Green Flash's tasting list: Many great beers, but the Hop Head Red was excellent!
We had to move on. The next stop was Lost Abbey / Port brewing. Like most San Diego breweries it is set in an industrial warehouse area, but inside it was a different story:
All the brewery equipment seemed to be a piecemeal assembly of used brewing equipment that had grown almost organically as the brewery expanded production. At least half of the entire space was devoted to barrels! The sign in the above picture is Latin, and if you could read the whole thing it would say "In Brettanomyces We Trust." Not, as I thought: "This is where the Brett be Illin'." I guess I listen to too much early Beastie Boys.
All barrels are bought from a bourbon distiller (sorry, I don't remember the brand) after having been used only once. They come to the brewery fresh and sealed with a bung. Tomme orders them as he needs them to age the Angel's Share. When they arrive at the brewery, they are simply opened and the fermented Angel's Share is transferred in. No washing, cleaning, or even dumping out of left-over bourbon! Contamination is probably not an issue, because the beer is already over 10% ABV, and remember, bourbon is usually diluted after barrel aging. So the dregs are probably the high-test stuff! The Angel's Share spends 6-9 months in the barrel before being bottled. Then, the barrels are used only one more time to age the Older Viscosity (a barleywine). After the second use, the barrels are sold to a local gardener / plant seller to be chopped in half and used as planters.
One more thing about Tomme that I can appreciate: He doesn't believe in going to brewing school. I can appreciate that since I'm trying to get into brewing professionally and I haven't had a formal education. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it's cool to see guys like Vinnie Cilurzo and Tomme Arthur, who are living proof that you don't need a formal education to produce outstanding beer.
The last stop for the day was Stone Brewery & Bistro. Unfortunately, we did not make it in time for a tour. There was only so much time in the day, and Stone beers are very easy to get here in NYC. It goes without saying that it's an excellent brewery.
The newly expanded brewery and bistro looks like a beer theme park. You enter from a huge parking lot (I think there are even row numbers), and enter through a huge castle-like door. Inside, high ceilings and a "giant rock" theme abound. There is a gift shop where you can buy Stone hoodies, road bike shirts, socks, pretty much anything you can get with a big Stone logo & gargoyle. When we finally made it into the bistro, the food was overpriced and underwhelming. But the beer list was excellent, including Stone beers and a variety of things we couldn't find back out east.
My overall opinion of Stone is great beer, great marketing, but simply too image conscious for my tastes (It's certainly not something that would stop me from enjoying a fresh pint of Ruination!) I would have liked to do the tour, and I think it would have helped me to appreciate what they have achieved. Also, it's worth noting that we probably wouldn't even see beers like Green Flash or The Bruery out east without the help of Stone's distribution clout. I'm not sure of the details of this arrangement, but Stone helps the little guys distribute farther, which helps a small business make it in a specialized market. That is incredibly cool.
That about wrapped it up for Saturday. Clarissa was nice enough to drive us back and I think I passed out in the car before we made it back (I'm starting to notice a trend here).
To Be Continued...