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Stone Brewery Night at Three Cellars

Three Cellars in Franklin, WI

I was vacationing with some friends in San Diego in April of 2000 (yes, 10 years ago) when I had first heard of the Stone Brewing Company.  One of my friends was paging through one of those travel magazines that they place in your hotel room when the name “Arrogant Bastard Ale” caught his attention.  He became infatuated with finding it and we decided on the Sunday before we left to trek north to pay a visit to the Stone Brewery and land us some bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale. Our excursion ended in disappointment as the poor planning on our part only led us to the discovery that on Sunday the brewery and gift shop were closed.

It only took about 8 years along with continued growth on Stone’s part and in July of 2008 their beer became available in Wisconsin.  Prior to that, I had to stock up in Indiana, while we were visiting my wife’s grandparents.  I’m glad I don’t have to trek that far anymore to acquire their beer.  Needless to say, I was excited to hear that Stone was finally paying a visit to MY town after years of having to track them down.

On May 13th, Three Cellars in Franklin hosted another one of their Brewery Night beer tasting events. The featured microbrewery was, of course,  Stone Brewing Company from Escondido, CA. The original date that was scheduled for earlier in the year had to be postponed due to a snowstorm.

Three Cellars’ owner Shawn Vollmer welcomed Stone’s Mid-West Regional Rep, Aaron Tyrell, who hosted the tasting and gave insight to the beers that were poured that night. The four featured offerings were Arrogant Bastard, Stone IPA, Ruination, and a 2008 Old Guardian Barleywine. Samples were given in a small wine glass, about three-quarters filled.

Arrogant Bastard Ale is their flagship beer and is an American Strong Ale in style.  Ruby brown in color with a nose that consists of citrusy hops, malt, and dark rum.  The flavor has a nice caramel background to it with an assertive hop bitterness that’s balanced out nicely by the malt.  At 7.2% abv, this isn’t for the weak of heart.

Stone’s India Pale Ale  is medium amber in color with a piney and citrusy (a lot of grapefruit) nose from the hops.  Based on the aroma, you would expect this beer to be hoppy for sure, but they’ve done an amazing job striking a near perfect balance between the hop bitterness and malt sweetness. The body is smooth and this beer is quite drinkable.

If you’re looking for hops, then you will adore Stone’s Ruination IPA.  Thick, juicy hop flavors burst onto your palate.  Grapefruit and piney hop bitterness dominate the forefront.  Some malt sweetness arrives toward the back, but it’s not enough to steal the show. The 7.7% abv is handled and delivered nicely. You really don’t notice it in the taste, but eventually it could sneak up on you.

My favorite offering of the night was the 2008 Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale.  I’ve had this before, but never aged.  This style lends itself to cellaring and I was curious how the flavors had developed over the course of 2 years.  The aroma was sweet with hints of caramel and orange.  The mouthfeel very mellow and full-bodied.  From what I recall from drinking this beer “fresh”, the hops were much more apparent.  Aged, the hops have mellowed somewhat into the background and as a result it really lets the caramel flavor from the malt step forward.  There’s still an ample amount of citrus hops in the flavor.  At 11% abv, I could see this beer aging another 5 to 10 years.

Besides tasting the beers,  it was great to hear Aaron talk about them and provide a little history and insight.  He brought up the freshness of Stone and how most beers are on about a 180 cycle whereas Stone’s beer is best kept refrigerated and consumed within 90 days. Their ales are transported from Cali across the country in a refrigerated truck and distributors must keep them in cool storage prior to delivery.  The obvious advantage for the consumer means that Stone’s beers not left sitting in a hot warehouse somewhere prone to spoilage until they finally arrive at the store. That being said, obviously some of the higher alcohol beer can be aged over time.

Even though it wasn’t on the docket for tasting, Stone Pale Ale is, in my opinion, of the best American Pale Ales available.  I’ll have to post a review of it (along with their other beers) in the future.  Seek it out and give it a try.  Stop back and let me know if you agree.

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American Craft Beer Week

May 17-23 is American Craft Beer Week.  Organized by the Brewers Association, this annual celebration that started in 2006 gives beer aficionados a chance to recognize the contributions of the American craft brewer.  On April 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the resolution H.R. 1297 (pdf file) to recognize the efforts that independent craft brewers play throughout the country.  Various events that will be held across the U.S. run the gamut from brewery tours and festivals to food and beer pairings.

According to the Brewers Association a craft brewer is defined as “small, independent and traditional. Small: Annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels. Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.”  They consist of brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries, and contract brewing companies

About 90% of the over 1,500 breweries in the United States fit the definition of a “craft brewer”.  They share a small percentage of the beer market in overall sales.  Two years ago only a mere 6.3% of the beer sold in the U.S. was produced by craft brewers.

It’s no secret that many craft brewers today got their start by homebrewing.  Although, the American Homebrewers Association held its Big Brew event on May 1,  homebrewers can celebrate this week by brewing an “American Craft Beer Wheat“.  The recipe is taken from the upcoming book Brewing with Wheat: The ‘Wit’ and ‘Weizen’ of World Wheat Beer Styles by Stan Hieronymus.  Both the All-Grain and Extract recipes are posted.  The American Wheat beer style is ideal for enjoying during the summer months as the weather heats up.

Locally, for those of you in Wisconsin, here are a few events that are happening this week:

  • Sprecher Brewery is celebrating ACBW by hosting additional brewery tours starting at 3 and 4 pm. There will also be beer & cheese pairings and sample food & condiments made with beer. Call 1-414-964-2739 or visit their website for more details. Their guest taps will feature Central Waters Shine On, South Shore
    Brewery Wheat Dopplebock and Capital Brewery Tettanger Dopplebock.
  • Northern Brewer at Lakefront Brewery AHA Rally will be held on Sunday, May 16th from 1-5 pm.  Click here for more details.
  • Capital Brewery in Middleton, WI will be offering additional brewery tours Wednesday & Thursday.  They will also be featuring 3 ‘guest taps’ in the Bier Garten. Sprecher’s Black Bavarian, The Great Dane’s Old Glory Pale Ale, and Lake Louie’s Tommy’s Porter.

So what can you do to celebrate American Craft Beer Week?

  • Support your community and local craft brewers by picking up a 6 pack of their beer or by ordering one on tap while you’re out for dinner this week. The money you spend helps support the jobs created by the brewers in your local community and does not go to some international conglomerate that owns one of the “big breweries”.
  • Sign up for a brewery tour at a local brewery or brewpub. You might learn something about the beer making process while doing so and get the opportunity to sample some great tasting fresh beer.
  • Sign the Declaration of Beer Independence, an official document to support America’s small and independent craft brewers.
  • Get together with your buddies and brew a batch of homebrew.

So what are you doing to celebrate The “Mother of All Beer Weeks”?

Welcome to The Frozen Bullet

May 5, 2010 1 comment

I have officially decided to launch my craft beer blog. I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing about beer for awhile now, and I’ve decided to finally act on it. Growing up in a great beer state like Wisconsin and living near Milwaukee, the original “Brew City” doesn’t hurt either.

If you’ve ever experienced a passion for something, then you know that you want to share that experience with someone whether it be with friends, family, or other like-minded individuals. Experiencing a great beer can be described in much the same way.  Since beer is food (liquid bread some might say) and we generally like to “break bread” with others, it seems only natural to want to share great beer and good times with those whose company we enjoy.

Tasting beer is one thing.  Learning about the history of beer and its various styles is another.  Having a desire to produce you own beer takes it one step further.  Finally, having the desire to write about it seems like just another step in the process.

I’ve been a homebrewer for the past 8 years although my passion for craft beer goes back further than that.  But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon BeerAdvocate.com one day about six years ago that my interest in beer in general really took off.

This blog will focus on beer reviews, news, homebrewing experiences and other “beer adventures”- like tours, festivals, establishment reviews and maybe even cooking with beer.

My inspiration for this blog has come from many different people.  Some of whom are related to the beer industry and many others who are not. Without that spark, I don’t think this would have been possible.

Cheers!
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