Stock Up: Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape

Are we hopelessly nostalgic? Dub all stars? Aurally obsessed? (Hey, we said “aural”…heed the spelling!) The answer to all of these is yes, however, the decision to name the latest experiment from our more out-there, experimental line of whimsy driven brews Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape actually takes more of a page from our history than our love of boom boxes and customized cassettes. Fans of Stone (and the Stone Blog) have heard of our Stone Mixtape Ale series of blended beers. These rarities are custom mixes of barrel-aged Stone beers and archived rarities, the likes of which many people have never tasted (e.g., Stone LeVariation Ale, Stone Belgian Brown Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels, Stone Belgian Pale Ale aged in White Wine Barrels). To date, 11 Stone Mixtape Ales have been crafted, but none of them have been bottled. They’re super small-batch, so that’s just the nature of these interesting and often exquisite beasts. To give fans nationwide a taste of our blends, we decided to add a large-scale Mixtape to the Stochasticity Project docket, the result of which comes in the form of Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape.

In blending multiple unheard-of Stone beers for this endeavor, we could have used some of our archived stock, brewhouse blending specialty ales or barrel-aged brews, but instead, we decided to make something truly first-of-its-kind for us. That led to Brewmaster Mitch Steele pulling from his own archives, as in his inventory of memories comprising decades of touring the world in search of exceptional beer. Many of his fondest reminiscences take place amid the backdrop of traditional English pubs. (If we had a nickel—or perhaps a Euro—for every time he sampled a pilot batch brew and remarked, “This reminds me of a beer I had while at a British pub, we’d have…the math gets fuzzy here, but at least enough to buy a case of Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape, so we’d be pretty set.) Steele not only delved into his past, but the proud history of U.K. public houses…specifically stock ales.

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A staple of pubs around the 1700s, stock ales are higher-alcohol, malty beers with dark berry-like flavors from English yeast, which are allowed to mature for several months in oak casks. Such maturation would primarily take place at the pub (though some breweries would handle that on their ends). During that process, the beer would typically oxidize to some extent and even take on some slightly sour notes from wild yeast and other microorganisms (Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, pediococcus, etc.). To increase the palatability of fresh beers, which tended to be a bit rough due to kilning techniques that were much more primitive than those employed by today’s brewers, the aged “beer for holding” would be blended with the fresh ale, creating a multi-layered yet highly quaffable brew with more character and intrigue than the many straightforward (but plenty delicious) mild ales, bitters and pale ales that made up the majority of a pubs’ standard offerings.

In creating Stochasticity Project HiFi+LoFi Mixtape, Steele employed some new toys that generated a lot of excitement amongst our brewing team: large oak foudres. While you may have never heard of a foudre, if you’ve ever toured a winery, it’s likely you’ve laid eyes on one. Foudres are large oak vessels that resemble barrels and serve a similar purpose, providing storage space for fermenting beverages. Unlike fermenting in stainless steel tanks, doing so in foudres allows the character of the oak—as well as any wine character absorbed into the wood during its previous uses—to find its way into the finished beverage. In this case, tanic, fruity, earthy flavors from Napa and Sonoma County reds colored our aged, higher alcohol (“HiFi” if you will) stock ale. We held that beer in our brand new foudres for four months before blending it with a fresh, lower alcohol version of the same stock ale exhibiting more of the bitterness from Apollo, Target and Fuggles hops (the “LoFi”) to create the first Stone Mixtape Ale to make it out of our brewery in great enough quantity for a multitude of our fans to enjoy.

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Tasting notes, provided by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • Stats: 8.8% ABV
  • Availability: 22-ounce bottles and on draft beginning May 18
  • Hop Bill: FugglesApollo, Target
  • Malt Bill: English Pale, English Mild Ale, English Amber
  • National Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA and Puerto Rico
  • International Distribution: Australia; Alberta and British Columbia, Canada; Japan; Singapore and United Kingdom
  • Appearance: The beer pours deep amber with a creamy white head and a touch of haze.
  • Aroma: Strong fruity esters with light sherry notes, oak and toasted malt.
  • Taste: Oaky presence is followed by fruity yeast character. The malts shine mid-palate, combining with oak and a light berry fruitiness, followed by a dry, bitter finish.
  • Palate: Full-bodied with a nice bitterness and astringency.
  • Overall: Stone Co-founder Greg Koch has hypothesized for years that brewing the same beer at two different alcohol levels and blending them would provide a different flavor profile than brewing the base beer to a specific alcohol target. And this is true. When compared with beers brewed to lower gravities, fermenting at a higher gravity with a higher resulting alcohol level causes a drastically different mix of esters and other flavor compounds provided by yeast fermentation. Proof comes via this beer, which follows a decidedly English track, using 100% English malts and hops a la traditional stock ales, which I learned a lot about while conducting research for my book IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. It was fun to be able to draw on this research as the inspiration for this beer.

Out of this World: Ecliptic / Wicked Weed / Stone Points Unknown IPA

There was a time not so long ago when barrel-aged beers were just starting to trickle out of American craft breweries. At the time, some speculated they might just be a passing fancy. Those naysayers are probably still waiting out similar fads like television and the internet, but we, like many beer enthusiasts, have embraced oak-matured ale as something that is here to stay (thank goodness). For most breweries, barrel-aging involves siphoning an imperial stout or barley wine into a barrel. This is a straightforward method that yields fantastic results (as evidenced by our own barrel-aged creations, such as Fyodor’s Classic, Mikhael’s Odd and Guardian’s Slumber), but when contemplating our latest oak-kissed brew, we wanted to take things a step further to create something truly unique. No, not “unique” in the over-used sense of the word that generifies this definitive term. This beer—a hoppy, decidedly West Coast double IPA blended with a barrel-aged Belgian-style tripel—is truly and literally unique. Allow us to explain as we take you through the intriguing make-up of Ecliptic/Wicked Weed/Stone Points Unknown IPA.

Five Salivation-Evoking Words: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard

Before setting forth on my most monumental dissertation, let me first address the members of the virtual peanut gallery who read the title of this post, snicker and instinctively feel the need to scroll down to the comments section to point out that the subject of this communique is not five words, but in fact four words. The laws of hyphenates are iffy, but one thing is for certain—those words are powerful. They’re what brought you here in the first place…Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard.

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A Brighter Shade of Pale: Stone Pale Ale 2.0

Another week, another revamped Stone classic. Seven short days after debuting Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 to hop heads across the country, we’re ready to introduce a second second-take built to up hop potency and appeal: Stone Pale Ale 2.0. Whereas the former bears a great deal of sensual resemblance to its predecessor, Stone fans will find the latter to be completely reimagined. While hoppier than most beers of its kind, the original Stone Pale Ale possessed the type of copper-toned, caramely malt body associated with traditional British pale ales. In Stone Pale Ale 2.0, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his crew have peeled back the malt curtain to reveal a golden-hued pale ale that falls in line with current craft beer enthusiasts’ tastes…including our own.

Our Liquid Poem’s Second Stanza: Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0

We’ve been (mis-)labeled “arrogant.” We get it. You brew up a beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale and have the audacity to demand that everybody be entitled to the finest beer today’s craftsmen and women can brew, and people form certain opinions. But in reality, we’re not arrogant. What we are is extremely passionate and confident in craft beer and our abilities in that arena. To a person, our Brew Crew works tirelessly to up their technical knowledge and abilities. From keeping up on best practices and emerging techniques for upping beer’s flavor, increasing the efficiency of our brewhouse, stimulating our yeast so they perform as optimally as possible or staying on top of the ever-changing hop crops and the immense influx of new botanical varietals being produced from the Pacific Northwest to Australia and New Zealand, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his team have their hands (and heads) full. Each day offers a new opportunity to learn and grow, and our beers reflect that—perhaps more now than ever before.

Stone Spotlight: Imperial Mutt Brown Ale

When it comes to brewing competitions, one can’t help but survey the field of entrants beforehand and speculate on what greatness may emerge from those crafty competitors. We like to think we know the members of the Stone Brew Crew pretty well—the IPA experts, the Belgophiles, the dark beer enthusiasts, the strong ale hoisters. Everybody gravitates towards certain styles and excels at crafting recipes for them. Just when we thought we had everyone pegged, along came our annual in-house brewing competition, the Stone Spotlight Series. This year’s winner, frankly, blew us out of the water. There’s no way we could have seen the blue-ribbon beer coming, especially from the duo that brought it to life, Brewing Supervisor Drew Neldon and Brewer Steve Via. Sit, stay and enjoy the story of Stone Spotlight: Imperial Mutt Brown Ale.

Take 2.0 on 02.02.02: Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale Returns

Talk about mixed emotions. December 12, 2012 rolled around and, come 12:12 p.m., we were elated to finally be able to crack open a vertical tasting like no other. A few hours later, we felt a haze of gloom descend over us as we realized that experience we’d spent nearly 11 years preparing for was over, never to return. It was right there at our Stone Epic Festival, with 11 bottles representing every vintage of Stone Vertical Epic Ale gaping back at us with their empty, open maws, that it all sunk in. This chapter in the history of Stone Brewing Co. was done; eclipsed by the passage of time and a finite supply of triplicate day/month/year dates.

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End of an Era: Stone Ruination IPA

So far, 2015 has seen a flurry of activity here at Stone. This is nothing new. For several years, we’ve been hard at work debuting beers at a rapid and voluminous clip. But this year’s been different. In addition to introducing new brews like Stone Delicious IPA, 2015 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine – Extra Hoppy and 2015 Stone CHAI-SPICED Imperial Russian Stout, we’ve also broke the sad news that some of our beers are being retired, never to return to production again. First, it was Stone Levitation Amber Ale, followed almost immediately by Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA. Both were met with much lamenting, but none so much as the next beer to wave bye-bye. It’s no wonder, it’s only the first beer we ever produced beginning 19 years ago: Stone Pale Ale (which will make its valiant return to the suds scene as Stone Pale Ale 2.0 starting in April). Well, the shake-up isn’t over. There’s still one more beer that will be exiting production for eternity and, as hard as it is to say good-bye, the time has come. Spring 2015 will see the last-ever brew session for Stone Ruination IPA.

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From the Gargoyle’s Mouth: Shooting Down Stone Myths

We’re different in oh so many ways and we are oh so proud of it. With such marked differentiation from the norm comes the added probability of one being misunderstood. Hence, there are many commonly held but absolutely untrue myths and misconceptions floating about concerning Stone Brewing Co.; ranging from our ownership to our beers to our social media and even our logo. (For the millionth time, it’s a gargoyle, not Satan!) In an effort to add some much-needed clarity—and have some fun doing so—Stone CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch spent some time with storyteller (read: the über-talented multi-media wizard who creates all of Stone’s rad videos and stunning photographic imagery) Tyler Graham, dispelling some commonly presented myths. The following is the first of two videos filmed to set the record straight, once and for all. We welcome you to…STONELANDIA…

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Brew It Yourself: Stone Pale Ale

While we follow our own muse at Stone, we also pay attention to our fans. Believe it or not, even with more than 600,000 followers across all of our social media channels, we read each and every comment posted on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more. It’s awesome to have fans that care enough to take time out to chime in on all things Stone, and every now and then, we glean suggestions that have serious merit. For instance, when we announced that our first ever beer, Stone Pale Ale, would be departing from our portfolio, we received a number of passionate comments. We went in knowing such an announcement would evoke emotional responses, because we, too, are fans of this 19-year-old mainstay. Early on in the social conversation, one of our fans asked for us to share the recipe for Stone Pale Ale so that, even though we won’t be brewing it anymore, it can live on for those with the gumption and wherewithal to brew it at home. This suggestion was immediately run up the flagpole to Stone Co-founders Steve Wagner and Greg Koch, who applauded the idea. The end result is this blog post, which contains the recipe for the soon-to-be-decommissioned Stone Pale Ale. We’re happy that this beer has meant so much to so many—ourselves included—and will have its place among craft beer enthusiasts beyond its lifespan in our brewhouse. Enjoy!

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