Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stone Brewing Co. Winter Storm 2009

from outside and in...

the trail behing the brewery, and a parting shot from Sunday night...

@the entrance and the view from our table...

the scene @the indoor bar and tables...

from the rear grounds...

Where to begin...where to begin? I suppose, for those of you not familiar with the concept, that I'll explain. Once a year for the past three or four years, Stone Brewing Co., home to some of the world's best brews, digs deep and busts out all of their regular release, special release, and (best of all) vintage release beers. 2009 saw 39 beers in all, including a couple cask aged, one brandy barrel aged, and a red wine barrel aged beer. The main question in my mind was whether or not a beer tasting event, even one as cool as this, would be worth cramming two 10-hour drives in-between Saturday and Tuesday. I'm happy to report the answer is a resounding yes! I enjoyed the festivities with two friends from Reno (Ben & Dave), and I believe I speak for all three of us when I report all of our high expectations were exceeded.

As taking a weekend off within the library system is akin to pulling teeth these days, I worked on Saturday, 8:15-5:15, after getting up early to run with Turi. The three of us met at the Verdi Library, and were on the road by 5:45. We, of course, could not travel on an empty stomach, so we made our first pit stop at the Auburn Brewing Company...right off Hwy. 80. Both Ben & Dave survived me eating (then digesting) a breadbowl of chili. For reviews on their eight beers (as well as the other 60 or so we'd sample) please see the bottom of this blog. After a long trip, we rolled into our Bakersfield motel at 1:45 a.m. (to break-up the drive), settled in and were in bed by 2:00. We'd reserved a table at Stone at 11:30 the next day, and still had 200+ miles left, so we were up, fed, & on the road just after 8:00 the next morning and rolled into Stone at 11:33. Abby's Uncle Richard & Aunt Wendy, along with their friend Chuck, had already been seated at our table and had ordered the first three flights of four 4 oz. tasters. I was quite impressed with the sight of this immense building, with a vine hidden, rock strewn walkway leading up to large wooden doors. When we first got in and I was told the restroom was through the second cave on the right, I was sold. We sat outside next to a Koy pond and fire-pit. While the server took a while to get to us, once the ball got rolling, we were having a great time. We'd been a little nervous about the challenge of "respectfully" getting through 39 beers, most coming in at 8-11% alcohol by volume.
Because Richard, Wendy, & Chuck had already ordered a dozen varieties, we were free to do a vertical tasting of several years of Old Guardian Barleywine, Russian Imperial Stout (both among my favorite beers anywhere!), and Vertical Epic. We found out by the end of the day (we came back at 6:00 for dinner and more sampling) that their food is organic, incredibly tasty, and a little overpriced, and that the beer was phenomenal!!! Our worries were laid to rest as we were easily able to tackle (and grade) all 39 beers by the end of our first full day. We even had the privelage of ordering a year-old bottle of neighbor brewer Alesmoth's Speedway Stout (not available anywhere else we could find)...also now among my favorite beers of all-time, and were invited upstairs for an extremely limited quantity of a rare brew called Stonewall. This was a beer I was not aware even existed, and even at $7 a pour, was well worth the price. After a normal amount of sleep on Sunday night, I got up and drove back to Stone to explore the trail that ran behind the brewery, and ended up doing an easy 4 mile run. We met Richard, Wendy, and Chuck at award-winning Pizza Port Brewery in nearby Carlsbad, and were able to sample many of their fine brews, along with several "guest " selections. As Dave had comented, our palates had been "ruined" somewhat. Not burnt out from trying so many different beers, but because the vast majority of the Stone beers were SO good, we were scared nothing else would be satisfying. Many good beers there, but none among the best. We'd also hit up the Holiday Wine Cellar a block from our hotel for several rare beers not available in Nevada, and spent a few hours in Carlsbad waiting for the Bottle Shop to open, in order to do more of the same. Although both places were pretty small (the Bottle Shop is actually attatched to Port Brewing but didn't open til 5:00 p.m.) they both had an amazing selection of rare and eclectic beers. After spending too much there, and splitting a large bottle on premisise, we drove back to Stone, had a couple more brews, and headed back to the hotel for our early trek back to Reno the following day. Although we woke up late, we got Dave back to work in Verdi at exactly 3:00 on Tuesday. Yeah for us!! We even managed to hit up a BevMo on the way back.
On to the grading...

As far as the Stone beers go, I'd already had and graded many of them from bottles. More times than not, having a beer on tap will leave a slightly better impression, be it because it's fresher, or because there is a better garauntee that it's been stored correctly. So...for the beers that follow, these are my grades from this weekend only. Obviously if it's the first time i've had a particular beer, that's the grade that sticks. If, for example, I gave a beer a "B" that I'd previously graded an "A" I may ever so slightly down grade that beer, to a lower A or A-, but I'll still give more weight to a previous grade, especially if I've had the beer more than once before. Being that we were doing such a large tasting, though, also made some good brews (on their own) seem quite boring...a prime example being the Stone Pale Ale, which finished towards the bottom of the list even though it's quite good. Others, like Old Guardian, while still great, may slip a notch. On a scale of 1-5, which many brew sites use, I'd rated it as a 4.9 which rivaled my very top beers...and if a 2009 bottle doesn't blow my socks off, I'll no longer keep it in consideration as my favorite beer. Rarified air and all... Also, figuring out the differences between beers when 27 of 68 beers were an A- or higher is quite difficult (but a lot of fun)! These scores reflect a rough school grade scale (1-100...50's or below would be an F).
Without further adeu,
1. Stone 2007 Vertical Epic (red wine barrel aged) 99 one of the best & most unique...ever
2. Alesmith Speedway Stout 98 a monster stout made with coffee
3. Stone 2006 Double Bastard (bourbon barrel) 97 they sure know how to barrel age
4. Stone 2007 Russian Imperial Stout 96 already was one of my favorites
5. Stone 2007 Old Guardian 96 ditto
6. Stonewall (special release strong ale/barleywine) 96 on the sweeter side
7. Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oat Stout 95 great! significantly better on tap
8. Stone 2008 Russian Imperial Stout 94
9. Stone 2008 Old Guardian 93
10. Stone Cali-Belique (belgian IPA) 93 a great blend of 2 distinct styles
11. Stone Ruination IPA 93 has been my favorite hoppy beer
12. Stone 2005 Russian Imperial Stout 93
13. Stone 2004 Russian Imperial Stout 92
14. Stone 2006 Russian Imperial Stout 92
15. Stone 2006 Double Bastard 92
16. Auburn Isotope Dbl. IPA 92 finally, another non-Stone beer. Yum!
17. Stone Smoked Porter cask aged w/vanilla beans 91 perfect aroma, great body
18. Marin Airporter Imperial Porter 91 better than Gonzo
19. Stone 2005 Double Bastard 91
20. Port Brewing Warrior Black IPA 91
21. Stone 2008 Double Bastard 91
22. Stone 11th Anniversary (dark IPA) 90
23. Stone Smoked Porter 90
24. Stone 10th Anniversary, cask hops 90 aged with Simcoe & Amarillos
25. Auburn Gold Digger IPA 90 this beer was #2/70+ @Sierra brewfest
26. Stone 9th Anniversary Ale 90 malty, which is unique for Stone
27. Stone/Nogne O/Jolly Pumpkin Holiday Ale 90 a near perfect spiced ale
28. Stone IPA 89 not fair to drink alongside the big boys?
29. Port Brewing Wipeout IPA 88
30. Pizza Port Cow Stout 88 not a Snow Plow, but not far behind
31. Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard 88
32. Stone 2008 Vertical Epic 88 a belgianesque hoppy beer
33. Stone 2007 Vertical Epic 87
34. Port Brewing Quadruple Belgian 87 great example of the style
35. Oskar Blues Duke's Pale Ale 87 in a can no less, are all their beers great?
36. Auburn Shanghai Stout 86 woulda been higher w/more body
37. Stone 2004 Old Guardian 86 an amazing beer just past it's prime
38. Stone Supercalbelballistic 86
39. Port Brewing Po' Mans Dbl. IPA 86 not as good as their regular IPA
40. Stone 2005 Old Guardian 85 why not better than 2004?
41. Stone Arrogant Bastard 84
42. Stone 2006 Vertical Epic 84
43. Merkin Stout 83
44. Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale 83
45. Green Flash Grand Cru 83 looks like poo in light, but pretty good
46. Stone 10th Anniversary (dbl.) IPA 82 past it's prime? good, but expected more
47. Stone Smoked Porter cask w/chipotle 82 awesome aroma, taste a touch too much
48. Stone Sawyer's Triple 82 good score, not crazy for the style
49. Port Brewing Reed's Wee Heavy 81 mediocre score for a preferred style
50. Port Brewing Revelations Belgian Stronge Ale 81 blonde, but w/a kick
51. Stone Pale Ale 81 smallbeeritis, but it's still good
52. Stone 8th Anniversary Ale 81 good, but nothing special
53. Avery Out of Bounds Stout 81 should of had it first...
54. Port Brewing Palapa Pale Ale 80
55. Port Brewing Truck Stout 80
56. Pizza Port Beech ESB 80 good version of an uneventful style
57. Auburn American River Pale Ale 80
58. Stone Levitation Ale 80 a surpringly low-hopped Amber for Stone
59. Lost Abbey Avant Garde 79 new style! yeasty
60. Stone 7th Anniversary Ale 79
61. Stone/Alesmith/Mikkeler Triple 78 less than expected
62. Port Brewing Party Pants Pilsner 77 for a Pilsner, not bad
63. Auburn Fool's Gold 76
64. Port Brewing California 76
65. Port Brewing Chronic Mellow Amber 72 mellow says it all...too mellow
66. Auburn Export Lager 72
67. Auburn Old Town Brown 71 a very boring brown
68. Auburn Phenomenale 69 ironic name, yes?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Climb California Relay-runners needed!!!

This is an open invitation to join me on a relay team up 52 flights of stairs (1197 steps) in San Francisco on Saturday, March 28th. The two links below are for registration information and general information, and…there’ll be a party on the roof afterwards! I will be registering and creating a team on the event’s site in the next week or so (as soon as I know for sure that my leave request for that Friday/Saturday is approved). Once I do that, you’ll be able to register and join the team! Cost is the standard $25, with one condition-$100 in fundraising for the American Lung Association. Not only is this for a good cause, but it’s a unique "outside the box" type of run, will be a ton of fun, and how hard is it to get a few people to sponsor you? Please consider joining the team, and travelling over on Friday so we can all go out on the town and eat tons of seafood the night before. If any of you know someone who may be interested, please invite them to join as well. Let’s have the biggest team, and represent Reno and Nevada County well.
Email (or comment) me or call (972-8605) with any questions.