermented in a manner that breaks down and removes gluten, rendering gluten levels so significantly that the beer qualifies as a “gluten-reduced” ale per the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). It’s a nice bonus that will allow nearly everyone out there to enjoy our bold style of craft beer—something we’ve always wanted but, up until the advent of this beer, haven’t been able to make happen. We’re excited to introduce our beers to those who haven’t yet had a Stone-brewed IPA, or perhaps even a craft beer of any kind. And for those of you who know all about our hoppy ales, we’re thrilled to provide a new one we’re particularly high on, reduced gluten levels or not.

For those for whom gluten is a concern, numerous questions are bound to spring to mind in regards to gluten-reduced craft beer. So, we’ve taken a stab at some of the more obvious queries Stone Delicious IPA is bound to evoke. Of course, if you still have questions, we’re happy to field them. Just shoot us an email at delicious@stonebrewing.com. Who knows, your question and our answer may even make it onto this FAQ page.

NOTE: The answers below exclusively refer to the bottled version of Stone Delicious IPA. For information on Stone Delicious IPA served on tap, please see the response specifically related to the draft version at the bottom of this FAQ.

How does Stone reduce the gluten levels in this beer?

We have colleagues at our long-time yeast supplier, White Labs to thank. It’s their enzyme, Clarity-Ferm, which makes Stone Delicious IPA possible. We start by brewing the beer exactly like we do every other beer at our brewery using all-natural ingredients (barley, hops, water and yeast, exclusively) with dashes of creativity and heart plus a boatload of hops. When boiled wort (unfermented beer) is transferred to fermentation tanks where yeast is introduced to convert fermentable sugars to alcohol, we add Clarity-Ferm, which separates and eliminates the potentially inflammatory nature of the gluten protein chains.

Does Stone Delicious IPA contain gluten?

Though we’ve harnessed modern advances to significantly reduce the amount of gluten, traces of gluten remain in Stone Delicious IPA. However, the amount of gluten in this beer is far below the Codex threshold of less than 20 parts per million in total gluten for “gluten-free” products; so much so that its gluten levels are too low to be measurable by available testing methods. Furthermore, the brewing process for Stone Delicious IPA renders the beer free of barley epitopes (peptide sequences and reactive sites in gluten molecules triggering negative reactions in the small intestine).

Where is Stone Delicious IPA brewed?

Currently, the beer is brewed at Stone’s flagship brewery in Escondido, a municipality in North San Diego County, California.

How do you prevent cross-contamination by Stone beers containing gluten?

We take numerous, specific steps to ensure there is no cross-contamination in our brewing or packaging facilities. We carefully clean and sanitize every tank, pipeline, hose and piece of equipment that Stone Delicious IPA will touch, and conduct numerous tests at our brewing facility checking for gluten levels.

How is Stone Delicious IPA tested for gluten?

The gluten testing is conducted by White Labs using an ELISA assay, the R5 competitive Gliadin assay from R-Biopharm. Yes, that is a mouthful, so allow us to further explain. The ELISA assay quantifies the prolamins from the wheat, rye and barley using an antibody that recognizes the potentially inflammatory sequence QQPFP, which occurs repeatedly in the prolamin molecules. This is the only method of gluten testing for products containing alcohol that is approved by the federal government.

Where can I see test results?

Each bottle of Stone Delicious IPA has both an “enjoy-by date” printed on its bottlenecks and a “julian date” laser-engraved on the bottom of each bottle. You can use either of these denotations to retrieve test results for the beer in your bottle by visiting the Stone Delicious IPA webpage and viewing a PDF of the White Labs report corresponding to those numbers.

Delicious_JulianEnjoyBy2Does Stone utilize any barley malt alternatives to brew this beer?

No. We do not replace the barley malt we use for our other beers with rice, quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat or any other grains.

Where can I purchase Stone Delicious IPA?

Stone Delicious IPA is distributed to every state where Stone beers are sold, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The best way to locate retail accounts where Stone Delicious IPA is sold by consulting our online Stone Beer Finder.

If I find Stone Delicious IPA on tap, can I expect it to be at the same gluten levels as the bottled version?

Because the draft accounts where we distribute our kegged beer would have to basically have independent dedicated lines via which to serve Stone Delicious IPA—something that isn’t feasible for the majority of bars and restaurants—the beer will likely be served from lines that have previously served non-gluten-reduced beer. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that the gluten levels of the beer will be the same when served in such a manner. While the beer in the keg is the same as the beer in the bottles, there is always the chance that it could mix with previously served beers in the lines of the draft system and, thus, become intermingled with beer containing gluten. To be safe and ensure the health of those with greater gluten sensitivity, we similarly do not make the gluten-reduced claim for Stone Delicious IPA served from draft systems and growler fill stations at Stone-operated facilities (Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens and Stone Brewing TapRoom restaurants, Stone Farms or Stone Company Stores). It is best to purchase Stone Delicious IPA in bottles if you are gluten sensitive.

Will Stone brew other beers with lowered gluten levels?

There are no current plans to brew more gluten-reduced beers, but years of brewing experimentation have taught us never to say never when it comes to craft beer!

Let Them Eat Fruit Cake: Beer-Enhanced Holiday Recipes

Last week, we took to social media, asking Stone fans to tell us what time-honored holiday treats they’d like to see our test kitchen tackle in an attempt to make them better using craft beer. A wide variety of suggestions came back, some in the form of pleas. We took some of the most popular and got to work simmering, whisking and brushing a variety of brews into a pair of desserts that, when the dust of the confectioner sugar cleared, were all the better for it. Accept the recipes for both of them as our holiday gift to all of you. Cheers to craft beer, and more craft beer in the kitchen!

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Barrel Aging, Part 4: Brewing Beers for Barrels

Over the past year, our Research and Small Batch Manager Steve Gonzalez has fielded questions from curious beer fans and homebrewers on the topic of barrel-aging and Stone’s wood program. In addition to one last batch of his responses, we’re also offering up a cool video spotlighting our Small Batch Brewing Team. They are passionate people with a wealth of experience that, as exemplified by this four-part blog series, is as refined as the beers their expert techniques produce. Get a glimpse of what makes these folks so awesome then take in one last burst of barrel-aging knowledge.

Stone fan Kyle Tucker asks: Stone tends to focus on higher ABV ales, IPAs, double IPAs, etc. Generally, barrel-aging is great for sour beers and stouts. What kind of results would be had from barrel-aging an IPA (which is generally better fresh), and would it be an option for your guys to have a barrel-aged Stone Ruination IPA, for example?

We aged Stone Ruination IPA in Bourbon barrels and released it as Batch 06 of our 2013 Quingenti Millilitre series. It was Batch 06 of the 2013 series. It was really good, but we probably won’t do it again. All that hoppiness was a little more muted than fresh Stone Ruination IPA, but still present in that beer. It was aged for a very long 16 months. We experimented with the idea of dry-hopping it or blending fresh Stone Ruination IPA into it, but in the end, we decided it was better without any help. We have done very small-scale experiments with Stone Cali-Belgique IPA and Stone IPA aged in Bourbon barrels also. I didn’t care for them, personally, and we won’t be moving forward with that again.

The two of our IPAs that are amazing in barrels are Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA aged in rye whiskey barrels and Stone Cali-Belgique IPA aged in red or white wine barrels. The SSRA had all that awesome orange and chocolate flavor combined with spice and vanilla from the spirt barrel. It was so good, we bottled it as Stygian Descent, Batch 01 of our 2014 Quingenti Millilitre series. I would like to try aging that beer in Bourbon barrels at some point and potentially try it in red wine barrels. It could work. Stone Cali-Belgique IPA in wine barrels is amazing. The Belgian yeast combined with native micro-flora from the barrel enhances the spiciness and fruitiness of that beer. The piney character of the hops in the beer melds with the fruit flavors and bitter tannin of the wine barrel to become something deliciously different.

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Stone fan Michael Piorunski asks: Have you made an “all-California” barrel-aged beer with California malt, hops, yeast, water and oak?

I haven’t considered doing that. We do use a lot of local ingredients and, certainly, California has a ton of wine barrel coopers, but malt might be tricky to get. We did make a beer called Stone Passion Project that was made with passion fruit from our own Stone Farms. That was a really cool and fun barrel-aged beer with local ingredients. The malt and hops were mostly Continental European, but the barrels were all from California wineries.

Stone fan Mike Upson asks: I have it on good authority that there is a Bourbon barrel filled with StoneWall Ale continuing to age at your facility. Is that true?

If there is, I haven’t seen it! We don’t age very many of our beers for that long. The current record is 26 months. Maybe at some point in the future, we’ll lay something down for an extended aging period as a sort of “liquid time capsule,” but for now, we’re not doing that. StoneWall Ale is now over its peak. It is still a pretty tasty beer, but if you have any left, I would recommend not saving it any longer.

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Stone fan Tim Oyer asks: Is it possible to buy used barrels from Stone to use for homebrews? I’d kill to have a barrel from Crime or Punishment for my own attempt at a spicy treat!

We do not typically sell them. Once we are done with our barrels, we convert most of them into really cool chairs and benches for our Stone Company Stores, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurants and Stone Farms. We did add some beer to a used Crime (Lukcy Basartd Ale aged in Bourbon Barrels with incredibly spicy peppers added) barrel, though. Boy, it was still hot! Even with just that 3% remnant of Crime locked in the wood. I really liked it.

The Start of Something Good: Stone Brewing Richmond

On October 9, 2014, we announced the selection of Richmond, Virginia, as the home for our upcoming Eastern U.S. brewery, packaging hall and Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens farm-to-table restaurant. Located in the city’s Greater Fulton community, the project site offers everything we asked for and more, even though, at first glance, few might be able to see its potential.

As it stands now, the property, which has been vacant for over 40 years, consists of 15 separate parcels totaling 14 acres. Most of the property is the remnant of the now defunct 1970s Urban Renewal Plan and is located adjacent to a former gasworks property. In addition there’s a vacant 1937 terminal building that’s been uninhabited for almost 30 years and a beat-up slab of concrete constituting a former ferry landing.

Admittedly, these hardly sound like value-adds.

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Fortunately, the members of the State and City teams that worked to bring Stone to Richmond (RVA as it’s known to locals) went to great lengths to open our eyes to the possibilities that existed in the property. Allow us to explain.

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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Classic Combo: Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel

A Mandarin orange wedge dipped in molten ganache, a Grand Marnier-infused 70% cacao truffle, a velvety sweet craft cocktail combining Cointreau and chocolate liqueur, one of those holiday specialty confections that looks like a milk chocolate orange and breaks apart into delicious citrusy-sweet segments…heck, even something as simple as a piece of chocolate and a slice of orange. Regardless of the edible example one references, the symbiotic flavors of chocolate and orange are as plentiful as they are scrumptious. So, when looking for yet another way to use complimentary ingredients to augment our time-honored recipe for Stone Smoked Porter, we decided to lean on this long-time favorite and add our own incredible iteration of cocoa-citrus pairability to the world. Enter Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel, the third transformatively enchanting version of this peat-smoked stalwart to be bottled and distributed to Stone fans.

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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.