In my attempt to recover from the amount of wonderful craft brews I consumed in the last week, I have been taking it easy on the brew and working out a lot lately. Imagine my dismay when I learned it was American Craft Brew Week! I had to make a decision and quickly. I was going to allow myself one brewery (other than my evening at BJ's (which to be honest I don't feel counts)). My current location made that decision fairly easy! I will admit I was strongly considering Lost Abby, which I regret to announce I have yet to visit, however, after my last visit to Stone Brewing Co., I am pleased to announce that Stone has never not surprises me and exceed my expectations.
The Stone Brewery pleases every sense upon arrival. You can smell the sweet malts that seem to instantly get your mouth watering before you even see the art form that is the brewery. With its award winning design entry into the stone brewery is like stepping into a post modern cave full of mystery and wonder. The beast himself lives in this seamless, awe-inspiring instalation!!! The gardens are full of croaking frogs and bubbling brooks and bowls filled with fire! I could talk for hours on how amazing (OMG you should see the bathrooms!) this place looks. This is one instance where one might consider allowing oneself to judge something "by its cover" because the the exhilarating exterior is every bit equal to the task of housing the awesomeness contained within.
If you're there on a normal day they have tours of the brewery that you can take and on these tours you can answer questions for beer rewards. *evil giggle inserted here* However I was here on very important beer tasting business. I started out with a pour of their Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (8.7%) and Glenn had their Oaked Arrogant Bastard (7.2%). Both of these I've had before but I can scarce tell you enough how much more amazing the beer (seems?) while you are physically at a brewery. The carbonation is perfect as is the temperature--and maybe it's just me but it just tastes different, and is in general full of win!
For their guest beers on draft they featured beers from AleSmith, Alpine, Ballast Point, BJ's (yeah they had the BJ's Grand Cru which is awesome...BJ's doesn't even carry it anymore!) Bootlegger, Coronado, Craftsman, Green Flash, Mother Earth, Port Brewing and The Bruery Brewing Companies. Of these we tasted Alpine Beer Company's Duet (7%), Green Flash Le Freak Belgian Style IPA (9%) and Port Brewing's Old Viscosity. I also tried Stone's IRS 2010 at a heavy hitting 10.8% and their 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale (8.5%). We ordered their Mac N' Beer Cheese, Mushroom Pillows and their Cheese Plate and the tasting began.
The Cheese plate was amazing and I am very sad that I didn't get the name of the cheeses featured because all the beers really played well off the flavors. Interestingly enough there was a small chunk of honey comb and something that I was totally surprised at: Ate-a Mexican jam of sorts made with guava! The first beer I tried was the Alpine Duet, I enjoyed the tones of crisp apple flavors on the pleasant hoppy canvas and paired it with a slice of apple and honey. The honey brought out sweeter tones in the beer and a slight waxiness that you taste on the back of your throat when you eat honey, but it was from the beer instead of the honey.
Green Flash Le Freak Belgian Style IPA was a surprise and a half. I had expected it to be bitter like a standard IPA, but I didn't find that. Instead, it was almost like a mead without the sticky sweetness or that waxy bitterness I was describing earlier when you eat honey. I paired this with a barley cracker and some honey comb and boy was it tasty!
The Stone Vertical Epic Ale was my delicious surprise of the evening. It's poured like black magic and had a very molasses/chocolaty flavor. However when paired with the Ate (pronounced ah-teh) it brings out a soft chewy cherry flavor! Talk about a secret surprise! Ate is a sugar paste made of Guava also called Ate de Guayaba and you can buy it at almost any Mexican market. It is either sold as a block or in a roll. This flavor pairing honestly blew my mind and was my favorite beer and food pairing all evening. Talk about hitting home in a surprising way.
The Stone Imperial Russian Stout is a very classic flavored IRS, classic coffee with a slight acidic hue. I felt that this went best with the Gorgonzola (at least I think it was Gorgonzola I never actually found out what cheese they gave us.)
The Old Viscosity from Port Brewing Co was appropriately last on my mini flight of awesomeness and poured appropriately to it's name. It is a black oil of vanilla and burnt caramel, it went well with the mild Parmesan/Asiago cheese that was on our cheese plate. I think this would have also gone well with vanilla ice cream, honey, and mildly sweet desserts.
According to Stone's Menu it was "Lambic Sunday" where you get a discount off lambics and other sour beers. I have had and enjoyed many fruity lambics but never a "sour beer" so to speak so I did have to have one and I went with the Girardin Gueuze sour ale. This beer was like a lambic with no fruit and as weird as it sounds it was like a banana and a sour apple made a love child and it was beer. Even with no fruit it was easy to see why they had started adding fruit to this wonderfully crisp and sour beer. I finished off the left over apple on my plate with this beer. And even if sweet fruity or even sour flavors are not your thing, you should try this beer.This sour ale was quite the trip for my taste buds...
I really enjoy Stone's beer and their dedication to bringing you the best foods without compromise. While Stone may be one of the largest and definitely more popular microbreweries, their dedication to community is outstanding! They always have other local craft brews on tap and support their community through other projects as well. Even though Craft Beer Week is gone for this year, you haven't' missed out- Every week is American Craft Beer Week at the Stone Brewery.