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.
Remember way back on April 1st when we announced our next collaboration beer, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner? Remember how clever you felt when you dismissed it as an obvious April Fools gag? Stone brewed a Pilsner? Yeah right. Then remember how foolish you felt when we confirmed that it was true—that it was in fact a real beer? Man (knee slap), good times.
Now that the confusion and hurt feelings have subsided, all that’s left is a very real—and very good—Black Pilsner (we know, there’s no such thing, but let’s put that aside for now…or forever). We brought you the play-by-play on brew day with James Watt from BrewDog, Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co., and our Head Brewer Mitch Steele, but there’s more to the story.
First of all, let’s tackle this whole “lagers take longer to brew” myth. SOME do. There are major brand lagers that take less time to brew than craft brewed ales. Yes, a craft brewed lager may typically take longer than a craft brewed ale. Blah, blah blah. Congrats if you’ve stayed with me this long, hell I was starting to bore myself. The bottom line is the end result. Says me. Now let’s move on.
All I can say is that this beer better be better, because this lager took roughly four times longer to ferment and condition than a typical Stone beer (we also bottle-conditioned it for a few weeks, further prolonging its release). After looking back at the brew sheet, Mitch found that primary fermentation took 30 days, and aging (aka ‘lagering’) took 50 days. That’s a total of 80 days that the beer spent training to be the best damn Black Pilsner around.
The eclectic hop bill was also a bit of a challenge to balance. From the beginning, the plan was to use 100% Saphir hops in the dry-hop because it has the most “Pilsner-like” qualities, and the Brewmasters thought it would lend the beer a nice “elegance.” However, they also realized early on that Saphir hops are fairly subtle, and they might not give the beer enough of a hop kick.
Then, on June 12th, the beer gods smiled upon us. In a fortunate turn of events, James just happened to be in town from Scotland promoting his tasty beers, and he was able to stop by the brewery and corroborate with Mitch on what to do next. They tasted two versions of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, one dry-hopped with Saphir, and one double dry-hopped with Saphir and Sorachi Ace. Lo and behold, they came to a decision. “We agreed that the Sorachi Ace addition kicked the beer up a notch,” said Mitch, “right where we wanted it to be.” When Will was consulted about the extra dry-hopping, his response was: “The hoppier the better!” We knew we liked that guy for some reason.
Thanks to the unparalleled artistry of these three brewmasters, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner is shaping up to be one amazing Black Pilsner…err…wait….what? You still have a problem with us calling it that? Fine. It’s probably a Black Double Pilsner anyway. Feel better?
Alright, let’s put this to rest. Just what the hell is a Black Pilsner, anyway? “It’s a Pilsner in the fact that we brewed it with Pilsner malt and fermented it with Pilsner yeast,” said Mitch, “but it’s bigger, darker and hoppier, and it’s unlike any beer I’ve ever had.” There you have it. Settled.
Now for the bad news—we didn’t make a ton of this beer. In fact, the yield was so low that it’s only going to be available in a few lucky locales (see below) in VERY limited quantities, and in 12oz. bottles only (sorry to crush your hopes and dreams). So when can you get your hands on it? BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner will start hitting store shelves this Monday, July 27th. Prepare yourself for the best damn Black Pilsner EVER.
The following places will be receiving small quantities of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner in 12oz. bottles:
Check out information on our previous collaboration beers
- Matt Steele
That’s the exact same question I asked our Lead Brewer (and infamous biofueler) John Egan after seeing the pompously named beer rear its head in various places, such as on the tap list for Southern California Storm and on the Stone Company Store’s growler fill schedule. So what’s the official word?
To sum it up, Stone Bombastic Lager is the beer left over from propagating the pilsner yeast we used in BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner. What does that mean? Let me explain.
When we acquire new yeast to propogate (pilsner yeast in this case), we throw it in our yeast propagating tank, and over the course of a few days we continually add wort to “feed” it and facilitate yeast growth. To feed the pilsner yeast, we added Stone Pale Ale, Stone IPA, and Stone Imperial Russian Stout wort straight from the brewhouse into the yeast propogating tank over several days. Once we were confident that there was enough growth, we pumped the yeast off the bottom (lager yeast is bottom-fermenting) and sent it over to the fermenting tank to ferment the Collaboration brew. John then transferred the leftover beer into another tank, but before transferring it he had a spark of creativity and decided to add some crushed coriander, french oak chips, and “literally a handful” of chopped vanilla beans. It sat for about a week or so, and then we gassed it up and put it in kegs. There were no additional hops or malt added; it was just a blend of a few worts.
“As far as style goes, I have no idea,” said John. “It’s kind of a ‘suicide’ like we did as kids with our sodas; just a mix of whatever is available. It tastes like an ale to me, but it’s a lager—and a weird lager at that!” John added that the brew weighs in at 6.8% abv.
So there you have it. Now when you stumble across Stone Bombastic Lager on the tap list at Southern California Storm or on tap for growler fills in the Stone Company Store on May 15th and July 10th, you can wow your dumbfounded friends with your in-depth knowledge, complete with a healthy dose of bombast.
We know many of you are chomping at the bit for news about our collaboration brew, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, so we’ll throw you a bone. The brew is still fermenting, so we don’t have a release date yet (don’t worry, we’ll let you know the second we do!), but we do have some news about the bottle label. Jen Knudson, our talented graphic designer, just got word from the feds that the label design was approved and ready to rock!
Staying true to our collaboration bottle design motif, there are three versions, each dedicated to one of the three Brewmasters. Check em out below!
If you’ve had the foresight to cellar previous vintages, you already know that the recipe has changed very little throughout the beer’s tenure, but this time around we did increase the amber malt a bit. According to Stone Brewer, John Egan, the increased amount of malt “gives the beer a little more body on the mouth feel, and a little bit less of a dry finish.” John felt compelled to add, “the beer is awesome!”
So where can you get it? This year’s release will initially be available in twenty-seven states. If your state is highlighted in SIRS blue in the diagram below, rejoice, for the iron curtain will soon be lifted on your state!
The slick diagram above isn’t the only thing that our talented Graphic Designer, Jen Knudson, has created. She also designed the wicked 2009 Stone Imperial Russian Stout logo and t-shirt in the style of classic Russian propaganda. It’s a fitting design that you’ll be fitting into soon (if you have any semblance of style, that is).
There you have it. Go forth and cellar, Stone Imperial Russian Stout lovers!
Ever wonder why it’s called Stone Imperial Russian Stout? This video from 2005 with Greg Koch and Chris Cochran will fill you in.
One of the things we love about craft brewing is the great sense of camaraderie. The best craft brewers are more focused on expanding the market than competing against each other, and that’s why we love collaborating. Collaboration brings brewers with different attitudes, philosophies, and techniques together with the sole purpose of furthering our craft (ok, and having fun and sharing beers too!). Our last two collaboration beers were great successes, and testaments to the incredible talent of all involved.
When it came time to plan our next collaboration, Scottish brewery BrewDog seemed like a natural choice for Greg Koch and Mitch Steele. “Greg and I were introduced to James’ and Martin’s (BrewDog’s two business partners) beers about a year ago, when we traveled through Scotland,” said Mitch. “We were blown away by their ability to brew hoppy, assertive beers and get away with it in the UK.” James and Martin were inspired to start brewing by the American craft beer scene, and were stoked to take part.
As soon as BrewDog was on board, Mitch made a phone call to Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co. Will and Mitch had known each other for about nine years and always thought it would be cool to brew together someday. When Will got a message from Mitch asking him to participate in the collaboration, he reacted accordingly. “After I got done doing a little beer dance around the cellar I called him back and the rest is history,” said Will. “I was familiar with BrewDog as I’d stumbled across their beer in England last June, and was psyched to be offered the opportunity to work with two other forward-thinking, ballsy brewers.”
Once both brewmasters were committed, the next step was to brew a pilot batch. The distance between the brewers provided a bit of a logistical challenge, so they opted to collaborate over email to brew the pilot batch here. Being the innovative brewers they are, they eventually decided to try something that none of them have ever brewed before, and for that matter, something that NO ONE has ever brewed before.
When Will and James flew in last Thursday and tried the pilot, they confirmed what they suspected—we had something very special on our hands. After agreeing to use a bit more dark malt, the brewmasters went over their game plan for the next day, then retreated to the Bistro where we celebrated with the help of local beer fans at our “Pilot-Palooza” event. It was a fitting start to an epic collaboration.
The next day the brewmasters got down to business, putting in a long hard day of brewing. They started by mash-hopping the brew, which is a first at Stone. The brewmasters adhered to their initial recipe for the most part, but were afforded the luxury of tweaking the recipe during the process (who says you can’t build a car while driving it?). For example, they decided to make a last minute hop addition to balance the bitterness. Will explains the reason for the decision in the clip below:
The immense scale of the batch amazed Will, who brews on a 10-barrel system back in his brewpub in Cambridge. Aside from using 10,000 lbs of malt, the batch required ten separate kettle hop additions, resulting in 326 lbs. total hops (3 lbs. per barrel!). Will remarked that he added more hops in one kettle addition than he uses in an entire batch at home. We’re no strangers to obscene amounts of hops, but according to Mitch, this is the HOPPIEST beer we’ve ever brewed.
At the end of the arduous brew day the brewmasters were satisfied with their creation. It turned out even better than they anticipated. It’s our pleasure to introduce the fruits of their labor, and the first lager EVER brewed at Stone: BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner.
That’s right…a Black Pilsner (and at 10% abv, one might be tempted to call it a Double Black Pilsner…but we’re not…we’ll let the style zealots start endless discussion threads on their own on that…we’re just brewing the damn beer…everyone will have to figure out for themselves what the hell style it is…just sayin’). Aside from being the first lager ever brewed at Stone (and using Bohemian lager yeast no less), this beer represents several other Stone “firsts.” This is the first time we’ve used Japanese Sorachi Ace hops and Motueka hops from New Zealand (there are no American hops in this beer). It’s also our first time both mash-hopping and mash-wort hopping a brew, as well as our first time using more than two kettle hop additions (there were 9 hop additions throughout the wort boiling process).
Of course, as a lager, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner will have to sit in the fermenter tanks several more weeks than a typical batch, so we won’t be able to enjoy the final for a while. We haven’t picked a release date, but rest assured that we’ll let you know the second we do.
Will put it best when he said “We have a big freaking beer on our hands.” It’s bold, black, 10% abv, and over 100 IBU’s in wort. This beer isn’t for sissies. And if you’re saying “there’s no such thing as a Black Pilsner,” let us correct you—there is now. We just brewed it, and it will be amazing (so says us).
Check out the YouTube playlist below. We’ll be adding more videos from the brewing process soon! While you’re at it, check out the flickr set too!