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Coolest. Beer book. EVER!
on November 1, 2011
There are two kinds of beer drinkers in the world--those who are rabid fans of Stone Brewing Company, and those who don't like it at all. I've never met anyone who's neutral about Stone beers. I've never seen anyone take a trial sip of a Stone beer and say, "Well, I guess it's all right." No, the response is either, "Wow, that's great! Pour me another!" or "That's the worst beer I've ever tasted. Gimme a glass of one of those fizzy yellow beer-like substances instead." For those of us who ARE fans of extreme beers, those that go far beyond any reasonable limits of flavor, strength and hoppiness, Stone is a beer geek's Nirvana.
I first learned about Stone in 1998 at a beer festival in Tucson, Arizona, two years after founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner started the company in San Marcos, California. At the Stone table was an intriguing beer I'd never heard of called "Arrogant Bastard." "I gotta try me some of that," I thought. But it wasn't that easy. Before the staff would serve it, one had to prove to them that one was "worthy" enough to drink such a powerful beer. That was a stroke of marketing genius (as is the label on AB bottles, by the way, which starts out, "This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it."). Anyway, I don't remember how I proved I was worthy, but after just one sip of AB, I was hooked. And I really mean hooked. For the next ten years, my wife and I (we have identical beer tastes) flew or drove 1,700 miles round trip from our home in El Paso, Texas, to southern California specifically to attend Stone's annual anniversary parties. We got to know Greg a little--at first, he couldn't believe we'd traveled so far just to drink a few of his beers, but then he got used to seeing us there every year. We only stopped going recently because the parties got crazy busy, tickets became hard to get if you didn't live in the area and our tolerance for jostling crowds of thousands has declined. But we still consider Stone beers to be among the best available anywhere, and there are always dozens of them in our dedicated beer refrigerator.
So if you like Stone, you know what I'm talkin' about. Now, how about this book, "The Craft of Stone Brewing Company." Well, it's everything Stone represents, and then some. Exquisitely designed, well-made, very readable (in Greg's inimitable style--think a book-length beer label!), superbly illustrated and packed with useful and fascinating insider information. It's a volume that EVERY fan of Stone beers, or even beer or brewing in general, should pick up immediately, no questions asked.
Here's what you'll find inside the covers. Kicking off is a 14-page section called "The Nature of Beer" that tells what it is, what goes into it and how it's made. It's fairly basic stuff, but still a useful refresher, and the sidebar insights of the Stone guys here and throughout the book are fascinating. The next eight-page section, "Beer Through the Ages," looks at the evolution of brewing in Europe and America and the emergence of the craftbrewing industry. Then comes the 38-page "A Story Called Stone." This section tells all about the founding and growth of Stone. The fascinating historical narrative is filled with anecdotes and trivia about the company, the key employees, the facilities, the brewing process, the marketing and much more. For example, I'll bet you don't know some of the other names Greg and Steve considered for the company before they settled on "Stone" (See page 35). The next section, at about 30 pages, describes more than 50 Stone beers, including their styles, release dates, availabilities, hop profiles, strengths and IBU ratings, along with an interesting paragraph or two for each. So many beers, so little time...
Next comes "'Dr' Bill Presents: Beer How-To's," a 12-page guide to buying, storing, aging, pouring and serving fine craft beer. Don't gloss over this section, even if you think you're an expert on the subject. You'll still probably learn something. The next 36 pages contain 19 selected recipes from the kitchen at the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, the new facility that the company moved into in November 2006. Yes, not only is this a beer book, it's also a cookbook! But wait, there's more! If you're a homebrewer (I'm not), you'll be enthralled with the last section of the book, which features recipes for five-gallon batches of 18 selected Stone beers.
Did I mention that you should buy "The Craft of Stone Brewing Company" right away? What are you waiting for? In the meantime, I'm going to go crack open an Old Guardian...