A Call for Online Civility

In addition to the obvious mission of fighting to make exceptional beer available to the people and freeing shelf space from the white knuckled “Me me me!” grip of the industrialized fizzy yellow facsimile of beer in the process, I’ve always strived to leverage my position to make positive changes within the craft beer culture.

Some know me to be fairly vocal, and yes, even a bit disruptive at times. To that, I say, “Thanks for noticing. I’ll take those as compliments.” In my opinion, it’s the responsibility of people in craft brewing to be stewards of our industry and help move things in the right direction—by sheer force of will if necessary. (It’s taken a lot more than great beer to get our industry this far. If not, all us craft beer guys would have turned totally fat and lazy by now.) Truth be told, there continues to be room for craft breweries to improve our collective efforts and keep this wonderful thing we love called “craft beer” going.

But to put the onus solely on those in the business of making beer would be short-sighted. There’s also a lot beer fans can do to keep craft something we can all enjoy and be both proud of and excited about. Quite often it can all come down to acceptance, civility, understanding and, dare I say it, basic courtesy. The beautiful thing is that, even with diverse opinions and perspectives, this civility is not only possible, but bonus, our industry flourishes best when civility is a leading attribute.

San Diego Beer through the Years

Craft beer is more popular now than it’s ever been. Still, it’s only reached a relatively small segment of the world’s population. Even in our home of San Diego, a county awash with West Coast IPAs and beers spanning all styles, many have yet to understand artisanal brews. That will all change very soon if the San Diego History Center has anything to say about it. Located in the heart of San Diego’s historic Balboa Park, the SDHC recently opened its doors to a new exhibit called Bottled & Kegged: San Diego’s Craft Brew Culture. Billed as the largest exhibit devoted to a region’s brewing history, it offer visitors a comprehensive visage of the last 100 beery (and non-beery) years in San Diego. It’s a tale we, as one of the region’s brewing pioneers, are ecstatic to be a part of.

Dogfish Head, Victory, and Stone get BUFF… again.

Remember when we came out with that badass collaboration beer? What’s that? Oh, which one, you ask? Yes, of course. We should be more specific, as they’ve all been pretty unbelievable. (And we’re totally allowed to brag this hard because there were other brilliant brewers involved, so please consider this our way of supremely complimenting them… while giving ourselves just a little pat on the back.)

Annnnnnyway, so as you may recall, in 2010, we released Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF, a hellaciously herbaceous beer that we–and countless others–fell in love with instantly.

Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF is back at long last! But it won't last long.

Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF is back at long last! But it won’t last long.

Stone Smoked Porter: Now in Vanilla and Chipotle

Stone Blog -- Randy Clemens

Ah, Stone Smoked Porter. The second beer that we ever released, waaaaaay back in December of 1996. It’s a good thing, too… the world was in need of something wonderful, what, with Macarena still tormenting the airwaves and Jingle All The Way polluting movie theater screens. Anyway, back then, we called it Winter Stone, thinking it was just going to be a seasonal release. But when we took it away in the spring, people got a little up in arms and clamored for its triumphant return. (One of the most vocal supporters for bringing it back was Greg’s mom… so we kinda had to comply.)

As time went by, and we kept climbing higher and higher up the hop ladder, the humble Stone Smoked Porter stayed in demand, with its mellow smokiness and nuanced notes of coffee and chocolate. It kept a strong, almost cult-like following. Our unsung hero. Part of the reason it still remains so popular with its loyal fan base is that it pairs so damn well with a wide variety of food, ranging from barbecue to desserts. Heck, I’ll go so far as to say it’s our most food-friendly beer. And if you’re thinking, “Gosh, I bet that would be great with some vanilla beans or chipotle peppers in it,” you’re gonna freak out about this next paragraph.

Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA

It’s no secret that we love making collaboration beers. We always have an amazing time brewing them, they’ve turned out great (if we may say so ourselves), and it gives us a chance to play around a little bit. To go a little further outside of the proverbial box. (Though admittedly, we were never quite certain about where this so-called box is/was, or how so many folks managed to find their way into it.) Each collaboration has its own story, its own inspiration, its own unique set of attributes.

Our first collab of 2012 starts rolling out today, and we’ll go ahead and say it: We’ve got another winner on our hands. “Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA,” as the name implies, is the work of Bear Republic Brewing Co. Brewmaster Richard Norgrove, Jr. (you can call him Ricardo), Fat Head’s Brewery Head Brewer Matt Cole, and our own Brewmaster Mitch Steele.

But what of the rest of the name: TBA? Like, as in… To Be Announced? Trusted Business Advisor? Text-Based Adventure? Tracheobronchial aspirate? Mmm… not quite. The acronym alludes to a classic but little-known beer style called Texas Brown Ale, which, strangely enough, has its roots in California. You see, back in the 80s, there was this homebrew recipe for a brown ale supercharged with Cascade hops that was floating around NorCal homebrew circles. And even while it started gaining popularity, beers that were made in this style failed to fare well in homebrew competitions since there was no recognized category they could be entered in. (They were wayyyy too hoppy and bitter to be considered a traditional brown ale.) But when a competition in Houston, TX, decided to judge such entries in what they would call the “California Dark” category, the American Homebrewers Association followed suit soon after, though they perplexingly changed the name to Texas Brown Ale.

2010 Stone Old Guardian Set To Rock Your Palate

Jacob McKean

Monday marks the 2010 release of one of our biggest, boldest beers: Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine. While the exact recipe for Stone Old Guardian is tweaked every year to fine-tune the flavor of this mammoth mother of a beer, the changes this year are a bit more substantial.

Have no fear, zealous Stone Old Guardian devotees, 2010 Stone Old Guardian is still the beer you know and love. But we like to keep things interesting—especially for those who like to hang onto beers and conduct vertical tastings down the road—so we’ve thrown a couple of compelling new ingredients into this year’s batch.

Mitch and the Brewing Team experimented with a new type of crystal malt made from a variety of British barley called Maris Otter. They were so pleased with the pilot batches made with Maris Otter crystal malt, that they decided to use it in the release version, giving the beer a slightly maltier, nuttier flavor (once again, no reason to fear: with 90 IBUs, it’s still menacingly hoppy.)

A rare photo of 2010 Stone Old Guardian in its natural habitat

A rare photo of 2010 Stone Old Guardian in its natural habitat

To go along with the new malt, Mitch decided to dry hop it with East Kent Golding hops, another traditional British brewing ingredient that wowed the Brewing Team in the trial stages.  I can attest that it does in fact smell like unicorn tears, as scandalous internet rumors have suggested.

So while these changes may push 2010 Stone Old Guardian in a somewhat more continental Anglophilic direction, it’s still every bit the brash, lusty American Barleywine of years past. In fact, we like to think the spirit of adventure exhibited by this year’s version is part of what makes it so frickin’ sweet.

Speaking of adventure, 2010 Stone Old Guardian is on tap at the Bistro this week for 2010 Stone Winter Storm, so if you get here before Saturday, you’ll get a chance to try it before the general release.

Over 59 Million Americans Suffer From Stone-Deprivation

As you may already know, we’ll be expanding distribution into the incredibly lucky state of Connecticut near the end of September. The fair people of the Constitution State will soon be enjoying our sweet, hoppy nectar and dancing in the streets, rejoicing in their shared good fortune while poor, unfortunate beer geeks in Stone-deprived states will continue to languish in their cosmic misfortune, shaking their fists at the sky and wondering why the beer gods have forsaken them thusly. If you find yourself in the latter, ill-fated camp, let us explain how we choose new areas to distribute in so that you’re no longer doomed to a life of pleading for our beer over email, facebook and Twitter (yes, we hear you MO!), forever uninformed and feeling perpetually slighted. Believe it or not, it’s slightly more complicated than a coin toss or “eenie meenie miny moe” (slightly).

It all depends on three main factors. The first and foremost consideration is a no-brainer: Can we make enough beer? Usually the answer is no, because we’re busy trying to brew enough beer for our current areas of distribution. Sure, we’ve experienced ridiculously explosive growth since we opened our doors in 1996, but even with two new fermenters coming in and another building in the plans, we’re still hard-pressed to meet demand for our beer in our present territories. What can we say? We have thirsty fans…

The second consideration is that of demand. We have to ask ourselves if a new territory harbors sufficient demand for our beer, not only among fanatical beer geeks and hop-heads, but also retailers. Without considerable longing from both camps, expansion into a new territory is simply not wise. You see, we need steady turnover for our year-round fresh beers. Without that, our beers might sit waiting for the knowledgeable beer buyer just a little too long on the shelves.

The third and final variable is an acceptable distribution option. We need a wholesaler who 1) understands great beer, 2) is knowledgeable about how to sell great beer, 3) knows how to take care of great beer, 4) has the proper infrastructure to get it to all the great retailers in their region that would like to stock Stone.

Now for the question we always get: Do we ship directly to homes? No, we don’t—but dry up those tears and spare us the hate mail, because you have a few options. Below is a list of people who CAN ship you some Arrogance right to your doorstep:

- Hi Time Wine Cellar  (800-331-3005)
- Liquid Solutions  (503-496-1942)
- Bottle Trek  (1-866-503-9049)
- Beer on the Wall  (1-888-840-BEER)
- Arctic Liquor  (877-817-9463)
- Holiday Wine Cellar  (760-745-1200)
- South Bay Drug & Liquor  (619-424-5164)

These places will usually send a decent selection of our beers to MOST states. Keep in mind that many states prohibit the shipping of beer from out of state, and as such, are typically not on the “eligibility list” for many of these shippers. State laws are complex and change frequently, so some may ship where others will not and vice versa.

The bottom line is, we’ll get to your state eventually. Maybe. As long as we’re able to meet the above parameters. Although we may not have immediate plans to invade your state, we have heard your cries for help. In the meantime, do your best to advocate craft beer. Supporting your local craft breweries, requesting better beer from retailers, and helping to convert others is the fastest way to get the choices you want. Until then…CHEERS!

- Matt Steele

137,088 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, 137,088 Bottles of Beer…

If you read the blog, you know that Steve Via broke our keg line record a few weeks ago. Well, Keg Masta Steve isn’t the only one around here kicking ass and taking names. Our bottling line crew recently set a new record by bottling a staggering 137,088 12-ounce bottles of Stone IPA and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale (95 pallets and 12 cases) in one day!

The previous record was 130,728 bottles (90 pallets and 47 cases), set on December 17, 2008, with each person clocking thirty minutes of overtime that day. Not only did the bottling line break the old record by 6,360 bottles, but they did it with significantly less overtime.

The Bottling Line Crew

Our record-breaking bottling line crew, from left to right: Steve Parks, Manny Amador, Kevin Nolan, Eric Szaras, Nelson Clara, Zack Robertson, Caitlin Misner, Ryan Roersma, Zack Soderbeck, and Beau Bratton

Our bottling line has come a long way since Ben Lee, our Production Coordinator, started on the bottling line over six years ago. “A 21,600 bottle day was a huge deal back in the day,” said Ben. Ben remembers having to place bottles onto the line manually, and then load them into boxes by hand after being filled. Bruised and swollen hands weren’t the only fun side effect. “We had to wrap our fingers in duct tape to avoid getting shredded by the bottle caps.” After one person loaded the bottles manually, another person had to stamp the boxes, load them onto the pallet, and repeat.

Lee Chase and Steve Wagner showcasing our first ever 12 oz. bottle with Stone Brewer, Toshi Ishii looking on. Note that the "Maheen" bottling machine in the background is roughly the size of the three of them.

April 14th, 1999: Lee Chase and Steve Wagner celebrating our first ever bottling run, with Stone Brewer, Toshi Ishii (right) loading bottles into the "Maheen" bottling machine. Note that the "Maheen" is roughly the size of the three of them combined.

Though our bottling line was still pretty rudimentary during Ben’s days on the line, he was at least lucky enough to start right after we bought our first Filler machine. Before the Filler, we employed two old “Maheen” bottling machines (one for 12oz. bottles and one for 22oz. bottles), which required a minimum of two people to operate. We taxed the Maheens to their limit, running them for two shifts a day. “We were doing about 60 cases an hour with them,” said Stone President & Brewmaster Steve Wagner, recollecting the “rudimentary, highly manual” pieces of machinery. “We thought that was a huge amount of beer at the time.”

Bottling Line Operator Bryce Williams-Tuttle managing the Filler

Bottling Line Operator Bryce Williams-Tuttle managing the Filler. About 3/4 of the machinery on our bottling line is used and/or refurbished.

A lot has happened since Ben or Steve worked on the line (most notably, the extinction of the dinosaurs). The crew has doubled in size, and the level of automation has increased exponentially. As mentioned before, we eventually installed a Filler, which we bought used from the Molson plant in St. John, Newfoundland. We acquired a second used filler from Pyramid Brewing on August 20, 2007, and later installed a Climax Uncaser and extra Accumulation Conveyors on July 19th, 2008.

The newest addition to the line is a Slitter-Sealer machine, which we obtained from Abita Brewing in Louisiana. The gently used Slitter-Sealer was installed last Friday (the day after the bottling crew broke the record), and it makes the crews’ lives a hell of a lot easier. Instead of having to manually break tabs, fold, and seal about 20 boxes per minute, the machine will take over, sealing about 50 boxes per minute (once it’s running at full speed). Bill Sherwood, our Facilities Manager, likes the “chop-chop, flip-flap” action of the Slitter-Sealer, calling it a “Dr. Seuss kind of machine.”

Beau Bratton manually breaking box tabs, folding, and sealing.

Beau Bratton manually breaking box tabs, folding, and sealing.

According to Packaging Supervisor, Kris Ketcham, breaking the bottling record was “a perfect ending to the last day that we will probably ever have to manually break box tabs, fold, and seal.” Breaking the record was indeed a fitting end to the last day ever manually sealing boxes—but not the end of the story. We’re sure our stellar bottling line crew will continue to rock our socks off, and we can’t wait until they reach their next milestone.

-Matt Steele

Juxtaposition Video Posted and We Already Have News On Our Next Collaboration!

Our friends Chris and Jared over at the Local Brew just finished editing a video they filmed on Friday for our next collaboration release, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

While we’re talking about collaborations, Garret Marrero from Maui Brewing accepted our invitation on lending a hand to help brew Aloha Plenty. If you haven’t kept up on the blog, Aloha Plenty is Ken Schmidt’s homebrew that won our 2009 AHA Rally Homebrew Competition. Since this is a collaboration between Ken Schmidt, Mitch Steele and Garrett Marrero – we’ve green lighted this beer as another part of our collaboration series. That’s right, the full treatment of not only being brewed on our system and served on draft, but also bottled for nationwide distribution. There is one difference in this collaboration though, this won’t exactly be a meld of each brewer’s creativity. Instead, Mitch and Garrett will be taking a supporting role in helping Ken keep his homebrewed masterpiece true to the original when being brewed on a large scale. Aloha Plenty is a Robust Porter made with Kona Coffee, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. I was lucky enough to taste it during the AHA Rally judging and was impressed on how each one of these ingredients were present in both the aroma and the flavor the whole way through. You’re in for a real treat, but then again – I’m talking about something way down the road that we haven’t even brewed yet. Oh well, at least you’ll have an amazing Black Pilsner to help pass the time before that collaboration comes down the pike.


The Doctor is in…Dr. Bill That is

Sometimes you just get lucky. Maybe you take a chance on an obscure beer and happen to discover your new favorite. Or perhaps you stumble across a poor orphaned $20 dollar bill and decide to give it a home (after an exhaustive search for it’s owner, of course). Recently, our luck came in the form of Dr. Bill. If you don’t know who Dr. Bill is, then you haven’t been going to the right parties.

Bill Sysak, or “Dr. Bill,” as he’s known in the inner circle of craft-beerdom, is a master of zymurgical knowledge (made famous in part by his lavish beer tasting parties) and general beer wizardry.

We’re pleased to announce that he’s our new Beverage Coordinator of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.

Our new Beverage Coordinator, "Dr." Bill Sysak

Our new Beverage Coordinator, "Dr." Bill Sysak

Right now you’re either going, “Oh my god! Dr. Bill is working at Stone?!?” or you’re asking yourself, “OK, so who the hell is this Dr. Bill guy and what is he a doctor of?” If your response is the latter, let me bring you up to speed.

This is Dr. Bill’s first professional foray into the beer industry, but he has long been a bit of a beer celebrity in the craft and specialty beer scene. Thanks to some well-guided mentoring from his father, Dr. Bill was exposed to great beer earlier than most. Every other Friday, Bill and his father would sample a dozen new beers, educating Bill about the variety of styles and complex flavor profiles available in the world of great beer (most of us aren’t so lucky, and have to endure years of misguided beer drinking before realizing the errors of our ways!).

Though Dr. Bill was ahead of the curve on great beer, he didn’t earn his nickname through his near doctorate level of real-life beer scholarship. He earned it as a combat medic in the military, constantly responding to calls of “Hey Doc!” from fellow soldiers. Somehow the moniker stuck and Bill remained Dr. Bill long after he left the military to pursue a career in the medical field. So ingrained was his nickname that even actual Doctors referred to him as “Dr. Bill.”

Dr. Bill enjoying a choice beverage in his personal cellar

Dr. Bill enjoying a choice libation in his personal cellar

Bill’s passion for beer continued to grow throughout his 25 years in the medical field, inspiring him to travel the world and visit over 500 breweries (he always respectfully declines the brewery tours after seeing his share of mash tuns). During one decidedly prolific three-year stint in Germany, Dr. Bill visited Belgium 30 times and stepped foot in roughly 300 breweries.

After his time in Europe, Bill moved to Seattle to immerse himself in the beer scene. He then moved back to his birthplace, Orange County California, where he spent the last eighteen years amassing one of the most extensive personal cellars in the world. Currently, Dr. Bill has about 1,000 bottles in his home cellar, but at its peak it contained nearly 2,500 bottles.

Do I spy a Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale?

Do I spy a Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale?

Throughout his tenure as a beer connoisseur, Bill has displayed a true talent for tracking down the rarest, tastiest beers from around the world. During his travels he garnered an impressive roster of connections in the beer industry, aiding him greatly in the acquisition of rare beer and augmentation of his cellar. However, Bill’s deep roots in the industry and awe-inspiring cellar aren’t the only things he’s known for. His numerous extravagant beer-tasting events are nothing short of legendary.

For a span of ten years, Dr. Bill hosted the “most extreme” private beer festival in the world. Along with a sizable gathering of SoCal beers, Bill and fellow beer enthusiasts would taste beers stretching from New York, England, Belgium, Washington and beyond. The largest festival Bill ever hosted featured 162 beers in two columns. One column consisted of all the rarest Belgian beers in the world, and the other had beers over 8%–but these weren’t just any beers. They had to meet a certain standard to make the cut. (see below)

Just a sample of the decadent beer list at one of Dr. Bill's festivals

Page 1 (of 2) of the decadent beer list of Dr. Bill's 10th & Final Festival, complete with serving times...wow.

After a while the festivals evolved into Dr. Bill’s birthday bash, and reached crazy levels of beer consumption. It was commonplace to go through 150 cases, which amounted to many thousands of dollars of beer. As if that wasn’t enough, Bill used to provide up to twenty additional kegs courtesy of his brewery friends to quench the thirst of the patrons during the nine minutes between pours. Some of the kegs provided were Cuvee de Tomme, Fred from the Wood, and dry-hopped Stone 10th Anniversary IPA.

The festivals became such a monstrous undertaking that Bill eventually enlisted the help of his good friend Steve “Steiny” Steinberg to co-host the 7th through 10th festivals, and the 6th through 8th were actually held at Steve’s house.

Dr. Bill and his festivals grew to an astonishing level of prominence. According to Dr. Bill, they used to say that Dr. Bill’s house was one of the top three beer destinations in Orange County.

Dr. Bill's 10th & Final Beer Festival

Dr. Bill's 10th and Final Beer Festival

Despite Bill’s decadent past, the self-appointed “Grandfather of Beer Geeks,” knows he has his work cut out for him here at Stone. The bar has been raised pretty high by our previous Beverage Coordinator, Peter Reeves. Peter put on an incredible Stone Sour Fest last year, and Dr. Bill admits that it won’t be easy to top him–but he’s up for the challenge:

“I love a challenge. I’ve always been able to accomplish whatever I set my mind to. We have a very nice, eclectic beer list, but I think we’re going to make an even more eclectic beer list. I’m going to try to push the limits as much as I can, yet keep a wide range of beers for every palate and every person.”

With events like Stone Sour Fest and San Diego Storm (more info coming soon) coming up, Bill will have plenty of opportunity to showcase his talent:

“I would love to be able to have the best Sour Fest ever. I’m going to be spending the time up to Sour Fest looking for the most rare sour beers I can possibly get, so it should be even better than before—if that’s even possible.”

Beer has been Dr. Bill’s passion for years, and he’s finally “bringing it to fruition by actually getting into the industry.” So what took him so long?

“I’ve wanted to do it for a long time and it just so happened after 25 years in the medical field everything fell into place that I had the opportunity to take some time and look for something. I’ve known Greg and Steve since Stone’s First Anniversary Celebration and I know how they run things. I know there’s only one way, and that’s the right way. So I put in an application, started talking to everybody and here I am.”

We’re confident that Dr. Bill will be a fine addition to Team Stone, and we can’t wait to try all of the fantastic beers he’ll get his hands on. Bill is also committed to communicating with the public on what he’s getting on tap, so watch out for his Bistro “Beer Lineup” email newsletter. And just for the record—the doctor is in.

Get your Dr. Bill Trading Card Today!

Get your Dr. Bill Trading Card Today!

-Matt Steele

Check out our Dr. Bill flickr set for more peeks at his incredible personal cellar and general beer craziness

Check out our Third Annual Stone Sour Fest on July 19th, where Bill will be showcasing his talent