Were this blog post dated April 1, it’s doubtful anyone would take it seriously, for the subject of our latest communique is a most unusual beer that merits attention not only for its uniqueness, but for the art behind its crafting and its overall deliciousness. It’s these qualities that led to it winning our 2015 American Homebrewers Association-sanctioned homebrewing competition. For the first time ever, that annual event was held at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, providing plenty of room for attendees (the majority of which were recreational fermentationists) to roam about, tasting their way through the 27 homespun beers vying for bragging rights and the chance to be brewed at Stone and distributed across the country. That’s a heck of a grand prize. As such, our judges—Stone Co-founders Steve Wagner and Greg Koch, Craft Beer Ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak, and numerous members of our Brew Crew, Small Batch Team and Quality Assurance Department—spent a great deal of time and deliberation making sure the blue ribbon went to the most deserving and delectable of the bunch.
Long ago, before bottled beer could be purchased at a supermarket–heck, before supermarkets–some clever folks decided they didn’t want to be limited to drinking beer in pubs. After all, enjoying a pint at the bar is fine, but getting home to your family and enjoying a beer with your home-cooked meal is pretty epic, too. So they decided to have additional pints poured into a container (usually a metal pail back then) they could then take home and enjoy. My own grandfather told me his father used to send him to the local pub with a coffee can and the instructions: “Not too much foam.” (Dad must have had a pretty good fake ID.) It’s been a while since the days of filling any old container with draft beer. Somewhere along the way, the word “growler” became common terminology for a glass jug in which to carry home draft beer from a local brewery.
Are we hopelessly nostalgic? Dub all stars? Aurally obsessed? (Hey, we said “aural”…heed the spelling!) The answer to all of these is yes, however, the decision to name the latest experiment from our more out-there, experimental line of whimsy driven brews Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape actually takes more of a page from our history than our love of boom boxes and customized cassettes. Fans of Stone (and the Stone Blog) have heard of our Stone Mixtape Ale series of blended beers. These rarities are custom mixes of barrel-aged Stone beers and archived rarities, the likes of which many people have never tasted (e.g., Stone LeVariation Ale, Stone Belgian Brown Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels, Stone Belgian Pale Ale aged in White Wine Barrels). To date, 11 Stone Mixtape Ales have been crafted, but none of them have been bottled. They’re super small-batch, so that’s just the nature of these interesting and often exquisite beasts. To give fans nationwide a taste of our blends, we decided to add a large-scale Mixtape to the Stochasticity Project docket, the result of which comes in the form of Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape.
There was a time not so long ago when barrel-aged beers were just starting to trickle out of American craft breweries. At the time, some speculated they might just be a passing fancy. Those naysayers are probably still waiting out similar fads like television and the internet, but we, like many beer enthusiasts, have embraced oak-matured ale as something that is here to stay (thank goodness). For most breweries, barrel-aging involves siphoning an imperial stout or barley wine into a barrel. This is a straightforward method that yields fantastic results (as evidenced by our own barrel-aged creations, such as Fyodor’s Classic, Mikhael’s Odd and Guardian’s Slumber), but when contemplating our latest oak-kissed brew, we wanted to take things a step further to create something truly unique. No, not “unique” in the over-used sense of the word that generifies this definitive term. This beer—a hoppy, decidedly West Coast double IPA blended with a barrel-aged Belgian-style tripel—is truly and literally unique. Allow us to explain as we take you through the intriguing make-up of Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA.
Before setting forth on my most monumental dissertation, let me first address the members of the virtual peanut gallery who read the title of this post, snicker and instinctively feel the need to scroll down to the comments section to point out that the subject of this communique is not five words, but in fact four words. The laws of hyphenates are iffy, but one thing is for certain—those words are powerful. They’re what brought you here in the first place…Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard.
Another week, another revamped Stone classic. Seven short days after debuting Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 to hop heads across the country, we’re ready to introduce a second second-take built to up hop potency and appeal: Stone Pale Ale 2.0. Whereas the former bears a great deal of sensual resemblance to its predecessor, Stone fans will find the latter to be completely reimagined. While hoppier than most beers of its kind, the original Stone Pale Ale possessed the type of copper-toned, caramely malt body associated with traditional British pale ales. In Stone Pale Ale 2.0, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his crew have peeled back the malt curtain to reveal a golden-hued pale ale that falls in line with current craft beer enthusiasts’ tastes…including our own.
We’ve been (mis-)labeled “arrogant.” We get it. You brew up a beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale and have the audacity to demand that everybody be entitled to the finest beer today’s craftsmen and women can brew, and people form certain opinions. But in reality, we’re not arrogant. What we are is extremely passionate and confident in craft beer and our abilities in that arena. To a person, our Brew Crew works tirelessly to up their technical knowledge and abilities. From keeping up on best practices and emerging techniques for upping beer’s flavor, increasing the efficiency of our brewhouse, stimulating our yeast so they perform as optimally as possible or staying on top of the ever-changing hop crops and the immense influx of new botanical varietals being produced from the Pacific Northwest to Australia and New Zealand, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his team have their hands (and heads) full. Each day offers a new opportunity to learn and grow, and our beers reflect that—perhaps more now than ever before.
When it comes to brewing competitions, one can’t help but survey the field of entrants beforehand and speculate on what greatness may emerge from those crafty competitors. We like to think we know the members of the Stone Brew Crew pretty well—the IPA experts, the Belgophiles, the dark beer enthusiasts, the strong ale hoisters. Everybody gravitates towards certain styles and excels at crafting recipes for them. Just when we thought we had everyone pegged, along came our annual in-house brewing competition, the Stone Spotlight Series. This year’s winner, frankly, blew us out of the water. There’s no way we could have seen the blue-ribbon beer coming, especially from the duo that brought it to life, Brewing Supervisor Drew Neldon and Brewer Steve Via. Sit, stay and enjoy the story of Stone Spotlight: Imperial Mutt Brown Ale.
Talk about mixed emotions. December 12, 2012 rolled around and, come 12:12 p.m., we were elated to finally be able to crack open a vertical tasting like no other. A few hours later, we felt a haze of gloom descend over us as we realized that experience we’d spent nearly 11 years preparing for was over, never to return. It was right there at our Stone Epic Festival, with 11 bottles representing every vintage of Stone Vertical Epic Ale gaping back at us with their empty, open maws, that it all sunk in. This chapter in the history of Stone Brewing Co. was done; eclipsed by the passage of time and a finite supply of triplicate day/month/year dates.
So far, 2015 has seen a flurry of activity here at Stone. This is nothing new. For several years, we’ve been hard at work debuting beers at a rapid and voluminous clip. But this year’s been different. In addition to introducing new brews like Stone Delicious IPA, 2015 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine – Extra Hoppy and 2015 Stone CHAI-SPICED Imperial Russian Stout, we’ve also broke the sad news that some of our beers are being retired, never to return to production again. First, it was Stone Levitation Amber Ale, followed almost immediately by Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA. Both were met with much lamenting, but none so much as the next beer to wave bye-bye. It’s no wonder, it’s only the first beer we ever produced beginning 19 years ago: Stone Pale Ale (which will make its valiant return to the suds scene as Stone Pale Ale 2.0 starting in April). Well, the shake-up isn’t over. There’s still one more beer that will be exiting production for eternity and, as hard as it is to say good-bye, the time has come. Spring 2015 will see the last-ever brew session for Stone Ruination IPA.