Paired with BottleRock and Memorial Day celebrations, weekend revelers in Napa will have another stop to make downtown, as Stone Brewing–Napa releases its first beers brewed solely for its new site here.
Speaking Thursday morning by phone, Stone Brewing-Napa’s head brewer Steve Gonzalez offered a rundown of the debuting brews. The four-beer lineup being tapped for the first time Friday are all Gonzalez’s creations and include the Hail to the Spot Thief IPA, the Professor Monster IPA, Jovian Orbit Double IPA and The Cardinal & The Wolf.
Though a version of Hail to the Spot Thief was previewed at the site’s grand opening on May 6, the upcoming rendition was brewed with a different yeast than the mockup for the opening, the brewer said. “People have had the preview but I don’t want to give them the same thing again.”
“No one will have tasted these beers before,” he affirmed.
The debuting beers are the outcome of Gonzalez’s first attempts to brew on the 10-barrel system at Stone Brewing- Napa’s site in the restored Borreo Building on Third Street. Key to his approach is the use of Napa city water. “The real terroir of brewing is the water,” he told the Register ahead of the site’s grand opening, referring to Napa’s water as “an undiscovered gem.” He’s also opted not use Stone Brewing’s house yeast in crafting his beers here.
In the course of its inaugural Napa brewing, the team faced “typical” problems on the new system, Gonzalez said, like an episode one night when the cold water pump shut down and, having worked about 15 hours, the brewing team’s troubleshooting skills “weren’t very good,” he said.
Failing to figure out how to jumpstart the pump, the team took to dismantling the system to work a way around the snag. “But now we know how to reset it,” Gonzalez said Thursday. “It was right in front of our eyes the whole time.”
In the end, the system churned out between 11 and 13 half-barrel kegs of each beer ahead of their weekend release. “I imagine we won’t have any left of any of them by Monday,” Gonzalez said.
But how will Stone’s Napa-only beers taste?
Breaking each down, Gonzalez explained Professor Monster employs experimental hops and yuzu to make the sort of fruit IPA, like Stone’s Tangerine Express, that has become his specialty. The Cardinal & The Wolf features its namesake hops duo, coming in at 6 percent alcohol. The result is a beer Gonzalez dubs “a pale ale Irish red hybrid, because it really doesn’t fit into any style description, in my opinion.” The brewer said the beer is “probably one of the maltiest,” that he’ll make in Napa.
As for the Jovian Orbit Double IPA, at 8.2 percent alcohol, Gonzalez hesitates to call it a “New England-style IPA” as it lacks the bittering addition found in the IPAs of the Northeast. But similar to the style of New England IPAs, Jovian Orbit features late hops and unmalted wheat, Gonzalez said, lending the finished beer a flavor profile of “very, very juicy hops and (is) fairly light on the bitterness.”
On top of the brewing, Gonzalez also named each beer, excluding Jovian Orbit.
“I usually really suck at names but I think Napa is speaking to me,” he said.
That muse has also lent itself to two more names and forthcoming Napa beers; the Purrs Like a Kitten Session IPA and its double IPA companion Growls Like a Tiger. Both are made with hard-to-get small production hops from New Zealand, coming in at 4.8 and 9.2 percent alcohol, respectively. The beers are currently fermenting and will likely be released within five to six days of each other a little less than two weeks from now, Gonzalez said.
As the BottleRock festival takes place blocks away, Stone Brewing-Napa will extend its hours this weekend for festival-goers with live music backing the debut of Gonzalez’s beers. The brewer will host an event at the site Saturday at 11 a.m., introducing each of the new beers being tapped.