The Stone in the Grad

posted on January 26, 2009 in beer review, beerventure

You mean The Grad is having a Stone tasting?  What are we doing here?

"You mean The Grad is having a Stone tasting? What are we doing here?"

Last Thursday (1/15), Stone Brewery (or, at least, two regional sales reps and their round, steely, beer-filled friends) saw it fit to pay Davis a little visit.  It may come as no surpise the host happens to be the only place in Davis that also pours the eighth-best rated beer in the world.  I would say the two hit it off quite well.

I headed over in a small group including John and his mentor*-friend, Shane but we ended up meeting a group of “Sacramento Hopheads” via the site www.meetup.com.  Technology is really good at uniting beer lovers (as Twitter very well shows).  And, really, if you’re going to meet a bunch of random people from the internet, it helps if your common interest happens to also be a social lubricant.

On to the beer.  Here was the line-up:

Old Guardian Barleywine
Smoked Porter
Pale Ale
Levitation Ale
Ruination IPA
Arrogant Bastard
Double Bastard Ale
Russian Imperial Stout
12th Anniversary Ale

AND RARE ARCHIVED ANNIVERSARY KEGS:
Stone 10th Anniversary Ale
Stone 11th Anniversary Ale

To me, the Best in Show that night was Levitation and Ruination - indicating to me that I really am developing a palate for hoppy beers (hooray!  Californians won’t shun me.).  Levitation is Stone’s version of an Amber Ale, so, not surprisingly, it’s more hoppy than most ambers.  The BJCP guidelines for an Amber suggest the IBUs should be in the range of  25-40, but Stone takes pride in sticking it to the man, giving this beer 45 IBUs.  Modest for Stone to be sure, but definitely not what you’d expect from an Amber.  While I’m a fan of traditional ambers, and they have a special place in my heart for being the first style I brewed, I loved this one.  To me, Levitation is the gateway brew to hoppy beers.  Malty and citrusy, but not too bitter and very drinkable.  This beer is full of flavor and refreshing; it may well become a go-to for me for my new habit of rehydrating after a long-run with a beer, in the style of Beer Runner.

I guess once the floodgates open to hoppy beers, there’s no going back.  So the second beer I dug that night was their Ruination IPA.  I think this hop-kick was also driven by a slight overdose on very malty beers like Oskar Blues’ Old Chub (a Scotch Ale), Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout (”a punch in the face”**), and Old Rasputin from North Coast - an RIS.  Hops were a welcome, refreshing change; plus, hops are what gave Stone its name.  So, naturally their hoppy beers are very enjoyable.  When in Rome…or the Grad…which is serving Stone…well, you know.  (BTW, I neglected their superstars (Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard) because we serve those on tap at our restuarant, but if you’re new to Stone, you’ll want to try those…especially the Double - hoppy as a mother but smoother than the original.)

Don't judge me for my big gargoyle muscles and enormous IBUs.  I'm actually very sensitive inside.

I'm actually very sensitive inside.

Lastly, I want to try to give some constructive feedback regarding the event itself.  Thankfully, we got to the Grad a little before they started serving, so we staked out our territory near the bar early on.  Still, once they started pouring, it was a bit of mayhem by the bar - people could easily cut in front, there was a lack of papers and pencils on which to write your tasting choices, there was a miscommunication as to what beers they actually had…etc., etc.  The main problem was the system of going up to the far end of the bar to order drinks.  This resulted in a huge, slow-moving line, making me ever-more thankful that I was actually early to something for once.

It’s easy to complain about these kind of operations, not so easy to come up with solutions.  But what I would suggest for events like these is just bringing in some extra waitstaff who will hand out the tasting papers and bring the beer to the people at tables.  Yes, it may take a while for these people to get their beer but it’s better than everyone rushing the bar and that way people can actually sit down and enjoy themselves - maybe buy a pint of something else (at the uncrowded part of the bar) while they wait for their tasters.  Sure, it will cost extra for the labor but it will reduce the daunting line of people that had to wait forever - many of whom I’m sure just went home.  I don’t think the Grad ever really has people wait tables but for a special event like this, it would not be too difficult to train them (they do have people running counter-service for food).  Also, it would reduce the problem of the customer having to trasport his or her drinks from the bar to their table (sans a serving tray).  When you have 8 glasses this can take several trips, causing all the more mayhem at the bar.

When events are run more smoothly, people are more likely to come back to future ones.  This one was still a very positive experience, but there’s always room for improvement (plus, I came early).  Other suggestions are highly welcome.

Sorry bout the tardiness of this post.  Just started school back up; little rusty getting my head wrapped around titration calculations and the like but once routine kicks in, normal posting regimen will resume.

*If beer mentors were Jedis, then I’d be the bitchy little Aniken, John the fun-lovin’ Obi-Wan, and Shane the wise Qui-Gon Jinn.

**(Ashley, 1/11/09)

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