Last night, my gf and I attended a five course dinner at Turtle Mountain Brewing Co.
in Rio Rancho, NM. The dinner was a promotional event for Stone Brewing Co. from San Diego. I’ve seen their beers mentioned throughout this thread, so I’m probably not breaking any new ground here. Each course was prepared by TMBC’s head chef and paired with a beer from Stone. At $50 a plate, I was expecting some excellent food and brew. One of the head marketers from Stone, a guy named Arlen, was at the event to talk about the beers, the history of Stone, and to answer any questions we had. TMBC makes some great brews also (like a molasses porter), and their head brewer was in attendance, as was the head brewer from Tractor Brewing Co.
in Los Lunas, NM.
Before we started, Arlen talked about how Stone got started. Their thing is making beers with a lot of flavor. They are designed to challenge your palate, not to be popular with everyone in America. They freely admit that they go to the Great American Beer Festival and don’t win medals. They are actually proud of that. Stone is definitely anti-big beer and all about being a unique microbrewery. Anyways, on to the dinner! I’ll concentrate on the beers, but the food was pretty damned good too.
First course – Stone Pale Ale with sun-dried tomato and fennel salad
This was a good choice to start the evening. It is a flavorful Pale Ale, more robust than Bass. It has a good balance of hops and malt flavors, with a deep amber or copper tone. It’s not a typical pale ale…I wouldn’t make a black and tan out of it, because it might actually clash with the Guinness. It looks and drinks more like an Amber. This is the first beer that Stone started brewing, and they consider it one of their flagship beers. The salad was made with a Stone Pale Ale dressing, and had just sun-dried tomatoes, fennel, celery, and onions in it. No lettuce or spinach. They went pretty well together, or maybe I just like sun-dried tomatoes. Pale Ale – 4/5.
Second Course – Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale with green chile and cherry beef ribs
Arrogant Bastard doesn’t taste like any other beer I’ve ever had. Arlen asked us what fruit flavor profile this beer has, and someone said “grapefruit.” “That’s right!” This ale has all kinds of different flavors, and it is a little tart like a grapefruit. Others at the table suggested banana and raspberry. It’s a very dark copper, almost brown, and has some hops to it. The closest thing I can compare it to is a dubbel or trippel with a lot of kick and more pronounced fruit flavors. It has an ABV of 7.2%, and you can taste that alcohol. I enjoyed the glass they gave me, but I don’t think I could drink this all the time. Arlen said they submitted this beer at the GABF in some category (it really doesn’t fit into one), and a judge wrote on the comment card “too much flavor.” You got that right. The beef ribs were huge, a meal all by themselves. The sauce combined spicy green chile with the sweet-tartness of cherries and really complemented the beer. They may have even put some of the beer in the sauce as well. Arrogant Bastard – 3.5/5.
Third Course – Stone IPA with cinnamon and nutmeg-roasted game hen, rice, and vegetables
The Stone IPA is the first Stone beer I ever had. Stone brews an anniversary IPA every year, and this is their first anniversary IPA. My friend turned me on to hoppy beers, and this one fits the bill. Arlen mentioned that Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. introduced Cascade hops to the California market, and that Cascade hops is what most California brewing companies use. Not Stone. They use Centennial and Columbus hops for this IPA, and they dry-hop it for two weeks. It comes in at 77 IBU’s and 6.9% ABV, but you can’t really taste the alcohol over the hop profile. If you like IPA’s, this one is awesome. Hops seems to be all the rage nowadays, but this one isn’t too hoppy. The game hen was also a meal by itself, and paired well with the beer. The smell reminded me of Thanksgiving. Stone IPA – 4.5/5.
Fourth Course – Stone Ruination IPA with goat cheese and pear pizza
Arlen told us that for each anniversary IPA, they doubled the hops from the previous year…until it got so hoppy that it would actually clog the tanks. Ruination IPA is a blend of their second, third, and fourth anniversary IPA’s. Three hops profiles combined into one beer. It is one of the hoppiest things I have ever had, more hoppy than Hazed and Infused. You can smell the hops just floating up from this thing, very floral. The only beer I’ve had that is hoppier than Ruination is something called “Hop God” at Il Vicino and maybe a couple barley wines. Ruination has over 100 IBU’s and 7.7% ABV, and it will knock you on your butt. It does have a little more malt than the regular IPA, but it’s no match for the additional hops. I like hoppy beers, but this is too hoppy for me to have more than one or two. Out of four people at my table, only two of us could finish this one. The pizza was interesting…it had goat cheese, pears, and roasted macadamia nuts on it, but I didn’t see how it went with the beer. Ruination IPA – 3.5/5. It’s a good beer, just too hoppy for my tastes.
Fifth Course – Stone Smoked Porter with porter crème brulee
I love porters, and I love scotch. So what happens when Stone blends the two? Although this porter has the usual coffee and chocolate tones, it also has peaty and smoky flavors you might find in a scotch like Bowmore. This comes from a peat-smoked specialty malt that they use in the brew. It only has an ABV of 5.9%, and it’s something I could knock back a couple of on a cold winter night. Like all of Stone’s brews, this one is packed with flavor. It is an odd combination, but it works out somehow. It’s also got the dark mahogany or even black color, dark tan head, and a great mouthfeel. I chewed it like the guy on the Sam Adams commercials. The crème brulee was excellent and had a little flavor and color from the porter. They complemented each other very well. Stone Smoked Porter – 4/5.
We had a great time and ate way too much. My only wish was that they had let us sample some of their other beers, like the Anniversary Ale, Vertical Epic, or the Imperial Stout, instead of giving us two IPAs. But the five beers we had are the ones they brew year-round, and the others are special releases. You can check them all out on the website. They should be available in 21 states for purchase by the bottle or six-pack, and I can find the IPA, Arrogant Bastard, and occasionally the Smoked Porter on tap in some bars around Albuquerque. Overall, I recommend anything from Stone Brewing, but be prepared for a jolt to your taste buds.