Stone Brewery – Bring on the Hops
Heading out onto the open road to interview breweries is a dream come true. I’ve been a beer and wine blogger for years and started talking about beers when I noticed I had a different palate than most. Like a lot of women, I don’t like overly hoppy beers and prefer something more sweet and robust like what you find in stouts and porters.
One of the first breweries I had the chance to go and visit for Adventures in Brew was Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, California. They are known for being one of the most hoppy beers on the market! I’ve tasted their beers before and new I loved their Imperial Russian Stout and was curious to taste more of their beers.
Fun Stone Brewery Facts
- Started in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner
- 10th largest craft brewery in the US
- 213,277 barrels of beer brewed in 2013
- Most popular beers: Stone IPA at 103,000 barrels, Arrogant Bastard Ale at 63,900 barrels, and Stone Ruination IPA
- Keg line creates 145 kegs an hour
- There is a time capsule that is buried on the property that has Stone artifacts in it. They are opening it in 50 years.
When I first arrived at Stone I was amazed by the sheer size of their facility. It was no joke, one of the largest craft breweries I had ever seen. There was also no sign on the door or anywhere for that manner to let you know you had found the place. It was tucked into an industrial area and the hunt of finding it was half the fun. The grounds have beautiful edible gardens throughout and a huge bistro and outdoor area. When you first walk in though you are greeted by this awesome growler fill station. Fill mine up too, please!
I went on the tour with Nickie Pena, the Media Coordinator for Stone and she decided we should do it backwards. First stop was the bottling and keg room! I will admit, I am fascinated by the whole bottling and canning assembly lines that go on in breweries. Just look at all that Stone IPA ready to come to a store near you!
In the back, those are all empty cases that will get filled up in a week! They are brewing beer all week long and distributing it not only in California but throughout the US and seven other countries as well.
Stacks and stacks of kegs just waiting for their turn to hold some stellar beer. I couldn’t believe that they fill 145 kegs on a hour on a 2-belt system. That is a lot of beer! Of course it gets refrigerated right away and shipped out as soon as those trucks back on in to the warehouse. This operation was a well-oiled machine. Everything was super clean and everything it seemed had its place. I wish I was that organized!
Sprockets Beer was this year’s winner of the Employee Internal Brew Contest created by Rick Blankemeier.
Rick Blankemeier, Stone’s Quality Control Manager, took a moment out of his day to answer some questions for me. He told me about this contest that Stone has every year where the employees come up with a new beer – and these aren’t necessarily the brewmasters. His team won with a Black Rye Colt as they didn’t want to make another IPA and wanted something that they could easily drink a lot of in case they lost. No worries there as they won with Sprockets Beer! It is slightly hoppy but nowhere near the hoppiness level of other Stone beers. If you want to try this beer you need to grab it quick as it is a super limited production and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Rick’s favorite stone beer is the Go To IPA and his honest opinion is that is is easily a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10 on hoppiness! If you love hops, you will love this beer. If he is not drinking Stone, Rick reaches for a Sculpin from Ballast Point or a Swartz Beer and is always up for trying new beers.
Picking out just the right barley, malt, hops, and other secret ingredients is what makes Stone beer so dang popular these days. With the recent trend in craft beer leaning heavily towards IPAs, Stone Brewing Company is positioned to be a strong contender and at the top of the wave of this ride.
Why is Stone so hoppy? Steve Wagner early on developed a fondness for hopps. Every year the Anniversary Brew is an IPA and the first one was Stone IPA and one later on was Ruination. The founders of Stone knew they were onto something with setting themselves a part with going with full flavor and full bitterness in their beers. They don’t tend to do a full balanced beer and understood early on that people were searching for hoppier beers. I think they definitely surpassed their goals and made an awesome hoppy beer!
Steve Wagner and Kristi Trimmer, his first selfie!
I tried all of their beers and my hands down favorite was their Imperial Russian Stout. Dark, rich, creamy was just what this beer lover wanted. My second fave was Arrogant Bastard which was perfect on this warm Spring day.
Stone’s Beer Benefit Program is off the hook! If you take advantage of ALL of these crazy beer benefits, that is about 28-29 gallons of beer per month! My jaw dropped open at that news.
– Half barrel Keg a month or three 6-barrel kegs
– Case of beer a month of the core styles
– Special Beers on your anniversary
– 2 Shift Beers per shift
– 1 Growler fill at end of your shift
– Half priced beer at the Bistro