We at Stone count ourselves lucky to have so many fans of what we do and the beers we create. Most of those who’ve tagged along as we forge through this hop-studded journey have taken fandom to new heights. That level of devotion is something we don’t take lightly and work to reward by coming up with new beer recipes and getting those brews into our staunch supporters’ hands and pint glasses. As devotees keeping a watchful eye on us will attest, 2013 was a big year for new Stone brews. But even our most keyed-in fans were probably unaware of just how big. We say this, because after examining 12 months’ worth of brewing schedules, even our jaws dropped to the floor when we discovered that we had delivered 74 new beers outside our not-so-standard standard-issue brews this year. So, join us, won’t you, as we revisit them and other notable Stone happenings from the year that was.
Since 1997, our infamous Arrogant Bastard Ale has been kicking fizzy yellow beer drinkers square in the palate and forcing them to take notice of what good beer really is, forever changing the tastes and habits of the uninitiated and converting them to the culture of craft beer. Such was the instant allure of this mighty brew that the year after it debuted, we crafted an imperialized version and dubbed it Double Bastard Ale. Other iterations followed: a wood-infused take called OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale, as well as a blend of all of the aforementioned members of the Arrogant Bastard Ale family called Lukcy Basartd Ale (no, you didn’t read that wrong, and we didn’t commit an offense against the grammar gods…that’s the way we spell it). All four are cult favorites among craft beer enthusiasts craving exceptional brews with substantial flavor and oomph. This year, that lengthy staying power led us to celebrate the beer by not only conducting our annual November release of Double Bastard Ale, but also reviving two other dastardly Bastard variations and adding an entirely new offspring of this self-assured line to the mix. Get to know all three of this year’s specialties and marvel at their complexity, diversity and awesome ability to continue to engage—and perhaps challenge—even the most stalwart craft beer devotee.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the company that produced an unapologetic beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale sees no reason to defend its own self-assured state of mind. We’ve been bullish on the notion of bold, flavorful, artisanally produced beers long before many caught on and began to flock like moths with particularly good taste to an insanely bright and attractive flame. Thanks to our naturally inquisitive and adventurous style of brewing—big hops, big flavor, big wood, etc.—we’ve been ahead of the curve at nearly every turn in the dramatic American craft brewing revolution. So, we’re justified in being pretty pleased with ourselves and our innovative brewed creations. Hence the moniker of our black India pale ale, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.
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
In addition to the guarantee of authenticity, a major benefit of wearing one’s emotions and opinions on their sleeves is that such individuals are ready at the drop of a hat—or the click of a camera’s “on” switch—to share their beliefs in a cogent and intelligent manner. Our CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch is never shy about sharing his views where quality and consumers are concerned. Recently, a camera crew from UCTV, the television faction of the University of California education system, engaged him unexpectedly at the debut of Bottled & Kegged, an exhibit at the San Diego History Center chronicling the rise of craft brewing in San Diego County. What resulted is the video below, which eloquently outlines GK’s passionate beliefs on what people should not only desire, but demand for themselves—something better, something with heart, something crafted to be the best.
At Stone, it’s common to see lengthy beer monikers as long and winding as the 17-year road that’s taken us from the little industrial suite beer-makers that could (though many, back then, didn’t share such an encouraging opinion of our start-up) to the tenth largest craft brewing company in the United States of Ale-merica. We revel in challenging the number of alpha-numeric characters and volume of verbiage a brown glass receptacle can hold. Heck, if we hadn’t switched to 22-ounce bombers for our annual collaboration series, our Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout Ale Brewed with Pecans, Wheat & Rye with One Quarter Aged in Bourbon Barrels might have incited bouts of stress-induced agony among our Art Department savants. To give them a break, we honed in on a much shorter name for this year’s anniversary beer, but fear not, though briefer, it will still provide the fun type of challenge fans have come to expect. Our vehicle for accomplishing that in five words or less—sprechen die Deutsch. Try pronouncing this one—Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA—then watch our beer video and feel a whole lot better about your linguistic capabilities as you watch Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele stumble his way through five syllables of German diaeresis-bred intricacy.
In addition to the obvious mission of fighting to make exceptional beer available to the people and freeing shelf space from the white knuckled “Me me me!” grip of the industrialized fizzy yellow facsimile of beer in the process, I’ve always strived to leverage my position to make positive changes within the craft beer culture.
Some know me to be fairly vocal, and yes, even a bit disruptive at times. To that, I say, “Thanks for noticing. I’ll take those as compliments.” In my opinion, it’s the responsibility of people in craft brewing to be stewards of our industry and help move things in the right direction—by sheer force of will if necessary. (It’s taken a lot more than great beer to get our industry this far. If not, all us craft beer guys would have turned totally fat and lazy by now.) Truth be told, there continues to be room for craft breweries to improve our collective efforts and keep this wonderful thing we love called “craft beer” going.
But to put the onus solely on those in the business of making beer would be short-sighted. There’s also a lot beer fans can do to keep craft something we can all enjoy and be both proud of and excited about. Quite often it can all come down to acceptance, civility, understanding and, dare I say it, basic courtesy. The beautiful thing is that, even with diverse opinions and perspectives, this civility is not only possible, but bonus, our industry flourishes best when civility is a leading attribute.
Bottle art is serious business at Stone. Great beer without great packaging would be like presenting filet mignon and lobster on a trashcan lid. Fortunately, we have incredible artists on our team, plus writers (and a CEO) to pen short novels on the backs of our bottles, all of whom are Worthy of the beers whose virtues they promote. These individuals are more than capable, but when it came time to develop designs for a beer released in connection with celebrities and around the same time as San Diego’s annual Comic-Con—Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout—we decided to go above and beyond, crafting three unique bottles that have become collector’s items among beer fans, thanks to three gifted and diverse artists.
In a March post on the Stone Blog, we shared the news that three unlikely collaborators would embark on a brewing odyssey on our system. That trio was comprised of actor and champion of proud geekery Wil Wheaton, creator of the alternative news website Fark.com Drew Curtis, and our own CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch (admittedly, he bleeds Arrogant Bastard Ale, but seldom mashes in). Back then, the beer they would brew was still a mystery, but with that flavorful concoction now bottled and debuting on store shelves July 15, we’re ready to tell you all about Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout!
In 2010, we caught wind that a vital business in our hometown of Escondido, California was in a world of hurt. That struggling institution was a 19-acre farm called La Milpa Organica from which we sourced some of the ingredients used to craft our pan-global cuisine at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido. Despite valiant efforts and a ton of elbow grease, La Milpa Organica went out of business by year’s end. As supporters of the farm-to-table movement and proud advocates for our corner of the world, we took advantage of the fact that we had the resources to do something to keep a center for organic farming in Escondido alive. So, rather than bemoan the loss of something good, in March of 2011, we went outside our craft beer box, took over the farmland, then proceeded to stand there, pitchforks in hand a la American Gothic with an OK-now-what look on our faces. Such was the beginning of life on Stone Farms.