Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Craft of Stone and a New Brew Session

This Christmas, my parents bought me a hard-bound copy of the new book detailing the rise of Stone Brewery as one of the most important craft brewers in the world.  The book, The Craft of Stone Brewing Co., provides a history of the company, highlights its philosophical tenets, and generously presents a wide range of information about their products, including recipes for both beer and food.   Stone is definitely the most visible and commercially successful player in the San Diego craft beer scene, and their pioneering work with hop forward beers is impossible to ignore or discount.  They do some really interesting things with food, as well, and they have a beautiful bistro/brewery in North County that is a destination in and of itself for tourists interested in all things San Diego and especially those with a love of good beer.  Despite their unbelievable success, I often find myself gravitating to other local beers instead.  Perhaps it is the ubiquity of their product in San Diego, or maybe I just want to support the smaller brewery that looks up to Stone and others as they attempt to innovate and carve a niche for themselves in what seems to be an increasingly convoluted yet incredibly forward-thinking industry.  Regardless, I was excited to read their book and get a renewed sense of how craft beer in San Diego trod toward national prominence.

Written largely in first-person and with a casual voice, the content of the book belies its sophisticated packaging.  Overall, the book comes off as a sort of a giant advertisement for Stone Brewing Co., and I don't usually have much patience for being sold, but it did have some useful and enetertaining pieces.  Part 1 begins with a basic lecture on beer genetics and history for the unexperienced that can be quickly thumbed through by most anyone with a serious interest in beer.  

This is followed by Part 2, a portion dedicated to Stone's history and growth which takes the form of a variety of stories and anecdotes connected to the brewery's rise within the craft beer movement.  You get a chance to read about the philosophy that inspired Stone's founders and ever-increasing number of employees and devotees to continually push the envelope and challenge consumer palettes.  This section of the book tells the company's story through a variety of lenses and details their numerous successes both as a business and as a brewery.  Part 2 ends with a detailed rundown of all of the beers that Stone has created both on its own and collaboratively.  

Part 3 of the book shares recipes and culinary knowledge from Stone's flagship restaurant and presents some advice about glassware and food pairings.  The final pages of Part 3 presents recipes shared by Steve Wagner and Greg Koch, scaled to home brew proportions.  I spent most of my time looking through this section and decided to brew my first smoked beer based on Stone's Smoked Porter recipe.  I decided to base my smoked porter on their recipe, but made some changes to hops and grains based on my personal taste preferences.  Stone's original recipe is as follows:

Stone Smoked Porter

10 pounds 8 ounces 2 Row
1 pound, 2.5 ounces Crystal 75
10.7 ounces Chocolate
4.9 ounces Peat Smoked Malt

.71 ounces Columbus @ 90
.60 ounces Mount Hood @ 0

.5 tsp Irish Moss @ 15

White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast

I made this beer on January 9, 2012.  The biggest change I made flavor-wise is the use of Cherry Wood Smoked Malt instead of the Peat Smoked Malt in the original recipe.  I'm hoping to obtain a mellow smoked flavoring in the final product.  You can see my full recipe here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fermentation Chamber Build

Having a fermentation chamber is the ultimate dream.  A device that lets you brew whatever beer you might like and wag your finger in the face of ambient temperature.  I used to pretend to be happy making just saisons in June, July and August. I convinced myself that off flavors in beers that were fermented inside my house in the high 70s F during most of the rest of the year were acceptable.  Everything came out pretty good, right?

No more.  My buddy Lewy, ever-vigilant and ever-creative when it comes to brewing acquisitions, set me up with a used commercial refrigerator that I've started to convert into a fermentation chamber.  I picked it up with the help of my dad, brother, and his future father-in-law in drizzling rain this morning and started getting it ready to make my yeast happy.  I attached casters and spent a few hours cleaning it out and disinfecting everything. Then I painted the outside green.  I plan to paint the glass doors with chalkboard paint to inhibit light and allow me to keep track of what's going on inside (it should hold 8+ carboys!).  I'll also need to build a shelf or two to allow me to use the space more effectively-I guess I'll start thinking about configurations.  

Outside painted, waiting to paint the doors.

Now I just need a new beer recipe to try out in it...