Stone Brewing Company | Spröcketbier Debut
Two regular guys set out to brew a simple beer that ended up taking over the world. Well, that is, if you call two Stone Brewing Company veterans with a decade of combined experience “regular guys” and consider winning Stone’s Spotlight Series brewing competition to be “taking over the world.” Ok, maybe the beer just made us want to dance like Dieter, but damn it, that counts for something.
QA Supervisor Rick Blankemeier and Production Warehouse Supervisor Robbie Chandler slicked back their hair, donned their black tights and turtlenecks, then set out as Team Spröcket to compete against 19 other teams of Stone employees, in a company-wide brewing contest. The contest-winning fruit of their collaboration turned out to be the one and only Spröcketbier: a Stone-worthy, hopped-up black Kölsch brewed with flaked rye.
Following their win, Spröcketbier was bottled and shipped out all across the country and its creators were sent out on a promotional (victory?) tour. Chris Day and myself had the opportunity to catch up with the two at Falling Rock Taphouse and enjoy a cold glass of their hard work while asking a few questions. Here’s what Rick and Robbie had to say:
How long have you been with Stone?
Rick: “Four years.”
Robbie: “Six years.”
What did you do before you were at Stone?
Rick: “I was a natural gas processing engineer in Denver. I hated it.”
Robbie: “I was a marine for 4 years, 20 days, and 12 hours.”
Apparently, they were both this happy to join the Stone team:
Do you homebrew?
Robbie: “Yes, I’m Rick’s assistant. He’s Walter White, I’m Jessie Pinkman!”
When asked about the inspiration for Spröcketbier, Rick explained that he had a great recipe for a rye Kolsch, but knew they had to put the ‘Stone-style’ spin on it. This meant they either had to mix up the style or over-hop it. They wanted to create a unique beer that embodied the intimidating reputation of a Stone beer while remaining clean and sessionable. “We wanted to brew something we enjoy drinking,” said Robbie.
They decided to make the beer more intimidating by darkening it with black malt and adding more hops. They explained that sometimes, brewers tend to overthink things by adding too many ingredients, muddying the flavor. The two described their final recipe as, “simple with a twist.” During the brewing, Rick was skeptical but Robbie was completely confident that things would go well – and they did. Team Sprocket went for a straightforward approach and it worked beautifully.
When asked what sets Stone apart from other breweries, Rick described it in one word: “Innovation. Stone was the first brewery to tout a full-time IPA and it’s brewers are definitely setting the standard for the West Coast.” Robbie agreed with this statement. “Go To is the first session IPA that actually tastes like an IPA, not a pale ale.” He added. To foster creativity, Stone has a 5-barrel pilot system available for brewing experiments. This system was used by all the teams in the Spotlight Series competition and was what Team Spröcket used to bring Spröcketbier to life.
While talking to the two brew-masterminds, we discovered that Rick went to school in Colorado. Naturally, we had to ask about their favorite Colorado breweries.
What breweries do you like in Colorado?
Rick: “Avery – we bounce a lot of ideas off Adam. The beer is good, the people are awesome, and they have great QA.”
Robbie: “New Belgium – they have a good IPA, Lips of Faith, Shift, etc. They’re a great company”
What big trends do you predict for this year?
Rick: “Session beer with less off flavors. People want sessions beers and they’re harder to brew. They require more talent.”
Robbie: “Small producers and ‘quality’ over ‘local’, or Smaller dudes who produce great stuff. Local does not always mean the beer is good.”
What trends are you sick of?
Rick: “Bad sours. Only a handful of people do good sours.”
Robbie: “Pale ales are out the window. Who needs them with Session IPAs? Too bland!”
As the conversation digressed and our glasses neared empty, we had to ask one final, hard-hitting question.
What’s your favorite ‘porch drinking’ beer?
Robbie: “We literally just made it.”
Cheers to that!
Chris Day‘s take on Spröcketbier:
It’s very dark brown with a tan head. It looks like a Schwarzbier to me. The aroma is very toasty, malty, and fruity. The hops are noticeable in a pleasant way. Rye comes across in the flavor and the body. I like the way the coffee/cocoa roast flavors play with the yeast and hop fruitiness. It almost reminds me of chocolate and raspberries. I like how dry the beer finishes, it’s very drinkable and I can’t wait to have it again.