You might have heard we released 120 beers last year. Within that 120 were our core beers, dated editions of Stone Enjoy By IPA, collaborations, Liberty Station beers, Stochasticity Project experiments and a multitude of others. Even we had trouble keeping up with this onslaught of ales, so confusion among our fans is understandable. But there’s always a rhyme and reason to our madness. With multiple naming conventions (and design conventions failing that), our releases all have their rightful place in our family of beers. Below, we’ll break it down for you, bottle by bottle, and demystify our portfolio.
Each year, Stone and Scottish craft brewery BrewDog participate in a brewer exchange program, where one of their brewers gets to escape the cold, gloomy Scotland winter and work on his or her tan (or burn) in Southern California. Meanwhile, a member of our Brew Crew goes across the pond to trudge through the rain and discover all of the insufficiencies of the winter clothes we have stashed in the back of our closet (and maybe pull out once every other year for a trip to the mountains). I was lucky enough to get to go this past November, and I took notes (and lots of pictures)!
First, look at where BrewDog’s brewery is:
It’s obvious how excited we are for 2015, given we’ve planned out most of our events. Actually, it’s those events that have led to the lion’s share of our anticipatory spirit. Take a look at the list of happenings below and you’ll get it. We’ve breaking down those events with all of the beer, food, knowledge and amusing shenanigans we could pack into a year. Of course it’s a work in progress. After all, we live in San Diego where beer reigns supreme and events seem to pop out of the ground on an hourly basis. We’ll surely have no shortage of pleasant pop-up events, but these are some of the best that you can bank on and calendar for. Prepare yourself for a jam-packed 2015, and we’ll do the same.
Each year we up the number of beers we brew, and each year it seems like we can’t do any more than we already have. Yet, each year we prove ourselves wrong! In 2014, we shattered our previous record of 74 brews with an epic 120 beers. From the tried-and-true, to the boundary-pushing, it was a big year in our brewhouse. But it didn’t end with a jam-packed brew schedule. Between all these releases we planned five festivals and countless fundraisers to reinvest some love into to the community. So reminisce with us about a year that brought us amazing craft beer, thrilling times and monumental developments.
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?
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.
Years spent as close colleagues with a bent for the gypsy lifestyle have bred a great deal between brewers Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing Company and Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales: respect, friendship, creativity…and a wee bit of deviance. The latter remained pensively dormant for a long while until one night in Copenhagen, greased by firewater and many pints’ worth of fine craft beer, the unlawful wheels inside their heads began to turn. It was a process that could not be reversed, at least not until that overbearing beast’s appetite for havoc had been satisfied.
Editor’s Note: Here are Mitch’s tasting notes for our upcoming collaboration brew, Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. You’ll be able to judge the flavor profile for yourself when the beer starts hitting shelves (in very limited quantities!) on September 21. Until then, enjoy Mitch’s take on this delicious brew!
Deep brown, opaque with a creamy light brown head of foam.
Intense Kona Coffee combined with chocolate malts. The toasted coconut is also prominent, and when combined with the coffee and roasted malts, helps make this beer’s aroma reminiscent of a chocolate macaroon!
Coconut is more intense in the flavor with the coffee notes fading a bit to the background. Roasted chocolate malt and fruity esters make more of an impact here also, and the finish is where the macadamia nuts come in. It’s amazing how the flavor changes as this beer travels across the palate, and how all three of the special ingredients make their presence known in different stages.
Full bodied, rich and luscious. It is simply incredible how smooth and silky this beer is.
This is just an amazing beer to taste. The 3 special ingredients, Kona Coffee, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts combine wonderfully, and come across at three distinct stages of tasting this beer. Just a wonderful beer to relax with and drink slowly, especially while thinking about the islands!
Wow, just when you thought we were done with our collaboration shenanigans for a while…we bring you the first ever Synchronized Beer Tapping event (at least we think it’s the first–please don’t check that with the Guinness book or anything)! Here’s our grand plan: at precisely 4pm San Diego time and 7pm Boston time, we will be simultaneously tapping our very first kegs of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner both here at Stone and at Cambridge Brewing Co. (CBC). What’s so special about this, you ask? Several things. For one (and it’s a really big ONE), kegs of this beer are an endangered species, and you may never see it on tap again–although occasional bottle sightings continue to be reported. Reason number two: Will Meyers, head brewer at CBC, tells us they pretty much never have guest beers on tap at their brewpub, so this is quite a rare occurrence. Reason number three: it’s a damn good beer. Duh.
Joining Will at the New England portion of this historic event will be our own East Coast Regional Brewery Representative and general Cool Dude and Nice Guy, Michael Saklad. If you live in the area and haven’t had the chance to meet him, you might want to seriously consider introducing yourself. When is it NOT a good idea to make friends with someone who peddles beer for a living? And to make Saturday even more memorable, Will tells us that alongside this beautiful black collaboration brew, CBC will also be proudly serving up some really stellar beers from the other two members of this team brewing effort. Here’s what lucky Bostonians have to look forward to: 2007 Stone Imperial Russian Stout, wine barrel-aged 2008 Stone Old Guardian Barleywine, BrewDog Dogma, and whiskey cask-conditioned BrewDog Paradox. As Will says, “Obviously, we’re super excited!” So are we, Will, so are we.
And just in case you somehow have not managed to appreciate the gravity of the situation, just in case you’re thinking, “Meh, I’ll try some next time,” ponder this: only 12 kegs of this black sheep of a beer were ever produced. TWELVE. As Ben Lee, our Production Coordinator, pointed out to me, that is the smallest number of kegs we’ve made of any of our beers in the history of us making beer. So this means that after we’ve finished the two we’re tapping on Saturday, the two that will be pouring at CBC, the one we’re sending to BrewDog, and one that some lucky Bastards down in San Diego already got their hands on, there will only be six kegs left in existence. Six. And no, you can’t have them.
Graeme Wallace, Steve Wagner, Martin Dickie, Greg Koch and Mitch Steele. Just about to mash in!
Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele, all of Stone Brewing Co. from California, have spent the last couple of days at BrewDog. Stone, and in particular the approach of founders Greg and Steve, was a huge inspiration to Martin and myself when we started BrewDog. For all at BrewDog, having Greg, Steve and Mitch over and brewing with us is pretty much like a crazy music fan being able to go on stage and rock out with their favourite band.
Matteo Milan, Graeme Wallace, Stewart Bowman and Mitch Steele checking on the mash.
We brewed a special Stone-BrewDog collaborative beer, a double black Belgian IPA called bashah. We are going to release some more details about the beer itself later; there are a few pretty exciting twists to it.
Matteo Milan (our Italian Brewer) prepared a stunning BBQ at the end of the brew-day; our brewing system is quite labour intensive so everyone worked up a good appetite.
We had some amazing beers with our food including a 2003 Stone Vertical Epic and a 2003 Speedway Stout, oh and some Tokyo* (much to our amazement, drinking this beer did not lead to the downfall of Western Civilization). Narayanan gave us some excellent signing and Martin conducted a kick-ass whiskey and chocolate tasting. We also shot the first few scenes of a soon to be huge hit movie, The Bare Mitch Project, a porn-horror thriller starring Mitch Steele and Graeme Wallace shot in our very own Canteen of Death.
Stars of the new movie: Graeme Wallace and Mitch Steele.
On Friday Greg, Mitch and I went lobster fishing, caught some mackerel then sweet-talked my Grandmother into cooking the mackerel when we got safely back into port. Other highlights of the visit included a beer and food extravaganza at Musa which is our favourite restaurant in Aberdeen and a tour and whiskey tasting with the guys from Duncan Taylor.
Greg and Mitch doing some North Atlantic lobster fishing.
The label text for bashah was written by Greg and myself while driving to dinner on Friday evening, hopefully that is not going to show too much in the final copy!
We all had a blast brewing and hanging out with the Stone crew, for us their visit is the most exciting thing that has ever happened at BrewDog – it was a real privilege to be able to brew with our heroes!
The first release of the beer should be around mid September. Watch this space.
Greg Koch’s thoughts on the collaboration:
“James, Martin and the entire team at BrewDog really went to a lot of energy to show us a great time…and they sure did! We packed the two-and-a-half days (just 1 1/2 for Steve) solid. Castle visiting, distillery visiting, brewing, dining in a 150+ year old banana hanging warehouse in Aberdeen, selecting used single malt Scotch whiskey casks from a rare whiskey collector/broker (by tasting the whiskeys that used to be in them of course) for diversion of some of the bashah for aging, touring the small, lonely, windy roads of the countryside and seaside in Jame’s hold-on-for-dear-life driving style, BBQing at the brewery, lobstering and mackerel fishing w/James’ father and granddad (w/said mackerel subsequently being artfully cooked up by his epitome-of-hospitality grandmother), and finally as a testament to the sheer exhaustion at the end of the day: successfully falling asleep in the little hotel with the pub attached on Friday night at Midnight in the middle of horrid karaoke renditions of Bon Jovi songs in Scottish accents by the local, VERY inebriated town folk (We momentarily thought about checking out the pub, but then Mitch and I decided that the risk of accidentally offending the wrong soccer team — with something presumably as simple as a “sorry…what did you say?” — and thus leading to an even quicker “lights out” might not have been worth it. Sure we would have risked it for a pint of BrewDog but they didn’t have the good taste to serve their beer, and we definitely weren’t going to go in for an uninspired pint of Euro lager! It’s not like we’d had a shortage of beer after all.).
“I definitely can’t wait to taste the result of ‘bashah’– the world’s first ever (as far as we know) commercially brewed Black Belgian Double IPA!”
-GK ( @StoneGreg )