Most of our fans are under the impression Stone Smoked Porter w/Chipotle Peppers debuted in 2012. There’s good reason for this. In May of that year, we launched a website, announcing the existence of that beer along with its cousin, Stone Smoked Porter w/Vanilla Bean. This coincided with our national launch of both beers, but as those whose fanatic-level knowledge of our humble brewing company know, both beers came into being years before, though their impetuses were quite different. The epiphany for the bean-bolstered brew came when one of our small batch brewers plopped a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream into a pint of Stone Smoked Porter, while the smoked jalapeño-infused version was presented as an alternative to thin, fizzy, low-flavor macro-lagers offered around Cinco de Mayo.
To the casual observer, our newest collaboration beer may be perceived as an attempt to make a statement about gender equality in the brewing industry. How could someone not think that? After all, we’re no strangers to making statements through the ale medium and, c’mon, we went and tapped two of the country’s best female brewers—Tonya Cornett from Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company; and Megan O’Leary Parisi, the fermentation mastermind behind Washington, DC’s highly anticipated Bluejacket. We get it, but honestly, the only things we were looking to secure when getting these two into our brewhouse were beer smarts, creativity and enthusiasm, and these two brought all three in sudsy spades! Need proof? Well, we’ve got it, and it goes by the name 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter.
During last year’s San Diego Beer Week, we conducted an experiment in the name of creativity and good taste, enlisting a dozen of our brewers to craft cask versions of Stone beers, dry-hopping and infusing them with highly flavorful ingredients. Those 12 casks and the brewers were assembled at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens along with a dozen personally monogramed mallets. Then, at the stroke of four post-meridian, the brewers tapped their casks and served them to hordes of thirsty Stone fans.
It was an expanded take on the Stone Brewer’s Cask events we hold each Thursday afternoon at the Bistro and, in addition to being a wildly good time, the event provided a stunning and varied taste of the ingenuity and skill our talented brewers bring to the table. It was far too magnificent to do just once, so we’re turning it into a series of events. The exact frequency has yet to be determined, but we know for sure that the next edition of 12 Brewers, 12 Casks, 12 Mallets will take place 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 6 at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
The idea of brewing a Belgian Imperial Porter was something that we had discussed a few times in the past few years, especially after taste panel sessions that had included Belgian Imperial Stouts and Belgian Black beers. Roasted malts and the spicy, fruity flavors from Belgian yeast strains combine surprisingly well, provided proper balance is maintained in the recipe. And we thought an Imperial Porter, with an intense chocolate malt character, might be a fun, and a bit different, version of a Belgian dark ale to try.
Sure, Stone Smoked Porter is delicious by itself. No question. But it’s also pretty damn tasty with some artisanal vanilla bean ice cream in it. Hordes of Bistro-goers agree that our Real Beer Float made with Stone Smoked Porter and Niederfranks Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is out of this world. That’s exactly how Stone Brewer Laura Ulrich got the idea for Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans.
Around the time our Bistro first opened, Laura tried a Real Beer Float and had an epiphany—you know, the old light goes on above the head moment. “I don’t really like ice cream,” said Laura, “but I tried it and it was like nothing I’d ever had, and I said ‘I bet vanilla beans would be amazing in a cask of Smoked Porter.’” Laura presented her brilliant idea to our Head Brewer, Mitch Steele, and he agreed to try it. It was difficult to achieve the right beans-to-beer ratio at first, but our brew crew has nearly perfected it. “At first the vanilla beans were pretty potent,” said Laura, “so we cut back. We’ve cut back ever since.”
Laura used to get the vanilla beans for the brew from our Bistro kitchen. She would show up on the Bistro’s back porch like a poor stray brewer and beg for a few vanilla beans. Our kind kitchen crew obliged her for a while, but as the beer became more popular they finally told Laura to get her own vanilla beans. So she lined up a distributor, and the rest is history.
Thinking of adding vanilla beans to your homebrew? It’s super easy. Think of it like brewing a tea with vanilla beans and tossing it in your brew. Here’s how we do it:
- Slice the beans down the side w/out slicing the whole bean in half
- Open the beans and scrape out the goo
- Cut up the leftover bean shells
- Boil the goo and diced shells in water
- Let it cool to the proper temperature and add it to your brew!
So why did Laura want to add vanilla beans to our Smoked Porter? Why fix it if it ain’t broke? “I think it’s just a little more rich,” said Laura. “The C02 with the vanilla beans just has that old school flavor to it—that flavor that you remember as a kid growing up and having a root beer float.”
Whatever your reason for enjoying Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans, be it nostalgia for a past era of roller-skating waitresses and root beer floats or plain old gustatory indulgence, you won’t be disappointed.
Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans is only available on special occasions in the Bistro and in the Stone Company Store for growler fills. Check out our growler fill schedule to see when it will be available again, and follow @StoneStore on Twitter for advanced notices on growler fills and Twitter-only specials.