Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter – Mitch's Tasting Notes

Editor’s Note: Here are Mitch’s tasting notes for our upcoming collaboration brew, Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. You’ll be able to judge the flavor profile for yourself when the beer starts hitting shelves (in very limited quantities!) on September 21. Until then, enjoy Mitch’s take on this delicious brew!

Appearance:
Deep brown, opaque with a creamy light brown head of foam.

Aroma:
Intense Kona Coffee combined with chocolate malts. The toasted coconut is also prominent, and when combined with the coffee and roasted malts, helps make this beer’s aroma reminiscent of a chocolate macaroon!

Flavor:
Coconut is more intense in the flavor with the coffee notes fading a bit to the background. Roasted chocolate malt and fruity esters make more of an impact here also, and the finish is where the macadamia nuts come in. It’s amazing how the flavor changes as this beer travels across the palate, and how all three of the special ingredients make their presence known in different stages.

Palate:
Full bodied, rich and luscious. It is simply incredible how smooth and silky this beer is.

Overall:
This is just an amazing beer to taste. The 3 special ingredients, Kona Coffee, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts combine wonderfully, and come across at three distinct stages of tasting this beer. Just a wonderful beer to relax with and drink slowly, especially while thinking about the islands!

The masterminds behnd the beer (from left to right): Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., Homebrewer Ken Schmidt, and Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele

The masterminds behind the beer (from left to right): Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., Homebrewer Ken Schmidt, and Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele

Bottles of Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on the bottling line

Bottles of Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on the bottling line

-Mitch Steele

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale: Mitch's Tasting Notes


The Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale is a bit of departure from the last two Stone Vertical Epic Ale editions, which were golden in color. The newest one can best be described as a Belgian style Imperial Porter. The beer is deep brown, with intense roasted character provided by chocolate malt.

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale

During the brewing process, we also added dark candi sugar, vanilla bean, and tangerine peel to complement the flavors of the porter. The vanilla bean addition is fascinating, as it actually enhances the chocolate character from the roasted malts, and the candi sugar adds a nice hint of molasses flavor to the finish. The tangerine actually turned out to be quite subtle on the finish (and didn’t impart as much of an orange flavor as we reported earlier), and combines nicely with the chocolate malt character. We aged this beer on French Oak chips, which contributes a smooth and subtle woody undertone and even more vanilla flavors.

Mitch and the brew crew proudly displaying their newest creation

Mitch and the brew crew proudly displaying their newest creation. From left to right: Mitch Steele, Sean Brennan, John Egan, Jessica Gilman, Jeremy Moynier, Laura Ulrich, and Justinian Caire.

All in all the Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale is a very complex beer, the flavors evolve and develop as the beer warms in your glass, making the enjoyment of it a very fun and delicious experience!

Appearance:
This beer pours deep brown with a thick, frothy, creamy head of tan foam.

Aroma:
Many layers, starting off with chocolate and coffee from the chocolate malt, and vanilla notes from both the vanilla bean and French Oak. A balanced oak flavor comes through in the mix. As the beer warms, the influence of the Belgian yeast is more evident, as tropical fruit and spice flavors become more pronounced.

Flavor:
Begins with chocolate roast malt character and vanilla. The vanilla accentuates the chocolate nicely. Layered in are banana esters, and hints of clove, and then the finish is a bit stronger on the oak with hints of molasses and citrus from the tangerine peel.

Palate:
Medium body, very complex, and finishes very smooth. The 8.6% alcohol is not overly evident, and the flavors blend together nicely.

Overall:
A delicious, complex beer. It should age nicely over the next three years, and the flavors should continue to meld together wonderfully.

-Mitch Steele


Editor’s Note: Look out for Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale on September 9, 2009, and check the website for the latest info.

Washington Approves Stone's Pilsner Stimulus Plan


We know many of you are chomping at the bit for news about our collaboration brew, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, so we’ll throw you a bone. The brew is still fermenting, so we don’t have a release date yet (don’t worry, we’ll let you know the second we do!), but we do have some news about the bottle label. Jen Knudson, our talented graphic designer, just got word from the feds that the label design was approved and ready to rock!

Staying true to our collaboration bottle design motif, there are three versions, each dedicated to one of the three Brewmasters. Check em out below!

-Matt Steele

James' Bottle Notes

James' Label

Will's Bottle Notes

Will's Label

Mitch's Bottle Notes

Mitch's Label

What's Growing in the Gardens?


If you read the blog about our Gardens, you know that our inventive gardener, Chili, re-uses by-products from our Brewery and Bistro in our topsoil. Buried within the accompanying flickr photo set, you may have missed an aerial mock-up of our Gardens with every single plant meticulously marked and labeled by Chili himself. It’s not a treasure map in the swashbuckling sense, but it does map out the locations of all of the botanical treasures in our Gardens. We think it’s a pretty good way to grasp the entirety of our thriving ecosystem and the plants therein, and Webmaster Mike has plans to work it into new content on our website. Also, if you plan on attending the event with Nan Sterman this Sunday, this layout offers a preview of what you’ll see and learn about.

-Matt Steele

Chili's Garden Map

Chili's Garden Map

Beer & Chocolate Pairing: Someone has to do it…


Beer and chocolate are two of my favorite things on the planet. If you asked me to define myself in one sentence, the words beer and chocolate would probably be in there somewhere. So you can imagine my dismay when I was burdened with the arduous task of helping pair Stone beer with the innovative artisinal offerings of Eclipse Chocolat for our Beer & Chocolate Pairing event on May 3rd. But I’m not one to complain. Rather than drag my feet and mope about the daunting task ahead of me, I decided to tackle it head-on and get it over with, and so did my equally apprehensive compatriots, Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright and Brewer Jeremy Moynier.

Eclipse Chocolat

Eclipse Chocolat

We arrived at Eclipse late in the afternoon, just as rush hour traffic was rearing its ugly head on El Cajon Boulevard. Immediately upon entering the reasonably populated, pleasantly decorated dessert cafe, we were greeted by Chocolatier Extraordinaire Will Gustwiller, the Owner of Eclipse Chocolat. After exchanging customary introductions, we tended to the irksome job before us.

The first piece of chocolate that Will offered us was one of his first creations—a Lavender Sea-Salted Caramel truffle. This creamy milk chocolate delicacy is Eclipse’s most popular truffle, and it’s easy to see why. After striking out with Stone Levitation Ale, we decided to pair it with Stone IPA. Success. The prevailing salt and herbal notes of the truffle harmonized beautifully with the citrusy, hoppy bite of Stone IPA. We were off to a promising start.

Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle

Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle

Next up was Will’s Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle, a chili-infused dark chocolate truffle with a subtle, delayed spicy note. Will warned us that this would be the most difficult truffle to pair, due to its overwhelming flavor profile. We promptly assured him that we rarely encounter food capable of smothering the bold flavors of our beers, but sure enough, we were wrong. The truffle overwhelmed several of our beers before we finally stumbled upon a winner. The long-lasting bitter finish of Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was the only heavy-hitting flavor that could stand up to the prolonged chili spice of the truffle. When the ooh’s and ahh’s subsided, they were replaced by talk of using this pairing as the finale of the pairing on May 3rd. And for good reason.

Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle

Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle

The next truffle, Will’s Balsamic Pink Peppercorn truffle, was a definite departure from the previous offerings. If you’re thinking of the slight spicy flavor found in commercial peppercorn dressings and such, think again. Will uses actual fresh peppercorns for the filling of this truffle, resulting in an earthy sweet flavor that is enhanced by raspberry balsamic vinegar sweetened dark chocolate. Double Bastard Ale and Stone Cali-Belgique IPA weren’t a match, but we eventually found the right supplement. The smoky, roasted barley note and strong hop finish of Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale proved a perfect mate for the unique truffle.

At this point our spirits were low as the backbreaking labor began to take its toll, but somehow we mustered the strength and determination to persist. Will introduced the next delicacy, a Black Sesame Anise truffle, and we valiantly resumed. This dark chocolate ganache-infused creation comes packed with anise seed and star anise, and is topped with toasted black sesame seeds. Again we tried to pair it with Stone Levitation Ale, along with a few other Stone beers, all to no avail. At last we found a champion in the form of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. The dense fruity note of the Belgian Yeast provided the perfect contrast to the bittersweet anise and the toasty sesame seeds.

The next chocolate was met with desperate cries for mercy as the unceasing consumption of gourmet chocolate and delicious craft beer began to erode our morale, but the painful ordeal was almost over. We knew that once we found a pairing with Will’s Macadamia Ginger White Chocolate, we could go home. So we found one in the form of 2009 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine. The sweet tang of the lemon sang in perfect harmony with Old Guardian’s hoppy finish, and the ginger in the chocolate worked opposite of the bold barley presence of the barley wine. And for all of you who think white chocolate isn’t real chocolate, let there be no mistake. White chocolate is indeed chocolate if it has real cocoa butter in it. Many commercially available white chocolates opt for vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter because it’s significantly cheaper. Will does no such thing. His white chocolate is the real deal.

Stone Brewer Jeremy Moynier (left), Tour Guide Kathryn Bouscaren, and Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright (right) hard at work

Stone Brewer Jeremy Moynier (left), Tour Guide Kathryn Bouscaren, and Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright (right) hard at work

But alas, there was more! Will cemented his standing as a wizard of chocolate with his last delicacy—a Banana Rum Cigar truffle. Will explained that he deftly weaved actual cigar leaf into this rare truffle, immediately dropping our jaws and leaving us mystified. Unfortunately, the Valentine’s Day rush depleted Will’s inventory, and he didn’t have enough of this spectacular truffle to finish the pairing. Thankfully, he offered to send us more so we could finish the pairing here at the brewery. So let it be known that there will be a surprise pairing in store for you on May 3rd, should you choose to attend Beer & Chocolate.

Eclipse Chocolat Owner, Will Gustwiller, now the proud owner of leftover Stone beer

Eclipse Chocolat Owner, Will Gustwiller, now the proud owner of leftover Stone beer

After nearly two hours of drudgery and copious amounts of beer and chocolate, we emerged with five spectacular pairings and one “to be announced” pairing. We would like to thank our gracious host and culinary genius Will Gustwiller for offering us a glimpse of his wildly imaginative take on chocolate. If you like Stone beer, and you like equally bold-flavored chocolate, you’d be crazy not to enjoy the fruits of his (and our) labor on May 3rd. Though we won’t discourage you from arming yourself with our tasting notes and going down to Eclipse to try the pairings we came up with, we do hope that you send us your suggestions for the sixth pairing. We’d really appreciate your help!

-Matt Steele

www.eclipsechocolat.com

http://www.stonebrew.com/calendar/#090503

Cali-Belgique: The Untold Story

Matt Steirnagle
Starting last August you may have noticed a mysterious, hyphenated newcomer lurking around the more familiar Stone Brews at your local retailer. Being a Stone fan, you would have found this joyous and remarkable, as the last entirely new bottled Stone release was OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale back in 2004. Fans are used to anticipating a unique Stone Anniversary Ale or Stone Vertical Epic Ale each year, but this is something entirely different and unexpected. What’s the story, here? Just what is Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, and how did it come to be included in such an exclusive lineup?

The enigmatic Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

The enigmatic Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

Here’s the skinny: Whenever we brew a Belgian-style beer, such as one of the Vertical Epic Ales, we need to culture up a large amount of Belgian-style yeast, without which none of those distinctive Belgian flavors and aromas will emerge. Ordinarily our yeast is grown in a miniature batch of Stone Pale Ale, then separated and transferred to one of the big fermentation tanks. Because Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale was going to be so pale, our brewers worried that residual Stone Pale Ale mixed in with the yeast might noticeably darken it, so they used Stone IPA wort instead.

See where I’m going with this? After the yeast was removed, our brewers sampled the (now fermented) brew left in the yeast tank and found that it was good. Really good. We had done a pilot batches of Belgian-Style IPAs (or Belgian inspired california style IPAs) in the past with great results, and had thought of doing something like that on a larger scale. Head Brewer Mitch Steele saw the left over beer as an opportunity for a larger batch and a dry-hop trial (For those of you that don’t know, dry-hopping is soaking hops in fermented beer, rather than boiling them into the wort.) Greg liked the result enough to challenge Team Stone to come up with a name for it, and to create a whole new category of Stone releases accommodating its semi-regular production: The year-round limited release. This means it might not be around all the time, but at least you won’t have to wait a full year for the next release (the next one will probably be out by late March). Ben Lee, our production coordinator gets credit for coming up with the name. Stone (’cause we made it) Cali (designating California origins) Belgique (French for Belgium) IPA. To honor northern Dutch-speaking Belgians we printed half of the bottles with the moniker Stone Cali-België IPA.

So is a Belgian yeast strain the only thing that makes this beer special? Not quite. We finish Stone IPA with Centennial hops, which gives it that distinctly floral, grapefruity quality that it’s known for. Without these particular hops, Stone IPA would be a very different beer. Stone Cali-Belgique IPA is finished with Chinook hops, which have somewhat heavier, spicy qualities. Our brewers changed hops because the exotic flavors produced by Belgian yeast compliment the complex character of Chinook hops, and because we were already making two beers (Stone IPA and Stone Ruination IPA) showcasing the glory of Centennial. It may seem like the difference is trivial, but IPAs are all about hops, and changing the variety of finishing hops can have as much of an effect as changing the grape varietals in a wine. We’ve thought it over, and have decided to update the text on Cali-Belgique bottles to reflect this difference.

- Matt Steirnagle, brewery tours

Taking "Locavore" to the Next Level

Click to view the menu, make reservations, and get more information

Click to view the menu, make reservations, and get more information

Matt Steele
Growing up in this culture doesn’t exactly foster an appreciation for the word “fresh.” As a kid, I thought fresh meant “fresh out of the microwave,” or “fresh from the fast food window.” I grew up thinking that TV dinners, Hot Pockets, and quadruple cheeseburgers were perfectly acceptable forms of sustenance. I expected the ingredients in my food to have no less than eighteen syllables in their names, and to only be pronounceable by the highly learned. I also thought that, much like cockroaches, food should be able to survive the apocalypse (thanks to the complex cocktail of chemical preservatives graciously injected into it by men in white lab coats thousands of miles away).

I don’t blame my parents for raising me on less-than-fresh food. It was their only option for feeding three voracious boys in a fast-paced culture addicted to cheap, hastily-prepared, chemically-treated food. Thankfully, we are witnessing a slight shift in our culture’s perception of food, as it slowly changes to favor more natural and sustainable consumption habits, but we still have a long way to go. That’s why we started the FRESH! Dinner series.

Our FRESH! Dinners offer something that many Americans have absolutely no concept of: a meal in which all ingredients are picked, gathered, caught, and killed the very day they are consumed. That means no Hot Pockets, and no men in lab coats.

Executive Chef Alex Carballo, mastermind behind the FRESH! Menu

Executive Chef Alex Carballo, mastermind behind the FRESH! Menu

The upcoming FRESH! Dinner on February 2nd will be a “locavore’s” dream. Executive Chef Alex Carballo (creative mastermind behind the FRESH! Menu) and his team will rise at the crack of dawn to hit the sunny fields of San Diego. They will be on the prowl for only the freshest, untouched ingredients from local organic farms and markets. The menu* will include delights such as Roasted Baby Beets and Mixed Greens Salad with a Mandarin Vinaigrette, Spinach Ravioli with Mushroom Filling in a Light Herb Sauce, Braised Fennel, Honey Glazed Baby Carrots, and Braised Seasonal Greens. There will also be a fish or chicken course, depending on which is fresher of course! The ingredients will be procured from local farms ranging from Crows Pass Farm in Temecula to La Milpa Organica in Escondido and Eben-Haezer Egg Ranch in Ramona.

*Disclaimer: Since this isn’t a laboratory or an assembly line, the menu will be subject to change. Things may not go (or grow) according to plan, and our talented team will use their creativity to adapt to the whims of bountiful mother nature.

The mix and mingle portion of the dinner (6:00-6:00pm) will feature Red Sea Urchin, available Sashimi style or as a shooter served with fresh Stone beer that will be bottled or kegged that same day. The Sea Urchin (Uni) will also come complete with a demonstration from the local harvester, Chef Gordon Smith. After the mix and mingle, guests will be seated family-style in the Mezzanine of the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens to indulge in multiple courses of pristine natural sustenance.

Eben-Haezer Chicken Ranch in Escondido, CA, where the chickens roam free!

Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch in Escondido, CA, where the chickens roam free!

Hot Pocket connoisseurs beware, the FRESH! Dinner is not for you. You may want to stay home in the comfy butt-groove of your couch, clutching your stale microwavable delicacy safely within your comfort zone. However, those of you willing to experience a delicious meal straight from the earth to the table, make your reservations now. We’ll prove to you just how FRESH! a meal can be.

Click here to view the tentative menu, make reservations, and get additional information.

-Matt Steele

Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale

Matt Steirnagle
The relationship between good drink and social spirit is clear to just about anyone who has ever attended a worthwhile gathering. Whether at a casual picnic or a formal banquet, the good host knows the irreplaceable value of libation in bringing people closer together. Perhaps less obvious, but no less important, is the role that togetherness plays with creating our favorite of all amenities: Craft Beer. Visit a brewery, if you haven’t already, and see for yourself. Brewers, pub owners, and fans from all over San Diego and beyond appear to feel an affinity for one another, and if there’s a sense of competition it comes from dedication to excellence rather than domination. It is in celebration of this community spirit and the fruits of our collective loves and labors that Stone has teamed up with Jolly Pumpkin and Nøgne-Ø to create the first Holiday beer ever to come from our brew house.

Kjetil, Mitch, Ron, and Greg

Our tale begins this past march in a bar in Tokyo, where our own Greg Koch had a chance encounter with Kjetil Jikiun, the owner and head brewer of Norwegian craft brewery (the name translates to Naked Island.) The two hit it off, and when they met again at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, Greg managed to wrangle an invitation to visit Kjetil’s brewery. Greg had a blast in Norway and formed a friendship that soon gave rise to a desire for some kind of collaboration. Greg suggested teaming up with the adventurous Michigan brewery Jolly Pumpkin (specifically, with head brewer and haiku master Ron Jefferies,) and the Triad was thusly formed.

Our head brewer Mitch Steele found some time to fill me in on his part of the story. He grinned while relating his experience with Kjetil (friendly, open, excellent language skills) and Ron (more reserved, always eager to experiment)

“We knew [this beer] would take a long time to plan… because we had to do it with E-mail”

Not too long ago Stone collaborated with Mikeller and Alesmith to create a Belgian Trippel style ale, but this time there would be no set style, and, therefore, no guidelines to follow. Designing a beer from the ground up is no simple matter, and having three designers in three different time zones doesn’t make it any easier. It does, however, make for an interesting brew. Here’s an excerpt from what Mitch wrote for the back of the bottle:

“We quickly decided to try and use one indigenous ingredient from each of our brewing regions, Southern California White Sage, Juniper Berries (we couldn’t get Norwegian, unfortunately, so we used Italian Juniper Berries, at least they are from the same continent), and (mostly) Michigan Chestnuts. Kjetil suggested brewing with rye malt and Ron suggested adding some caraway to complement the rye, so we decided to brew a full bodied, spiced ale with 25% rye malt.”

Mitch, Stone Brewer Tom Garcia, Ron, Greg, & Kjetil: The deliberation process...

Two test batches were cooked up in advance for sampling and adjustments the afternoon before Brew day. After comparing notes and coming to a consensus, Mitch, Ron, and Kjetil joined an informal dinner in the Bistro where some Team Stone crew, local fans, and home brewers were able to try both beers and get to share beers and food with the brew masters. Guests were encouraged to bring their own creations along with beers from the guest breweries to share, which they did! Greg pulled out a generous amount from his Nøgne-Ø stash that he had brought back from his trip and everyone was glad to share in it.

The next day saw no lack of community spirit as celebration gave way to shared efforts and hardships. Rye malt is notoriously difficult to work with. Mitch continued to smile while he described how one stage of the process became (almost) hopelessly stuck. “Ordinarily two batches would take about thirteen hours. These two took more than thirty… They wouldn’t lauter… We tried every trick I knew of.” Another Stone Brewer, Jeremy Moynier, had the honor of being called in at 3am to participate in the debacle. He relates:

Ron, Jeremy & Kjetil prep some sage

Ron, Jeremy & Kjetil prepare the sage

“seriously, although it was a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong day, the spices, chestnuts, and sage that we added made the brew fun to do and it was also very cool talking to those guys. It’s always fun and educational to talk to other brewers. Tasting the beers during fermentation and recently in taste panel….very impressive. These came out complex and the spices are intriguing (it’s amazing how just a little sage goes a long way). I think people will dig this beer!”

I think so, too. I was lucky enough to sample this unique brew right out of our filter, and though not yet fully carbonated it blew me away. I wouldn’t want to taint your expectations with my own humble impression, suffice to say the elements all really came together on this one.

Wow!

Wow!

Our production crew has been awaiting a shipment of glass so they can start bottling, and I heard the machinery spring into action as I finished up these last few sentences. We’ll be rushing bottles to the Stone Company Store cooler, and you’ll be able to stop by and pick some up on Friday, November 21st (that’s tomorrow!) and we’ll be distributing limited amounts to AZ, MA, CA, OH, WA, OR, CO, VA, MI and NY on Monday. Happy Holidays, indeed!

One last note: I’ve been informed that we’re still awaiting formal approval to distribute this beer in Washington and Virginia. We expect to get it any day now, so hopefully folks in these states will be able to get some within the next few weeks.

- Matt Steirnagle

Related Links:

Greg’s vBlog from his trip to Norway

Photo gallery of Ron and Kjetil’s visit

We got some great video and photos of the bottling run

Full sized bottle designs with text from all three brewers

http://www.jollypumpkin.com

http://www.nogne-o.com/