For the last several months, I have been of the mind that Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing were collectively conspiring to tweak my figurative nose through the release of “Belgo” versions of their big beers. My distain of that term, which Stone uses to indicate a special batch of an existing recipe thathas been fermented with a yeast strain of Belgian origin, I will admit relates less to the Stone context than it does the Brewers Association’s insistence on so-called “American-Belgo” style categories. But still…
Bless ‘em! Like they were psychically channelling this writer’s deepest beer style grievances, the brains behind Stone managed in one simple, drippingly sarcastic name to sum up the idiocy of the entire black IPA vs. Cascadian pale ale vs. it’s just a freaking hoppy and strong porter non-controversy. I couldn’t have named it better myself.
And it’s none too shabby a beer, either, with an almost oily viscosity – a thicker beer I have seldom encountered – and an aroma of black rye bread, tar, dried plum, raisin and soy sauce supporting a body of full bitterness, burnt citrus peel, roasted walnut, dark chocolate, grilled peach and roasted malt. Perhaps not the finest of Stone’s anniversary brews, but a most welcome one, if for the name alone!
And what about the book, you ask? Glad you did. That would be The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid lore, epic recipes, and unabashed arrogance, coming soon to a bookshelf near you from Ten Speed Press.
If you have ever read a Stone beer label, it will come as no surprise to learn that Mr. Koch had great interest in writing a book. Hell, some of those labels are almost books in and of themselves! That he let others, from brewery partner Steve Wagner to past brewer Lee Chase and current brewer Steele, add in their two cents is testament to his self-restraint, or perhaps the stubborn persistence of contributing writer Randy Clemens.
(As a side note, I have no idea why so many brewers and brewery owners want to write books – I’m looking at you Calagione, Cowen, and especially you Oliver! Having just completed my seventh, I think I can fairly state that it’s a brutal process and one I’d be more than happy to never repeat, although of course I will. But I have an excuse: I’m a writer, and sometimes also an idiot.)
Divided into three parts, the book is less a detailed account of Stone’s development and history than it is a fun and sometimes frivolous romp through the years from when Steve met Greg to present day, including 36 pages on the brewery, 34 on the brewery’s beers – both real and imagined; the notorious Stone April Fool’s beers are also included – and 79 on recipes for both Stone beers and food from the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
Overall, this is a light-hearted read, certainly imbued in parts with the Stone attitude but also at moments insightful and even touching. I got through most of it one just a couple of North American flights, and it delivered just what I wanted from it in that time. It’s not the Oxford Companion to Beer – and more on that later – but neither is it designed to be. It’s beerside reading, pure and simple.