Tyrion’s mouth was full of bread and fish. He took a swallow of strong black beer to wash it all down, and grinned up wolfishly at Jaime, “Why, Jaime, my sweet brother,” he said, “you wound me. You know how much I love my family.” 1
Stone Beer has come. And it’s darker than ever. The latest release of Stone & Wood Brewing’s annual winter beer continues its journey to become one of the most anticipated Australian craft beers of each year. The beer is created in the presence of a crowd, surrounded by food and the brewers’ beer industry family.
I was invited to attend the Stone Beer brew day back in March. I travelled north on the King’s Road (aka Princes Highway) to the Stone & Wood Brewery in Byron Bay.
Stone Beer is brewed on several occasions over a week, to adequately fill the tanks. Each time, the brewers gather a crowd to help create and celebrate the beer, accumulating in the “Festival of the Stone”.
First, with a gathering of invited guests from the beer trade and media, then with the wider Stone & Wood family and community on the following weekend.
We assembled at the brewery to feast on food, drink ale and get stoned…in the figurative sense, as we gathered around a pit of flaming stones and wood.
The story of those stones has been told many times. The igneous rocks were used by co-founder and head brewer, Brad Rogers, during his days living in Fiji, where underground cooking was common. Brad brought them back to Australia and has been using the same rocks to help create unique dark ale inspired by medieval stein beers, since first brewing Stone Beer in 2009.
The rocks are heated until “white hot”, then pulled from the fire with wire thongs and placed into a small round cage. Next the rocks are lowered into the kettle as wort boils. Steam rushes out of the kettle as the rocks hit the liquid, and the first phase of the brewing theatrics is done.
Once the brew is complete and the beer has been transferred to the fermenter, the process with the stones is repeated. This time the glowing hot rocks are first dipped into a sanitiser solution, to ensure no unwanted bugs or wild yeast infect the beer, then lowered into the fermenter tank.
The recipe is tweaked a little each year, but has remained fairly consistent for the last three years. Increasingly, the beer is a little darker, and a little more complex. This year, the beer was brewed using 13 different malt varieties, and two hops (Helga and Sylva), along with the helping hands of beer enthusiasts, writers, bloggers and bar owners.
The small team of professional brewers carefully presiding over the brewing process, while the brewery’s founders championed the history and philosophy of Stone & Wood, showcased by the friendly and sharing community atmosphere that surrounds all present.
See here how Stone Beer is brewed, with Stone & Wood’s video from the brew day event.
So how does this 2014 vintage of Stone Beer taste?
It’s darkly delicious, with rich complexity that defies how smooth the beer feels in the mouth.
The aroma is reminiscent of the previous two Stone Beer releases, from 2012 and 2013.
Like the books in George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, Stone Beer has become less sweet than previous releases. This year, the beer is highlighted by a robust roast character, across a palate of coffee, dark chocolate and dark fruits.
This year, Stone Beer feels more like a porter than the fruity dark ale of years past. Drink it now, or cellar it away for a year or two. The chocolate characteristic is likely to grow richer over time. Moreover, it’s a time-capsule of a day when we gathered around stone, wood and fire to make a beer for winter, those coming days of ice.
The beer is available now in 500ml bottles and on tap around the country. You can locate the 2014 vintage Stone Beer near you by using the Stone & Wood Beer Finder.
See more photos from the Stone Beer brew day on the Brews News Facebook page.
1 From A Games of Thrones – Book 1 in the series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R. R. Martin.