Dark Stars

stone event 2

Most of us enjoy the satisfaction of introducing people to something new. Recently, my friends joined me at the Stone Brewing Company’s “Pour It Black” event   – a beer-tasting extravaganza featuring all dark beers.

The collection of stouts, porters, black IPAs and other choice brews was unquestionably the most delicious grouping of beers I have ever encountered at one time, made by some of the world’s best breweries..  Admittedly, I’m a big fan of darker beers, and this was a virtual smorgasbord of some remarkable beverages

I don’t think my friends are as enamored with craft beers as I am, but they are getting there. And most haven’t been to an event like this or tasted beers like we sampled that day.  The most telling statement of the day came from Stan Van Horn, who said that he wasn’t a beer drinker, “until today.”stone event 3

Along with Lenny Seligman, Stan and his friend Rich, the four of us grabbed our tasting glasses (with the fill line marked at 3 oz.) and headed to the first of five separate tap beer stations, each offering about a dozen different beers. The three bottled beer stations had up to 20 different varieties to choose from.

I started with a Deschutes Black Butte XXV, while my friends each sampled a different Rip Current offering (Kona Storm Coffee Imperial Porter, Rescue Buoy Russian Imperial Stout Batch 2, and Vanilla Storm Coffee/Vanilla Imperial Porter). Naturally, we all shared a few sips to get our journey off to a great start.

We found the station offering the Lost Abbey/Port Brewing beers, and I had to share with my friends. Although it might be my favorite from a bottle, I had never had Santa’s Little Helper (bourbon barrel aged) on tap, so that was a no-brainer (and did not disappoint). I followed that with a Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Ad Lib, a combination of Serpent’s Stout and Angels Share aged in brandy barrels. This one has never been bottled and is typically only available at events like this. Another gem.

Actually, it is not my intent to review every beer we tasted, because they were all fantastic.  Plus, this is about the point that I stopped taking notes on what everybody else was drinking.

Over the rest of the afternoon, some of the beers I enjoyed on tap were AleSmith Speedway Stout 2010 (always predictably good), Ritual Big Deluxe aged in High West Manhattan Barrels (sweet and delicious), Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout (fantastic), Ken Schmidt/Iron Fist/Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout (even better on tap than the limited-release bottles), and Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti (another reliable treat).

As a change of pace, we sampled the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale with Cherries, a black IPA that was definitely hoppier than most other beers.  I followed that with the Stone Suitable for Cave Aging – An Imperial Smoked Porter Tribute to Danny Williams aged in Red Wine Barrels. Another special edition, this barley wine has a red wine-forward.

A short break for a great lunch and we were just about done for the day, but not without at least one sample from the bottle stations. I probably could have stayed there for a lot longer, but grabbed a fabulous FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout 2012 Old Fitzgerald Bourbon before we called it a day.

Stone is great about staging themed events such as this, and so are many of the other notable craft brewers in the region. I recommend signing up for e-mail or “like” several breweries on Facebook to get early notice of upcoming events.

Brewed with Aloha

One of the perks of having two sons working in the craft beer industry in San Diego County is the ongoing education they give me about new craft beers. It’s nice that they have developed a few connections within the beer community, too.311600_10150967792208813_657939679_n

I’ve been impressed to learn that while the number of craft breweries continues to grow daily, there is a healthy respect and cooperation among those in the beer community. In fact, “collaboration beers” between two or more breweries are frequent and outstanding.

Port Brewing Co./The Lost Abbey has collaborated with a number of other breweries, and among their friends is Maui Brewing Co., with which they created the limited edition Lemongrass Saison.

This past summer, tasting room manager Jason Danderand provided Sid with a few brews to take with us to Maui to share with Maui Brewing Co. owner and founder Garrett Marrero, who is a San Diego native.  Every visit we take to Napili Bay includes several stops at the Maui Brewing Co. brewpub in nearby Kahana, and this past summer we also went to the brewery in Lahaina. Garrett kindly set aside some time to give us a tour of the plant and tells us about his company.

There’s no question Maui Brewing faces obstacles that are foreign to breweries on the mainland, including access to certain ingredients, costs, taxes and distribution issues inherent to doing business on an island. But Garrett is a sharp guy who not only has a keen business mind, but also a strong commitment to the local community, the environment and all of Hawaii. For example, all MBC beers are made completely in Hawaii and then shipped for distribution. The brewery uses as many local ingredients as possible. Those are prevalent in two of my favorites: MBC’s CoCoNut Porter featuring toasted coconut, and Mana Wheat, made with fresh Maui Gold pineapple. Grain used in beer production is donated to local ranchers for cattle feed and composting.614813_500457626646681_2032354830_o

MBC is committed to job creation for residents, and by limiting the amount of automation in the packaging process, there is still plenty of work for humans instead of machines. All Maui Brewing Co. beers are packaged in eco-friendly cans, not bottles, to protect the beer from both light and oxygen damage. The artwork on the cans comes from local Maui artists, and the cans are manufactured on Oahu.

Maui Brewing is schedule to open a new facility in Kihei that is expected to create 80 new jobs and further expand the brewery’s reach.

CoCoNut Porter, Mana Wheat, Bikini Blonde, Big Swell IPA and other Maui Brewing Co. beers are available at most local Southern California retail liquor stores, including Liquorama and BevMo in Upland and Total Wines and More in Rancho Cucamonga.