I just returned from a weekend trip to Escondido, CA with SWMBO. We went to the wild animal park on Saturday, but of course my real mission was to visit Stone's Brewery and World Bistro. I knew ahead of time that the Bistro is "slightly" overpriced, but I figured why not.
Saturday night we ate at the restaurant. Yes, it's expensive. But it was really good. Large beer list, some from Stone (their classics plus Ruination 10th and Saison du Buff) but many more from breweries all over the world. SWMBO had an Arrogant Bastard on tap, which she surprisingly really enjoyed. Their blue cheese and jalapeno cheese cake was a hit for both of us.
Sunday we took their brewery tour, which for someone who has never been inside anything bigger than a local brew pub was an amazing experience. The tour guide seemed very knowledgeable about their operation and encouraged people to ask as many questions as they wanted. He even made the group give me and the one other home brewer in the tour a round of applause before telling everyone else they should get into the hobby
I thought I would take some pictures for those of you who have never been. I wasn't taking notes, and was pretty in awe while trying to snap some cellphone photos, so I don't remember a lot of details (mostly numbers). But I'll try to add in what I remember about relevant pictures. Cheers!
Stone's World Bistro. The garden is outside to the right and the brewery is behind floor to ceiling glass on the left.
Looking out of the restaurant into the garden. We briefly walked around out there, but it was pretty crowded due to an event (Stone Sour Fest) they were holding.
Our tour guide explaining the four ingredients of good beer, and showing a flask of wort.
Looking from the restaurant side of the brewery, this is the brewing line from right to left. I would have liked to get some better angles for the photos, but I just ended up taking them from where we were originally standing. First the mash tun. I think it's the tank on the left ?
Boil kettle (center) and whirlpool (left)
According to the tour guide they only use hop pellets (don't have to use as much, easier cleanup). He said they add their bittering addition to the BK (70-90 min boil at 220* if I remember correctly), and their late additions are done in the whirlpool. He didn't mention any other additions and I didn't ask, although looking back I kind of wanted to know if they FWH any of their beers. Not sure if he would have told me anyway. I also don't remember how many barrels their system is.
Here are some pictures of their fermentation tanks. I think they had about 10, but I can't be sure. The guide said it takes three brew cycles to fill up a tank, into which they pitch A LOT of their house yeast (from White Labs). A LOT being at least a hundred gallons, but we seem to remember him saying 300gal. SWMBO remembers him saying they dry hop with 500lbs of pellets, I think I was snapping a picture during that discussion.
Fermentation lasts only a few days before they cold crash in the 30s. Filtration consists of a centrifuge and a filter (the filter has, in the tour guides words, some sort of "mud" in/on it).
Some random guy for scale
Some oak wine barrels for aging, and a label on one of them.
The back of the brewery contained a lot of empty kegs and bottles, ready to be filled at the beginning of the week.
In the very back of this photo you can see some of their new fermentation tanks that are part of an upgrade to double their yearly output to 500,000bbl.
Another row of their new fermentation tanks.
This looks to be their packaging / shipping area. We toured on a Sunday, so it wasn't operational. I'm not sure what the second picture is... bottling maybe?
The guide says they sanitize with very hot water and these two things:
This is the bar in their store, where you get to taste four beers after the tour (or buy/fill growlers to take home with you). I bought a growler of their Mix Tape Ale, a blend of 7 of their beers. It was the Sunday special for today... Fri/Sat/Sun have special beers for growler fills.
Overall it was a very fun experience. SWMBO and I had a great time at both the Safari Park and Stone, and she returned with even more of an appreciation for brewing than she left with (she was especially stoked that she knew most of the technical stuff the tour guide was talked about). If anyone is in the San Diego area, I would definitely recommend a trip to Stone.