EuroStone: Your Questions Answered

Jacob McKean

A little while back we asked you via Facebook if you had any questions for us about our European brewery project. From the fusillade of responses, we have deemed the following to be worthy of answers. If you’ve got a burning query we didn’t cover here, feel free to ask in the comments.

Q: Are you going to use European ingredients?

A: Yes, undoubtedly, although we’ll probably import some American hops. Fortunately, you get a lot of bang for your buck with hops; they’re compact, lightweight, and pungent. So it shouldn’t add up to much in the grand scheme of things…even with the copious amounts we love to use.

Q: Are you going to explore new styles of beer or keep the same style that Stone is known for?

A: We will continue making Stone-style Stone beers. As in, we will certainly make new beers, but they will always keep with our approach to brewing. We will look for inventive ways to incorporate local ingredients, riff on regional styles, and generally exercise our creativity in the brewing process, but our beer will still be recognizably Stone.

We're going to build a brewery somewhere on here

Q: Why Europe and not [my hometown]? We’d love a brewery/your beer here!

A: Undoubtedly you would, and we are in fact rolling out distribution in new areas at a rate of approximately 2 states per year. That’s the fastest we can sustainably enter new markets. So if you can’t get Stone right now, hang tight, we’re on our way.

As for building a brewery in Europe rather than somewhere else in the U.S., keep in mind that the primary goal of this project is to build a production brewery. No amount of capacity will make it any cheaper, more environmentally sustainable, or freshness-preserving to ship beer across an ocean. So there’s a basic logistical reason for the choice.

More abstractly, we believe Europe is in the early stages of a brewing revolution. The forces of consolidation and homogenization have wrecked havoc on the noble European brewing tradition in much the same way things got so desperate in the U.S. prior to the craft beer revolution (admittedly, things aren’t as bad as the low point of 45 or so breweries in all of the US that we had in the late 1970’s). A smattering of small, highly creative European breweries are challenging the dominance of fizzy yellow beer, and we want to be a part of their movement.

Q: Can I get a job at your European brouwerij?

A: Maybe, if you’re amazing at what you do (and speak several European languages.)

Q: Will you make brews available only in Europe?

A: Pretty much. We believe it’s important to support the struggling postal system by forcing American beer geeks to trade European beer geeks for our Euro-only beers.

In all seriousness, yes of course there will be Europe-only beers. The whole point is to avoid shipping all that glass and liquid across the world. Consider it an excuse to engage in beer tourism. That being said, we’ll probably ship the odd keg or case back and forth a little for special occasions, but it’ll likely be a rather insignificant percentage of our total production.

Sir Greg being knighted by the Belgian Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff. We're legit in Europe, yo

Q: Will your beers abide by the Reinheitsgebot?

A: First, some clarification. The Reinheitsgebot stopped being part of German law in 1988, so we’re certainly under no obligation to comply with it in the event we build our brewery or sell our beer in Germany. But backing up even farther, the Reinheitsgebot was essentially a labeling law; you could still make beer with just about anything you wanted, you just couldn’t label it “beer.”

That said, most of our year-round beers are Reinheitsgebot “compliant,” while many of our special releases are not.

Q: Do you think Europe is really ready?

A: “Europe” as a whole is not ready, and neither was the U.S. in 1996 when Stone was founded. But our goal isn’t to make beer for everyone; it’s to make beer for the people who share our incredibly good taste in beer. So we’re neither concerned nor interested in whether an entire continent’s worth of people are ready for our beer. But we do know that there are Europeans who are excited about breaking the hegemony of fizzy yellow beer by supporting innovative brewers. And that’s enough for us.

Behold! Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

Jacob McKean

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:

2010 March Madness AHA Rally & Homebrew Competition Crowns a Champion

Jacob McKean

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.

The homebrews readying themselves for competition

The homebrews readying themselves for competition

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.

Kelsey McNair is joined in celebration by Chris, Greg, Dr. Bill, Mitch, and Gary Glass, AHA Director

Kelsey McNair is joined in celebration by Chris, Greg, Dr. Bill, Mitch, and Gary Glass, AHA Director

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:

2010 March Madness AHA Rally & Homebrew Competition Crowns a Champion

Jacob McKean

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.

The homebrews readying themselves for competition

The homebrews readying themselves for competition

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.

Kelsey McNair is joined in celebration by Chris, Greg, Dr. Bill, Mitch, and Gary Glass, AHA Director

Kelsey McNair is joined in celebration by Chris, Greg, Dr. Bill, Mitch, and Gary Glass, AHA Director

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:

Mitch & Steve's Magical IPA Mystery Tour

Jacob McKean

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.”

Mitch & Steve, Brewing Buccaneers

Mitch & Steve, Brewing Buccaneers

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.

hops

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.

Mitch & Steve’s Magical IPA Mystery Tour

Jacob McKean

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.”

Mitch & Steve, Brewing Buccaneers

Mitch & Steve, Brewing Buccaneers

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.

hops

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.

Saving Small Breweries…One Turtle at a Time

Jacob McKean

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.

gull

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.

hsbc_logo

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!

Our Gardens Receive Shiny Stamp of Professional Approval

Jacob McKean

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.

before-after

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:

Our First Collaboration Brew of 2010

Jacob McKean

IMG_6741

Shaun, Mitch, and Matt do "the Greg"

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.

The wort was completely opaque

The wort was completely opaque

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.)

IMG_0808

Matt busting out his trusty Ti-89

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.

The miniature Firestone Walker Union in action

The miniature Firestone Walker Union in action

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 tasting the wort

The brewers tasting the wort

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.

Stone to open a Brewery in Europe?

Greg Koch

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!

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