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?
Surely by now you know the name Ken Schmidt. After all, he’s the homebrew mastermind behind not just one of our handsome collaboration beers, but two of em! You undoubtedly recall the glory that was the Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, yes? When Ken took first place at our 2009 March Madness Homebrew Competition & AHA Rally with what he’d named “Aloha Plenty,” we knew we’d made a new friend.
Fast forward to 2012, and Ken came back with yet another winning combination that he called “Pillow Mint at the Ritz.” After taking the champion title for the second time, he worked with our illustrious brewmaster Mitch Steele to select Brandon Sieminski of nearby Iron Fist Brewing as our third partner in crime to help scale this awesome recipe up for our big 120bbl system. The result? A decadently rich, decidedly bold, and oh-so-delicious libation we call Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout.