Stone Brewing Co. with Jeff Porter

Stone Brewing_Jeff Porter_052009_mediumWith nice weather around the corner (hopefully), we’re heading into beer season.  I’m thinking big fans of Stone (and there are plenty) are year round beer drinkers, but for many of our customers, warmer weather puts them in the mood.  Something like what happens with rosé.

We were pleased to welcome Jeff Porter to lead us through the tasting.  He’s the NW Regional Brewery Representative and a knowledgable beer drinker who led us through the tasting as the best of the wine guys would.  Lots of swirling, sniffing, (low key) talk of aromas, and even food pairings.  It was a lot of fun and kind of gave me (a hard-core wine drinker) the beer bug. 

A little on Jeff ...
He’s been with Stone Brewing about three years, the first two as a rep in San Diego and now as the NW brewery representative in our neck of the woods.  He was a home-brewer before going professional with his hobby, and he’s originally from Van Nuys (LA).

A little about Stone Brewing …
The Stone Brewing Co. was started by two beer-lovers: Steve Wagner (beer-lover/brewer) and Greg Koch (beer-lover/business guy).  They boast that between the two of them they have visited (and drunk beer at) over 140 different breweries in the US & Europe.  Long story short, they got some investors and in summer 1996 they tapped their first beer – Stone Pale Ale.  Since then they’ve developed a nice healthy cult following of people who love their brews.  Here are the beers we tasted & some tasting notes to go with:

Levitation Pale Ale (12oz)$4.00/case $3.20 
Notes: This beer is a new one for Stone Brewing and enjoyed its national release the same day as our tasting, and apparently it has taken off.  Jeff said that in the week since the launch that they’ve gone from producing 1 vat a week to 5.  It’s deep amber in color with big hoppy flavors and a solid malt backbone.  At 4.4%, it enjoys a lower alcohol content.  

Arrogant Bastard Ale (22oz)$7.00/case $5.60 
Notes: The first words Stone uses to describe this beer on the website, is: “You probably won’t like it”.  Jeff was a little friendlier, calling it aggressive. Now I only had a 1-oz sip of this beer, but I liked it.  It was a little in you face, but it was interesting and you knew where it stood. It’s classified as an American Strong Ale and it’s characterized by strong malty, hoppy flavors.
Stone IPA (22oz) $7.50/case $6.00 
Notes: India Pale Ale is by definition higher in hops and alcohol. Stone IPA has both strong aromas and flavors of hops creating a pleasantly bitter experience.
Cali Belgique IPA (22oz) ~ limited ~ $11.00/case $8.80 
Notes:  Stone’s brewers went and hung out at Duvel in Belgium and visited other Belgian breweries to see how they created this type of beer.  What they ended up with is their Stone IPA recipe with a special Belgian yeast strain, creating an interesting new beer, a fusion of Belgian style with American influences.  The Cali Belgique IPA is a little sweeter than the Stone IPA, with flavors of coriander & orange peel.   

Old Guardian Barley Wine (22oz) ~ limited ~ $11.00/case $8.80 
Notes: Barley wines can be sweet, and this one is, but the sweetness is offset by the bitterness of the hops, making for well-balanced experience. You also get nice orange, citrusy flavors from the hops. Can drink now or store for several years.  

Stone Smoked Porter (22oz) $7.50/case $6.00 
Notes: This was a rich, dark brown beer, with suble flavors of smoke from the peat smoked malt (similar to how scotch is made), chocolate and coffee. This is a great food beer. Delicious with roasted meats & BBQ(due to the smoky flavors), but also recommends going sweet.  They serve jalapeno blue cheese smoked porter cheesecake at the brewery that he says is killer.     

Stone Imperial Russian Stout (22oz) $11.00/case $8.80 
Notes:  This Russian Stout ranks top 3 in the world.  It’s a massive beer, hoppy (as all Stone’s beers are), but with lovely, slightly sweet flavors of licorice and chocolate.  At the tasting, we tried both a 2007 & 2009, to see the difference.  As with wine, the older vintage was smoother, more mellow.

A little tip that Jeff gave re: whether or not to lay beer down …
Drink IPA as fresh as possible.  Bigger beers with higher alcohol and higher hops content can be cellared for a few years.  Are they better after a little time?  That’s for you to decide …

Contributor:  Julie Howe

Australia’s Hunter Valley: a report from down under on a weekend out …

This is an email we received from Phil last summer (7/22/08) when he was in Australia to interview for a job.  Wine makes a great diversion … and these are some great tips if you’re looking for a wine country day trip outside of Sydney:

phil_contributor_may-094this past weekend i decided to escape the papal visit to sydney and swarms of 15 year old world youth day pilgrims for the Hunter Valley and a bit of a drive and wine tasting. the rest of sydney seemed to decide to do the same thing, but by staying on the outskirts i’d say i did alright… 5 top ranked wineries, 2.5 cases of wine to take home, a decent brewery hotel as a base, and a fast car to drive around in. no real complaints here in the end…

So a bit of a synopsis in links:
Some photos from the weekend

The wineries I went to:
phil_australia_kinklewood3The first one was Kringlewood on Saturday at about 1130am after a 
morning drive out into the edge of the valley. Saw the sign on my way 
back towards town and stopped, looked at the book, saw that it was 
well ranked and pulled in. All biodynamic vines, with delicious French 
style wines. brought home a shiraz worth of hermitage, a chardonnay & 
a botrytis chardonnay (very rare…)

the next stop was the most commercial of the wineries i visited, and 
in many ways, the least enjoyable:
the shiraz was good, the rest were all decent, the ambiance cut it 
down a lot… the view of the valley was wonderful

from there, i stopped in at blue tongue brewery and had a beer and pie 
for lunch before heading on:

after lunch i headed up to Piggs Peake. An amazing boutique negotiant 
in the same model as Sinnean in Oregon that I have collected so much 
wine from, these guys make amazing stuff. They have fun with the 3 
pigs line of naming, with the wines running form straw to sticks to 
bricks in terms of intensity… I got to taste some pretty damned good 
wine and fortified wine (they make loads of port and madeira style 
fortified wines as well as standard desert wines) and had already 
picked up a few bottles when the winemaker took myself and a few other 
customers with similar interests back to taste a few of the barrel 
Bricks wines… we had a bit of 08 Zin and 08 Shiraz… wow. i can 
understand why the sell out of all of these wines at release…

almost done for the day on saturday… while wandering back into town 
I stop at the cheese store to pick up some fixins for dinner. The 
Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop has a nice array of cheeses, and can 
indeed be smelled from the parking lot. the cave doesn’t hurt matters 
and neither does the antipasti fixings side of the house.

a brief stop for tasting at the small winemakers shop — tasted 
Margan, Little Wine Company & Andrew Thomas good stuff, a nice end to 
a day of wine tasting, more things for the case…

back to the potters hotel & brewery to nap and watch a bit of tri-
nations rugby in the pub…and eat some of that cheese i collected 
that was smelling up the car…

Good times, as it’s a local’s joint and the Wallabies won…

Sunday I headed out to drive back via the mountains, and happened to 
stop at yet one last incredible winery with absolutely no planning — 
it literally looked like my last chance to go to a winery on my way 
out, so I stopped. Turns out to be an incredible place, where the 
viticulturist lives on site and does the tastings, and where I got to 
spend over an hour talking about the vines and wines and facility. 
good times, great juice, and the only Tannat in all of australia (give 
or take a few plants.) again, amazing.
finally, The basic route map:

phil_australia_end_phil-in-mirrorit was a good time. could have used a bit of company perhaps (still could given the collection of vino i brought back.) hope all are well


Food + Wine: Experiment with wine pairings

gp4_big-red-collection_nov-04_v2We’ve started a new Thursday bar special, where (in addition to our regular menu) we are offering a small bites menu with 4 or 5 items priced at $5 each.  Aside from the fact that these small plates are delicious, each provides a little wine pairing fun.  Here are several of the small plates from the first month of the special with suggested pairings. If you need some help pairing upcoming dishes, we’re happy to oblige …

Pear crostini with blue cheese mousse & candied walnuts $5
    … bubbly can handle the salty & the sweet: Montesel Extra Dry Prosecco $9
Gougère with proscuitto & pea salad $5
    … a richer white fits perfectly: Jean-Luc Colombo 2006 La Redonne $8.25
Warm potato salad with chorizo & poached egg $5
    … be a rebel: Celler Tomas Cusine 2006 Vilosell $8.25
House chicken liver mousse pâté $5
    … a match made in heaven: Domaine des Espiers 2007 Gigondas $9.50
Mushroom brie galette $5
    … another match made in heaven: Château La Neuve 2005 Saint-Emilion $9
Spicy meatballs with tomato conserva & garlic toast $5 
    … fruit forward is the way to go: Planeta 2007 La Segreta Rosso $7.75

Enjoy & cheers!