Something that has been a poorly-kept secret among gossipy Ontario hop fiends for a while can now finally be officially confirmed: Escondido, California’s Stone Brewing Co. is coming to Ontario.
I spoke with Rob Hern, the Retail Sales and Marketing Manager for Horizon Beers, the agency that represents Stone in Canada and he confirmed that, yes, I can finally actually publicly state that Stone’s award-winning, West-coast-style, hop-forward beers will be here in February.
Stone IPA, one of the best-selling and well-respected IPAs in America will be joined on draught in the province by Arrogant Bastard, a beer that you probably don’t have a refined enough palate to appreciate. Hern says there will be a handful of launch events in the province the week of February 23rd (with obviously a majority here in Toronto, the centre of the universe) and, while he’s keeping the exact details under wraps for now, he suggested that visits from brewery officials and even a collaboration brew with an Ontario brewery might be in the works to publicize the beers’ arrival. Let the sexual favour offers from local brewmasters to Rob Hern begin.
The news of Stone’s arrival comes fairly recently on the heels of the news that both California’s Sierra Nevada and Scotland’s Brew Dog will be infiltrating Ontario’s beer market so this adds even further speculation to the oft-debated question of how Ontario beer will fare in competition with more established craft brands. For their part, Stone brings the credibility of not only being the the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States, but also one that was actually rated “the #1 All Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by the readers of Beer Advocate. No, seriously.
I asked Hern about the issue of freshness.
Hoppy West Coast styles are obviously best enjoyed as fresh as possible and Stone in particular is notoriously dedicated to ensuring that their beer is enjoyed fresh. The brewery popularized their own “Enjoy By” series of beers, essentially named after their own expiry date and they even have a mechanism on their website for reporting expired beer should anyone find old Stone beers for sale somewhere.
“We are paying for refrigerated freight,” Hern says of the efforts to keep the beer fresh en route from Escondido. “And Stone has strict rules that no product older than 90 days can be on draught, so if we see it or hear about it, [Horizon] has to replace it.”
Once Stone establishes their beer here on draught, retail will follow. Draught will roll out to some of the usual suspects for decent craft beer next month, as well as a few larger accounts like the Bier Markt, and then, Hern says, in addition to the IPA and Arrogant Bastard, Stone’s Cali Belgique, an IPA brewed with a Belgian yeast strain, will be available at the LCBO around May. Expect all three beers in 650mL bottles, likely for a price around $7 or $8 (the cost of that refrigerated freight is still up in the air and will factor into the bottle price).