This afternoon I went down to Escondido and took a tour of the Stone brewery
with frequent commenter Todd, his wife, and some people they know. It was a great tour, and if you have the chance to go I highly recommend it.
We got there an hour or so before the tour started, so we decided to get a beer and drink it in their outdoor beer garden (which is a really nice set-up). I ordered a beer that I'd never had before, the Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Pepper
. As far as I could tell, it was just their Smoked Porter with chipotle pepper or pepper juice added at some point. The effect was really nice. I got it in a pint glass that was almost wineglass shaped, and it came with a quarter inch of fine brown head on it. The beer itself was almost totally opaque, showing hints of dark amber around the edges when held up to the sun. The smell was roasted malt and hints of hot pepper, and the taste was pretty much the same: it started out smoky and then some hops presented themselves at the last minute. After a few sips, a very pleasant heat built up in the back of my mouth. Overall it was a very nice beer; I'd rate it an 8/10 and if I ever see it in a store I'm buying it right away.
We took the (free) 4 PM tour of the brewery, which was very interesting. Our tour guide (Matt? I've already forgotten) was a fun guy and seemed well informed. The tour took about 45 minutes, which was just about right. After the tour, we got (free) 4-oz. taster glasses of several Stone brews. The rundown in order:
1. Stone Pale Ale
: one of Stone's better beers, this is a very well balanced American-style pale ale. Good amount of malt, even better amount of hops. Tasty stuff, and very drinkable.
2. Stone Smoked Porter
: I beer blogged this one here
. It's pretty good as porters go, and it's also quite drinkable.
3. Stone IPA
: a pretty good IPA, more well balanced than their Ruination IPA
(which is really, really hoppy and also really, really good). It's malty for an IPA, and that makes it much easier to handle than a lot of IPAs.
4. Stone Arrogant Bastard
: Stone's flagship beer (even though the Pale Ale was the first one they made). It's tagline is "you won't like this beer" (sometimes they substitute "you're not worthy"), and there's a reason for that: this is an aggressive beer. It doesn't have a readily identifiable style, but our tour guide said it started out as a red ale and grew from there. Anyway, it's very good, but the flavors really do punch you in the mouth, and it's not for the timid.
5. Stone 11th Anniversary Ale
: most people on the tour only got four samples, but this one was a reward that Todd and I got for being willing to ask questions on the tour. Actually, I think our guide was just making up excuses to give out more free beer, and for that I consider him a god among men. The beer is a dark ale,
almost too dark to be properly called an ale
[Toast reminds us that an ale is just a beer made with top fermenting yeast. What I was thinking when I wrote this is that the beer tasted more like one of Stone's porters than one of their ales;of course, porters are in the ale family. Thanks, Toast!]
The quantity of roasted barley that went into this beer must have been enormous. It does have the amount of hops that you'd expect from an ale, and the combination is a good one. I bought a 2 L growler of this beer (they were filling them this weekend only), so a more detailed review is forthcoming.
The moral of the story is this: I heartily recommend that you go and take this tour
, stay for dinner in the very nice restaurant if you have time (which we didn't), and definitely buy some beer
in the store to enjoy later.