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The Stone Brewing Co. 14th Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival came and went this weekend, and plenty of great beer was consumed. The festival itself seemed fairly well organized, I heard many people complaining about long lines and the lack of shade, but we never waited more than two or three minutes for a beer, nor did we have any problem finding a place to sit or stand under the large tents. It was warm but not nearly as warm as it could have been in San Marcos in August.

We opted for Session A, arriving at exactly 11am, we got our glasses and wristbands without a wait and were drinking our first beers just a few minutes later. As far as I could tell everyone in attendance was having a great time. Mike’s Beer Cheese was a crowd pleaser for sure. We tried all four varieties offered with Napalm Bastard being the favorite.

Below are short notes about each beer tasted, not so much reviews but quick and mostly distracted thoughts on the four ounce tasters offered, a few at the end were shared among us and I didn’t get a full taster.

  • Stone Brewing Co. Belgo Imperial Russian Stout. Stone’s IRS with a Belgian yeast strain. I quickly looked over the beer list the day before the festival and this was the beer I was most excited about, so it makes sense that it was also the beer I was most disappointed with. It wasn’t bad, but it couldn’t live up the high expectations I had for it. I’m not sure how fresh it was, but it tasted more mellow than the fresh IRS I’ve had lately. But I thought it was sorely lacking many Belgian characteristics.
  • Stone Brewing Co. Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers. This is a beer I had been wanting to try for a while since I love spicy foods and Stone Smoked Porter. The chipotle flavor was fairly mellow, but prominent. It gave the already smoky beer a nice smoky/spicy kick. Not at all like other chili beers I’ve had, but this was my first chipotle beer.
  • Nøgne Ø Saison. A good saison, but fairly unremarkable. Crisp and refreshing in the San Marcos heat. It seemed to lack the fruity esters and spicy phenols and all around funky farmhouse flavors I enjoy in a saison. It could also be that my palate hadn’t quite recovered from those two previous beers, I’ll be giving this one another shot.
  • Great Divide Brewing Co. Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. Great Divide is one of my favorite Colorado breweries that doesn’t get distributed out here, but according to the sign at their booth that will be changing soon as they’re coming to Southern California. I love Yeti, and have had Oak Aged Yeti but never Espresso Oak Aged Yeti. The oak was pretty prominent up front with a great coffee flavor on the finish.
  • Lost Abbey TEA (Traditional Experimental Ale). I had no idea what this was going in. The lemon citrus flavors were overwhelming. I once had a Belgian Wit where the brewers accidentally substituted the same amount of the much stronger dried lemongrass for fresh lemongrass. This tasted similar. This would have been my first and only pour of the day but I ate some of the wonderfully spicy Mike’s Beer Cheese Napalm Bastard and this did a good job of putting that fire out.
  • San Diego Brewing Co. Hop Diego. Not my favorite Belgian style IPA but not bad. Will drink this again to get a better feel for it.
  • Stone Brewing Co. Imperial Russian Stout 10th Anniversary Blend. If you can’t tell by now I love Imperial Russian Stouts. And Stone’s is one of my favorites. I thought this was just delicious. I’m not sure the exact make up of this blend but it was smoother and sweeter with the hop and alcohol flavors of fresh IRS much subdued. Stone’s IRS with a few years on it is just great.
  • Urthel Hop-It. Very carbonated. Good and hoppy with some nice earthy yeast flavors.
  • Craftsman Brewing Co. Triple White Sage. This was the standout beer of the festival for me. I had seen Craftsman’s name around but never had any of their beers. I’ve spent a decent amount of time hiking around the foothills of Southern California and that’s exactly what this beer tasted like. A good but not overpowering white sage flavor. Refreshing enough to drinking on a hot day, but complex enough to keep it interesting.
  • Craftsman Brewing Co. Fireworks Saison. Another great beer from Craftsman. Slightly spicy phenol flavors and some good yeast flavors made this very enjoyable.
  • Red Stone Meadery Black Raspberry Nectar. Amazing honey flavor but almost overpoweringly sweet.
  • Julian Hard Cider. A very nice cider. Was refreshing on such a warm day. Looking forward to trying this again sometime.
  • Norrebro La Granja Coffee Stout. I wasn’t too impressed by this one. One of my least favorite coffee stouts I’ve had.
  • Great Divide Brewing Co. Colette Farmhouse Ale. A good saison. Nice and yeasty good farmhouse flavors as the name implies.
  • Ska Brewing Co. Modus Hoperandi IPA. I had to finish out the day with something from my friends in Durango. I was hoping for some Saison Du’Rango but they had temporarily run out. So Modus it was (the other choice would have been Merlot Stout, a great beer but I couldn’t do another Imperial Stout). Nice and piney with a great hop aroma, Modus is one of my favorite IPAs.

Click below for a few photos from the day.

The lines weren't too bad

Ska Brewing Co.

Great Divide Brewing Co. coming soon to Southern California