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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
It was born in 1996 within the humble, rented (strategically near Pizza Port) Solana Beach condo of Stone Co-founder Greg Koch; a 99%/1% collaborative effort between Koch (the one percent in that equation) and fellow Co-founder/original Brewmaster Steve Wagner. Before Stone sold a single beer, the duo spent countless hours experimenting with a wide array of recipes in search of a brew worthy of becoming the world’s first taste of Stone Brewing Co. Such status was tough to live up to, and plenty of trial beers fell short, but when Koch and Wagner first tasted Stone Pale Ale, there was no question in their mind that it was the one!
You might have heard we released 120 beers last year. Within that 120 were our core beers, dated editions of Stone Enjoy By IPA, collaborations, Liberty Station beers, Stochasticity Project experiments and a multitude of others. Even we had trouble keeping up with this onslaught of ales, so confusion among our fans is understandable. But there’s always a rhyme and reason to our madness. With multiple naming conventions (and design conventions failing that), our releases all have their rightful place in our family of beers. Below, we’ll break it down for you, bottle by bottle, and demystify our portfolio.
Stone is known for its beer and, thanks to the hard work of our staff, some well-stocked craft beer festivals. Names like Oakquinox, Sour Fest, and Pour It Black have become fixtures in the Stone fan lexicon. Each features a triple-digit list of fantastic draft and bottled beers, including rarities only the likes of our Craft Beer Ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak has the long-tended industry relationships to procure for festival attendees. From the outside looking in, populating such a list seems easy, but there’s a lot of science and elbow grease to it. We used our newest beer festival, Stone Belgian Fest (the first full-scale annual festival at our sprawling Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station brewery-restaurant), to follow “Dr.” Bill and see how and why he does what he does to make sure fans get the full Stone festival experience every time out. Check out his answers, then make plans to join us for Stone Belgian Fest, 11 a.m. on Sunday, February 22.
We’ve been at this whole brewing thing since 1996 and can proudly point to many, many friends who’ve been with us from the very beginning. They’ve been there for the conceptions of beers both successful (Stone IPA, Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Enjoy By IPA and Stone Go To IPA) and, well, not-quite-as-successful (Anybody remember 1997′s Stone Session Ale or Stone Heat Seeking Wheat?). We’ve had (mostly) hits and a few misses (we wouldn’t be trying if we hadn’t!), and through it all, our fans have stuck by us. A lot of that has to do with our mutual desire to see what’s around the next corner. We share that thirst for the unknown. It’d be easy to just keep making the same beers over and over again and release a “seasonal” or “specialty” beer once a year or every few years, but that’s just not who we are. I mean, c’mon, you wouldn’t want or expect Stone to become stagnant or stale, would you? Yeah, neither would we.
From the beginning, we’ve let our creative style and the forward push of the craft beer movement enthuse and drive us. So, it’s only natural that this interest to stay creative births new beers that, over recent years, have come along at the pace of offspring at a bunny farm. And it’s only natural that new beers best received by our fans be the ones we put our focus on.
After all, while we know what we like, your actions (AKA buying patterns) tell us very clearly what you like.
This means that the beers our fans show the most interest in must sometimes supplant others…even those in our portfolio with longer tenures. Though it’s hard to let go of beers we truly love and have put so much of our brewing heart and soul into, soon we will be bidding a fair adieu to two old friends: Stone Levitation Amber Ale and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA.