Below is an email I recently sent to our Brewing, Packaging, Maintenance, and QA Teams at Stone Brewing Co. I actually meant to send this at the end of 2012 to congratulate our team on the release of some very cool new beers-namely Stone Enjoy By IPA, and Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA (now called Stone RuinTen IPA), but found it recently in my “Drafts” folder (doh!). I still believed in the relevance of the message, so I sent it just before our 17th Anniversary celebration.
I think this applies to any production brewery. In a one/two man brewpub operation,obviously the brewer has control and influence over every part of the brewing process starting with formulation, ingredient securing, brewing, fermenting, aging and packaging. But in a production brewery, one has to rely on the talents and skills of many people to get a good beer out the door.
To The Stone Brew Crew:
Whenever we put out a new beer, I’m always asked “who came up with the recipe?”, and I am uncomfortable answering that question, because it is a simple answer that really doesn’t accurately convey why the beer is successful and tastes delicious.
I think far too much credit is given to the formulation/recipe for a beer’s success. I honestly believe that recipe formulation is one of the easiest parts of making a great beer, and accounts for about 5-10% of its potential success. In my opinion, anyone with some understanding of ingredients and styles can create a great recipe, but actually working with that recipe to brew a great beer is the hard part.
Think about it:
1. Without having sufficient supply of the highest quality ingredients, the beer will fail. This means formulating the beer knowing what ingredients are of the highest quality and their availability. Nothing ruins a good beer quicker than having to make inadequate ingredient substitutions.
2. Without having a robust brewhouse that produces consistent wort, and without having a pure yeast strain and carefully monitored fermentations, the beer will fail. Fermentation provides most of the “Beer” flavor you get in beer. Poor yeast health, improper temperature control, or insufficient oxygen addition will cause a poor fermentation with off-flavors.
3. Without having well designed, high quality, reliable production equipment that is maintained and optimized on a regular basis, the beer will fail. You need equipment that will allow you to produce consistent, high quality beer.
4. Without a great team of brewers, who understand craft beer, the beer they are brewing, and the best practices and procedures needed to make that beer, the beer will fail. Our brewers need to be equipped with the education and experience to make smart decisions that are in the best interest of beer quality.
5. Without having 100% focus on sanitation and cleanliness in the brewery, the beer will fail. This has killed many, many small brewers in the past 25 years.
6. It’s often stated that nothing “good” can happen to a beer when it is packaged. Without a great team who bottle and keg the beer, who understand the quality that needs to go into every single package, and who know how to respond when quality issues start to appear, the beer will fail.
7. Without a QA team that accurately measures the progress of the beer and reports it to the team, and looks for ways to improve our understanding of what is happening in the brewing, fermentation, finishing, and packaging processes, the beer will fail.
8. Without proper scheduling of the brewing and packaging of the beer, the beer will either sit too long, or not long enough in the tank, or will be shorted in supply to our sales team, who can then lose valuable handles and shelf space. Ultimately, without proper planning, the beer will fail.
9. Without having a sales and media team that understands the industry and our beers, and works tirelessly to ensure awareness, and deliver our message and vision, the beer will fail.
10. Without having company leadership that encourages risk taking, focuses on taste and quality, supports innovation in everything the company does, listens and supports creative ideas from the team, and supports all of the above items, the beer will fail.
My point is that while it’s great to get accolades about creating a beer recipe, not enough credit is given to the other critical parts of brewing a great beer, some of which are listed above. There are plenty more components that go into making a great beer, and everyone on our team plays a very important role in our success.
I thank you all for everything that you do to make our beers so successful.
I was at the Stone Brewing World Gardens and Bistro Liberty Station yesterday afternoon, and after having a sampling of Kris Ketcham’s wonderful beers, got a small pour of Montreal’s Dieu de Ciel! Rosee dHibiscus, a wonderfully refreshing beer that has Hibiscus flowers added in the brewing process. We’ve done some pilot brewing with Hibiscus ourselves, and I really enjoy the fruity floral character that the flowers impart-not to mention the rose hue that also results. Hibiscus plays particularly well in Belgian style beers. As hot and muggy as it was yesterday, this beer was absolutely perfect. Check it out!
A Final Note:
We recently had a tragedy at the brewery and it has shaken all of us up pretty hard. Everyone on our team is grieving and mourning in their own way, and one thing that has really helped has been the tremendous outpouring of support, well wishes, and condolences for our loss. The Craft Brewing Industry is a wonderful business to be in, full of really good, thoughtful, and caring people, and I thank everyone who has reached out to me or anyone else in our company to offer support. It means more than you can know.
Also, I am not going to comment on this tragedy further, unless asked to do so for any official future statements from Stone Brewing Co.
Thanks so much, and cheers.