Imagine an entire month devoted to hoppy beer. Hop cones, humulus lupulus, acids both alpha and beta celebrated with great fervor and the hoisting of many pints of double and triple India pale ales. It’s a most glorious scene for the mind’s eye to survey. Now open your eyes and ready your palate, because things are about to get really real courtesy of Stone Ruination Nation. This month-long, multi-faceted homage to the glory of hops kicked off on July 1 and will carry through the entire month! That’s right, we didn’t go with some lame, 28-day month. We specifically aimed for the first month offering 31 summery days so we could push things to the max under optimal IPA enjoyment conditions. Now all we need is for you to help make Stone Ruination Nation all it can be…and we promise to make it worth your while!
For many, the term “triple IPA” hails from a foreign vernacular—that makes sense, considering IPA stands for India pale ale, a British beer style brewed with enough hops to preserve the quaff during long nautical voyages from England to the Far East. It doesn’t get much more foreign than two distantly situated countries and the traversing of two major oceanic bodies. Since latching on to this historic style, American craft brewers have taken the IPA to new heights. No longer are hops coveted for their preservative powers—now it’s all about those botanicals’ piney, fruity, tropical, spicy flavors and aromas, and raising those sensations to bombastic levels. But what takes an India pale ale to “triple IPA” territory? The answer comes in the form of Stone RuinTen Triple IPA.
You try your best to have a civilized conversation; a cordial back-and-forth where two individuals tactfully and respectfully get down to brass tacks and get real with one another. You rehearse what you have to say in the mirror over and over, searching for just the right words to be sensitive yet firm, considerate yet straightforward. You do this, because you care deeply for the individual who will later replace that mirror. After all, much like that person staring back at you from that pane of reflective glass, the guy you have to have this sit-down with reminds you a lot of you. He is family, after all, and though you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, there are undeniable bonds. You’ve been through everything together over the past 17 years and, though it sometimes felt like the distance between you was immeasurable, he was always there, the weight of his presence and that insatiable ego of his casting an ever-present shadow over every significant moment in a history that is storied in great part thanks to him. Still, you can’t let that sway you from this inevitable come-to-Jesus moment, so you sit him down and tell him that he’s gotten too big for his britches; enough that he’s soiling yours to a degree. You deliver what you hope is a masterfully convincing dissertation, ending it with an open invitation for your conversational partner to say something for themselves…perhaps even offer an iota of understanding. Heck, with any luck you might even get out of this one with a hug and some shared mistiness. But, no. Not with this Arrogant Bastard…
What does this mean for our sudden anti-hero? He’s hitting the road, but what does that mean? Your guess is as good as ours. We’ve housed this haughty rabble-rouser for the past 17 years and, though he’s always kept his distance, his omnipotence has been undeniable. Given that, one has to ask: What does this mean for us? For the Stone Brewing Co.? We’ll surely get along just fine, but things will certainly be different around here. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s a really bad thing. Again, your guess is as good as ours. We’ll all have to wait and see how it plays out, how this Bastard’s story plays out. It may be a tale marked by victory of the highest order, or it may be a long, winding road ending at a tragic dead-end—or off a cliff. But one thing’s for certain. It won’t be dull. And nothing will ever be the same again…
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.
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.
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.
We hold many things dear at Stone Brewing Co. High on that list of items held on-high are hops. They are the lush foundation on which some of our greatest successes have been forged. They rest ever-presently at the core of what we do and are largely what have helped us to stand out over the past 18-plus years. We love them every bit as much as you lupulin-craving nuts. So, when we were afforded the opportunity to construct a beer to honor this country’s hop growers, you best believe we took it very seriously!
Last week, we took to social media, asking Stone fans to tell us what time-honored holiday treats they’d like to see our test kitchen tackle in an attempt to make them better using craft beer. A wide variety of suggestions came back, some in the form of pleas. We took some of the most popular and got to work simmering, whisking and brushing a variety of brews into a pair of desserts that, when the dust of the confectioner sugar cleared, were all the better for it. Accept the recipes for both of them as our holiday gift to all of you. Cheers to craft beer, and more craft beer in the kitchen!
We’re obsessed with hops and all the bitter, fruity, resinous, tropical flavors they can bring to beer. These little buds are amazing in and of themselves, but the work that goes into making those characteristics shine is just as impressive. From the kettle and far beyond, we’re breaking down the magic of getting the most out of our hops and pushing those IBUs ever higher.
There are watershed moments in everyone’s existences where they look back and see that an event, perhaps comprised of little more than a few seconds and seemingly meaningless at the time, changes the trajectory of one’s life forever. For some, it can be sage words from a wise individual or exorcising themselves from the grip of a premature demise. For others, a chance encounter with the love of their lives or a moment of introspection so deep it inspires sea change, the pursuit of lifelong dreams or the abandonment of ill-conceived ventures in favor of aspiring to something better. And then, for some, there’s the discovery of something life-changing—an artifact, an heirloom, a new technology, a book, a religion, a field of study…or a beer. At first blush, that last one seems like an exaggeration; something you’d expect from a macrobeer commercial wherein some heretofore severely lame, nerdy member of society cracks open a cold-as-the-Rockies can of lo-cal, lo-flavor adjunct pilsner, then suddenly finds himself surrounded by a harem of supermodels on the deck of his new yacht as it pulls into the personal dock at his annexed island mansion in the Bahamas. My story does not end like this, but the tale of my first encounter with Arrogant Bastard Ale does lead to a very happy ending.
Picture it, a Friday night in San Diego during the fall of 1998—a young man yet to quaff his first beer saunters into a low-frills, seemingly Irish-themed bar on the edge of a strip mall that, otherwise, is completely occupied by Asian restaurants. The name of that establishment—O’Brien’s Pub. The mission of the group—beers to kick-start the weekend. Did anybody in the quintet know this was an early Mecca for craft beer in a city that would evolve to become, arguably, the epicenter for craft beer in the United States? Nope. They all just happened to work a half-mile away at a microelectronics manufacturer that often inspired them to seek out adult beverages to help erode the stress of the nine-to-five. The other four laborers in my group hit up O’Brien’s pretty regularly and, thinking I’d make a decent addition to their social circle, had asked me to come along. A fan of friends and adult beverages, I took them up on their invite.
Upon entering the pub, as if by fate, a group of five cleared out from a table in the otherwise packed-to-capacity bar. We scurried over to claim their vacated territory as our own and, as my friends perused a whiteboard with a bunch of foreign-sounding names messily scrawled upon it—Bear Republic Racer 5, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot—I thought to myself: Crap, I’ve never had a beer before and I don’t want to sound like a loser. What am I going to order? I started combing over my severely limited vernacular where beer brands were concerned, weighing each against the criteria that television ads and billboards had provided to tell me which was the fanciest, top tier choice. A waitress came to the table and, as if sensing the opportunity to completely humiliate a beer rookie, asked me what I’d like to drink. I cleared my throat and, in my deepest, manliest voice, replied: “Um, a Heineken?”
I’d hoped for the others to not even hear me or, if they did, only passively acknowledge the selection as they proceeded to issue their orders…but that didn’t happen. Instead, each of their faces elongated to gaping caricatures akin to Edvard Munch’s famed masterpiece, The Scream. It was as if their jaw muscles had gelatinized at the mere utterance of the Dutch macrobrew. I thought for sure at that moment that my drinking buddies had gone from to-be to would-be status, but then they exhibited the positive behavior that I would later learn is the hallmark of any good craft beer fan. Rather than shame me for being so ignorant to the craft culture, they had the waitress cancel my order and told her, “He’ll have an Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Rather than feel belittled or inferior, I felt gratitude that they’d taken me under their wing and helped me out. And, though I had no idea what Arrogant Bastard Ale was, I had to admit, it sounded a heck of a lot more interesting than any beer I’d heard of up to that point.
When I asked the rest of my party about the beer, they explained it was a new brew from Stone Brewing Co. up in Escondido. At the time, I didn’t know San Diego County was home to any local breweries (to be fair, there were only a handful at the time), so that was another cool factoid I could get behind. Other than that, they really didn’t have any words to describe the beer. They just said I’d like it. They seemed trustworthy, so when the waitress returned with our pints, I found myself rather eager to try it. But first I had to get over something rather surprising. The beer wasn’t yellow, golden, straw-hued, pale or anything like any beer I’d ever seen. After years of watching many a sporting event on television, there was one thing I knew for sure about beer—it was yellow with a white fluffy head. But the beer staring back at me from my glass was reddish-amber in color and covered with a thin veil of tightly packed bubbles. Was this a good sign or some sort of defect? There was no way for me to know, so after a quick cheers to the end of the workweek, I took my first sip. This was my watershed moment.
Having never had any form of beer before, I came to O’Brien’s, and this beer, with zero expectations. From all I had been taught about beer, it was a light-bodied, effervescent beverage built to be moderate in flavor and high on the refreshment scale. This beer was thirst-quenching, but it was anything but low on taste. To the contrary, it was an assault on my taste buds that forced me to take notice in a way that, prior to that, I never had. A big burst of bitterness was what I noticed first, but as I went back for more and the beer got closer to room temperature, I could pick out (but not yet identify…this was my first beer after all) lots of other things that were going on, flavor-wise. It was a rush and, before I knew it, I was examining the beer, contemplating it in between jokes with my friends and stories about our shared workplace.
Fast forward 16 years, and I have come a long way from the craft beer virgin I was on that fateful day. That initial sip of Arrogant Bastard Ale set me off on a lengthy voyage to learn everything I could about craft beer, starting with the varieties produced in my hometown. It’s a journey I’m still on and, frankly, I have a long way to go. The craft beer medium is one of deep, intriguing, amazing history and, thanks to today’s innovators, that history gets richer by the day. I fell hard for craft beer that night, so much that it became a part of my everyday life and colored many aspects of it, from my personal time to my professional pursuits. Upon discovering the vibrant brewing culture that existed in my own backyard, I went on to become one of the first local journalists to write about the San Diego suds scene, first via feature articles in the county’s newspapers and magazines, and later as a regular and guest contributor for beer-related publications including Celebrator Beer News, The Beer Connoisseur, Imbibe Magazine and other high-profile national publications. Today, I am San Diego’s most prolific beer writer and the foremost authority on the local brewing industry. I have served as an expert on the region for TV and radio programs, and now put together an annual critical reference for the county, the Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries. But wait…there’s more.
In 2012, after years of journalistic interactions with Stone Brewing Co., I was welcomed aboard as the company’s Communications Specialist, where I devote my love of craft beer and writing to such projects as the Stone Blog, social media and the back labels that grace bottles of our beer. In this role, everything that I am passionate about intermixes to create a symbiotic situation where both myself and the brewing company that first opened my eyes to the world of craft beer, benefit greatly. Would that have happened if I’d ordered a Heineken that night? Absolutely not, and that’s why Arrogant Bastard Ale holds a very special place in my heart and is responsible for altering the course of a life that, thanks to that well-timed sip of American strong ale, is better than it ever could have been without it. Because of its longevity and prominence in the pantheon of great, noteworthy craft beers, there are many people out there with stories of how Arrogant Bastard Ale changed their perceptions of beer and played an integral role in their development as a fan of high quality, artisanal ales and lagers. We encourage you to share them with us on social media using #BastardDay and, when applicable, tagging the awesome people who introduced you to this bold, bawdy, badass American classic—credit where credit is due for a truly quintessential and very special brew.