Interview: Randy Clemens discusses The Craft of Stone Brewing Co., collaborating with Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, Vegetarianism, Misconceptions + More
When we last checked in with Randy Clemens, he just released The Sriracha Cookbook. Since then, the beer-fueled Renaissance man took a job in Escondido as Stone Brewing Co.’s Public Relations Coordinator. Less than 10 months later, he took that relationship to another level with the September 27 release of The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance. Clemens worked with Stone Brewing Co. co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner on a Ten Speed Press tome that documents the history of the bold brewery and the brewing process while sharing recipes from Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Clemens shared further “arrogant” insights on the day of the book’s release.
What’s your first Stone Brewing Company memory?
Years ago, early into my “research” on beer, I remember trying Stone IPA and not being a fan at all. “Why would anyone drink anything so bitter?!?!” So, naturally, when someone later recommended I try Stone Ruination IPA (their Double IPA), I met such an idea with a great degree of skepticism. “Why on earth would I like something billed as being double what I just told you I didn’t enjoy?” Well, I tell you, the bitterness was still there, but my god was it beautifully intertwined with a luscious floral hop aroma and flavor that I’d never experienced before. It was right then and there that I fell in love with Humulus lupulus, and the mighty beers of Stone.
What’s surprised you about the brewery since you started working there?
The sheer number of projects always happening. It’s mind boggling, yet Steve and Greg somehow keep their fingers on the pulse of it all. I honestly don’t know how they do it, but I’m guessing it has a lot to do with the extremely dedicated and talented people they’ve got working there. (Between you, me, and your readers, I also think Greg is some sort of cyborg programmed by hop farmers from the future, sent back in time with one single mission: Destroy fizzy yellow beer. And he won’t rest until his work here is complete.)
What was the criteria for recipe inclusion in the book?
I spoke at length with Greg and with Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Executive Chef Alex Carballo to find out what some of the most sought after recipes were. And on the personal side, I was dying to get the secrets behind the (in)famous Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings. And I got to throw in my awesome Beeramisu recipe. You’re welcome in advance!
How did the collaboration work with Greg and Steve? Did you have much creative freedom?
It was so cool to get to work with them on the book. Really, it’s still surreal to think that I went after such an opportunity, and got it no less! Heck, I was only just about to turn 12 years old when Stone sold its first keg, so to be able to hear all these hilarious war stories straight from Greg and Steve made me feel like a part of it, if only vicariously. (If you read nothing else from this book, check out Steve’s story on how they got their yeast strain. It’s priceless!)
And creatively, it all came together very organically. I had a pretty clear vision of how I wanted the book to progress, and it seemed to evolve pretty well with all the information I was digging up and the narrative as it started piecing together from all the interviewees. Praise be to our illustrious editor at Ten Speed Press, Melissa Moore, who was more than supportive throughout the project, and extremely kind despite several, ahem, small delays in meeting deadlines. Sincere personal thanks as well to Mike Palmer and the amazing art/media department at Stone, John Schulz, Julie White and the Ten Speed Press design team for working through so many revisions with me, Greg, and Steve. I couldn’t be happier with the end result.
What was the biggest challenge about working on The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.? I’m guessing it wasn’t cooking related.
Putting this book together was such a difference from working on The Sriracha Cookbook. This wasn’t merely more words (about 90,000 versus 20,000), it was pulling puppet strings from all sorts of different directions, covering a lot of different topics, working around other people’s (and cyborg’s) very busy schedules, etc. The book covers a Beer 101 of sorts, explaining ingredients and how they relate to Stone specifically, and there’s a history of beer, a history of Stone, backstories on all of their beers (past and present, including some you’ve probably never heard of), guides from “Dr.” Bill on how to pair food with beer and how to properly cellar beer, scaled-down recipes from the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, homebrew recipes for 18 different Stone beers, cool old photos… it’s a LOT of stuff, and I’m pretty damn proud of how it all came together.
What’s a misconception that people might have about Stone Brewing Co.?
There are plenty of em. Cool thing is Greg debunks a lot of them personally. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come across a blog post or a thread on BeerAdvocate saying something about Stone (positive or negative), and there’s Greg, with his two cents posted right in the thick of all the comments or on his Twitter handle, @StoneGreg. (Where he finds the time, I don’t know. Please see cyborg theory above.)
What’s a misconception that people might have about vegetarians?
Ha! Very funny, Josh. Well, since you asked, I’ll be glad to dignify it with an answer. Two answers, in fact! Vegetarian misconception #1: We LOVE fake meat. False. I like fruits and grains and veggies. Tempeh is delicious, and tofu’s alright, but get all that modified starch/textured vegetable protein crap outta here. Vegetarian misconception #2: We’re crazy for not eating meat. No, no, I assure you, I’m not crazy. (Well, at least not because I no longer eat meat.) It was actually a very conscious decision based on A LOT of factors that my eyes were opened to when I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Truly an amazing book.
What’s your preferred method of Stone Brewing enjoyment?
Plain and simple: surrounded by good friends and good eats.