Stone is known for its beer and, thanks to the hard work of our staff, some well-stocked craft beer festivals. Names like Oakquinox, Sour Fest, and Pour It Black have become fixtures in the Stone fan lexicon. Each features a triple-digit list of fantastic draft and bottled beers, including rarities only the likes of our Craft Beer Ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak has the long-tended industry relationships to procure for festival attendees. From the outside looking in, populating such a list seems easy, but there’s a lot of science and elbow grease to it. We used our newest beer festival, Stone Belgian Fest (the first full-scale annual festival at our sprawling Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station brewery-restaurant), to follow “Dr.” Bill and see how and why he does what he does to make sure fans get the full Stone festival experience every time out. Check out his answers, then make plans to join us for Stone Belgian Fest, 11 a.m. on Sunday, February 22.
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.
By now, many are familiar with our newest brewing foray, the Stone Stochasticity Project. But even two brews in, you may not be familiar with the term “stochastic,” especially in the context of brewing. The definition of stochasticity is wordy and probably only truly makes sense if you’ve studied Probability Theory in depth (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy doesn’t count—that’s Improbability Theory), but even our one-track minds picked up on the potential and complexity of this idea. In layman’s terms, stochastic is a non-deterministic, or random, state. So, why not just say that? For one, the scientific background would be lost, and random just doesn’t have the same ring as Stochasticity, nor all the connotation. Two, the Stone Stochasticity Project is much more than just brewing beer. It involves delving beyond what most people think about beyond beer’s four main ingredients. So where does that leave us in our ever-evolving quest for good craft beer? Right at the newest member of this series, Stone Stochasticity Project Quadrotriticale, a beer that holds up to the stochastic and technical nature of this venture.
While we hold true to time-honored traditional brewing processes, we’re anything but conformists. Ours is a brewery where, rather than blindly adhering to methods and styles simply because “that’s the way it’s been done for hundreds of years,” we make a practice of regularly taking a step back, clearing our minds of all we know and contemplating simple but essential queries like “why not?” and “what if?” Our beers are founded on the logic gained from centuries’ worth of brewmasters who mashed in ahead of us, but their true flavor and character is a result of our inquisitive, experimental nature. A poignant example of this is presented in our Belgian-style India pale ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA.
We took a different approach to formulating this year’s Stone Vertical Epic Ale – the last in the series. Co-founder and original Stone Brewmaster Steve Wagner and I had agreed that we wanted to brew a Belgian-style holiday ale, given the release date of 12.12.12 and the celebratory nature of this beer. Armed with that baseline, I decided to open up the formulation to our team of brewers, who are a talented and creative bunch, to say the least.
So in early summer, we told our team the goal for the Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale and allowed anyone who wanted to brew a pilot batch to take a turn on our More Beer 20-gallon brew sculpture. A total of eight recipes were brewed and they were all fantastic. Ultimately, we chose this one from brewer Josh Jordan because it was so smooth, dark and luscious, and the spice combinations were amazing.
He shared that recipe with us and, in the spirit of the rapidly fleeting holiday season, now we want to share it with you. So here is the recipe we went with and, per long-standing tradition, I’ve suggested some musical selections that I think will pair well with each step of the brewing process. Have fun!
The Vertical Epic Ale series started simply enough in 2001, with Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch suggesting we release a different Belgian-inspired beer suitable for aging each year on the date when the day, month and year registered by the same digit. The brewhouse forged forward with this initiative, producing 11 beers that, unlike many on the market at the time, were intended to be laid down so they could be opened when the last of those dates came to pass on December 12, 2012.
Eleven years later, we’re excited to announce today’s arrival of Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale. Soon, it will be time to uncap all 11 of the Vertical Epic Ale vintages and enjoy them together. Certainly, it will be a glorious capping to one of the most ambitious brewing projects ever undertaken, even for those with a few or maybe even one or two of these widely varied brews. We’re pleased with how each of them turned out and what we’ve accomplished, but at the same time, we admit to being a bit sad. This was an incredible series that we’re bummed to see come to an end, but, we’re going out in a blaze of beery glory. Enter Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale!
The idea of brewing a Belgian Imperial Porter was something that we had discussed a few times in the past few years, especially after taste panel sessions that had included Belgian Imperial Stouts and Belgian Black beers. Roasted malts and the spicy, fruity flavors from Belgian yeast strains combine surprisingly well, provided proper balance is maintained in the recipe. And we thought an Imperial Porter, with an intense chocolate malt character, might be a fun, and a bit different, version of a Belgian dark ale to try.
Our seventh version of the Vertical Epic series was inspired by some of the wonderful Belgian beers that Steve and I tasted during our trips to Europe to brew “Stone California Double IPA” at the Shepherd-Neame brewery in Kent, England. This ale was served at the J.D. Wetherspoons pub chain during their International Real Ale Fest in March of 2008, and was great to brew and a very fun project, but that’s another story.
Brussels is about a 2 hour train ride from London (going through the “Chunnel”) so one weekend while we were in England, we decided to shift gears from our steady diet of cask-conditioned English Ales and make the quick trip to Belgium. We had many great beers during the 2 day visit, as well as nice tours of Palm Brewery and Cantillon. And don’t ever miss the Belga Café in Brussels-the hand pumped Boon Gueuze was unbelievable! One of the best beers we had was a rare bottle given to us by Glenn Payne, one of our companions for the trip. We brought this bottle of Duvel Triple Hop back to Escondido with us and Steve and I tasted it with Greg and John Egan, and pretty much decided right then and there to brew a hoppy Belgian Golden for our 2008 Epic.
We decided to brew this beer with a hint of ginger, a traditional Saison brewing spice, and also with some cardamom, which comes through as an exotic spiciness in the finish. Additional complexity comes from the blend of grapefruit, lemon and orange peel which combine nicely with the tropical fruit esters provided by the Belgian yeast. It’s going to interesting to see how this beer ages over time. At 8.4% ABV, it’s built for aging.
So it is with pleasure that we present you with the homebrew recipe for the Stone Vertical Epic 07.07.07. As always, the instructions below are designed for an all malt beer. If you are an extract brewer and are uncomfortable with converting this recipe to an extract version, we suggest you contact a local homebrew store or local homebrew club for help.
Big changes afoot this year for the aptly named 5th version of our Stone Vertical Epic Ale series. First, as you may have noticed, this is being written not by Lee Chase, but by Mitch Steele and John Egan. Lee has moved on to other things, but since this was his last recipe formulation for Stone Brewing Co., we will try and carry on his tradition of providing all the information you need to brew this tasty beer at home.
We’re really happy with this year’s Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale. This is a very dark ale fermented with Belgian Trappist yeast, so the flavors in it are really deep and complex. The Belgian yeast clove notes combine nicely with the roast malt flavors, with dried cherry and anise undertones. The flavors imparted by the special roasted malt are very rich, smooth, and silky. It will be interesting to see how this beer ages, and how the smooth roasted malt characters evolve with the spicy Belgian yeast character over time.