Last week my wife, Kim, and I had the day off for Veteran's Day so we decided to do something we hadn't before. We decided to visit Stone Brewing Company and take their tour. After getting some things done around the house, we set off on the 100 mile trip with a stop at Five Guys Burgers for lunch.
There aren't any signs other than the address number letting you know that you've arrived at the right place, so you have to pay attention. The picture above is what greets you as you walk to the main entrance. As soon as you walk in to your right is their restaurant and full bar. Straight ahead is the company store where the tour begins. We arrived about an hour before the first tour of the day and they were all out of passes. My wife and I didn't know that it was San Diego Beer Week. That coupled with Veteran's Day made it very busy. We talked to the tour guide, Dan, who was taking the first tour and he said he would try and get us on the tour or that we would be first in line for the additional tour they were going to do that day. While we waited my wife and I looked around the company store at the items for sale. They had hats, t-shirts, button up shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, glasses, other nick-knacks, and of course beer by the bottle, or you could purchase a growler to fill from their taps.
The tour time rolled around and luckily Dan let us go with the first group.
Dan let us know that he would keep things high level, but feel free to ask any questions we had about the company or the process. The first thing he explained was what goes into making the beer. There are four main ingredients, malted barley, yeast, hopps, and water. I figured that it would be something like that as I've taken a few distillery tours before and they are about the same.
All of the beers made at Stone are ales. The different types of beers they make are determined by the roast of the barley they use. As you can probably guess that the darker the roast of the barley the darker the beer. The type and amount of hops determines the bitterness of their beers. The steps they go through to make the beer is first taking between 7,000 and 10,000 pounds of malted barley, grind it up and create a mash out of it. Then the mash gets strained and the "barley juice" as Dan called it gets put into a tank where bittering hops are added. Then the mixture is transferred to another tank where hops for aroma are added. This last tank is where any other ingredients are added that would be special to the recipe.
The mixture is then transferred to the tanks you can see behind me in the picture above. This is where the yeast is added and the alcohol is formed. The beer isn't in there too long, only a few hours, before it reaches the desired alcohol content. The yeast is taken out and then the beer is taken to the bottling line. All of the beer is either put into the bottles or kegs onsite.
The day that we were there they were brewing and bottling their India Pale Ale. There was a lot of activity at the bottling line and we had to keep out of the way of the workers.
The tour was almost over at this point. It was now time to taste their wares. Dan lead us back to the store where the taps were and we were all given a taste of their Pale Ale, Smoked Porter, India Pale Ale, and Arrogant Bastard.
I of course picked up a few bottles to take home, Ruination IPA, Sublimely Self Righteous, and Double Bastard. I was at a Total Wine picking up some whisky and picked up a bottle of Vertical Epic and Old Guardian since they are both limited releases.
All of the staff we interacted was very friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and interested in their product which made it a more pleasant experience. There are probably things I left out, but then it wouldn't be fun for you to take the tour. One thing my wife and I didn't experience was the restaurant. We were still full from lunch and wanted to get to a couple other places. I will definitely be going back there to try the restaurant. The one downside is that the whole place is non-smoking even outside. I did see an advertisement for a cigar & beer dinner they just had so maybe there is hope. I can highly recommended taking the tour if you like beer and are in the Southern California area. The atmosphere was very pleasant, the tour was free, and you get to drink beer at the end!