In the same vein as Sam Calagione’s self-love fest, Brewing Up a Business, which is a must-read for Dogfish devotees (ditto Jeremy Cowan’s Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah for Shmaltz Brewing enthusiasts), all arrogant bastards will pick this up if they haven’t attended one of Greg Koch’s readings and bought a signed copy already. The third co-author, Randy Clemens, is the company’s public relations coordinator, a role he landed as part of co-authoring the book.
Clemens previously wrote The Srirachi Cookbook for acolytes of the spicy “rooster” condiment. It includes a recipe for a Srirachelada (think: Beery Mary) that, given his current employment, Clemens might have you sub the low-ABV Stone Levitation Ale for the recommended pilsner. Otherwise, maybe Brewdog/Cambridge/Stone Collaboration Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, both of which you can read about in the 35 pages encapsulating every single beer Stone has released (or didn’t release, as revealed in the fun section on April Fool’s Day “Releases”). But that’s jumping ahead.
The book starts with the compulsory backgrounders on malts and hops, mashing and inoculating. It gives the history of brewers from the Sumerians to Papazian, authors of the poem “The Hymn to Ninkasi” and the tome The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, respectively. The good stuff starts with the legend of how Koch and Wagner met (not in a bar but when Wagner’s band rehearsed in Koch’s downtown L.A. studio) and how they mutually delved into the culture of beer. We learn that despite having discussed plans to start a brewery together, Wagner actually found himself in an entry-level brewing position at Pyramid up near Portland, OR, where he and his wife wanted to settle, and in Koch’s words, “I was so over L.A.” A quick jaunt to Europe convinced him that an early retirement in Prague was just the thing for him. Stone Brewing Co. nearly evaporated before it even materialized! And even then, we learn that even after plans were under way, Stone nearly wasn’t Stone at all. Can you imagine drinking a KoochenVagner Arrogant Bastard? Or a Beautiful California Paradox Ale Brewing and Trading Co. Ruination IPA?!?
It’s these straight-from-the-horses’-mouth tales that make this book so enjoyable for the devout fans of the brewery that, little did they conceptualize when they were naming it, would develop into a monolith of the craft brewing industry. It benefits from reading more like you’re listening to all the players spinning yarns on a front porch (of an industrial business park in North County San Diego).
The rest of the hardcover, nicely designed book, replete with photos and label art, encapsulates just about everything the brewery has released, similar to its website, but in page-flippable format. The last section is the real gem of this package. It begins with tips on beer serving, storing, and pairing from Stone’s in-house maestro, “Dr.” Bill Sysak, followed by recipes from one of the tastier brewpubs around, Stone World Bistro and Gardens (Oaked Arrogant Bastard beef jerky, anyone?). It concludes with 18 clone recipes to homebrew Stone in the comforts of your own garage or kitchen. Which is great. It’s a clever way to ensure this book isn’t just read once then left on the shelf.