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.
Another week, another revamped Stone classic. Seven short days after debuting Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 to hop heads across the country, we’re ready to introduce a second second-take built to up hop potency and appeal: Stone Pale Ale 2.0. Whereas the former bears a great deal of sensual resemblance to its predecessor, Stone fans will find the latter to be completely reimagined. While hoppier than most beers of its kind, the original Stone Pale Ale possessed the type of copper-toned, caramely malt body associated with traditional British pale ales. In Stone Pale Ale 2.0, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his crew have peeled back the malt curtain to reveal a golden-hued pale ale that falls in line with current craft beer enthusiasts’ tastes…including our own.
We’ve been (mis-)labeled “arrogant.” We get it. You brew up a beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale and have the audacity to demand that everybody be entitled to the finest beer today’s craftsmen and women can brew, and people form certain opinions. But in reality, we’re not arrogant. What we are is extremely passionate and confident in craft beer and our abilities in that arena. To a person, our Brew Crew works tirelessly to up their technical knowledge and abilities. From keeping up on best practices and emerging techniques for upping beer’s flavor, increasing the efficiency of our brewhouse, stimulating our yeast so they perform as optimally as possible or staying on top of the ever-changing hop crops and the immense influx of new botanical varietals being produced from the Pacific Northwest to Australia and New Zealand, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his team have their hands (and heads) full. Each day offers a new opportunity to learn and grow, and our beers reflect that—perhaps more now than ever before.
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.
A Mandarin orange wedge dipped in molten ganache, a Grand Marnier-infused 70% cacao truffle, a velvety sweet craft cocktail combining Cointreau and chocolate liqueur, one of those holiday specialty confections that looks like a milk chocolate orange and breaks apart into delicious citrusy-sweet segments…heck, even something as simple as a piece of chocolate and a slice of orange. Regardless of the edible example one references, the symbiotic flavors of chocolate and orange are as plentiful as they are scrumptious. So, when looking for yet another way to use complimentary ingredients to augment our time-honored recipe for Stone Smoked Porter, we decided to lean on this long-time favorite and add our own incredible iteration of cocoa-citrus pairability to the world. Enter Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel, the third transformatively enchanting version of this peat-smoked stalwart to be bottled and distributed to Stone fans.
We don’t have a crystal ball, but no bogus future-telling devices are necessary to assure our fans that the New Year holds much promise and a full slate of fun-filled beer-centric events here at Stone. From some of the country’s most highly anticipated beer festivals to educational session and outright gorge-fests, there’s something for every kind of beer lover, and we’re proud to bring as much variety as we will delicious craft ales and lagers. The following is a breakdown of what we have in store for you in 2014!
You’ve heard the legend of a cavernous hall filled to the brim with beer from around the country. Maybe you’ve even experienced for yourself the glories of unlimited pours of more than 3,100 brews. But you haven’t seen the Great American Beer Festival—the country’s largest annual suds celebration—from the perspective of Team Stone before…until now. We just got back from this massive and spectacular event, and are ready to give you a behind-the-scenes view of our GABF experience
Let me tell you about this amazing, invigorating health drink known as craft beer. For decades, red wine has received nearly all the publicity when it comes to the health benefits of alcoholic beverages, but I’m here to tell you that craft beer has just as many, if not more, health benefits than vino rosso. Please follow along as I explain.
As you may recall, we celebrated our true 16th anniversary just a few weeks ago. (On July 26th, to be exact.) And of course we’ve been kind enough to politely remind you about the upcoming Stone 16th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival. (On August 17-18, to be exact.) But what kind of anniversary celebration would it be without a new libation, amirite?
In keeping with our yearly tradition of making an excellent beer to ring in our happy day of birth, our stellar brewing crew is proud to present the deliciously hoppy Stone 16th Anniversary IPA. It’s actually a double IPA (don’t pretend to be surprised) spiked with a touch of lemon verbena and lemon oil, which Brewmaster Mitch Steele tells us “combines wonderfully with the peach and tropical mango flavors from the Amarillo hops, and with the apple and berry notes from the Calypso hops.”
As a fanatical beer geek, it’s easy to forget that when some non beer-drinkers hear the words “beer” and “dessert” in the same sentence they experience a wave of skepticism. When Pastry Chef Devin McKenna told his mother he was going to pair some of his decadent creations with some the finest beers around, her reaction was “Eeew.” Not “I’m so proud of you,” or “I can’t wait to try it,” but “Eeew.” Part of the problem is that most people have a sadly limited view of beer, but not us. We’re avid students of craft beer and gustatory delights, and it’s time to show the world that beer—good beer—is the ultimate libation to pair with gourmet food…dammit.
Thankfully, we have two secret weapons: Dr. Bill and Pastry Chef McKenna. Their one-two punch is enough to reduce the most seasoned food critics to giddy little schoolgirls. Don’t believe me? Check out the pictures of Chef McKenna’s ridiculously decadent creations and imagine enjoying them with Dr. Bill’s expertly paired beers and try—just try not to giggle uncontrollably.
So just how did McKenna come up with such blissful desserts as “Honey and Lemon Thyme Grilled Apricots with Sweet Cheese Donuts?” No, God didn’t speak to him in a dream. He said the idea actually came from a picture he saw in a bookstore. “I saw a picture of some donuts covered in melted goat cheese, and then I thought what if we reverse that and pair it with what’s in season. One of the first things I saw in the grocery store were apricots, so it started coming together.” Such a complex dessert called for an equally complex beer. That’s where Dr. Bill’s pairing expertise came in: “The Moortgat Maredsous 10 Triple is fairly high in alcohol and has a clean profile without being overly bitter. It’s nice and sweet but still bright, and it went very well with the fruit and the cheeses.”
I had the poor misfortune of getting paid to attend Beer & Desserts, and amid my moping and self-pity, I heard ample oohs and ahs from other guests throughout the pairing. People were getting it—good beer goes with good food.
Beer & Desserts wasn’t the first time we convinced people that beer is the ultimate pairing. We’ve already proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that beer is the clear champion of cheese and chocolate, but it’s time to expand beer’s dominion over the culinary world. With the help of our incredibly talented crew, we’re poised to open minds and expand palates. “We definitely wanted to show off McKenna’s talents with Beer & Desserts,” said Dr. Bill, “but next we want to show off our Chef De Cuisine Brian LaBonte’s talents with our upcoming Beer & Sushi pairing.” That’s right, you heard the man: Beer & Sushi. We announced Beer & Sushi at the end of the night, and by the next morning we had already sold nearly ¼ of the tickets. People are getting it.
- Matt Steele