Local Brewery Spotlight: Stone Brewing Company


Having a review section on this blog seems obligatory, but it may be about the tasting rooms and special events more than it’s about the beer since I am not the ideal candidate for that type of review. The logical brewery to start with is Stone, since this is where I began my (somewhat forced) beer education. I should start off by saying that I do not like their beers, they are too hardcore for my palate. It’s just a fact, I am indeed not worthy.  In general, I do not need my hops with a side of hops, or my stouts to be imperial. That being said, I love the Stone Brewing Company itself. For their elegant bistro and its enchanting bottle list, for their summer movies in the garden, for their festivals, for their collaborations with other microbreweries both local and international, and for their general big-without-being-evil mentality. They truly are a tour de force, selling everything from bike jerseys to books to beer cheese. Plus I got to meet Wil Wheaton (just kidding, here’s the link you should actually use if you want to know more about him) when he stopped by for a book reading and, I’m assuming, some Arrogant Bastard Ale.
My beer snob husband and beer snob friends all love Stone Brewery. A recent beer club evening was themed “labels with animals” with the clarification that gargoyles are in fact animals. Two of our good friends even got married at Stone World Bistro and Gardens, with the overdone unity candle tradition being replaced with the mixing in one glass of their two favorite beers. The bride also got to choose two kegs to be available that night, one of which she mercifully made a cider for us weaklings.

His (Alesmith X) and hers (Stone Cali-belgique).

On the way home from a recent trip to Disneyland, Reed appealed to my love of taking a different route home than I took to get there (this applies to everything from going to the grocery store to cross-country roadtrips) by suggesting we take Highway 78. As I made the turn he casually mentioned that in 40 minutes bottles of Stone’s 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout would be going on sale in the Stone company store. This particular beer is one of his favorites and is now 3 years old and only getting better (or so I’m told). Releases of it are few and far between so of course we made the detour and were first in line to buy the one 22oz bottle each that was the limit. This is the really nice thing about living in San Diego, as if the weather and ocean weren’t enough. Stone Brewing Company is a huge presence here and so many of the perks are available locally, including special releases, growler fills from their Escondido and new South Park locations, and some seriously big expansions coming up.
We recently attended the Stone 15th Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival. Stone’s anniversary happens to be very close to our wedding anniversary and so all-access passes were Reed’s gift from me this year. The phrase “kid in a candy store” comes to mind. We were there for both of the regular tasting sessions and had wristbands that got us into the rare beer area as well. I have learned that in addition to the belgians and wheats that I like (don’t judge me!), I also really like barleywines. This puzzles Reed. In this rare beer tasting area, I had 4 ounces of 2006 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine aged in bourbon barrels that changed my life. I savored it, which is probably a first for me and a beer of any type. I can neither confirm nor deny that “Dreamweaver” was playing while I drank from my taster glass in slow motion. Reed used up most of his tabs on beers from this area, including the 12th Anniversary he loves so much aged in bourbon barrels and two Stone releases I’d never heard of (and we actually had to google since the volunteer pourers could only tell us that “I think there’s pepper in it or something”) called Crime and Punishment, both of which apparently resulted from an over-abundance of chili peppers in the CEO’s garden. I mean, who does stuff like this? Answer: Stone does. Because they’re inspired and, I’m assuming, because in one of those cliche moments, no one told them they couldn’t.
There were also plenty of other breweries represented in the rare beer area and, of course, in the festival at large. I was easily able to find beers that were to my liking and a couple of cider makers that impressed me; the nearby Julian Hard Cider’s Cherry Bomb was delightful and Crispin’s addition of sake yeast to its Cho-Tokkyu left me wanting more. The lines for Lost Abbey and Russian River breweries were consistently the longest, along with that for the Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale onion rings. Some of my beer snob friends were disappointed that the addition of a separate rare beer area meant that most booths in the regular sessions didn’t have anything too different or exciting, making it hard for them to find even 10 beers “worth” a tab off their wristbands. I think this must be partially true, but is also a result of the amazing beer selections that we in San Diego can find at local restaurants and bottle shops. Because of places like Stone, its hard for the beer snobs in my life to find beers that they haven’t tried yet. Oh boo-hoo.

Always a good time, at Stone bistro with friends.

2 thoughts on “Local Brewery Spotlight: Stone Brewing Company”

  1. You didn't mention that the night before the event your beer snob husband printed the list of available beers and put little hearts by the ones he thought you would actually like….now that's LOVE!

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