Thoughts On Stone Caving In On ‘Odd Beers’ Experiment
Last month, Stone Brewing announced they would play around with their 2011 Special Release Schedule by replacing Old Guardian and Imperial Russian Stout with BELGO versions, dubbing them Odd Beers for Odd years.
After the squeaky wheel squeaked enough, Stone responded with a funny video proclaiming BELGO styles will coincide with original recipe counterparts. Read on for Dan’s thoughts and the humorous video.
Odd Beers = BELGO Beers
Stone began making batches of Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barleywine and Stone Imperial Russian BELGO Stout (or whatevs) for consumption at their facility, and passed around a few kegs at the Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover 2010 this past fall. Like most Stone fans, I’m always down to try a new beer from these guys. As we got closer to the end of the year, there were rumors that became fact, that Stone would skip shipping Old Guardian and IRS and replace them with the BELGO versions. They would dub this venture as Odd Beers for Odd Years, and hope to carry this on in 2013 as well.
Stone has been fooling around with Belgian yeast strains for many years now. Vintages of Vertical Epic Ale made use of Belgian yeast, and some of those beers have been damn tasty. They made a version of their flagship IPA with Belgian yeast, and called it Stone Cali Belgique IPA, and I really didn’t care for that at all. My generous neighbor Jorge brought me back a growler of Old Guardian BELGO Barleywine this past summer, and I really didn’t appreciate it. To be fair to Stone, I don’t like all Belgian beers that use certain Belgian yeast strains. I have had a handful of Belgian-Style Golden and Tripels that I’ve not liked. Some like that earthy flavor, I find it to be like pencil shavings, and all and all not appealing.
Old Guardian Barleywine and Imperial Russian Stout = Craft Beer Institutions
Statistically, Stone Old Guardian Barleywine and Imperial Russian Stout are Stone’s best beers. Couple that with once a year releasing, and you have yourself a sought out treat. The thought of not being able to get these beers for an entire year bugged people more than the fact the recipe was going to be tweaked. Take that fact, and add the SMALL group of online beer geeks who are burying Stone’s Belgian-style experiments, and you might have a small problem on your hands. As I’ve mentioned before around the Internets, Stone has built an empire on taking risks and going against the grain. Following through with the plan of Odd Beers for Odd Years, and giving the two original recipes a break would have been slightly risky, and undoubtedly made some noise. I really don’t think that noise would have A) made a dent in Stone’s bottom line and B) pissed off their loyal fans in droves. I think this also could have created a new demand that has declined since Stone has ramped up production in 2006-2007. There was a time when you had to be at your liquor store or beer warehouse to make sure you get your Stone Special Releases before they sold out. I can go to many liquor stores right now, and snag a few bottles of OG and IRS. They were released the first quarter of this year. Giving them a rest would cause a mini frenzy upon re-release. I don’t think Stone is looking to have a demand based buzz, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt them any.
Stone “Caving In”
Part of the bitter charm of The Arrogant Bastard/Greg Koch has been that he is defiant when it comes to trends or when it comes to placating to the masses. In the case of attempting to remove two craft beer staples in place of two experimental beers caused a minor ruckus in the big scheme of things. I think choosing to keep the original recipe beers in addition to presenting two new ones is a win win for everyone. Stone is going to sell there usual buttload of OG and IRS, and undoubtedly sell a buttload of the BELGO Odd Beers for Odd Years.
Parting Questions for Stone Fans
– Would the online geek community have made such noise if the Odd Beers were simply Bourbon Barrel Aged versions of OG and IRS?
– There is only so much room for beer at Stone’s facility. Do you think adding two more beers will limit the availability of the original or BELGO offerings?
– What else could we make Greg say uncle for?