24 “Carrot” Gold: Stone’s 2015 Homebrew Competition Winner

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.

aha-rally-2014-4

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Stone’s Slate of 2013 Events

It took just a few short hours after the big keg drop at the Stone New Year’s Celebration for us to get to work planning another big year at our Southern California digs. After a few weeks of scheming, tweaking, revising and fine-tuning, we’re ready to share our entire schedule of momentous events that will come to pass at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens*in 2013! Get out your calendar and prepare to “X” out a great many dates. See you soon!

Stone fans raise a glassful of barrel-aged goodness in support of our annual Oakquinox festival

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What a Year: Looking Back on 2012

It seems like we say this every twelve months (probably because we do), but this has been a huge year for us at Stone. Perhaps the biggest yet. Things never slow down here, and that’s the way we like it. Truth be told, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we had a spare moment! So a heartfelt thank you goes out to each and every one of our fans for ensuring we maintain the breakneck pace we’ve become so accustomed to.

Despite our infatuation with constant rapid progress, we feel compelled to take a moment, be it ever so brief, to reflect on the year gone by. A lot happened in our brewhouse, at our restaurant, in our community and beyond. This was a very good year, one that should be fully remembered for years to come. In that spirit, we submit to you, our valued fans, a retrospective of 2012 at Stone.

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San Diego Beer Week Schedule

Do I attend a grandiose meet-the-brewer dinner, an outrageous vertical tasting, a one-time only beer release or a massive total tap takeover? From November 2 through 11, this will be the sort of daily dilemma plaguing beer enthusiasts as San Diego Beer Week saturates America’s Finest City. With hundreds of events and 10 days to take it all in, we realize advanced scheduling is a must. Submitted for your calendaring pleasure is the full slate of SDBW events taking place at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.

 

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Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

Surely by now you know the name Ken Schmidt. After all, he’s the homebrew mastermind behind not just one of our handsome collaboration beers, but two of em! You undoubtedly recall the glory that was the Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, yes? When Ken took first place at our 2009 March Madness Homebrew Competition & AHA Rally with what he’d named “Aloha Plenty,” we knew we’d made a new friend.

Fast forward to 2012, and Ken came back with yet another winning combination that he called “Pillow Mint at the Ritz.” After taking the champion title for the second time, he worked with our illustrious brewmaster Mitch Steele to select Brandon Sieminski of nearby Iron Fist Brewing as our third partner in crime to help scale this awesome recipe up for our big 120bbl system. The result? A decadently rich, decidedly bold, and oh-so-delicious libation we call Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout.

Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

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Ken Schmidt Returns Home From GABF

Matt Steele
Alas, the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is over. All 495 competing breweries have packed their beers and headed home, some with shiny pieces of bling dangling from their necks (or if you’re Jeff Bagby, A LOT of bling), others sans bling but with the bolstered pride that comes from wowing thousands of beer fans with their delicious creations. Ken Schmidt happened to be part of the latter camp, and although he didn’t win in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF, he came away with his head held high from the insane buzz that Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter generated. He called me during the fest to relay the results of the Pro-Am and left this message:

Ken Schmidt Voice Message from GABF

Just like at the Stone 13th Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival, Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter was the object of bountiful adoration. It was the first keg to blow at the Pro-Am table, and it generated the longest lines. Ken said that he had a blast competing in the GABF, but it was only part of the exhilarating journey that began with his victory at our homebrewing competition back in March. “Competing in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF was thrilling,” Ken said, “but being chosen by my brewing peers and the panel of eight from Stone (to help brew the Pro-Am selection with Stone) holds the greatest excitement for me. It has been a wonderful journey.”

Ken Schmidt toasting with fans at our GABF send-off party on September 21

Ken Schmidt toasting with fans at our GABF send-off party on September 21

We anticipate our next AHA Rally and homebrewing competition will be some time in March. Sign up for our homebrewing email newsletter for updates. When I talked to Ken on Monday, he said that he’s already brainstorming some more special brews to share. If they’re anything like his Aloha Plenty, we’ll be giddily awaiting their appearance.

-Matt Steele

Ken Schmidt Hits the Road to Compete at the GABF

Matt Steele
Monday night we had a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) send-off party in the Bistro for Ken Schmidt, the gifted home brewer behind the Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter recipe. Local beer enthusiasts came by to wish Ken luck and to taste some of the delectable beer he’ll be competing with in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF. Word on the street is that the beer is maturing nicely, with the coffee notes prevailing in the beginning and the coconut and macadamia nut coming on later as the beer warms up. Some starry-eyed beer geeks were so impressed with the beer and its creator that they even asked Ken to sign their bottles—proof that Ken is a bone-fide beer-lebrity now.

Ken Schmidt celebrating with fellow craft beer revelers in the Bistro on Monday night for our Ken Schmidt GABF Send-off Party

Ken Schmidt enjoying Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter with fellow craft beer revelers in the Bistro on Monday night for our GABF Send-off Party.

Word spread so fast about the deliciousness of the revered brew that all the cases allocated to the Stone Company Store sold out by 7pm Monday night. The beer only enjoyed a brief 8 hours of shelf life before every last bottle found it’s way into the anxious hands of local beer enthusiasts. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens also drained their allocated keg, so don’t expect to get it here any time soon (we are sometimes able to squirrel away a little for special appearances, so keep your eyes peeled for it in the future). Lest you now feel in the depths of despair, here’s some good news: we’re still distributing the beer to certain lucky locales, and we put together a list of places where you can find it. Southern and Northern California, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, Massachusetts, Washington, New York, and Colorado will all be getting some eventually, but it may not arrive until as late as mid-October, so ask your local specialty bottle shop and be patient. Our collaboration brews are notoriously low yield and extremely limited in availability, so count your blessings if you’re in one of the above locations.

Greg Koch celebrating Ken's victory at our AHA Rally and March Madness Competition back in March. Ken won the opportunity to brew his beer on our system and submit it to compete in the Pro-Am Competition at the GABF.

Stone CEO Greg Koch and Ken Schmidt toasting Ken's victory at our homebrewing competition back in March. Ken won the opportunity to brew his beer on our system with Garrett Marerro from Maui Brewing Co. and our very own Mitch Steele. He also won the chance to compete with the beer in the Pro-Am Competition of this year's GABF.

If you are fortunate enough to find Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, then raise a glass to Ken for fashioning such divine nectar, and wish him luck at the GABF!

-Matt Steele

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter – Mitch's Tasting Notes

Editor’s Note: Here are Mitch’s tasting notes for our upcoming collaboration brew, Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. You’ll be able to judge the flavor profile for yourself when the beer starts hitting shelves (in very limited quantities!) on September 21. Until then, enjoy Mitch’s take on this delicious brew!

Appearance:
Deep brown, opaque with a creamy light brown head of foam.

Aroma:
Intense Kona Coffee combined with chocolate malts. The toasted coconut is also prominent, and when combined with the coffee and roasted malts, helps make this beer’s aroma reminiscent of a chocolate macaroon!

Flavor:
Coconut is more intense in the flavor with the coffee notes fading a bit to the background. Roasted chocolate malt and fruity esters make more of an impact here also, and the finish is where the macadamia nuts come in. It’s amazing how the flavor changes as this beer travels across the palate, and how all three of the special ingredients make their presence known in different stages.

Palate:
Full bodied, rich and luscious. It is simply incredible how smooth and silky this beer is.

Overall:
This is just an amazing beer to taste. The 3 special ingredients, Kona Coffee, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts combine wonderfully, and come across at three distinct stages of tasting this beer. Just a wonderful beer to relax with and drink slowly, especially while thinking about the islands!

The masterminds behnd the beer (from left to right): Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., Homebrewer Ken Schmidt, and Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele

The masterminds behind the beer (from left to right): Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., Homebrewer Ken Schmidt, and Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele

Bottles of Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on the bottling line

Bottles of Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on the bottling line

-Mitch Steele

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter – Mitch’s Tasting Notes

Editor’s Note: Here are Mitch’s tasting notes for our upcoming collaboration brew, Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. You’ll be able to judge the flavor profile for yourself when the beer starts hitting shelves (in very limited quantities!) on September 21. Until then, enjoy Mitch’s take on this delicious brew!

Appearance:
Deep brown, opaque with a creamy light brown head of foam.

Aroma:
Intense Kona Coffee combined with chocolate malts. The toasted coconut is also prominent, and when combined with the coffee and roasted malts, helps make this beer’s aroma reminiscent of a chocolate macaroon!

Flavor:
Coconut is more intense in the flavor with the coffee notes fading a bit to the background. Roasted chocolate malt and fruity esters make more of an impact here also, and the finish is where the macadamia nuts come in. It’s amazing how the flavor changes as this beer travels across the palate, and how all three of the special ingredients make their presence known in different stages.

Palate:
Full bodied, rich and luscious. It is simply incredible how smooth and silky this beer is.

Overall:
This is just an amazing beer to taste. The 3 special ingredients, Kona Coffee, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts combine wonderfully, and come across at three distinct stages of tasting this beer. Just a wonderful beer to relax with and drink slowly, especially while thinking about the islands!

The masterminds behnd the beer (from left to right): Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., Homebrewer Ken Schmidt, and Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele

The masterminds behind the beer (from left to right): Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., Homebrewer Ken Schmidt, and Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele

Bottles of Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on the bottling line

Bottles of Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on the bottling line

-Mitch Steele

Stone Embraces The Spirit of Aloha


When I think of Hawaii, I think of the usual clichés: tropical beaches, hula dancers, sunburned tourists with fanny packs, coup-d’états by fruit corporations (true story), and pit-roasted pork. I certainly don’t think of craft beer. However, I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I realize my cartoonish perception of the islands is almost completely influenced by clever marketing campaigns and ill-informed pop culture references (Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii, anyone?). Truth is, Hawaii does have great beer (as evident by Maui’s CoCoNut Porter & Kona’s Pipeline Porter), but all of the exotic flavors of the islands are under-represented in craft beer. Thankfully, talented homebrewer and Hawaii lover, Ken Schmidt, is helping to change that.

Remember when Ken won our March Madness Competition at our AHA Rally with his Aloha Plenty Porter? Well, we were stoked to brew with Ken and replicate his decadent creation on a larger scale, and Greg got the bright idea to invite Garrett Marerro from Maui Brewing Co. to join in on the collaboration and bring his CoCoNut Porter brewing expertise to the table. Garrett agreed to come on board, and thus the beer officially became Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter.

BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter

As Mitch started converting the recipe, he was blown away by the ingredients required. Not only were they going to be ridiculously expensive, but he had no idea where he was going to get 1,000 lbs. of coconut, 300 lbs. of macadamia nuts, and 200 lbs. of 100% Kona Coffee. The easy answer would have been to use cheap extracts and adjuncts, but as you know—we don’t take shortcuts. Fortunately, Garrett hooked us up with the same distributor that his company uses for ingredients, and gave us some pointers on how to toast the coconut and make sure the right amount of flavor is imparted into the beer.

Our collaborations are usually between three brewers, but this time there was a fourth player that deserves some credit. Our Bistro team put in some long hard hours toasting 1,000 lbs. of coconut in our relatively tiny oven in the Bistro Kitchen, a process that spanned four eight-hour shifts. When Garrett heard of the Bistro staff’s contribution, he cringed and said “I hope someone’s buying those guys beers!”

Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele, Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., and talented homebrewer Ken Schmidt.

Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele, Garrett Marrero from Maui Brewing Co., and talented homebrewer Ken Schmidt hanging out at the Meet the Brewmaster's Event.

After spending several weeks accruing all the rare ingredients, it finally came time to brew the beer on June 29th. However, preparing all the ingredients took way longer than expected, and we even came up short on steeping bags (think giant tea bags). In the true spirit of collaboration, Garrett enlisted the aid of another local brewery to resolve our steeping bag shortage: “I said ‘Hey call Green Flash,’ and sure enough they had a bunch they could lend to us, so we went and picked ‘em up. We wouldn’t have been able to get the coconut and the coffee and everything in there if we hadn’t gotten those bags, so the collaboration reaches really far beyond just us.”

Ken Schmidt and Garrett Marrero monitoring the brew

Ken Schmidt and Garrett Marrero monitoring the brew

The brewers decided to load all 22 steeping bags into the whirlpool, which resulted in a near-comical, yet delicious display of flailing steeping bags full of ingredients tethered to the manway, flopping around in a tangled mess as they bestowed their delectable flavors upon the beer.

Despite a few minor hiccups (and a hell of a time removing the incredibly heavy saturated steeping bags), the brew went through the brewhouse spectacularly and is now fermenting. So what happens next? According to Mitch, the beer will go through a dry-hopping process of sorts, in which more Kona Coffee, macadamia nuts, and toasted coconut will be added to the beer post-fermentation.

    Garrett and Ken hauling the steeping bags full of rich ingredients up to the whirlpool

Garrett, Ken and crew hauling the steeping bags full of rich ingredients up to the whirlpool

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter is unlike anything we’ve ever brewed here at Stone, and Ken, Garrett, and Mitch all had an awesome time brewing it. The day after brewing, Ken seemed to have an excitement hangover: “It’s one of those rare days in a person’s life that’s really extra special, and when you’re coming down you can’t quite take it all in quick enough.”

Expect to see Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter on shelves in late August or early September.

-Matt Steele