Category Archives: Travels

Atlanta

The end of this month marks a full 7 months that I’ve been traveling to Atlanta on a regular basis for the planning work that is happening for our brewery restaurant.
Many people are asking me “why Atlanta?”, which is a very fair question. I have no personal ties here, and up until recently, I haven’t spent much time here. But one of my business partners lives in the Atlanta area, and Atlanta was on the short list of places we were considering, primarily because it is a really cool city, and is, in our opinions, under-represented with craft breweries compared to other big cities in the country (though there are some very good breweries here). We thought the potential here was significant. Carey found a building for our business that is absolutely perfect for what we want to try and create. And since then, I’ve been here a lot, and have grown to really like this city and the people that live here.

Atlanta itself is a “happening” city, a lot of the neighborhoods have undergone renovation, and that are filled with unique and excellent restaurants and beer drinking establishments. It’s also a beautiful city, filled with parks, lots of trees, and some amazing homes.

There is a thriving craft beer scene here. Two beer drinking establishments are consistently ranked in the top ten of American craft beer bars (The Porter,  and The Brickstore Pub in nearby Decatur). I’ve been to each many times, they have great draft beer selections, lots of rare bottles stored in temperature controlled beer cellars, educated and knowledgable staff, and they really take care of their beer and their glassware.
There are some really good craft brewers here as well, with many more breweries in planning. This is despite current GA beer laws that restrict the ability of brewers who operate a “brewery” to sell beer out of their brewery, and severely limits maximum production volume of a brewpub that serves food. I’m learning more about the local brewers and breweries with each trip I’ve taken, and we are really looking forward to being a part of the scene here. As I have found everywhere, brewers are kindred spirits, and I look forward to getting to know the Atlanta area brewers better and enjoying their beers.

Some of my favorite beers so far are from Creature Comforts in nearby Athens GA, Scofflaw which really makes great IPAs, and Three Taverns Brewery in Decatur. Terrapin in Athens has been one of my favorites for a long time. Sweetwater Brewing is the largest brewery in the area, we got to visit a few weeks ago, and I was impressed with their operation, and pleasantly surprised at how big they are. They are doing some really cool special beers and wood aged beers, and their core lineup has always been solid. Torched Hop is a new brewpub that is a five minute drive from our spot, and they make really good beer, we’ve been there several times. And there are other brewers in the area I really haven’t had a chance to try yet, including Monday Night Brewing, Reformation, Eventide, Second Self, and others. A lot of brewers are putting some focus on sour beers, and the ones I’ve gotten to try from Orpheus and Three Taverns have been delicious. In short, there is no shortage of good and interesting beer, covering all styles, in the Atlanta area, which has been fun for me to learn!
We rented an apartment in the Inman Park neighborhood since one of our partners, Bob, and I are traveling in for now.  It’s better than staying in a hotel and is giving us a little sense of “home”. It’s not only located in a great neighborhood with a lot of restaurants and cafes, it’s located on the Beltline, a jogging/walking/biking trial that will eventually encircle the entire city, so it is only a 5-10 minute walk to our building site. The apartment is also is a 5-10 minute walk from The Porter, the Wrecking Bar Brewpub, Ponce City Market, and Krog Street Market, which has a great beer store and beer bar called Hop City. I just bought a bicycle for getting around-the Beltline is a wonderful place to do some quick rides and navigate through town.

I’ve been asked a lot about when I’m moving. I have a daughter in high school in CA, and will not move her while she is in school, so I’ll be commuting until she graduates. I do look forward to bringing the family out here, and showing them some of the things I really like in the area.

We still don’t have an official name, we hope to be able to announce something soon. As we start construction in our space, look for more progress updates from me!

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

This quote from Tolkien strikes a chord with me. I guess I’m a bit of a restless spirit, and I’ve had a desire to travel and experience new areas for most of my life. One of the things my wife Kathleen and I have really enjoyed in our lives together has been the opportunity to live in different parts of the country, travel around different regions, work at different jobs, and experience and embrace different cultures and lifestyles.
I’ve had several major changes in my long career in brewing that in some ways have been fueled by this desire to explore, and now another change has come. I will be leaving Stone Brewing at the end of June to partner up with some brewing industry veterans on a new project. Stone made a video to announce my departure to the team, and I used this Tolkien quote in it, and it just seemed to fit.
My time at Stone has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve been given so many opportunities to brew great beer, travel to great places, and put myself in a position to represent and speak for Stone and for craft beer. There aren’t words to express how grateful I am to have had this role at Stone, and for everything I have been able to do with it. As excited as I am about this new project, it’s incredibly hard to leave a company that does such great things and that has treated me so well. And the hardest part about it is how much I am going to miss everyone at Team Stone that I’ve worked with over the past 10+ years. Team Stone is a great team of dedicated, skilled and passionate brewers and craft beer fans, and I cherish the time I was able to work with all of them. I consider my coworkers good friends and great ambassadors of craft beer, and I am sure they will continue to have major success and brew great beer.

Greg, Steve, and Pat (our COO) have been nothing short of incredible as we prepare for this transition. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I think they get why I’m doing this and what it means to me, and they have been very kind and have expressed a lot of gratitude for my contributions. I respect and admire these folks so much, and wish them and Stone nothing but the best success as things move forward. We have pledged to continuing to support each other in the future, for which I am very thankful.
I will still be part of craft brewing as I work on this new venture. And once details can be revealed, they will be. But for now, know that I will continue to be an active member of the craft beer community, and I am looking forward to continuing to cross paths with everyone as this moves forward. I’ve been lucky to have made so many great friends in the industry-the best industry on Earth, and I look forward to making more friendships in the future and continuing to share beers with everyone at industry events.

Cheers,  Mitch

My Favorite Beer Cities

Another one I never got around to posting because sometimes life gets in the way:

Stephen Beaumont wrote a post a while back on his World of Beer site that “there is no such thing as a “best beer city””, his point being that the enjoyment of beer relies as much upon atmosphere, situation, and history as much as the overall beer and brewery selection in any given city. I kind of agree with him, despite the fact that I called Portland, Oregon America’s best beer city in a previous post. But this is highly subjective, admittedly, and so I thought maybe I’d just list my favorite beer cities, and why I enjoy them as much as I do, without trying to decide which is best, because I like them all for different reasons.

I did not list any cities I haven’t been to, so if a great beer city is not on the list, that would probably be why. So here they are, in no particular order, and special thanks to Stone’s Brewery Reps in each of these towns, because they are the ones that always show me what’s new:

Portland, Oregon: Nowhere I’ve been is craft beer as pervasive as I’ve seen in Portland, OR. I go to Portland about once a year, and every time I go, I get to visit many new craft beer bars or breweries. There is always something new and incredible. And craft beer is literally everywhere, it’s harder to find a restaurant or bar that doesn’t serve craft beer than it is to find one that does. Portland has a great craft brewing tradition, one of the pioneering towns of the modern day craft beer movement, so it is full of 30 year “tradition” and also some groundbreaking innovation. The Craft Brewers Conference will be in Portland in 2015, and I think we’re cooking up some big activities while we are there. Cannot wait for this.

San Diego, CA: Okay, I’m a homie now, after 8+ years of being here. There are currently over 80 craft breweries in San Diego County, and the beer scene is amazingly innovative and vibrant. There’s a beer style for everyone here. If you want a lager, an English Ale, a sour beer, or a west coast IPA, you can find excellent examples of all of these being brewed within miles of each other. I’m proud to be part of the beer community here, I just wish I lived a little closer to San Diego itself and all the great beer bars there, like Hamilton’s, Blind Lady, Small Bar and Toronado just east of downtown, and The Neighborhood and The Local in downtown. I just read that the ~20 mile stretch along Highway 78 from Escondido to Oceanside is home to something like 30 breweries! My favorite place to get a beer and a meal in the San Diego area is URGE Gastropub in Rancho Bernardo, in between San Diego and Escondido.

Cleveland, OH: I’ve traveled for Stone a few times to Cleveland OH, and always have a great time. There is a hard-core craft scene here, while it might not be as big as the scene is in some other cities, it is passionate, down to earth, and intense. There are some great breweries in Cleveland, including Fat Heads, Market Garden, and Great Lakes, and the city’s residents have really embraced Stone, which always makes a visit fun. I love the restaurants in Cleveland also, not only are there several Michael Symon restaurants, there are places like Melt and Winking Lizard that serve lots and lots of craft beer, and have delicious comfort food with generous portion sizes. Lilly’s handmade chocolates is not only a craft beer bottle shop, but they make incredible chocolates, many of them made with beer. The home brewing scene is big also. Plus it’s also home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so it scores double for me.

San Francisco Bay Area: Will always have a spot in my heart. I grew up in the Bay Area, and got my first brewing job here. The brewing scene is widespread here, so like most people, I tend to lump many Northern California breweries together as part of the SF Beer scene. I love the breweries here, the ones I knew in the 80’s when I first started brewing, like Anchor, Triple Rock, Sierra Nevada and Drakes, and the great ones that have come since I left, like 21st Amendment, Faction, Russian River, Bear Republic, and Lagunitas. The Bay Area is home to The Brewing Network, and a bunch of great craft beer bars, and is also home to some of my closest friends in the business. My only gripe about the area is that there are still some craft beer deserts-like the San Jose area and the Diablo Valley, though they are getting better. The East Bay is home to me, but I just wish craft beer would take off in my hometown, Walnut Creek. Ol is a good start, but come on! At least Concord “gets it”, kind of. But like people say when I visit the East Bay and ask where I should go:   “you need to drive through the Caldecott tunnel or take BART to get to a great beer place”.

Denver: I lived in Colorado for 3 years, and absolutely loved it. Denver is a cool town, the LoDo area was just taking off when we lived there. The brewing scene in Colorado is legendary, with breweries like Wynkoop and Breckenridge, and there are exciting new brewers popping up all the time. It’s a fun town to visit, which I get to do just about every year when I go out for the Great American Beer Festival. Falling Rock is the legendary beer bar, and is so packed post GABF sessions that I usually end up going somewhere else. But I love to go there in quieter times. My favorite place in Denver: Euclid Hall, a craft beer centric German-inspired gastropub. But downtown is just loaded with great brewers and great beer bars, all pretty much walking distance from each other. When I lived in Colorado, I was in Ft. Collins, and that town is simply amazing, with brewers like Odell and New Belgium, and several others that have opened since I left.

Seattle: Seattle’s scene is legendary as well, and every time I go there-which is on a pretty regular basis because of its proximity to Yakima (where almost all our hops are grown)- there always seems to be a new brewery that is creating a lot of buzz. I like the old standbys, like Pike and Elysian, and love Brouwer’s Cafe, which always has amazing Belgian beer selections. I’m looking forward to trying Toronado next time I’m there, which will be soon.

Philadelphia: I have to admit, I have a hard time figuring out Philly’s beer scene. Not that it isn’t great, but it is a bit unusual in that it seems to be dominated by beer bars and restaurants as opposed to breweries. There are some great breweries in the area, like Victory, Yards and the Iron Hill pub chain that wins so many awards at the GABF every year, but when I go to Philadelphia, I usually end up in a Belgian beer bar-there are several awesome ones in the town. Monk’s is the “must-visit” place in Philadelphia. But Eulogy Belgian Tavern is also great, and I’ve also enjoyed the times I’ve visited the Belgian Cafe, Tria Cafe, and Jose Pistolas.

Asheville: I went to Asheville twice in 2013, and there aren’t words to describe how cool the brewing scene is there. For a town of 80,000+ people, it certainly has a lot of really good breweries and beer bars, and I can see going there a LOT in my future. Wicked Weed Brewing, The Thirsty Monk, and Jack of The Wood are all great places to hang out. I have told my wife more than once that I want to retire there. It’s beautiful, the people are friendly and kind, and the beer is great. Can’t really beat that, can you?

Boston: I lived in the Boston area for 6 years while working for Anheuser-Busch, and the beer scene at the time was pretty much dominated by Sam Adams and Harpoon. I became friends with many of New England’s craft brewers while I lived there and active in the New England District of the Master Brewers Association. I think New England’s craft beer presence was clouded a bit in the early days by the rampant use of Ringwood yeast, but there are many amazing beers there now. I love New England and would move back in a heartbeat if Stone were to move their headquarters there (yeah, right. Probably not going to happen). If you include Maine and Vermont as part of the overall scene, you get some world-class craft brewers like The Alchemist and Allagash added to the mix.  If I had to name a “best beer state”, Vermont might be at the top of my list.

Burlington VT: Simply one of my favorite towns. It’s beautiful, and has a great vibe, and good beer. Not only are there several world-class breweries within the town limits, it’s also just a short distance away from brewers likeThe Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, Otter Creek, and so many other great Vermont Breweries. I wouldn’t mind retiring here either, if I can still deal with the cold and snow by the time I get to be retirement age.

St. Louis: I lived 5 years in St. Louis, and of course, Budweiser was king there when I lived there. But I went back last year for the first time in about 7 years, and was excited to find a vibrant craft scene, that includes the great Schlafly beer, and also newer brewers like 4 Hands and Urban Chestnut.  The town will always be beer centric, and it’s great to see people embrace craft beer since the sale of Anheuser-Busch to Inbev.

Austin: Like most people, I tend to think of music first when I think of Austin, but the beer scene is really great. I wrote a lot about the town in a previous post, but there are great craft beer bars and restaurants all over town. And yes, 6th Street, where a lot of the music is, is a bit of a craft beer desert, but you can find good beer if you look hard enough, and on the perimeter of 6th street are some great craft beer places, like Easy Tiger and Star Bar

Temecula:  This is my hometown, and I have to admit, I didn’t like it much when I first moved here over 8 years ago. It was chain restaurant hell, but in the past several years it has became home to some great gastropubs, like The Public House and Sorrel, and there are a bunch of breweries that have opened on the west side of town. Black Market opened a few years ago, was really the first brewery here after Vinnie Cilurzo’s Blind Pig Brewery closed, and they brewed a great Hefeweizen and GABF winning Rye IPA when they first opened up. Since Black Market, several breweries have also opened, owned by really super people who are brewing great beer. The list of brewers in Temecula now includes Black Market, Iron Fire, Refuge, Aftershock, Wiens and Garage Brewing. Many of these breweries sell much of their beer out of their tasting rooms, and are within either walking distance from each other or just a short drive, so a safe brewery crawl is always fun and safe to do on a weekend. Riverside County and Los Angeles are no slouches either when it comes to craft brewing-there are some great breweries that have opened up across the region, and some of my favorite beer bars, like 38 Degrees, Blue Palms, Najas, Haven, Lucky Baldwin’s, Congergation Ale House, and Mohawk Bend are located near LA.

London: I’ve been so fortunate to have been able to travel to London about 6 times in the last 5 years. I love the city, and I love the pub scene in England. Some of my favorite stops in London: The Fuller’s Brewery is still amazing after all these years, and some of the newer craft breweries, like The Kernel and Beavertown are brewing really exciting beers. Meantime in Greenwich does a great job brewing both German style beers and historically influenced English Ales. There are some really great craft beer pubs around London too, including The Rake in the Borough market area, The Craft Beer Co. in Clerkenwell, and the Euston Tap, just outside the Euston train station.

Montreal: Fortunately, I got to Montreal twice when I lived in new Hampshire. It’s a great beer town full of Belgian influenced brewers. I have very fond memories of doing an all day walking brewery/pub crawl with several friends from the Brew For or Die homebrew club. And our Unibroue stop was epic. I’ll never forget going into an Irish pub on St. Catherine Street and hearing an Irish band play Metallica.

Brussels: I’ve only been to Brussels once, and for the best reason: to visit Cantillon. Steve Wagner and I stopped there for a night during one of our trips to London. Jean Van Roy was very generous with his time and his sampling when we told him where we were from. And in the town center, there are the world famous beer bars like Delirium Tremens. The Belga Queen was one of the best dinner experiences I have ever had. Boon Gueze on cask–all night.

Grand Rapids, MI: Made my first visit to Grand Rapids for the American Homebrewers Conference in June, and it’s really a very cool beer town. Founders is right there-their beers are fantastic, and their restaurant serves great sandwiches. Walking distance from Founders is Hop Cat and several other great beer spots. And Brewery Vivant was a fun last minute stop-they are killing it. Lots of really great places. And nearby, Kalamazoo (home to Bell’s) and Ann Arbor-Home to Ashley’s and close to Jolly Pumpkin, are no slouches either!

Now that Stone is working on opening up breweries in Berlin and in a location TBD on the East Coast, I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of the world’s great beer towns.

 

The Ecliptic/Stone Collaboration-White Asteroid!

In my last post I talked about how a buddy and I went backpacking after representing San Andreas Brewing Co. at the Oregon Brewers Festival several years in a row in the late 80s and early 1990s. After one of those backpacking trips, we found ourselves driving through Bend OR, and stopped by the Deschutes Brewpub. That’s where I first met John Harris, who has since went on to do some great brewing for Full Sail, and just recently opened his long-awaited brewery, Ecliptic. John and I have been friends ever since we first met, and have had many beers together over the years at industry conferences and festivals.

So for the first time, we got to brew a batch of beer together. John came up with the idea of doing an Imperial Wit, and of course, without hesitation, I agreed (I usually don’t object to any collaborative beer ideas unless it’s physically impossible to do, or its a style I don’t like-which eliminates about 0 beers). Having never brewed this style before, I was really looking forward to it. We talked a bunch about the recipe, and I suggested using New Zealand Motueka Hops, and we agreed on abv and IBU targets, as well as the use of orange peel and coriander (big surprise) as additional spices.

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The recipe!

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I thought the decision to use chamomile in an Imperial Wit was inspired. Nice job John!

This was the first time John had brewed with wheat at his new brewery, and of course, the lauter stuck. I’m getting a reputation: clogging wort chillers in the UK, and clogging lauters in the US. After much raking with a boat oar, the runoff finished and the rest of the brew progressed without any issues.

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Stone Lead Brewer Jeremy helping out dumping malt into the mill.

 

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Mash in

 

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Crafty use of a discarded Anheuser-Busch keg as a grant, to regulate flow from the lauter

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Unique way to wheel a pump around the brewery. Nice having a pump cart with a workspace on it.

All in all, it was a pretty mellow brew day, and we had lots of brewer visitors throughout the day, including a team from Brewers Supply Group, Matt Brynyldson from Firestone Walker, Otto Ottolini from Schlafly, Greg Hall from  Virtue Cider in Michigan and John Mallett from Bell’s.

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Every brewery should have a workout center

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Jim Boyd from Roy Farms tasting the wort

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Hanging out with John always involves some good music. We had tunes going all day, this band Broken Teeth were a bit like old school AC/DC. John has turned me on to some good music over the years.

I’ve never been much of a cider drinker, but Greg Hall brought some of his Virtue Cider in and it totally changed my perspective on what cider can be. These weren’t simply fermented apple juices, there was an amazing amount of detail that went into each cider he shared with us, including the apple varieties, how long after harvest they are pressed, the yeast (he had some with Belgian Yeast, American yeast, and Brettanomyces), barrel selection. Each of the 4 ciders was completely different than the others, some were quite funky and others clean and tart. I was really impressed.

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Greg Hall’s Cider Selection. Amazing.

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John Mallett and John Harris troubleshooting over a beer.

So the beer itself-John suggested the name White Asteroid, and despite several other ideas brought forth, it stuck. It ties in nicely with John’s theme-Astronomy, and our name (Stone). All these years I have known John and never knew how into astronomy he is. It’s pretty cool, all his beers at Ecliptic have astronomically themed names. So White Asteroid-totally appropriate.

The Ecliptic Brewery is a fun place to visit. John’s beers are fantastic, and the astronomy theme can be seen throughout the restaurant. And the food is great!

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John’ s amazing beer list. I really enjoyed the NGC 881 Pale Ale, brewed w/ ADHA 881 experimental hops.

John sent us a keg of the beer so we could try it, it’s been pouring in our QA lab for a few days now and it is delicious. Spicy and fruity, the coriander and orange peel are stellar, the bitterness is firm, the beer is nice and dry and the chamomile subtleties are wonderful. I love how the beer turned out, and am pleased to have had the chance to finally brew with John. I hope we get to do it again soon.

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Behold! White Asteroid!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bay Area Trip Part 2

In the last post, I talked about how much fun we had brewing At Heretic in early January. In addition to brewing at Heretic Brewing Co I also got to visit two exciting new breweries while in the Bay Area.

Rodger Davis is a Bay Area brewing icon, having been the brewmaster at both Triple Rock and Drake’s, and he recently opened his new brewery, Faction Brewing with his wife Claudia. Located in an old military  hangar in Alameda, they have tons of space with an incredible view of the San Francisco skyline. They have plans to put a deck outside to capitalize on the view, and their tasting room, while still being constructed, is already a great place to enjoy their really nice beer selection. I’m a big fan of Rodger’s beers, so I hope they make their way to SoCal at some point. If not, I’ll just have to visit every time I’m in the area!

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I love this logo

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Isn’t this view amazing? It will be unobstructed forever, because of an endangered bird species that makes its home in the area.

 

Stone NorCal Brewery Rep Dave Hopwood, Mike McDole and I also went to a new brewery, The Rare Barrel in Berkeley. Jay and Alex do exclusively Brettanomyces with Lactic Acid Bacteria or Pediococcus soured beers. Excellent beers, and I really like their approach. I sometimes have trouble drinking sour beers, though I do enjoy tasting them, but the beers at The Rare Barrel had such a pleasant, mellow tartness that I could drink them all day. Their facility consists of barrels and primary fermentation (from Brettanomyces…they’ve never used standard brewers yeast). They don’t have a brewhouse, they brew at other local breweries, and ship the wort back to their facility for fermentation and aging.

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Amazing beer list. My favorites were Egregious, a dry hopped sour golden, and Sirius Black, their blackberry sour. But they were all fantastic.

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I also want to make mention of some great beer locations that we visited while in the area:

The Diablo Valley needs more craft beer spots, but it’s getting there. Creek Monkey Tap House is a great spot, in an old house alongside a creek in downtown Martinez. We’ve done several Stone events there in the past couple of years, and they always have Jamil’s Heretic beers on tap.

Another Diablo Valley favorite is ØL BEERCAFE & BOTTLE SHOP, in downtown Walnut Creek. Great bottle shop and bar, they focus primarily on Belgian beers. I had a Gueuze Tilquin there, from Belgium’s newest gueuze maker, and it was quite nice.

I didn’t get to EJ Phair Concord this time around, but it’s one of may favorite spots in central Concord, right across the street from Todos Santos Plaza, where the Brewing Network will be holding their annual Winter Brews Festival on January 25th. I was also excited to learn that The Brewing Network will be moving their studio to a location right by EJ Phair in Concord, and they will have a tap house there as well. Exciting times!

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Had some great barbecue and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale at Slow Hand BBQ in Pleasant Hill.

Surprisingly, this was the first time I had a chance to visit Jupiter Beer in Berkeley, and we enjoyed some Pizza and some house brewed beers.

The Bay Area is “home” for me, and I always love visiting. Hope to get back there soon!

 

 

 

 

Evil Cubed-Bay Area Trip part 1

 

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The San Francisco Bay Area (the Diablo Valley/East Bay specifically) is home for us. Both my wife and I grew up there, still have family and friends there, and it holds a special place in our hearts. I love having the opportunity to visit, I don’t get to enough, but I did get to go last week for a few days, and had a great time visiting breweries and some new craft beer bars.

Had a great experience brewing with 2 of my favorite people in the craft beer world, Jamil Zainasheff of Heretic Brewing Company, and Mike “Tasty” McDole, Homebrewer/Collaborator extraordinaire and Brewing Network legend. This whole idea came together a year ago, when I was able to attend the Brewing Network’s Winter Brew Festival in Todos Santos Plaza in central Concord (I went specifically to taste a Session IPA I brewed with Alex Nowell at Drake’s over the holidays). We were having a beer together when Mike suggested we brew a beer together once Jamil’s brewery opened up. After some schedule wrangling, we finally made it happen, and we spent a great day at Heretic in Fairfield brewing a Triple IPA.

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At the event that started this idea, back in January 2013-The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival. Heretic Brewing has pictures like this all across their bar top, which is really great.

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That photo above inspired this amazing logo for the beer!

I love brewing at other breweries as a collaborator. Often it’s the only occasion I have to really brew anymore. As I described in a previous post, my job currently involves running and managing the brewery (as opposed to brewing). Though I have to say that this day, Chris, Jamil’s head brewer, and brewer Warren did the bulk of the work, and we just tried to not get in their way. It was a super fun day, Jamil and Liz Zainasheff were wonderful hosts, and we ate and drank very well while there. If you haven’t tried Heretic’s beers, you need to. Evil Twin and Evil Cousin are amazingly hoppy and delicious. And, we seriously hope to have Jamil visit us at Stone for a collaboration brew sometime soon.

I just saw a “Movie Poster” for this beer, a Triple IPA late and dry-hopped with Amarillo and Australian Summer hops. Tropical fruit goodness, I do hope I get to taste some. I know it will be poured all over the Bay Area during San Francisco Beer Week, but I don’t think I’ll make it to the Bay Area this time. In the Bay Area, it should be available at the 2014 Winter Brews Festival in Concord, and at The Bistro in Hayward for their 14th Annual Double IPA Festival on February 8. But I also know that Jamil is trying to get some to Southern California.

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The “Movie Poster”. Note the music credit

Here are some photos from brew day:

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The Brew Log. Hoping to dispel the rumor that I don’t like crystal malt.

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Getting ready to mash in. Milling is done on a high level, accessible by the scissor lift on the left.

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Trying to stay out of Heretic Head Brewer Chris’ way. Found out about halfway through brew day that he doesn’t like people on his brew deck. If true, he dealt with all of us incredibly well!

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It was a nice surprise having Chris from Dunbar Brewing in Santa Margarita spend the day with us. Several of Team Stone brewed a collaboration with him at his brewery last year.

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And on another note:

Stone Double IPA

Thanks to my friend, London Brew Wharf’s Angelo Scarnera for the picture. He liked the beer.

The 8.5% abv Double IPA (see how I did that?) I brewed with Fergus at Adnams in December has apparently been released and is now pouring at the braver JD Wetherspoon locations in the UK. If anyone tries this beer, please let me know how it tastes!

UK Revisited

Less than a week after I returned from Asheville, I packed the family up and we flew to London for the holidays. I got to brew another beer with Fergus Fitzgerald at Adnams in Southwold, this time an 8.5% Double IPA (California Style!) that will be dry-hopped with Centennial, Citra and Mosaic. This beer should be available in Wetherspoons pubs in mid-January.

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It’s become a tradition-my first beer after arriving in the UK is always a Fuller’s!

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I love seeing historical brewing sites-this was in London.

I am very curious to see how people react to our beer, since the alcohol  is much higher than what beer drinkers in Britain generally find acceptable. It’s an interesting point of difference between the US and UK beer drinking cultures. When having beer discussions with folks in the UK, the alcohol content is one of the first things always mentioned when describing a beer.  Whereas, in the US, some of the first things we mention are the IBUs and/or hop varieties. It’s part of the culture in the UK to drink multiple pints in a session at a pub, so the alcohol content is kind of an important consideration, I get it. But it also sometimes seems a little extreme, like when we brewed our first beer for JD Wetherspoon back in 2008, a 7.2% IPA that many people wouldn’t even try because the alcohol was so high. I’m sure we’ll have people on both sides of the fence with this beer, and am looking forward to seeing any comments. I do think craft beer fans will really like this beer.

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The recipe sheet for our Double IPA.

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Mash-in complete. West Coast IPA!

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This was the street our cottage was on. At the end of the street, turn right and you’re at the Adnams Brewery.

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Cool historical poster at Adnams

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Hop Dosing system at Adnams.

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We mashed in at 5:00am, and so I got to get some shots of an amazing sunrise from the Southwold shoreline at about 8:00 am.

On Christmas Eve, we went back to London and spent 3 days there with the family. It was a great opportunity, the kids had never been out of the country before.

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I have a lot of pictures of my son’s hand.

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We took a Thames River Cruise on Christmas day, and saw this guy piloting an amphibious car.

London in the evening was beautiful:

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Asheville Revisited

I had the pleasure of returning to Asheville, one of my favorite places, in mid-December for some more great beer events and some great music. I’ve been there twice now, both times in 2013, and have really fallen for the town. The people there are so nice, always rolling out the red carpet, it’s in a beautiful setting, and the beer scene is great.

Our first event was a “Tap Takeover” event at the new Thirsty Monk, at the Biltmore Park area, in between Asheville and the airport. Stone Southeast Regional Manager Scott Sheridan and I had visited the original Thirsty Monk in downtown Asheville on our last visit, and this time we had well over 30 taps pouring some core Stone Beers and many rare beers from our archives. It was a super fun event and very well attended. Barry, the owner of the Thirsty Monk, and GM Dylan put on a great event, and it was packed with beer fans. I met a bunch of brewing students from a local community college, AB Tech, while there, and that was fun.

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The Stone Tap Takeover at The Thirsty Monk in Biltmore Park.

The next day Scott and I had breakfast at a great place called the Sunny Point Cafe. I’m normally not one for a Bloody Mary, but I had to get this bacon infused one. And the food was amazing-comfort food plus. I had an omelette called “The Southern” with bacon, diced tomatoes and pimento cheese filling. Fantastically rich!

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Bloody Mary with bacon and bacon wrapped jalapeño. Nice way to start our day.

Then we stopped by the new Sierra Nevada Brewery for a quick visit. Located just behind the Asheville Airport, the brewery was still under construction, but they had started test brewing. It looks like when they finish the facility will be just as stunning  as their Chico location. I can’t wait to see it when it’s done, they are projecting late summer 2014. When we were there, the area was still a major cvonstruction zone, with scaffolding and tarping all over the brewhouse, and a big hole in the ground where their pub will go. But what they are doing there will be absolutely amazing.

From there we drove south to Greenville, South Carolina, and met up with Mike Okupinski and Ed Buffington at the Community Tap, a beer and wine store and tap room that has a fantastic selection. I had known Mike on Facebook for a while, but we never had actually met, so it was great to see him, and see everything that they are doing to promote craft beer in the Greenville area.

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After an afternoon “Meet and Greet” at the Community Tap, we then packed in Mike and Anna’s new minivan and drove out to the Greenbrier Farms for a farm to table Stone Beer Dinner that Community Tap set up with Scott and the the team at Greenbrier Farms. This location is beautiful, and they set up the dinner in a barn that was a bit cold for a thin-blooded Southern Californian like me, but there was a bonfire in the middle that kept everyone warm and in good spirits.  Amy, Chad, and Roddy, the folks that run this farm, are very cool, and the meal was fantastic, the beer pairings superb. At the end of the dinner, Mike absolutely floored me by presenting me with a hand-built electric guitar that was made by his father. An SJO Custom, it’s a beauty, and plays great! To say I was moved and touched by the kindness here doesn’t do the emotions I was feeling any justice at all. I’m still totally blown away by this.

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Farm-to-Table beer Dinner at Greenbrier Farms

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Chicken was the main course. Paired wonderfully with Stone Pale Ale and served with mashed potatoes, carrots and greens.

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The full menu from our beer dinner

 

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Look at how beautiful this guitar is! I was touched beyond words.

After dinner, we had a couple of beers at Barley’s in Greenville, a very cool craft beer spot. Drew was a great host, and we tasted some really cool beers there. I should mention that Barleys has won our annual “Most Arrogant Bar” contest 2 years in a row!

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Check out the Rare Beer Cellar at Barley’s. I was honored to be able to drink a couple of very rare beers in that room.

On the way back to Asheville the next day, we stopped in at Oskar Blues brewery in Brevard, just outside of Asheville and near the Pisgah National Forest, for a tour and a couple of beers. Great spot, the beers were tasting excellent, and it’s an awesome place to hang out. Special thanks to Eric Baumann, who I first met at the MBAA conference in Austin in November, who showed us around.

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Each one of these bags, called super sacks, holds 1000 pounds of malt. I want Oskar Blues’ super sack station that they use to hold the bags and weigh out the grain they need. We hope to get something like this in 2014 at Stone.

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Dale Katechis, the owner at Oskar Blues, also builds bikes. Everyone who works there gets one of these Reeb bikes after 2 years (Reeb=Beer spelled backwards). It’s a cool bike, it is belt-driven instead of a standard bicycle chain. There is a ton of good mountain bike riding around the brewery.

 

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The wall of cans, ready to be filled!

I spent the next couple of days meeting up with some other Stone peeps who came down for the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, an annual music showcase. We started Friday afternoon at Altamont Brewing Company, where they had a few special kegs of our beer pouring. And then from there we went to Wicked Weed Brewing, and we enjoyed hanging out a lot with our good friends Luke, Walt and Abby there before the first show.

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The Stone crew and the gang from Altamont Brewing before Christmas Jam!

While at Wicked Weed Friday night (they put on Suede specially for my visit!), I also met Mike, the brewmaster from Green Man-who is doing some fascinating historical recipe brewing-he had a bottle of Burton East India Pale Ale, a recipe from 1850, hopped with 100% Fuggles, that he shared with us and it was stellar. I wrote a lot about historical recipes in my IPA book, and it is cool to see so many people brewing these and other long-forgotten recipes. I’d love to brew some of these beers myself some day.

 

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Warren Haynes rocks!
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Green Man, one of Asheville’s best breweries.

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Check out these historical beers that Mike has brewed at Green Man. The IPA was great, I was sorry I couldn’t try more.

ON Saturday, we spent most of the day before the show hanging out with Luke, Walt and Abby at Wicked Weed again. It was a very fun afternoon, followed by an incredible night of music.

Some of my highlights from the Christmas Jam included on Friday night, Keb Mo, seeing John Scofield for the first time, Warren Haynes and Greg Allman acoustic, and the Phil Lesh Quintet taking me back to my days of going to Dead shows. On Saturday, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals rocked, and Greg Allman & friends were great, playing some Allman Brothers Band classics.

Combining great craft beer with really great music always works for me. We’re hoping this becomes an annual tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

Master Brewers Annual Conference

I just got back from the Master Brewers Association of Americas Annual Conference that was held this year in Austin, TX. This event is 3+ days of great technical sessions, presented by beer scholars, brewers, and scientists. I’ve been saying for a few years that this is the best brewing technical conference that happens in the United States, it is chock full of practical information and cutting edge research.
As a caveat, I am a member of the National MBAA Technical Committee, but I think I can be objective about this. I accepted a spot on the Technical Committee because I felt this was a great way to help make these conferences stay as valuable as they had been for me in years past. And my role on the committee is to assist with moderating sessions, review the technical presentations and posters that have been submitted, and suggest workshop topics for future events.

If you are a brewer, just a quick glance at the presentations and activities will prove my point about the value of this conference:
Wednesday October 23rd started with Austin area brewery tours and some pay-to-play Pre-Conference short courses on In-Line Instrumentation, Cleaning in the Brewery, and a Beer Steward Certificate Seminar (The MBAA’s version of the Cicerone Program). Many of the attendees showed up Wednesday for some board meetings and the opening reception.
On Thursday the Technical Sessions started in earnest. There were many Technical Sessions, in each one 4 presenters talk on very technical aspects of a certain part of the brewery process. This is the cutting edge brewing research that is being done all over the world, and excellent presenters from Germany, Japan and the UK complemented the American brewers and beer researchers. The presentations covered a diverse program that included research on brewhouse operations, world class management, beer filtration and stability, brewery utilities management, food safety and cleaning, sensory analysis, sustainability, and two excellent sessions on yeast and fermentation.

Then there are workshops, which are a little less formal and a little more practical reviews of things like food safety, brewhouse engineering, single malt and hops brewing, beer styles, gluten free brewing, and wastewater treatment.
And finally, there were the brewing fundamentals discussions on brewing water, the chemistry of which is still a bit of a mystery to me, so I found the talks very valuable.
Sandwiched in between the technical talks was a great trade show, a little less crowded than others, which gave me the opportunity to have great discussions with current and potential suppliers of ingredients and equipment. And several researchers opted to present posters, instead of oral presentations.

I always come back from events like this all fired up and ready to implement new methods of research in  our own processes, and new procedures or ideas that I got from trhe conference.

As an added bonus, we sell a lot of beer in Austin, and so we spent our evenings doing events and visiting some great accounts. One favorite event was a tap-takeover we did at Whip In, an old convenience store that has been converted into a bottle shop, grocery store and bar/restaurant, and has a very interesting food menu that combines elements of Indian food and Texas BBQ. It was really pretty amazing. And they brew their own beer too! “Namaste Y’all!”

We had an event at a great place called Easy Tiger, on the east part of 6th street, near the freeway. This place has a bake shop/coffee shop upstairs, and down the stairs is an excellent craft beer bar, with an outdoor patio that overlooks a beautiful creek. They have a relatively small menu, but the food is absolutely delicious, and focuses on meat.

On the west end of 6th street is a great craft beer spot called Star Bar, where we went very late one night. Friendly folks, and a great beer selection.

We had a “meet and great” at a newer place called Bangers, in an old residential neighborhood just south of 6th street that is getting renovated into a very hip area for restaurants and bars. Bangers does sausages and beer, they were smoking a whole pig when we were there. Not only do they have ana amazing selection of draft and bottled beers, but they also have a large outdoor area equipped with picnic tables, a music stage, and a dog run for those that don’t want to leave their dogs at home. All in all, a very cool place.

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The whole hog at Bangers

6th Street itself is world-famous for the live music, and we popped into a bunch of places to listen to bands. I saw some pretty incredible guitar playing (not surprisingly, lots of Stevie Ray Vaughn and ZZ Top influences), but unfortunately, most of these places have a pretty lousy beer selection. One exception is Chicago House, a craft beer beer just 1/2 block north of 6th St. No music when we were there, but a great beer selection. While we were there they were pouring Stone Enjoy By IPA, 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter, and a cask of Ballast Point Sculpin with Citra hops.  My kind of place!

The first night we were in Austin, we went to two places north of 6th street, closer to University of Texas.  The Draught House was our first stop-great beer selection and a great spot to watch the World Series. The next stop was Pinthouse Pizza, a pizza place with a brewery that reminded me a lot of Pizza Port here in SoCal. Great beer selection. We didn’t try the pizza but it sure looked good!

And of course, no trip to Austin could be complete without having some barbecue. This time, our rep Steve took us out to the famous Salt Lick, where I had the absolute best brisket I have ever had in my life. Next time in Austin I’ll be sure to try Franklin’s BBQ downtown, I heard from many it’s the best, but you have to stand in line for hours (or pay someone to do it for you).

Austin salt lick photo

 

The one thing I didn’t get to on this very full trip was visiting a brewery, like Real Ale or Jester King. There are a lot of brewers in Austin now, making some very good beers. I certainly sampled many, and enjoyed them. Next time!