Back in June, Steve and I flew out to San Diego. We drove up to Paso Robles and back down the coast to hit 10 different breweries in 7 days. One of those breweries was Stone.
Let me begin by saying that Stone is absolutely gorgeous. Like most breweries in California, Stone is located in a commercial strip. We passed the building the first time around because there is no sign. It simply looked like a new office building. It was a good thing Steve makes very detailed maps. Walking in to Stone, it is hard to even realize that a brewery is located there. The interior is amazing. Stone definitely pulled out all the stops in making the building a destination and much needed stop. Meandering stone pathways are located in the building, as well as outside in the beer garden. Huge windows inside the interior restaurant/bar guarantee that all customers can view the brewery and beer production as they eat and drink. The outside deck overlooks the gardens.
We, of course, went on the free tour of the brewery. Unfortunately, they were renovating the brewery so we were unable to actually go on a tour and just stood in the entryway while a brewer spoke to us. This doesn’t lead to my opinion of Stone Brewing at all. If you’ve been on one brewery tour, you’ve pretty much been on them all. Hops are passed around to smell, the aroma of delicious yeasty beer permeates the air and tanks are bright and shiny. At the end, all tour goers are provided samples of 5 of Stone’s best-selling beers. Did I mention the tour was free? If you do make it out to Stone, take the tour. It’s free beer.
Before the tour, we each had a beer at the bar. Without even really knowing, we ended up at Stone on the day that 10th Anniversary was released. People were intermittently stopping in to by bottles or fill growlers, but there weren’t lines and certainly nothing like some other beer releases I have been to. (Side note – 10th Anniversary cost more at Stone then it did at local beer bottle shops and bars). Since I am a huge fan of Ruination, I had to try a fresh 10th Anniversary on tap. 10th is an even better version of regular Ruination. While Ruination is harsh on your palate, 10th begins overly-hoppy but smooths it out at the end. There is a lot more balance, which makes it easier to drink more than one during a sitting. After the tour, we decided to stay for lunch.
Looking back, I wish we would have called it a day and headed on to our next brewery. At this point, I was impressed with the building, if not the tap list. But lunch was disappointing. With more time to peruse the beer list, I didn’t find anything to be stellar or even unique. Many of the Stone beers were on tap and they had a guest tap list, as well as some bottles. But the options were pretty standard. Please know that I’m not complaining. I realize that I can’t expect every bar or brewery to offer amazing specials or rare beer every day. And maybe we just arrived on a day where the beer rotation wasn’t at its peak. 10th was still on tap, but after having 1 prior to the tour, 5 samples on the tour, and knowing that our plan was to hit 2 more breweries that afternoon/evening, I didn’t think I should drink another almost 11% beer. So, I had nothing (which I found out later when I became the DD was a really good choice).
The food was overpriced for what it was. I wouldn’t say it was bad, just not worth the lofty prices. Stone states on the menu that it is organic and local for taste reasons, but the taste just wasn’t there. I ordered the hummus appetizer, which had minimal flavor. Steve had the duck tacos at $21 for 3, which were also bland. We toured the gardens on our own afterwards. While beautiful, I just don’t get it.
Here is what I am getting at…if you are ever near San Diego or Los Angeles, you should visit Stone. Take the tour, sample the free beer. I wouldn’t necessarily eat there and wouldn’t buy beer there. Check the tap list before you go. Make sure that they have something unique and interesting to you. It is worth it just to see the building and gardens, oh and for free beer.
Stone 10th Anniversary Ruination
Stone created Ruination to wreck the palate. The purpose was to be bigger, hoppier, and more bitter than other beers in the market. They certainly succeeded. At 7.7% ABV and over 100 IBUs, Ruination is bitter, bold, and a palate destroyer. For their 10th anniversary, Stone kicked it up a notch. 10th anniversary has a huge 10.8% ABV and was brewed with twice the hops as regular Ruination. In my opinion it goes down smoother though. I am betting it has something to do with the addition of Citra hops. I assume that they mellowed out the piney and bitter hops that Stone used in the original brewing process.
I’m not sure what Stone is planning to do in the future. I would honestly love to see 10th either replace Ruination or become a year-round selection. It is amazingly hoppy and delicious.