Blondes on Beers: Stone Brewing is not just IPAs anymore

BLONDES ON BEERS:

Stone Brewing. The very name evokes the Mount Rushmore of craft beer in San Diego.

But even if you know the aggressively hoppy IPAs from Stone's 23-year history, the Liberty Station tasting room, brewery and restaurant in Point Loma known as the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Garden Liberty Station is the place to step away from the old and embrace the new.

"People aren't aware of the fact that we're not just IPAs anymore," said David Wilson, Liberty Station brewer. "I feel like people come here and aren't aware that Liberty Station has any and every type of style you can think of. We brew on site, so for many of our beers you can only get them here. This is the place to come if you love Stone and just love beer."

Meant to mimic the expansive Escondido brewery, Stone Liberty Station is a massive research and development (R&D) facility that features dining rooms, three outdoor courts, a bar, a store and more. The so-called mothership in Escondido focuses on brewing the tried-and-true favorites such as Arrogant Bastard IPA and namesake Stone IPA, whereas the Liberty Station location is more experimental.

"For the most part, we have the creative freedom to brew whatever we want because at Stone Brewing Liberty Station, we test a lot of the beer the mothership might want. We can play around with styles of beers and not have a large volume," Wilson said.

Case in point: the "Enjoy By" and "Enjoy After" series. The Enjoy By beers are IPAs that should be consumed by the printed date for "the best possible freshness"; and the Enjoy After beers are meant to be aged — just a little — to mellow out its flavors.

Further, the beer that was the most popular over the summer at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Garden Liberty Station could not be farther from an IPA — a Radler (fruit soda mixed with light beer) that Stone brewed in collaboration with Pure Project.

"People love our more fun experiments, we are at a point where people have seen and have had what we offer and are looking for what else we can do," Wilson said. "The reputation and name recognition associated with Stone can be daunting … but we won't release a beer that doesn't live up to our standards."

And those standards are the same whether you are at Stone Liberty Station, Escondido, South Park, downtown San Diego or outside the state.

Impressions of the venue

Ashley: This place is a great little (I use the term 'little' carefully) oasis in the middle of Liberty Station. On one side is a gorgeous outdoor court with fountains and lounge chairs, another side is dark and cavernous, so whatever your vibe is, you could find some spot here. But you don't really realize how large it is until you walk around.

Crystal: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is massive! Located in what was once a Navy mess hall in historic Liberty Station, the venue has indoor and outdoor dining and bars and an observatory of their brewing area and tanks. The outdoor area includes a small pond, bocce ball courts and fire pit. The inside is charming, rustic and spacious with tall ceilings, exposed wood beams, beautiful furniture and bar.

Impressions of the beer

In honor of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Garden Liberty Station's R&D nature, we tried beers that mostly stray away from IPAs.

Ashley:

Liberty Cliché blonde ale (5.3%): There is a lot of malt here, and it's really fruity and grassy. It's a sharp detour from the aggressive beers Stone is known for, in that it is light, and easy drinking. This could actually be a nice introduction to craft beer for those who are new.

Jilted Kiwi saison (6.7%): There are herbal notes of basil and coriander that come through really nicely, more so than the namesake kiwi flavor. I was a little afraid it would be overly sweet or syrupy, but it's not. It's a well-rounded fruit-inspired beer.

Literally Wrote the Book imperial IPA (9%): This is the one IPA I tried, and it is made in partnership with New Realm Brewing. The smell is very complex, as I can't tell if there is a stone fruit element or if it is just well aged. This is a nice example of the IPAs that made them famous, but also shows their growth and exploration into new ways to make them.

Knight Stinger (5.6%): This is a Schwarzbier, which is literally German for "black beer," but this version isn't quite black, just has a roasted quality to it. It is less aggressive than the color would suggest, and softened with the addition of honey. The nose smells like coffee, but the mouthfeel is of honeyed tea, but somehow it works.

Crystal:

Liberty Cliche (5.3%): A typical blonde ale with a malty, bready aroma and a splash of lemon. The flavor is straightforward, an even blend of crisp malts with floral and citrus hops. Simple and easy to drink.

Literally Wrote the Book Imperial IPA (9%): This unfiltered imperial IPA is a collaboration with Mitch Steel, formerly of Stone Brewing now brewmaster and co-founder at New Realm Brewing. It smells of stone fruit, malts and grass. It tastes hazy and hoppy without bitterness. I love how this beer tastes and that it's on the high side of ABV.

Light the Dunkel (6%): A German amber lager, this wheat beer is light bodied with a smooth, malty flavor.

Spiced Unicorn Milk (7.5%): Stone's chai milk stout smells and tastes like your favorite desserts. There's a cinnamon and roasted marshmallow aroma with a hint of smoke. The beer is sweet and creamy highlighting your favorite chai spices like nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

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Stone Brewing by the Numbers

• Open since: May 2013

• No. of taps: 30-40

• Alcohol by volume: 4.5% to 9.5%

• Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

• Address: 2816 Historic Decatur Road, Point Loma

• Contact: (619) 269-2100, stonebrewing.com

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Next month: The Blondes on Beers sample Hodad's brews in Ocean Beach.

To contact the Blondes on Beer: E-mail Ashley Mackin-Solomon at ashleym@lajollalight.com

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