I returned from my business trip to San Diego this past weekend. It was good to get home and see my wife and kids, but I did not enjoy my “welcome back” from our good old Minnesota weather. That was a fun, snowy, cold drive to work on Monday…
Oh well, at least winter is almost over. Plus, I still have the fond memories of the last 4 breweries I visited in southern California to keep me warm inside. I’m going to make one post for each of those breweries, so check back to the blog for the next 3 after today’s post.
Let’s start with Stone.
Yep, I managed to get into a tour at the Stone brewery. Their last tour on weeknights is at 6pm, which gave me enough time to get to there after training and have a brew at their bar beforehand.
When I arrived at the brewery, I could instantly smell the aroma of boiled hops from the parking lot. That was a wonderful greeting. After purchasing my $3 tour ticket, I walked around to take a look at their World Bistro and Gardens. It was a beautiful area, especially in the early evening sunlight. My next goal was to hit the bar for one beer before the tour.
I sat down at the bar and was handed a beer menu, not a beer list. We’re talking multiple pages here. I was unprepared for the sheer scale of their selection, almost dumbfounded. I have never seen so many beers available at a brewery. Not only did they have their own beers; they had a huge collection of tap and bottle beers from many other craft brewers. And I was only going to have one? Decisions, decisions. I decided I should have a beer from Stone, since I was at the brewery. I had already tasted all of their tap selections, so I looked over the bottle list.
I quickly found one that stood out in my mind: Saison du Buff. I had heard of this collaboration between Stone, Dogfish Head, and Victory, but wasn’t able to get my hands on it before. It was an easy choice since saisons are one of my favorite styles and the beer was formulated by a “dream team” of brewers. This same recipe was brewed separately at all 3 brewery locations. Of course, this was Stone’s version. It was a 7.7% ABV saison brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I asked the bartender for a bottle and noticed he was having trouble finding it in the fridge. When he came back with the bottle, I joked and said “I had to pick the one beer that wanted to hide from you, huh?” He chuckled and said, “No, actually. This is our last bottle.” Lucky for me! It was a very tasty brew that was strong in two of my favorite saison components: spice and dryness. Not to mention that it didn’t drink at all like a 7.7% beer, as the alcohol was almost indiscernible. Good stuff.
After I finished my beer, I headed over to wait in line at the tour start point. Now, I won’t bore you with all the brewery tour details. If you’ve been on one before, all the same concepts and processes apply. What I will say is this: Stone is the largest brewery I have toured yet. The size of the brewhouse and the large number of huge fermenters brought a whole new sense of scale to my brewery repertoire. This was also the first brewery I’ve been to that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When the tour was over, our guide brought us back to the tasting/growler fill area, which is where we started. Everyone in the group was given samples of Levitation, IPA, Arrogant Bastard, and Old Guardian. I enjoyed my samples and chatted with the tour guide, Mike, and Stone’s Lead Indoctrination Specialist, Phil Macnitt. Those good conversations led to me visiting a couple other breweries that I might not have planned to…