Stone Bistro Brings Other Beers to the Table, Loses

Eno Sarris, December 02, 2013

One time, Stone threw a party -- a beer fest -- and invited the best brewers to town. Those brewers didn't bring their best, and Stone won a game on its home turf. That was seasonal, and it involved makeshift stands. The brewers could only bring what they could bring to a one-off non-profit party in Southern California.

This time, Stone threw a party -- a bar -- and invited a few brewers to town. Those brewers didn't have control over the beers they brought, and Stone may have lost a game on its home turf. That's how brewpubs work, maybe. At least, brewpubs risk this every day.

Stone Bistro in Liberty Station is a beautiful place, as you can see from the header image. Koi in the ponds, rocks, sun, large open areas, dark wood and silver kettles make for great surroundings. Stone's beer, too, of course. And some specials. Never mind the loud planes taking off and landing every fifteen minutes.

Maybe it was just this correspondent's unique experience on Thanksgiving weekend, but it wasn't Stone's beer that shone brightest. Check out the beer list on Sunday, December 1:

  • Stone Pale Ale (2.63 BAR)
  • Stone Smoked Porter (2.58)
  • Stone IPA (6.54)
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale (3.77)
  • Stone Ruination Ale (6.36)
  • *Stone Levitation Ale (3.99)
  • Stone Cali-Belgique IPA (2.75)
  • Stone OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale (3.43)
  • Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (3.81)
  • *Stone Rye-Son (Liberty Station) (N/a)
  • Stone Three Tier IPA (Liberty Station) (N/a)
  • *Stone Stripped Away (Liberty Station) (N/a)
  • *Stone Enjoy By 12/13/13 (8.14)
  • *Stone Scarlett Madigan Irish Red (N/a)
  • Stone Old Guardian Barleywine (2013) (2.46)
  • AleSmith Nut Brown Ale (2.01)
  • Avery Rascal Belgian White (2.26)
  • Ballast Point Reef Rye Brown (1.36)
  • Coronado Idiot IPA (3.05)
  • *El Segundo Hop Tanker IPA (N/a)
  • *Hess Deceptio Black IPA (N/a)
  • *Ladyface Chesebro IPA (0.45)
  • Ladyface Derailleur Biere De Garde (N/a)
  • Ladyface Hutash (Mosaic) Amber Ale (N/a)
  • Ladyface Reyes Adobe Imperial Red (N/a)
  • Maui Mana Wheat (2.85)
  • *Modern Times Roraima Brett Amber Ale (N/a)
  • Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier (3.73)
  • *Russian River Damnation Belgian Strong Pale Ale (4.48)
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (2.58)

It's not immediately apparent that Stone got beat on it's home ground with this group. Most would give the win to the home team, as the BAR totals suggest. Untappd users ranked the Stone offerings generously. And if you go to a bar and get Enjoy By or Ruination on tap, you won't go home complaining.

But you see those asterisks. Those were the beers that your strapping corespondents enjoyed on Sunday. And, in most cases -- Enjoy By aside -- the most interesting beers were brewed by the visiting team.

Take Liberty Station's beers. The Irish red was an Irish red. Maybe a little more interesting because it was a bit hoppier than your typical Irish red. The Stripped Away was a regular Stone IPA, just missing something (it was low in glutens). The Rye-son rye saison was interesting, but where it might have gone with Brett, it went with a more conventional Belgian yeast and was left with a more conventional Belgian taste. Despite the rye. Enjoy By trounced the lot.

My second taster was more noteworthy. Modern Times' Roraima is billed as an Amber, but it's a standout beer in it's unique amibiguous nature. It's not an amber, and it's not a pale. It's between styles, and it's great. Notes of brett don't dominate as they often do in a farmhouse or saison. They merely augment traditional IPA tastes, in what you might call an Imperial Red, if there was no Brett. El Segundo's Hop Tanker is a beast of an IPA, and one taster in the group preferred it to Enjoy By. There's certainly some mouthfeel to it that speaks volumes. And El Segundo is quickly making a name for themselves. Ladyface's Chesebro was big in ABV (10+%) but not as big in hops, which is a tough dance to figure out. But by most accounts at the bar, it was Ladyface's best entry, and it deserved to be there. Hess' Deceptio was a Black IPA that didn't bog you down or drop a rye bomb on you.

Each of the beers in that taster beat every single Stone beer we had... save Enjoy By.

The numbers aren't quite there yet, so this might just be the stark raving lunacy of a couple of idiots on a Sunday afternoon. In that case, kudos to Stone for looking out for good beers. According to the bartender, Stone is distributing Modern Times right now, just because they like what they are doing. Actually, no matter what people think about the relative quality of the beers, there are propers to be given to Stone. They are seeking out good beer, even if it's not their own.

But, if others have felt this way -- that Stone is sometimes outshown at their own party -- perhaps it's on Stone to think about upping the unique taps they have at their World Bistros. For example, we found out while we sat at the bar that Stone is bottling the Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean and that the employees at Liberty Station had the ability to buy those bottles... as we were sitting at the bar and were only allowed to buy the regular Smoked Porter. This writer, at least, doesn't love smoked beers, doesn't love the Smoked Porter from Stone, and would have launched himself out of his seat to order one with vanilla bean.

So, it's worth going to this beautiful outdoor bistro. The food is great. The sun shines. If you can ignore the planes taking off and landing, you'll enjoy peaceful surroundings and excellent beer.

But if you went to go get special beers from Stone, you might find yourself looking at the non-Stone portion of the lineup... and wincing as you wait for the plane to land so you can order your beer.