Naja’s Place kicked off L.A. Beer Week in style with a Stone Brewing blowout. There must have been 20 Stone staffers on hand, many wearing gargoyle button-downs advertising “Arrogant Bastard,” one of their signature beers. Curious beer drinkers and full-on beer geeks also got to mingle with approachable Stone luminaries like CEO Greg Koch, President/Brewmaster Steve Wagner and Head Brewer Mitch Steele. They brought 24 kegs from Escondido, the most beers ever on draught, off-site, so it was no surprise to find Naja’s near capacity, even in the rain.
Stone beers are known to pack some serious kick. Only two of the 17 Stone beers I tried at Naja’s were under 8% ABV, and very few beers dipped below 90 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) on a scale of 100+. IBU levels for several beers were either “classified” or “n/a.”
We each started with a curated flight of Stone beers. Here are my tasting notes:
Cali-Belgique IPA (6.9% ABV) – copper, hoppy
Belgian Style Triple (AleSmith/Mikkeller/Stone) (9.5% ABV) – amber, sweet, spicy, lavender
Imperial Russian Stout 2007 (10.5% ABV) – black, bitter coffee
Imperial Russian Stout 2008 (10.5% ABV) – black, added bitterness
Imperial Russian Stout 2009 (10.5% ABV) – black, surupy, rounder, less carbonation
Ruination IPA (double dry hopped) (7.7% ABV) – amber, dry bitterness
Sublimely Self Righteous (8.7% ABV) – dark brown, bitter
Old Guardian (aged in red wine barrels) (11.3% ABV) – reddish orange, red wine, syrupy, wood finish
Double Bastard 2006 (10% ABV) – brown, Arrogant Bastard x2, intensely bitter
Double Bastard 2008 (10% ABV) – cloudier brown, bitter, longer finish, a little more syrupy
12th Anniversary (9.2% ABV) – black, Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, rich cocoa
13th Anniversary (9.5% ABV) – Imperial red ale, hoppy
Vertical Epic 07.07.07 (8.4% ABV) – amber, gingery Belgian triple
Vertical Epic 08.08.08 (8.6% ABV) – yellow, bland, closest to pale ale on the table
Vertical Epic 09.09.09 (8.6% ABV) – black, smoky, bacon
After the flights, we popped the tops on two bottles, both Stone collaborations with other breweries.
We grabbed a bottle of the collaboration brew between Stone, Maui Brewing and home brewer Ken Schmidt ($11.50), an 8.5% ABV porter brewed with Kona coffee, macadamia nuts and coconut. It was a very good beer, but I got much more coffee than the other two ingredients.
2008 Special Holiday Ale ($11.50) was a 9% ABV collaboration with Nogne Ø and Jolly Pumpkin, created with California white sage, Norwegian juniperberries and Michigan chestnuts. This was a great spiced beer brewed in Escondido, and the trio plans to release Version 2.0 later this year, with this batch brewed in Norway. In 2010, you’ll find the version aged for two years at Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Michigan.
Naja’s Place Assistant GM Martin Svab brought us each a taster of “dessert,” Ballast Point’s bourbon barrel-aged Sea Monster Stout, a lush dark brown beer heavy on the coffee and vanilla.
My five favorite Stone beers of the night were the AleSmith/Mikkeller/Stone Belgian Style Triple, the Old Guardian (aged in red wine barrels), Vertical Epic 07.07.07, the Stone/Maui/Ken Schmidt Collaboration and the Stone/Nogne Ø/Jolly Pumpkin collaboration.
We managed to try some terrific rare beers, meet other beer lovers and even discuss the beers with the beer makers. This was a great way to launch L.A. Beer Week.