Stone Crime and Punishment: A Rite of Beer Geek Passage

StoneCrimePunishment_small.jpg
stonebrewing.com
Beers: Crime and Punishment
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
Style: Chile Beer
ABV: 9.6 percent and 12 percent

Had you been born into the Vanatau tribe of the South Pacific, your test of manhood would have been to dive headfirst from a 100-foot-tall wooden tower straight toward land, hoping you've measured the vine tied around your ankles accurately enough that you won't slam into the dirt. To be considered a man among the people of the Satere-Mawe, a tribe of the Brazilian Amazon, you'd have to stick your hand in a glove woven with bullet ants -- an insect with one of the most painful stings known to man -- and withstand the pain for 10 minutes without making a noise.

Luckily, you are neither of these things. You are a Craft Beer Drinker, and toughness in our tribe is proven through a simple test: Crime and Punishment. All you have to do is drink them. But while the task seems easy in theory, it's much more difficult in practice.

See also: The Bruery Autumn Maple

Crime and Punishment began their lives as more regular Stone brews. Punishment was, at one time, the annually released and vividly alcoholic ale known as Double Bastard. Crime used to be Lukcy Bastard -- a blend of Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, and Double Bastard. Both beers, however, were corrupted by the addition of -- and I'm using technical terms here -- a metric ass-ton of chile peppers. The list: green and red jalapeño, giant white and standard habanero, yellow and red 7 Pot, yellow and red 7 Pot Douglah, 7 Pot Jonah, Red Scorpion, Ghost, Peach Ghost Scorpion, Red and Peach Moruga Scorpion, Chocolate Douglah, Caribbean Red Hot, Fatali, Yellow Moruga and the dreaded Black Naga, as well as various other hybrids. The beers were then aged for several months in bourbon barrels.

What you get when you load them up with that much capsaicin are ales that look like their un-bastardized brethren -- murky burgundy, with just a whisper of tan foam -- but smell more like a bushel of freshly picked peppers. In Crime, prominent floral hops and a dollop of caramel do battle with fresh green jalapeño. Punishment displays an equally vegetal nose, but beneath is the undeniable toffee sweetness of double bastard: caramel, bourbon, oak, vanilla, maple. In both, the peppery aroma disrupts what would be quite a treat.

But the real test of your taste buds' mettle is in the flavor, where the full strength of the peppers is revealed. The joke is that the flavors of both beers are initially exceptional, their floral hops melding with rich toasted oak, toffee, over-ripe oranges, vanilla and caramel. These notes, however, quickly give way to near-overpowering heat. Hop bitterness settles into the sides of the tongue about the same time as huge pepper heat assaults the rest of it. Fire, fire everywhere. Your breath will burn; your eyes will water; your forehead will sweat. It will not be pleasant. Problem is, you'll want to keep drinking, as these brews actually do taste amazing if you can make it past the peppery assault. Each swallow of the malty-sweet, capsaicin-heavy brews brings more toasty oak and more heat.

The first two bottles from Stone's sought-after Quingenti Millilitre series to hit national distribution, Crime and Punishment, are, together, 1000 milliliters of agony. And while they're tasty, well-crafted barrel-aged brews, they're also pretty expensive -- around $25 per bottle. Might be cheaper and less painful to just go for the bullet ant glove.

Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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23 comments
proudofthecoyotes
proudofthecoyotes

Stone fits this email that was forwarded to me like a tee.  

I visited a few breweries in the North of England and one was a bit offended when I called them a craft brewer. They are not huge but considered themselves a different class of brewer? Part was in relation to quality - they take that aspect very seriously and had a lab to rival the big brewers in terms not of instrumentation but what quality controls they were dealing with.  A little snooty though in putting down other "craft" brewers.

  This led me to thinking when is it time to stop calling yourself a craft brewer and mature to a more generic "brewery of fine quality beers and ales". Is this a topic broached before (as clearly apparent for the one Brewer in the UK) and is it relevant yet to the larger brewery segment of the "craft brewing movement". Artis(i)nal beers are getting attention and the term craft still carries implied meaning as to batch and flavorful beers that might vary a bit from brew to brew and be "unique" in that regard. Quality and consistency was a large topic discussed at this year's CBC and must play a role in any discussions here?   What if any discussion(s) have occurred in this realm and would you ever consider dropping the moniker craft from your domain if you are established as a primary brewer of quality, well respected brand-name beers? I guess I am asking: "What is the role of the term CRAFT in the bigger picture growth of the brewing industry as a whole?" Maybe a topic to mull over (pun intended) over Christmas?   Gary Spedding, Ph.D. Brewing & Distilling Analytical Services
Lexington, Kentucky
www.alcbevtesting.com"

bjohnston21381
bjohnston21381

@proudofthecoyotes. I don't know what is more craft than Stone's latest limited releases. Stone is experimenting with ingredients and playing with Barrels in an awesome way. They also are collaborating with smaller breweries and truly being an advocate for craft beer. What people don't understand is that the profit margin for a lot of these limited release beers is very very small. Running a barrel program is not exactly cheap. Stone could make a considerable more by focusing on their staples, but fortunately for craft beer they don't. Passion and pushing the envelope is what craft beer should be about, and I for one am very thankful that Stone continues to do so. Remember, there are still so many people that haven't been exposed to good craft beer yet. Keep on being crafty Stone, I for one, appreciate your passion and advocacy of craft beer!

proudofthecoyotes
proudofthecoyotes

Stone beers used to be cool to drink when craft brewing was in its infancy but now that craft has grown up Stone has become just a taking up space from real craft brews kind of place. I'm sorry but anyplace that makes as much beer as they do with multiple locations isn't really a craft brewer anymore. Craft brewers don't build hotels or have separate retail clothing stores. 

CynthiaSmith
CynthiaSmith

@bjohnston21381 @proudofthecoyotes Sure Stone is a craft brewery but the line between them and the larger companies is getting smaller every year.  The larger companies are moving into craft beer territory and the larger craft beer companies are becoming more like the big macro beer companies all the time. Stone looking at building a hotel or opening up a production facility in Europe just shows that they are not one of the upstart craft brewers anymore.

proudofthecoyotes
proudofthecoyotes

@bjohnston21381 @proudofthecoyotes It's not about special release beers that don't make them a craft brewery anymore, it's about making massive quantities of Pale Ale and IPA and having multiple other businesses such as the retail stores, their beer distributorship business and them building a hotel that no longer makes them a small artisinal craft brewery but a large mega brewing business.  I'm sure if Greg chimes back in here he would agree that they try to make each batch of Pale Ale and each batch of IPA taste just like the last batch and the 1000 or so batches prior to it.  There is no craft in that, its just mass producing beer no different than Bud, Miller or Coors does. BTW- Those companies make special release beers also such as Colorado Native or BudLiteChilada, I doubt that you would call them craft just because they do that.


greg.koch
greg.koch

@proudofthecoyotes Thanks for the comments. I'll share a little perspective if I may...  We have one brewery in Escondido. That's where 99.9% of all Stone is brewed.  It's where we've been brewing and bottling since we moved there from our original home in San Marcos in late 1995.  In May of this year, we opened up a 2nd brewery restaurant with a "brewpub sized" 10 barrel brewhouse. We love this system as it's been a fun playground to brew and create a whole bunch of fun and tasty beers.  Unfortunately, there's not enough volume there to get it out much, but we do send out kegs from time to time as best we can from there.  Lastly, I think you're thinking about what we call our "Stone Company Stores."  They are small neighborhood spots focused on growler fills (so folks don't have to drive to the brewery for some of our special releases), tasters and the occasional pint. Yes, we also have Tshirts and glassware there too.  Now, we could fire the entire Stone Company Store team, but I'm not sure that'd help our entirely separate Brewing Team make our beer any more or less craft (and it'd put some awesome folks who love pouring growlers and tasters out of a job, which we're not gonna do).  At both our restaurants, we have an extensive list of "Guest" craft and specialty drafts and bottles.  You see, we love sharing the depth and range of the craft beer scene with folks.  Yes, I've been hearing "They were cooler when..." comments for some time now (I heard that comment the first time in late 1996, about three months after we opened, and I've been hearing it periodically ever since. I guess that means when you thought we were cool, the REAL cool kids already thought we were past our prime!). Oh, and much to the disappointment of many of our fans, we haven’t even broken ground on the Stone Hotel yet as we’ve been too busy focusing on expanding our brewery. Some day though. Cheers!  -Greg.

rickyleepotts1
rickyleepotts1

@proudofthecoyotes That's a good point, but they are still making craft beer. I was just in San Diego and saw their Liberty Station location. It's big but they have a great selection. Also, their new retail store is awesome. It is a great location and has an incredible list of taps. It also makes for an easy accessible location for folks downtown. They are one of the bigger brewing companies in the area, but you can't hide behind their quality and their success. If they aren't to be considered craft beer, what would you consider them? I can't wait to try these two beers. Cheers! 

bjohnston21381
bjohnston21381

@proudofthecoyotes @bjohnston21381 I can't believe I am even responding to this nonsense. I applaud any craft brewery that can become successful and advocate on the behalf of craft beer. Capitalizing on the Stone brand through other outlets, ultimately does that. There is clearly a market for building the Stone brand, and it is great for craft beer. You say they make a lot of beer? Are you serious? Would you rather people drink macro brews? Look at the numbers for last year: Stone: 177,200 bbls, Bud/Bud Light: 56.7 million! Stone is a gateway beer for many craft drinkers. Its availability turns out new craft beer drinkers, who then support your "small artisinal breweries".  If you truly are a craft beer enthusiast, show some respect and look at the bigger picture. 

derrickaffolder
derrickaffolder

@proudofthecoyotes @greg.koch Dude.. @proudofthecoyotes ... are you serious? They aren't craft if they're successful? Are you an idiot? Also Stone's M.O. has ALWAYS been IPAs and hoppy brews. Since day one. I feel like you are one of those hipster music kids who doesn't like it once anyone else does.

Having a consistent quality with "scientific testing" to make sure batches stay the same isn't "macro". Every single brewery EVER does that. Consistency is a good thing. Sours/wilds vary because of their nature but every other style should be fairly consistent. But just ask any of your local breweries if they do all that fancy "science" mumbo-jumbp and I think you'll be surprised.

proudofthecoyotes
proudofthecoyotes

@greg.koch @proudofthecoyotes Thank You for the response Greg,  My definition of a craft brewer is certainly different than yours.  If it is any consolation to you I don't feel that Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada or New Belgium are craft brewers either. I feel you all have grown to the point where you are in macrobrewery territorry. To me a craft brewer is SMALL, Independent and Artisinal. Yes, you still make some creative batches from time to time but mostly you are in the business of making a ton of pale ale and IPA and making it taste all the same from batch to batch using scientific testing to be sure it is consistent.  Nothing wrong with that, it is smart business but craft it is not IMHO. And, even if you call your company stores neighborhood spots it still strikes of large scale commercialization. It ws inevitiable given your growth and success that you have grown out of craft beer territory.  Embrace it while you still can because as time goes on I think more and more people will view you as a large commercial operation and not as a craft brewer.  Nothing wrong with that, it is just a part of your maturation process.  At one time 125 years ago Bud, Miller and Coors were considered craft brewers also.

jordanallen0403
jordanallen0403

@greg.koch @proudofthecoyotes Apparently, just as with the music scene, you aren't cool if you're not underground anymore.  Whatever.  Stone continues to make incredible beer regardless of the level of popularity the company has attained.  Cheers Greg, keep doing what you do best, which is please those of us who enjoy beer for what is, beer and the passion that goes into it.

rickyleepotts1
rickyleepotts1

@greg.koch Just so you know, Greg, I still think you're cool! I always have and always will. You keep making good beer and I don't care how big you get. Cheers is right, Greg! 

proudofthecoyotes
proudofthecoyotes

@derrickaffolder Do you really think Boston Beer doesn't care about the quality of the product they are pumping out, ever hear of Utopias? That's pretty artful.  All these companies mentioned care about the quality of their product, and many of them are artful, however many including Stone can no longer be considered a craft brewery as in Stones case they are a company that has its hands in many things that have nothing to do with being crafty but with simply making a buck.  Coors makes a variety of Blue Moon products-that's artful as well as Crispins ciders so by your definition they are a craft brewery.  Bud makes that god awful chelada-but its artful, does that make them a craft brewery? By your definition all breweries are craft breweries. Sorry Pal, but some of these companies like Stone, Boston Beer and New Belgium may have started out as craft breweries and have you fooled into thinking they still are but in reality they are just big business no different than Bud, Miller or Coors.

derrickaffolder
derrickaffolder

@headytopper @derrickaffolder @ASUWarren @proudofthecoyotes @greg.koch  

Personally I would say a craft brewery is any brewery that creates an artful, considered product. Boston Beer doesn't care, we all pretty much know that (otherwise they wouldn't just pump out garbage beers that no one likes with the occasional gem). Yes, Stone is successful at it. They can market themselves. Every brewery sells shirts and other products with their logo. Most have restaurants too. Doesn't mean they aren't craft. You stop being craft when you stop caring about the craft and only care about the money.

headytopper
headytopper

@derrickaffolder @ASUWarren @proudofthecoyotes @greg.koch At what point does a craft brewery stop becoming a craft brewery? Is it based solely upon some arbitrary production number that keeps getting raised to accommodate Boston Beer or is it based on the actual business?  In Stone's case with all their multiple business entities it isn't that far fetched to say that they are no longer a craft brewery. I would say that they are a mid-sized brewing conglomeration with their hands in brewpubs, a production facility with a restaurant, clothing, a beer distributorship, retail stores and with plans to build a hotel and an international production facility.

ASUWarren
ASUWarren

@derrickaffolder @proudofthecoyotes @greg.koch 

Derrick learn to read before going postal on someone, He certainly isn't an idiot, at some point in time when a company becomes larger than they are no longer the small company they once were.  With multiple business entities they certainly are not a small craft brewer anymore.  When I think of a craft business I think of small and artistic. Stone with their size doesn't fit that mold anymore. Get over it, it's not a bad thing unless you consider being a large company a bad thing. 

ASUWarren
ASUWarren

@greg601 @proudofthecoyotes @greg.koch @Crafty.Beer.Reviews I think you are missing his point but in a way at the same time validating his point. He isn't saying they don't make craft style beers, He is saying they are a large company that is focused on making money and being a diversified company.  He is saying they have grown beyond what a traditional craft brewer is. Nothing wrong with that as it is the truth.  If you consider a brewery a craft brewer just because they make non-macro beers than you better take a second and look at the traditional macro breweries because they all make non-traditional craft beers as pointed out (they may not be good but they would fit the definition of craft),  Oh, and Stone Levitation is on about the same level as Bud, Miller, Coors. 

greg601
greg601

@proudofthecoyotes @greg.koch It's sad that consistency is something that isn't considered "craft."  For those inconsistent "craft" breweries out there, they wish they could be as consistent from batch to batch as Stone is.  Growth is good, especially when people like to drink your beer.  

As long as you keep making beer with quality ingredients, and not sacrificing the process with adjuncts or shortcuts, you are a craft brewery.  @Crafty.Beer.Reviews said it already, but if you think BMC were ever craft, then you may be confused about craft beer in general.  BMC were developed on the cheap, to satisfy palates that were changed by prohibition, and the strict guidelines for the brewing and consumption of beer post-prohibition.  Times have changed, the nation is waking up, and our palates are clamoring for better beer.  

Craft beer is not going to remain small forever, and leaders like Stone have been preaching quality for a long time now.  So what?  They make a ton of great beer, that tastes the same when you open each bottle.  What the hell is wrong with that? 

I spend my days trying to find the underdogs, the newbies, and the artists making craft beer, and drink a lot of bad beer in the process.  If I want consistency, and just want to enjoy a great beer, I know I can turn to a brewery like Stone that has honed their craft over many years.  The small brewers will always be out there as well, and should be celebrated, but the big dogs shouldn't be lambasted for making the world a better place.

Crafty.Beer.Reviews
Crafty.Beer.Reviews

@proudofthecoyotes 
 Your definition is pretty much what everyone else thinks except breweries don't need to be nano to be craft. I think you are also forgetting that Stone IS independent (they also plan to stay that way) and artisnal. While they may not be small in terms of craft breweries they are VERY small compared with BMC. I might also add that BMC were never considered craft brewers and the real craft brewers couldn't survive past Prohibition unlike some breweries (hint hint). If you don't like Stone fine by me. Don't purchase their delicious beer or beer from Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head (also "BIG"), New Belgium, etc. More beer for those of us who really enjoy craft beer and aren't in it for the "cool" factor. Breweries who care about the art, source local ingredients when possible and care about their fanbase as well as push boundaries whenever are possible are what make craft fun.

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