Collaboration not Competition: A Look at Craft Beer Culture

The American craft brewing industry is extremely cohesive, with businesses mirroring each other from the West Coast to the East Coast, North to South, Alaska to Hawaii. Even so, San Diego is very unique. With more than 100 brewhouses having opened throughout the county over the past 25 years, the question we hear most is about competition within the industry. It’s an understandable inquiry (imagine having 100 cheese-makers in one county…yeah, we’re looking at you, Wisconsin!), but it always makes San Diego brewers scratch their heads. For the most part, we really don’t see other breweries as competitors. To us, they are our comrades in the fight for the rise in awareness and availability of high-quality beer in a world dominated by macrobeer. That’s the great thing about artisanal industries like craft beer—just like us, our compatriots are working on bettering the craft, and each great new beer gives us, and other breweries opportunities and ideas. It’s a “collaboration not competition” mindset, a constant alliance and source of inspiration among our breweries. We’ll admit that it’s far from the norm for most industries, so one feels compelled to pose the question: How did such a unique business culture arise?

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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.

Barrel Aging Part III: What the Funk?

Let’s talk about funk. No, no…put away the slap bass, hi-hat and wah pedal. We’re talking about the tart, earthy, barnyardy, almost indescribable (unless you employ terms like “barnyardy”) and extremely wide-ranging characters brought on in the process of aging certain beers. While some may quaff a beverage and use that term “funky” to describe it in a negative way, the funk we go for here at Stone is an objective from the outset; a means by which to add character to already flavorful beer as a way for the base ale to be reborn as a new and deliciously provocative offspring of itself. Great examples of this funk come through in barrel-aged versions of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, Stone “The Tiger Cub” Saison and certain additions of Stone Vertical Epic Ale. But how do we rein in the wild yeast and other organisms that create funkiness or, worse yet, infection and the “bad funk” through the lengthy evolution of our barrel-aged brews? Stone fans hit us with questions via social media and our Research & Small Batch Manager Steve Gonzalez has provided some answers to the proverbial question: What the funk?

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Constants & Variables: The Lupulin Loop

As the Brewing Manager at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. I would like to introduce a new series of beers that will rotate through our central San Diego brewery-restaurant. We at Stone make no secret of our love for hops and are always pushing the boundaries with beer experimentations—especially when it comes to hops. For years, we’ve played with multiple hop varieties, and the impact to our IPAs has been immense. One may ask, with so many hop varieties out there, how we do we continue to develop so many new and successful IPAs? Truth is it’s never as easy as throwing a bunch of hops into our wort and crossing our fingers. Every hop is different, unique and complex with a wide range of flavors and aromas that could be compared to fruits, spices and even vegetables. We spend a lot of time getting intimately acquainted with the myriad of hops in our chilled down lockers, and now it’s time for our fans to get in on that familiarization.

Enter what I have come to refer to as, “The Lupulin Loop.” Why the Lupulin Loop? Maybe I just watched Groundhog’s Day too much as a kid. Maybe it’s because Tom Cruise just came out with that movie Edge of Tomorrow. Or maybe I’m still trying to play through Bioshock Infinite and I learned that when Elizabeth goes through the tears she goes to another dimension where everything looks the same but it’s actually different. Regardless, it’s all about constants and variables. With these beers, they’ll always have the same malts, alcohol, IBU (international bittering units), PH, color…or as close to the same as I can possibly get them. The only thing that will change in the beer is the single variety of hop being used (even for bittering). The base of the beer is the constant (the loop), while the hop (Lupulin…the compound in hops that provides that addictive bitterness we all love) is the sole variable.

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Looking Back (& Forward): Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival

We put in a full year of planning, effort and beer wrangling to make the annual Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival the best and biggest it can be. Considering it’s the largest annual beer fest on the West Coast, we’re inclined to believe we do a hell of a job. We just wish it didn’t go by so quick. In less than 24 hours, we blow through 364 days’ worth of work and just about as many (but even more) kegs! Take, for instance, this year. Over 50 breweries from around the country showed up and brought 187 beers. And that’s all in addition to the 50 Stone beers we busted out to celebrate 18 years in the craft brewing biz! It was the kind of fete we wished every fan that helped us get to this ripe (young?) age could have participated in. But alas, even with nearly 8,000 tickets sold (and more than a quarter million dollars raised for charity, thank you very much), some will only experience this special day via this blog post. So, we’re going to go as in depth as possible so those who couldn’t make it know what to expect when they hopefully come out next year, and those who did join us can have fun reliving the Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.

Hoppy Uncharted Territory: Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

We pride ourselves on being unpredictable, but we’re able to be honest with ourselves and say that, when it comes to our annual anniversary beer releases, fans know what to expect—something extremely hoppy! And most years, that means an over-the-top India pale ale. Ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs, including the past four consecutive years. So, it should come as no surprise that this year, our milestone-celebrating beer is another IPA. But, much as we’ve refused to be completely predictable with our anniversary IPAs (the past four years have featured an imperial British-style IPA, double black IPA, lemon verbena-infused imperial rye IPA, and 100% German-hopped double IPA), 2014’s commemorative hop monster is extremely original. In fact, we’re billing Stone 18th Anniversary IPA as the “hoppiest golden-brown IPA on Earth!” (Yes, that’s our subtle brand of sarcasm you’re picking up there!)

#PairedWith Wages On: Stone Coffee Milk Stout

When we debuted Stone Saison, we did more than introduce our unique spin on a Belgian-style ale. We also ushered in a new age that allows our fans to get involved with discovering the best-suited edible vehicles for maximum enjoyment of our beers, all thanks to a hashtag—#PairedWith. When Stone Saison came out, we provided a quartet of recipes constructed to pair perfectly with the beer, so fans could prepare them and experience food-and-beer symbiosis for themselves. But we also asked fans to experiment with dishes and ingredients they thought would go well with Stone Saison and share their most successful pairings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest using #PairedWith. It was fun, educational and, at times, even surprising, and lots of people from beer- and food-bloggers to everyday craft beer nuts, got involved. So, we’re moving forward with our #PairedWith initiative, this time with a beer that’s completely different but amazingly well-suited for sidling up beside a variety of dishes, both savory and sweet—our new Stone Coffee Milk Stout.

Home Run: Stone Beer at the Ballpark

The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” evoke memories of sunny days, the scent of fresh-cut grass and the sharp crack of pine making forceful contact with a small, red-stitched orb. There’s nothing quite like baseball season. America’s Pastime stirs the souls and passions of people from all walks of life—young to old, blue collar to white collar, West Coast to East Coast. It also appeals to both craft beer fans and people who don’t give a rip what they swig while they take in the boys of summer, so long as it’s ice cold, triple-hopped, cold-filtered or [insert lame, meaningless macro-beer company's Madison Avenue-developed buzz term here]. For so long, those enthusiastic about quality beer and baseball had to forgo the former when enjoying the latter, which makes us all the happier that, this year, we were able to debut a number of ballpark craft beer options for those seeking ales of substance in our hometown. This is a major accomplishment that comes after many years of hard work and negotiation to gain access to the prestigious Petco Park. Check out our new locations then visit them the next time you take in a San Diego Padres game.

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Senses Working Overtime: Beer Appreciation 101

You don’t have to be a certified beer judge or Cicerone to know when the taste of a beer strikes your fancy. But pinpointing exactly what you’re experiencing—that mysterious connection between your brain and taste buds—can be tricky. Fortunately, there is a quite enjoyable remedy for this: Taste more beer! But also smell more beer and visually examine more beer. It takes all of one’s senses to thoroughly evaluate ales and lagers. (OK, you don’t need to hear beer, but one can’t deny the anticipatory delight that stems from the sound of a bottle being opened or the sadness brought on by the last gasps of an emptied keg.) Practice makes perfect when it comes to exercising and refining your palate as well as the way you interpret beer’s appearance, scents and flavors. Many reading this have had a lot of practice drinking beer, but read on for a crash course on how to really appreciate it.

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