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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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