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.
Well, well well. 11.11.11. Hmmm. A very special day on several levels. First, it was the Veteran’s Day of all Veteran’s Days. A perfect day to pay tribute and honor those who have served in our country’s military. And perhaps, on a less serious side, 11.11.11 was also Nigel Tufnel Day (who is Nigel Tufnel you ask?…lead guitarist for the legendary band Spinal Tap…made famous for having his Marshall amplifiers custom built with volume knobs that go to “11”…not 10.)
And 11.11 also was the birthday of two wonderful members of Team Stone, Marty Saylor and Laura Ulrich, so raise a glass to them!
And finally, 11.11.11 signifies the release of the second to last in our Stone Vertical Epic Ale series: the penultimate Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale.
We started off developing this beer by brewing a pilot size amber Belgian style ale using a nice variety of German and Belgian amber malts. It was a good start, a very nice beer, but was just missing that special something, that “twist” we like to have in the Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Then, one day last spring, I was in the Temecula Spice Shop in Old Town Temecula, just browsing around. I always like to look for interesting spices and teas and such, and I was looking at some chilies to possibly use for brewing…or to make a great chili for our annual Superbowl Chili Cookoff. The woman in the store told me that she had only one more bag of this wonderful Hatch Green Chili left, and she raved about the flavors from these chilies from New Mexico.
So I bought that last bag, and rather than cook with it, I decided we should try it in a pilot brew. As much as I love chilies, I’m not very well schooled in the different varieties, so I did a little research on the Hatch Chili, and was impressed by their reputation, and the idea of getting great, intense and unique chili flavor without a lot of heat. We also added a touch of cinnamon to that pilot brew, giving it a bit of a Mexican flair, and found the flavors worked amazingly well together, better than I had hoped for!
So here is the homebrew recipe. It’s a pretty basic brew in a lot of ways, so have fun with it. It’s 100% malt this year, no Belgian Syrup or Candi Sugar, so the beer ends up being a little fuller bodied than in the past few years. And as always, we suggest some musical selections that we think will pair well with each brewing step along the way.
Here is the grain bill:
Pale Malt 80.25%
Light Munich Malt 9.10%
Special B Malt 5.6%
CaraBohemian Malt 4%
Crystal 75-80°L 1.05%
As always, I am only providing the all grain version of the recipe, and just percentages, so you can figure out the weights based on the size of your brewing system and your normal efficiencies.
Target OG: 20.5°P (1.082 SG.)
OK, 11.11.11 is a Spinal Tap kind of day, so let’s start things off with the classic “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” which should get all of us in the mood for an Epic Brew Day!
Use a 30 minute conversion rest at 150°F. This is a moderately low conversion temperature for a relatively short time that should provide a nice balance of malt dextrins in the finished beer. If you are keeping up with these recipes, this particular mash scheme was designed to make a bit maltier, fuller beer than what we’ve done the past few years. If you can, raise your mash temperature up to 165°F after conversion rest to stop the enzymatic conversion of starches to sugars before lautering.
Recirculate your wort gently from the bottom over the top of the mash to deposit the fine particles of malt on the top of the grain and to “set” your bed. Avoid splashing the wort. Recirculate for 5-15 minutes, depending on your system, before diverting wort flow to your kettle/boiling vessel. You should remove almost all the malt particles from the wort flow, but some haze is ok.
Start sparging in the lauter when the wort level is about ½” above the grain bed. Starting earlier will decrease your efficiency, because the water will dilute your first wort. Sparge water should be between 165°F and 170°F to maximize extraction, but avoid going over 170°F or you’ll extract harsh compounds from the malt husks.
Fun trivia: Did you know the technique of sparging was invented by Scottish brewers in the 1700s? Up until that point, brewers would mash in, and then draw off all the liquid, and then add more water and mash again, repeating the process 3-4 times to obtain separate worts with decreasing gravities that were used for separate beers. Sparging as a standard brewing practice became common in the mid 1800s.
Sparge until you hit your target boil volume or until your wort gravity being drawn-off reaches 3°P (1.012 SG), whichever comes first. Don’t lauter past 3°P, because when the sparged wort coming off the lauter is that low in sugar content, you risk extracting tannins and other harsh character from the malt husks.
Be careful not to rush the mashing and lautering step, or your brewing efficiency will go down. These steps should be done gently, with care. A good music selection will assist in keeping things relaxed and gentle during lautering. Don’t go too mellow, just enough to keep you focused on the task at hand and inspired. Therefore, I suggest Spinal Tap’s “Hell Hole” or “Rock and Roll Creation” to keep things relaxed and focused.
Here is the hop bill:
2.9 grams per gallon Warrior hop pellets (15% AA)
2.9 grams per gallon Perle hop pellets (10% AA)
All added at the start of boil. There are no other hop additions during the boil. This should get you about 65 IBU’s. Boil for 90 minutes.
You do know that hops are the flowers produced by female hop vines, right? Therefore, a perfect song choice when adding hop flowers to the boil is “Listen To What The Flower People Said” by Spinal Tap.
Always be safety minded, and beware of spontaneous combustion during flameout…
Hop and Spice additions, to be added at the start of the whirlpool process:
2.9 grams per gallon New Zealand Pacific Jade hop pellets
1.4 grams per gallon U.K. Target hop pellets
1.4 grams per gallon New Mexico Hatch mild green chilies (dried and crushed)
1.4 grams per gallon crushed cinnamon stick
Pacific Jade is a newer hop variety from New Zealand, we first used it in the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (How much more black could that beer be? The answer is none. None more black.) We just love the pineapple, citrusy, and spicy herbal flavors it contributes. UK Target is a high alpha English hop that provides both a characteristic English earthy hop character and hints of Orange Marmalade and Tangerine. We used this hop in our Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.
The dried crushed chilies we got from Biad Chile in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We went with the mild version, not hot, because we really wanted the wonderful flavor without a lot of heat. The varieties are a blend of NM 6-4, AZ-20 and AZ-19, and are referred to as “Anaheim type” chilies, even though they come from New Mexico. So if you can’t find New Mexico mild green chilies, perhaps dried and crushed Anaheim chilies would be an acceptable substitute.
The chilies and cinnamon stick we put in a mesh bag and hung in the whirlpool. The addition rate is fairly low. To paraphrase our lab tech Rick Blankemeier, we didn’t want to brew a chili beer, we wanted to brew a great beer with chilies. The low addition rate allows all the other ingredients to blend in. You can taste the chilies, but this is far from a one-dimensional beer. Be sure to bust up the cinnamon stick into small pieces to maximize flavor extraction.
The whirlpool step is where you separate out your proteinaceous trub. This is called, in brewing techno-speak, the “trub break.” An appropriate song choice here could be Spinal Tap’s “Break Like The Wind.”
Yeast Addition: Pitch a Belgian yeast strain, enough to get 20-25 million cells per milliliter (requires a starter). We used the Wyeast 3220 Flanders Golden strain. This strain produces a lot of banana esters, which we found blended really well with the cinnamon flavors.
After the trub has been separated from the wort, chill the wort using an immersion chiller or a heat exchanger to about 65 °F. Add enough yeast to get a cell count of about 20-25 million cells per milliliter. We used a fairly high pitching rate (yeast addition rate) here, because we wanted to ferment at a lower temperature but still ensure the beer fermented out completely. This means that you will most likely have to build up your yeast culture at home using a starter. We fermented the Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale at 68°F to maximize fruity ester formation and minimize the clove/spicy flavor formations, which form at higher levels with warmer Belgian yeast fermentation temperatures.
One thing about this yeast: it’s a powerhouse and ferments well below normal gravity limits. In this case, we formulated the beer to finish out between 4 and 4.5°P, but the yeast took it down to about 2.5°P, which resulted in 9.4% abv.
By the time you are pitching, your brew day is just about complete….so you can spin some “All The Way Home,” the very first Spinal Tap song co-written by musical geniuses Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins.
After fermentation completes (should finish between 2.5 and 3°P), chill the beer down to about 35°F or so, and let it sit until the beer clarifies, at least one week.
Package the beer as normal.
Perhaps now is the time to start celebrating your successful brew, and celebrate by pondering the wonderful mysteries of brewing, a mysterious art which we now know was started in ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, by an ancient race of people… the Druids…. at their mystical brewing site “Stonehenge.” Nobody knows who taught the Druids how to brew, but their legacy lives on. Enjoy your brew day!
Try your hand at brewing all of the Stone Vertical Epic Ales. Homebrew recipes for each can be found at:
As loyal readers of this blog, you undoubtedly remember that our Head Brewer Mitch Steele and Brewmaster Steve Wagner took a cushy paid vacation to Britain back in February, allegedly to research a book they’re writing on IPAs.
Well now they’ve gotten down to business; specifically, the business of brewing this summer’s Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA. Unsurprisingly, the trip provided some liquid inspiration for the Anniversary brew. Here’s Mitch and Steve explaining their vision for this most unusual beer:
Saturday marked our annual March Madness AHA Rally & Homebrew Competition, a celebration of Southern California homebrewers and their wildly inventive creations. The goal of the event is threefold: 1) to build awareness of the American Homebrewers Association, 2) to select a winning homebrew to be brewed on Stone’s beautiful, ultra-shiny brewing system (if we do say so ourselves), and 3) to have an incredibly good time while sampling a marvelous assortment of homebrews.
OK, it’s mostly #3.
Needless to say, the event was a rousing success on all three counts. The drama, however, emanated from the homebrew competition. Although friendly, it is a hotly contested taste-off of 23 beers submitted by Southern California homebrewers confident enough to believe their beer might be worthy of being brewed at Stone.
Yours truly got the opportunity to sit on the judging panel and sample the top-5 beers, as voted on by the assembled homebrewers. Each beer was a marvelous tribute to the originality and craftsmanship of Southern California homebrewers. In fact, the exceedingly delicious beers created quite the quandary for the judges, as we spent enough time debating the relative merits of the beers to draw some rumbles from the anxious homebrewers.
After over an hour of intense debate and vigorous tasting (yes, we take the task quite seriously), the judges chose “West Coast Bitter” brewed by Kelsey McNair of QUAFF, a truly distinctive and regionally appropriate take on the Bitter-style. Though it was positively stuffed with hops, “West Coast Bitter” was remarkably quaffable, and at only 4.3% ABV, a phenomenal session beer for the die-hard hop zealot.
So raise a toast to Kelsey and get your brew kettles ready for next year. You could be the next homebrewing rockstar…
Check out more pictures from the Rally here:
You’re probably familiar with our Head Brewer, Mitch Steele. When you think of Mitch, you may think, “Being the Head brewer at Stone Brewing Co. must be a pretty sweet deal. I bet that guy just dances around in the beer version of Candyland all day, rolling in hop bales and brewing up whatever he feels like.”
You may have similar thoughts about Stone’s Brewmaster and President, Steve Wagner. Perhaps something along the lines of: “When he’s not reading adoring fan letters from Stone devotees, I bet Steve swims in an IPA fountain and wanders the fermenter farm with his bottomless mug.”
You’re jealous, aren’t you?
In an effort to inject a dose of reality into that wildly unrealistic fantasy, let me tell you about the unbelievably sweet paid vacation (ed. note: this may not be how Mitch and Steve would characterize this particular trip) they’re going on together next week.
Here’s the deal: Mitch and Steve have been commissioned by the esteemed authorities at Brewers Publications to write their next book on beer styles. The subject is, what else, the beloved art of India Pale Ales. That’s right, our Brewmaster and Head Brewer are literally writing the book on IPAs.
As you’ve undoubtedly gathered from drinking Stone beers, Mitch and Steve are not the type to deliver the bare minimum. Writing a dry treatise with basic information and received wisdom is just not their style. So they are travelling to Britain to dig through archives, interview retired brewers, powwow with British beer writers, interrogate beer historians, and examine breweries…all in an effort to learn the true history of the beer style that we eventually made our own…and made San Diego famous. Oh, and they’re going to drink some beer, too.
Now you have a damn good reason to be jealous.
While the book isn’t projected to hit shelves until Fall 2011, Stone fans might get to enjoy the fruits of their labor a bit sooner. A big part of the book will consist of historical IPA recipes Mitch and Steve discover on their trip, and they plan on brewing a few when they get back. So if all goes well, you may get to take a hoppy trip back in time, care of Mitch and Steve’s Excellent IPA Adventure.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine baby turtles hatching on a beach. Squinty from their first view of the warm tropical sun, they are full of cuteness and potential, the majestic sea sheep of tomorrow.
But wait, what’s that in the distance? Oh, no! Rapacious sea gulls have spotted the hatchlings and are swooping in for the kill. Endangered and facing long odds in a world hostile to their very existence, the fate of the entire sea turtle species depends on the success of these little reptiles.
Fortunately, a member of the sea turtle’s professional association has spotted the danger and is attempting to mitigate the seagull’s hunger so that enough baby turtles can survive. Why? Not to deny the gulls their justly deserved meal, but for the mutual benefit of both species. You see, with a healthy and stable turtle population, the gulls will eat sustainably for generations to come and the world will get to delight in oceans full of handsome sea turtles.
Just what in the hell am I talking about, you ask? Obviously I am talking about H.R. 4278, the Bill the Brewers Association is championing in Congress to reduce the tax burden on the smallest craft breweries. Let me explain.
Since 1996, Stone has come a long way. What started as a two-person operation tucked into a little industrial park has become a 56,000 sq. ft. (and growing) brewery and Bistro employing nearly 300 people and brewing close to 100,000 barrels of beer a year. We’re thrilled by our success and thankful to be well established.
But along the way there were plenty of dicey moments, any one of which could have doomed this whole operation. And while the world is a friendlier place for craft beer today than it was in 1996, the path to starting a successful brewery is still rife with challenges far too numerous to name, just like baby sea turtles. Well, sort of.
So if you’d like to improve the odds for the small brewers that contribute so much to the diversity and fun of craft beer, you might want to get in touch with your Representative in Congress and encourage them to co-sponsor the bill.
Here’s how. First, go to the Brewers Association’s H.R. 4278 Resource Page and read up on the bill.
Next, find your Representatives’ contact info by entering your zip code into the search field on the upper left hand corner of the U.S. House of Representatives page.
Finally, write an upbeat, polite e-mail to your Representative supporting the bill. Something along the lines of, “As one of your constituents, I want you to know that I support America’s craft brewers, especially in these difficult economic times, which is why I’m asking you to co-sponsor H.R. 4278.”
It’s actually quite easy. Do it now. For you, for craft beer, and for the baby sea turtles!
Cheers, and support your local brewery, wherever you are!
Those of you who have visited the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens know that we put a lot of effort into our outdoor spaces. But some of you may not be aware that the Gardens started its life as a barren storm water detention basin in a vacant industrial park.
With help from Greg on the skip loader and a gaggle of volunteers, the staff and crew moved rocks, mixed mortar, and prepared the soil, transforming our backyard—with guidance from Schmidt Design Group and landscaping contractor Landscape+—into the lush, wildlife-filled park it is today.
And now we’ve received some major recognition for that hard work from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), who called it, “Our century’s version of Ghiradelli Square, with a basis in sustainability.”
As you can imagine, a professional organization for landscape architects has pretty high standards, so we’re thoroughly stoked to win the highest honor—the Presidents Award—from the San Diego chapter of the ASLA.
So the next time you’re quaffing a beer in the Gardens, perhaps your verdant surroundings will look even greener…and the flowers smell a little sweeter…knowing that they now carry the shiny stamp of professional recognition.
Greg had his vBlog cam handy at the awards ceremony:
And here’s a snazzy guided tour of the Gardens:
On Friday, we had an all-star cast of brewers in the house working on our first collaboration beer of 2010. Shaun O’Sullivan of 21st Amendment and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker joined our very own Head Brewer Mitch Steele for one of our coolest collaborations yet. Since this was an all-California brewing team, they decided to expand upon that theme by using indigenous California ingredients in the beer, including chia seeds, pink peppercorns, fennel seeds, and 35 lbs. of Mission figs Shaun brought from a friends’ farm.
The result of this momentous collaboration will be a strong black ale of distinctly Californian pedigree. Named El Camino (un)Real Black Ale in honor of the historic Spanish mission trail connecting Northern and Southern California, this beer is going to be pitch-black monster loaded with roasty, spicy flavors.
A friendly debate developed around the quantity of hops this luscious beast would require. Although all agreed on a selection of British hop varieties, Shaun lobbied for upping the quantities after sampling our previous collaborations (most of which, for the record, are not exactly restrained in the hops department.) Matt begged to differ, and jested that, “Over-hopped beers are, like, so 1990s!”
Mitch refereed as Shaun and Matt playfully negotiated the hop additions, chiming-in to explain the particulars of the brewhouse and the results of past experiences. Matt finally emerged victorious by brandishing his trusty Ti-89 scientific calculator to estimate the IBUs, cementing his reputation as an unparalleled process geek (post-production note: it looks like this one will clock-in around 80 IBUs.)
Taking the collaboration one step further, Matt brought some oak barrels down with him, which the team used to build a miniature version of Firestone Walker’s famed Union fermentation system, within which 15% of this 90-barrel batch will be fermented.
After a long day of brewing—nearly derailed by a serious bunghole issue (if you’re laughing like a 12 year old right now, it’s time to bone-up on your brewing terminology)—the unfermented wort was finally sampled by the weary brewers. Much to their delight, it exhibited an exceptionally smooth roastiness, which all agreed would meld beautifully with the oak from the wooden barrels.
The brewers ended the day by sharing beers and general merriment at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens back patio bar. Local homebrewers shared their concoctions with the brewing icons late into the night, capping another collaboration brew in appropriate fashion.
Look for this beer to hit the shelves sometime in March 2010.*
*Since there’s only 90-barrels of this sweet nectar being made, we probably won’t be able to distribute it in every single market in which Stone beers are usually found.
More photos can be found here.
This is a very exciting project for Steve and me…and all of us at Stone Brewing. We’re going to be learning quite a bit with this endeavor, first and foremost: Will we be welcome? We’re approaching this with no assumptions other than we’d like to consider any and all options (other than having our beers contract brewed by another brewery, as that’s simply not our style). Many of the countries of Europe have great brewing traditions. Some countries are also currently experiencing a bit of a resurgence of small, independent (and independent thinking) breweries. As anyone knows that has visited the Stone Brewing Co. and our attached restaurant – the Stone World Bistro & Gardens – where we have more Guest taps than we do of Stone, we enjoy sharing the camaraderie of great craft beers. We look forward to joining in the fight in Europe by doing our part to add to the growing trend towards unique, flavorful artisanal beers, as opposed to the mass-blandification efforts characterized by megabrand sameness!
Stone Brewing Co. is headed into another perfect storm! While we always like to give our brothers and sisters in craft brewing ample representation on our draft lineup at the Bistro, there are just too damn many of our own delicious brews taking up space in our cellar. That’s why, starting Sunday, February 7th, 2010, all 32+ taps at the Bistro bar will be devoted exclusively to some very special Stone beers. Digging into the cellar was never so tasty!
Now, if Sunday February 7th has a vaguely familiar ring to some of you, it’s no wonder: Stone Winter Storm kicks off the very same day as Super Bowl XLIV.
Yeah, you heard us. They’re both on the very same day. Now before you go getting your Official NFL Snuggie all in a bunch, hear us out. While Stone Winter Storm does indeed start on a blessed day, it lasts for at least a whole blessed week, and GK and Dr. Bill have picked out plenty of treasured special vintages to be poured throughout the ongoing celebration. Therefore, we’d like to remind folks that the “camping-out-the night-before” approach really isn’t necessary in order to try some spectacular Stone offerings.
So, feel like griping about an intense selection of special Stone brews? Fine. We’re happy to indulge you by receiving your complaints and/or concerns—but you’ll need to get it out of your system and get over it soon. We’ll be accepting your Game-related Gripes (below) for the next two weeks. After that, the complaint desk will close and you’ll just have to work through the cognitive dissonance on your own.
- The official two week complaint period lasts from Wednesday, December 2nd – Wednesday, December 16th in the comments section below.
- Check out the 2009 Stone Winter Storm lineup