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.
We’re different in oh so many ways and we are oh so proud of it. With such marked differentiation from the norm comes the added probability of one being misunderstood. Hence, there are many commonly held but absolutely untrue myths and misconceptions floating about concerning Stone Brewing Co.; ranging from our ownership to our beers to our social media and even our logo. (For the millionth time, it’s a gargoyle, not Satan!) In an effort to add some much-needed clarity—and have some fun doing so—Stone CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch spent some time with storyteller (read: the über-talented multi-media wizard who creates all of Stone’s rad videos and stunning photographic imagery) Tyler Graham, dispelling some commonly presented myths. The following is the first of two videos filmed to set the record straight, once and for all. We welcome you to…STONELANDIA…
While we follow our own muse at Stone, we also pay attention to our fans. Believe it or not, even with more than 600,000 followers across all of our social media channels, we read each and every comment posted on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more. It’s awesome to have fans that care enough to take time out to chime in on all things Stone, and every now and then, we glean suggestions that have serious merit. For instance, when we announced that our first ever beer, Stone Pale Ale, would be departing from our portfolio, we received a number of passionate comments. We went in knowing such an announcement would evoke emotional responses, because we, too, are fans of this 19-year-old mainstay. Early on in the social conversation, one of our fans asked for us to share the recipe for Stone Pale Ale so that, even though we won’t be brewing it anymore, it can live on for those with the gumption and wherewithal to brew it at home. This suggestion was immediately run up the flagpole to Stone Co-founders Steve Wagner and Greg Koch, who applauded the idea. The end result is this blog post, which contains the recipe for the soon-to-be-decommissioned Stone Pale Ale. We’re happy that this beer has meant so much to so many—ourselves included—and will have its place among craft beer enthusiasts beyond its lifespan in our brewhouse. Enjoy!
It was born in 1996 within the humble, rented (strategically near Pizza Port) Solana Beach condo of Stone Co-founder Greg Koch; a 99%/1% collaborative effort between Koch (the one percent in that equation) and fellow Co-founder/original Brewmaster Steve Wagner. Before Stone sold a single beer, the duo spent countless hours experimenting with a wide array of recipes in search of a brew worthy of becoming the world’s first taste of Stone Brewing Co. Such status was tough to live up to, and plenty of trial beers fell short, but when Koch and Wagner first tasted Stone Pale Ale, there was no question in their mind that it was the one!
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.
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.
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:
We’ve been at this whole brewing thing since 1996 and can proudly point to many, many friends who’ve been with us from the very beginning. They’ve been there for the conceptions of beers both successful (Stone IPA, Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Enjoy By IPA and Stone Go To IPA) and, well, not-quite-as-successful (Anybody remember 1997′s Stone Session Ale or Stone Heat Seeking Wheat?). We’ve had (mostly) hits and a few misses (we wouldn’t be trying if we hadn’t!), and through it all, our fans have stuck by us. A lot of that has to do with our mutual desire to see what’s around the next corner. We share that thirst for the unknown. It’d be easy to just keep making the same beers over and over again and release a “seasonal” or “specialty” beer once a year or every few years, but that’s just not who we are. I mean, c’mon, you wouldn’t want or expect Stone to become stagnant or stale, would you? Yeah, neither would we.
From the beginning, we’ve let our creative style and the forward push of the craft beer movement enthuse and drive us. So, it’s only natural that this interest to stay creative births new beers that, over recent years, have come along at the pace of offspring at a bunny farm. And it’s only natural that new beers best received by our fans be the ones we put our focus on.
After all, while we know what we like, your actions (AKA buying patterns) tell us very clearly what you like.
This means that the beers our fans show the most interest in must sometimes supplant others…even those in our portfolio with longer tenures. Though it’s hard to let go of beers we truly love and have put so much of our brewing heart and soul into, soon we will be bidding a fair adieu to two old friends: Stone Levitation Amber Ale and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA.
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.