So, lots of questions about this Stone Brewing thing. What's the big deal? Why should we be excited? Don't you have anything better to do than drool on the knob of some uppity San Diego beer?
Addressing the last of these issues first, no, quite frankly I don't have much else going on. And. It's a really tasty knob.
So. First, let's get the important stuff out of the way. Stone will officially be available on Monday in both Madison and Milwaukee. In fact, it's really even better than that. Pretty much everywhere except far Western Wisconsin will at least have access to Stone. So, La Crosse, you're out of luck. Platteville, if there's anyone out there, you're out of luck. Dane, Rock, Green and Iowa Counties and pretty much every county north of Central Wisconsin, you're today's lucky winners. And, of course, Milwaukee and Eastern Wisconsin. So, where in these counties can you get it? I've been told there are about 60 places just in Madison that will be getting it. The distributors have been taking pre-orders for a few weeks, and all of the non-chain retailers should be getting them in the first part of the week. So, Woodman's, Star, Riley's, Steve's, and the better beer bars around the city will all have it. So, as they say in the industry, penetration is deep.
Which beers will we get? A good question, I'm glad you asked. All of the regulars and seasonals. The jury is still out on the limited releases. We'll cover the whats a little further down the page. But, for now, you can know that the Pale Ale, the IPA, the Ruination IPA, and the Oaked Bastard will all be available in six and/or four packs. We should have 22oz bottles of the Smoked Porter and Arrogant Bastard. Draft will be IPA and Arrogant Bastard only. So, no Double Bastard, sorry. Milwaukee has some slightly different availability, as you'll see in a minute.
So, release parties. Yes. You heard right. Like waiting in line at the damn record store for 12:01am, to buy that first edition Pearl Jam "Vs." CD (man, I think I'm dating myself there - for all of you youngster its like having to wait for the new Linkin Park; OK, maybe we can both agree that it's like waiting for the new Jay-Z?), there will be release parties in both Milwaukee and Madison.
In Milwaukee, the release party is Wednesday night night.
Milwaukee is a Stone Crawl amongst a bunch of pubs. I don't have the order but I do know that Wednesday night we're going to have a bus to go from Lulu's to The Stone to Sugar Maple to Romans. It sounds as if we'll have kegs of Ruination, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Stone Smoked Porter, Stone Pale Ale, Arrogant Bastard and last but certainly not least Stone IPA.So, yeah. Milwaukee gets all of those on-tap. Madison has to suffer with just Arrogant Bastard and the IPA. While Maduro's, among others, will have Stone on tap on Monday just like Milwaukee, the "official" release party isn't until the evening of Thursday June 26th. Stay tuned for more details as that approaches.
With all of the pleasantries out of the way, what the heck ARE all of these beers and what's the big deal about Stone?
Stone is rated in the top 10 breweries in the world by RateBeer. Three of its beers, including one of its year-round beers, are in RateBeer's top 50 beers in the world. Four of its beers are in BeerAdvocate's Top 100. Its Levitation, an Amber Ale, won Gold at the 2007 Great American Beer Fest. The list goes on and on. The point is, they make really good beer.
So, what do we know about the beers themselves? Well, you can almost always count on hops. Most of their beers are "assertively" hopped. Assertively? Perhaps "aggressively" would be a better word. But, for all of the hops, they manage to maintain some semblance of balance. The Arrogant Bastard (RB.RB.), their signature beer, is a 7.2% ABV American Strong Ale. They make a "big" version of the Arrogant Bastard called the Double Bastard; it's 10% ABV and 100 IBUs of knock you on your ass. The Smoked Porter is much like New Glarus' Smoke on the Porter with the touch of smoke and rich chocolate and molasses notes. The Russian Imperial, also coming in a bourbon barrel flavor, is considered by many to be one of the best beers on the planet, not to mention a best-in-class entry.
They also have some awesome limited releases that we may, or may not see. But, if you want to drool a little and stand amazed at the ingenuity of American craft brewers, you can read up on the Vertical Epic, 10 years of brewing and aging producing ten beers to be consumed sometime after 2012. Yeah, it's a gimic. You got a problem with gimics? Me neither. Especially really cool, really tasty gimics.