Get Your Fill: Living the Growler Lifestyle

Long ago, before bottled beer could be purchased at a supermarket–heck, before supermarkets–some clever folks decided they didn’t want to be limited to drinking beer in pubs. After all, enjoying a pint at the bar is fine, but getting home to your family and enjoying a beer with your home-cooked meal is pretty epic, too. So they decided to have additional pints poured into a container (usually a metal pail back then) they could then take home and enjoy. My own grandfather told me his father used to send him to the local pub with a coffee can and the instructions: “Not too much foam.” (Dad must have had a pretty good fake ID.) It’s been a while since the days of filling any old container with draft beer. Somewhere along the way, the word “growler” became common terminology for a glass jug in which to carry home draft beer from a local brewery.


If you have a collection of growlers from different breweries encroaching on your living space, you are already familiar with the benefits of these wondrous vessels. They give you access to fresh, sometimes rare beer from a small brewery in the comfort of your home, allow you to share beer with people, and help reduce waste and your impact on the environment. One- and two-liter; 64-, 40-, and 32-ounce, glass, ceramic, stainless steel and vacuum-insulated growlers come in a multitude of shapes and sizes nowadays. These options vary from brewery to brewery, as do house policies on what types of growlers they’ll fill.

In order to guide our fans towards enjoying the freshest beer possible with the greatest of ease, the Great Gargoyle has presented us with the following Growler Commandments:

  • Thou shalt bring thy growler in clean and worthy of holding great craft beer.
  • Thou shalt comply with California ABC (Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) labeling laws.
  • Thou shalt keep thy growler refrigerated. (Although insulated growlers will stay cold for 24 hours.)
  • Thou shalt open thy growler within 7-10 days of purchase.
  • Thou shalt consume thy beer within 24 hours of opening the growler, or risk significant carbonation loss.
  • Thou shalt not consume growlers in the patio or gardens, or in public in general (just lookin’ out for you!)

In many states, breweries can legally fill any growler with their beer, even if someone else’s logo is on the container. Our home state is a very special place. Things are a bit more complicated when it comes to getting your growler filled at multiple California breweries. Basically, any brewery’s name on the growler has to correspond to the maker of the beer inside it. But this labeling can potentially be removed or obscured, and blank growlers are also available from many manufacturers. Many breweries have house rules that can sometimes seem to contradict or limit your freedom (#Murica!), but these ultimately exist to a) ensure that the brewery is not in danger of a potential violation, and b) ensure the quality of the beer and the brewery’s reputation.


If you are unsure whether that new brewery down the road will fill the type of growler you have, just call them. There’s also this extremely thorough spreadsheet that is constantly being updated. If you educate yourself beforehand, you won’t be turned away due to a house rule. Our non-branded growlers (meaning they don’t say “Stone Brewing Co.” but they do say “FRESH BEER,” making them a little more snazzy than a blank vessel) can legally be filled anywhere, but it is up to each brewery (including us) to decide which types of growlers we prefer to fill and how they may be potentially modified with a covering. We want you to be able to fill your growlers at other breweries, even if you purchased the growler at Stone–that’s why we started offering non-branded varieties. When it comes down to it, we’re in the business of selling beer, not Stone growlers. For now, I’m here to help illuminate and clarify the nature of Stone’s own house policy, but remember other breweries’ policies vary.

First of all, growlers are take-home containers. Buying a growler and opening it anywhere but a private residence or a BYOB is an open container violation–ergo, illegal. Growlers may not be consumed on the patio or in the gardens at any Stone location…ever! This is pretty much true anywhere in the country, except maybe Nevada, where you can get away with just about anything.


Whose House Policy? OUR House Policy!

If you bought your growler at a Stone location, great! You can fill it at any Stone Company Store as well as Stone Farms and the Stone Brewing TapRoom near Petco Park. In order to fill a growler that wasn’t purchased from Stone, it must fit the following parameters:

  • It must be made of brown glass or an opaque material (e.g., stainless steel or ceramic).
  • It must have a swing-top lid with a rubber gasket. The very popular brown glass 64-ounce screw-top growlers you’ve probably seen around town are economical but don’t hold carbonation as well.
  • It must be blank* or have no other brewery’s information on it. Anything that isn’t beer-related is fine, so if your name is Dave and you have a growler that says “DAVE” on it, that’s OK (and awesome). We also sell non-Stone-branded growlers that say “FRESH BEER.”
  • If it has any other brewery’s information on it, that must be permanently obscured or removed. Our Store Crew has the ultimate discretion on what constitutes a classy covering. Sorry, no duct tape.
  • It must be one of the following volumes: one-liter, two-liter, 32-ounce, 40-ounce, or 64-ounce.
  • It must be in good condition (i.e., not broken, damaged, or with a faulty seal).
  • It must be clean!

* NOTE: There’s one tricky exception to this rule. We currently offer 40-ounce insulated growlers made by a company called Hydroflask. With either our brewery’s name or “FRESH BEER” printed on them, it is clear that they are growlers containing an alcoholic beverage. However, we cannot fill blank 40-ounce Hydroflasks, because there is too much of a risk for confusion with a regular water bottle. We want to make sure we are not enabling lawbreaking or creating illegal situations like public or covert consumption of beer. Remember that the Store Crew has the ultimate discretion in what we can and cannot fill. Here’s our house policy in more concise wording, as well.


Caring for your Collection

Say it with me (yet again): Thou shalt bring your growler in CLEAN and worthy of holding great craft beer. While we might be able to give your growler a quick rinse to take out any dust, we may not always have time to do so when we are simultaneously fulfilling a dozen growler orders. (Especially at our Escondido home-base on Saturdays when our fans are packed in like sardines…albeit sardines with really good taste in beer!) If your growler is already clean but you are worried about dust, just rinse it before you leave the house. What we most certainly cannot do is clean out a growler that was never rinsed and has developed sour, funky beer residue and odor.

If you hate doing dishes, I’m right there with you. Luckily, growlers are REALLY EASY TO CLEAN! All they require is a few rinses with hot water, and the best time to do this is right after you pour out the last drop of beer. If the beer residue in the growler dries, the growler will be much harder to clean and will develop scum. DO NOT use detergent, bleach, or any chemicals or cleaners as this can be very hard to completely rinse out and will ruin the head retention of your beer or affect the flavor. Be on top of it and you will be rewarded with beer that is fresh-tasting and attractive-looking.


Wait. This all seems complicated. Why do I want a growler again?!

Let’s go over the benefits:

  • You get access to fresh draft beer from a local brewery. This might mean a really fresh batch of a year-round beer like Stone IPA, or it might mean a super-rare beer that isn’t bottled at all (2013 Stone Old Guardian OAK-SMOKED Barley Wine w/French & American Oak, anyone?). It also means you get to go to a tasting room to get it, which is way more fun than going to a grocery store, and you definitely won’t leave with a box of Hot Pockets or priced-to-move brownie bites you bought for no discernible reason other than you were shopping while hungry. You also have access to a wider variety of beers than at a grocery store, and you get to support a local brewery, beers from which might not be available in any stores.
  • You reduce your waste and impact on the environment. Draft beer is served out of reusable containers (kegs) into reusable containers (growlers). This means there is no environmental impact from the manufacturing of other packaging, like cardboard, bottles and transportation of materials. The toll on the environment is even less if you have a brewery within walking or biking distance!
  • You’ve got multiple sizes and types of containers to choose from! Are you livin’ the single life and can’t really put down two-liters of beer in a day? We have one-liter growlers for that! Do you have a beer-loving significant other or a lot of friends you need to share your craft beer with? Get a two-liter and spread the love! Do you like to go camping or take beer on long journeys sans refrigeration? Insulated stainless steel growlers were made for your lifestyle!


Once you’ve decided which type of growler is best for you, next comes another difficult conundrum–what beer to take home inside it?! Our Stone Company Stores will always have year-round offerings available in addition to Stone specialty beers that vary by location. Our fill schedule is available for perusal online here, or you can let us keep you up-to-date by subscribing to our weekly growler fill update email. Once a beer is tapped, it will be on tap until it runs out. We can’t guarantee that some of the more coveted beers will last, so always call ahead to make sure we still have the beer you desire. We’ll see you soon at a Stone Company Store near you, or maybe at another brewery tasting room altogether!

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.


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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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