Pale By Comparison: Stone Pale Ale (1.0)

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!

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Maltier and more full-bodied than most American pale ales—not to mention tons hoppier than most beers at the time—it was a bold direction to go with the only beer in a fledgling portfolio. There was no proven market for a beer like Stone Pale Ale, so it was risky. Many accounts Koch called on tasted the beer and looked at him like he was crazy for thinking anybody would want to drink something so assertive. He was laughed out of a number of bars, pubs, taverns and eateries, but through it all he and Wagner never gave up on Stone Pale Ale. They had faith in the beer and their favorite thing about it was that it was so different from other beers in the mid-nineties suds landscape. That faith was further bolstered by the fact Pizza Port owner Vince Marsaglia saw fit to put the first-ever keg (and thousands of subsequent kegs) of Stone Pale Ale on at his brewpub. Those were big-time bragging rights and proof that people who really understood craft beer would, in turn, understand Stone Pale Ale and Stone Brewing Co.’s overall brewing approach.

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That theory proved legit. Behind a rising number of business owners willing to embrace more than fickle, fizzy, yellow macro-lager, Stone Pale Ale found platforms upon which to shine and, a year later, Stone Pale Ale became San Diego County’s first-ever brewed and bottled beer (first appearing in 22-ounce bottles in June 1997 before making it into 12-ounce six-packs in the spring of 1998). It’s been a steady favorite of our fans over the past 18-plus years amid an ever-changing craft beer landscape. However, everything has a lifespan; nothing is forever. Not even Stone Pale Ale. The same spirit of providing drinkers with something bolder and cutting edge that led to this beer’s creation has led brewers across the country to similarly up the flavor and vibrancy of their beers. That has led to evolving tastes among people who drink craft beer and a thirst for hoppier beers. That’s true of us as well, and, honestly, Stone Pale Ale doesn’t hit our palates with the same poignancy that it once did. That’s not the experience we endeavor to provide to our fans, so we decided in early 2014 that it was time to change things up.

A year ago, we challenged current Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele to come up with an updated version of Stone Pale Ale. We’re not quite ready to spill the hops regarding details. To be honest, we’re still making some final tweaks to the recipe. But suffice it to say, it’ll be something new and in keeping with the direction our brewery is headed. And, if the invigorating effect it has on our taste buds is any indication, it’ll be a beer you’ll be happy to make the acquaintance of. So, join us in most honorably discharging Stone Pale Ale, the beer that helped to build Stone Brewing Co. to what it is today, and ushering in a new era of bold, forward-thinking beer signaled by the upcoming arrival of Stone Pale Ale 2.0.

Belgo A-Go-Go: Stone Belgian Fest

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.

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Hitting the Ground Drinking: Stone’s 2015 Event Calendar

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.

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A Year of Beer: Summing Up 2014

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.

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The Start of Something Good: Stone Brewing Richmond

On October 9, 2014, we announced the selection of Richmond, Virginia, as the home for our upcoming Eastern U.S. brewery, packaging hall and Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens farm-to-table restaurant. Located in the city’s Greater Fulton community, the project site offers everything we asked for and more, even though, at first glance, few might be able to see its potential.

As it stands now, the property, which has been vacant for over 40 years, consists of 15 separate parcels totaling 14 acres. Most of the property is the remnant of the now defunct 1970s Urban Renewal Plan and is located adjacent to a former gasworks property. In addition there’s a vacant 1937 terminal building that’s been uninhabited for almost 30 years and a beat-up slab of concrete constituting a former ferry landing.

Admittedly, these hardly sound like value-adds.

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Fortunately, the members of the State and City teams that worked to bring Stone to Richmond (RVA as it’s known to locals) went to great lengths to open our eyes to the possibilities that existed in the property. Allow us to explain.

Classic Combo: Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel

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.

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Number One Bastard: A First Tangle with Liquid Arrogance

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.

Collaboration not Competition: A Look at Craft Beer Culture

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?

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Tongue Twister: Stochasticity Project Hibiscusicity

Today, we released upon this nation a beer with the most challenging name in the history of our 18-years-young operation. That’s saying a lot considering we’re the craft brewers who brought you such multi-syllabic wonders as Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout, Stone Mixtape Ale vol.9 – Goats in the VIP Room Blend, The Bruery/Elysian/Stone La Citrueille Celeste De Citracado and, of course, Stone Suitable For Cave Aging – An Imperial Smoked Porter Tribute to Danny Williams. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Of course, odd nomenclature is the rule of thumb for the Stochasticity Project, which, since its debut earlier this year, has yielded ales called Varna Necropolis and Quadrotriticale. Before unleashing this new moniker on you, perhaps its best to go back a step and examine a term that’s both plenty perplexing and worth taking a look at—Stochasticity.

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Hoppy Uncharted Territory: Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

We pride ourselves on being unpredictable, but we’re able to be honest with ourselves and say that, when it comes to our annual anniversary beer releases, fans know what to expect—something extremely hoppy! And most years, that means an over-the-top India pale ale. Ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs, including the past four consecutive years. So, it should come as no surprise that this year, our milestone-celebrating beer is another IPA. But, much as we’ve refused to be completely predictable with our anniversary IPAs (the past four years have featured an imperial British-style IPA, double black IPA, lemon verbena-infused imperial rye IPA, and 100% German-hopped double IPA), 2014’s commemorative hop monster is extremely original. In fact, we’re billing Stone 18th Anniversary IPA as the “hoppiest golden-brown IPA on Earth!” (Yes, that’s our subtle brand of sarcasm you’re picking up there!)