The Stone & Wood story is the closest you’ll come to a fairy tale in the world of Australian brewing. It’s the story of three friends who’d done rather well for themselves in the world of big league brewing and decided to head off and do it for themselves in one of the country’s most beautiful spots. And it’s a story that has got off to a flying start, with their two core beers already proving popular across Australia and one being spoken of as the new classic Aussie ale.
The three friends are Brad Rogers, Jamie Cook and Ross Jurisich, who worked together at Matilda Bay, CUB’s craft beer arm, having come through the ranks at Foster’s. During that time, Brad tweaked old recipes and introduced a number of impressive limited release beers at the Garage brewery before the trio decided to up sticks to Byron Bay and start their own brewery in 2008. As they state on their website: “Our dream was to quit ‘working for the man’, shed the corporate garbage and get back to basics.”
They kicked off with two core beers, a Pale Lager created in a subtle Germanic style, and a Draught Ale inspired by the beers made by European microbreweries that were designed to be drunk fresh within a few kilometres of the brewery. The latter – which uses all Australian ingredients and is the best example yet of the qualities of the Galaxy hop – proved so popular when a few kegs were sent further afield that it had to be packaged too to meet drinkers' demands. As a result, at the end of 2010 it was renamed Pacific Ale given it had left its draught roots well behind. Occasional limited releases, such as the Stone Beer made using hot stones in an ancient technique and an unfiltered kellerbier (which The Crafty Pint once got to dry hop!), supplement these, with a new beer rumoured to be in the pipeline for 2011.
As for the brewery itself, you’ll find it tucked away on a small artsy industrial estate just outside Byron itself, combining hi-tech gear with a bit of lo-tech, homespun creativity and one of the best brewing minds in Australia. There’s no official opening hours, no tour times and no onsite bar (although they do hold occasional fundraisers at the brewery), but if you make the trek and let them know you’re coming, chances are you’ll get to sample the legendary Stone & Wood hospitality. If they’re not around, head to pretty much any bar in the area to taste their simply delightful beers at their best.
Stone & Wood (NSW) Beers
Stone & Wood Pacific Ale
The beer formerly known as Draught Ale is rapidly becoming an Aussie classic. A beer made in Byron Bay that is exactly what you’d want after a hot day enjoying Byron Bay, it uses all Aussie malts and the Australian Galaxy hop from start to finish to create a refreshing quaffer with few equals. Originally designed to be served on tap within close range of the brewery (hence the original name) it couldn’t be contained, with word spreading far and wide and the brewers caving in to popular demand. Awash with passionfruit, citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavours, with just a hint of bitterness and some zest from the addition of wheat, it’s a cloudy, unfiltered joy of a beer.
Style: Australian Ale
Stone & Wood Pale Lager
The first beer released by Stone & Wood is their recreation of the pale lagers favoured by German brewers, inspired by days enjoying steins in Munich’s beer gardens. Using imported German grain and noble European hops, the former lends it honeyed and biscuity characteristics, the latter a subtle bitterness. Another refreshing quaffer borne of its surroundings.
Style: Pale Lager
Stone & Wood Jasper
Anyone paying close attention to goings on at Stone & Wood for the past couple of years, if asked to choose what style of beer they might next add to their roster, may well have plumped for a red-hued ale. Their beer for last year’s inaugural Great Australasian Beer Spectapular was the Red Relief Ale, while they’ve been tweaking their annual Stone Beer release year-on-year too. And so it is, with the Jasper – inspired by the colour of the earth of the hinterland that borders their Byron Bay home – joining the Pacific and Lager as a year-round release. Quite how they found time to introduce it given the ever-surging demand for their Pacific and constant expansion is a small wonder; that it’s a beer boasting balance and repeat drinkability isn’t. It’s the brewery’s trademark and the Jasper, which they describe as something of a German Alt, American Amber, British Brown Ale hybrid, blends some sweet and toasty caramel and chocolate malt flavours with some subtle, earthy and gently spicy old world hop characters in a beer you’d picture yourself knocking back by the pint in a welcoming boozer. Perhaps that’s why they’ve put it in 500ml bottles instead of stubbies…
Style: Amber Ale
Stone & Wood Cloud Catcher
To mark the opening of their second brewery in the Northern Rivers region of NSW (and presumably also marking the sense of relief that comes with being able to supply Pacific Ale to the many who’ve been craving it), Stone & Wood created a new beer. Taking its name from the Aboriginal name for Mt Warning, which stands over the new site in Murwillumbah, it’s as much a celebration of what the brewery stands for too. In other words, it’s bright and balanced and comes chockfull of Aussie hops. It wouldn’t have been right if they’d marked the occasion without using the Galaxy hop that their Pacific Ale has done more than anything else to popularise, and its distinct passionfruit aromas are prominent. To that they’ve added heaps of newer variety Ella (formerly Stella), a hop that has its creators equally excited and, if anything, offers more depth than its predecessor. It adds apricot to the tropical fruit salad mix while, at 5.5 percent, the beer is a full-bodied affair too. You could look at it as Pacific Ale on steroids, but there’s a bit more going on than that. Either way, word is it may only be a single batch release so if you’d like to raise a glass in tribute to Stone & Wood’s success, grab a bottle soon.
Find Cloud Catcher here
Style: Australian Ale
Stone & Wood Stone Beer 2014
Hang around the beer world long enough and smile nicely for long enough and, chances are, at some point you may get the chance to become involved in a brew. Usually, this will take the form of adding some grain or hops, pushing the odd button or, most likely, being asked to shovel the spent grain out of the mash tun so the brewer doesn’t have to. With Stone & Wood’s Stone Beer, there’s a chance to take things a little further. Each year, the brewery invites friends, family and peers to join them at their Byron Bay home for the brew day, one at which head brewer Brad Rogers pulls out the volcanic rocks he picked up in Fiji and invites guests to help build a roaring wood fire in which to heat them so they can be craned (by humans) in a cage into the brew to aid caramelisation in a recreation of an old technique with origins in Germany. There’s also plenty of beer and food going around, but the beer and its brewing are the spectacular stars. Each year, the beer has evolved, with this year the darkest yet, a deeply dark brown with a blood orange tinge, that weighs in a little lower in alcohol than the 2013 vintage but higher in terms of dark cocoa and soft roast aromas and flavours. Smooth on the palate with earthy, spicy characteristics from the hops too, it’s another addition to the Stone Beer canon.
Watch the 2014 brew come together here.
Use the brewery’s Beer Finder to locate your nearest drop
Style: Stone Beer
Stone & Wood Garden Ale (2014)
The masters of the session beer are back with their second Garden Ale. This year’s release is a tweak on the mid-strength they first debuted in 2013. Out go the juniper berries and Summer hop variety, with Australia’s Ella hop (the humulus lupulus formerly known as Stella) sticking around for a second bash. In many ways, it is similar in conception to their all conquering Pacific Ale – take an ultra-sessionable English style ale as a starting point and pretty it up with a delicious local hop variety. At just 3.8 percent ABV, It is exactly the same weight as The Crafty Pint’s go to pint in the years before moving to Australia (Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale, for anyone who’s interested) and just as a delightful and quaffable. There is a more prominent malt character than its stablemate, Pacific, with citrusy and floral hops going to work on the nose.
Style: Summer Ale
The Mash Collective Old Persuader
The first two beers created by Stone & Wood’s impermanent Mash Collective side project pushed the style boundaries. Debut Amasia was a strong, dark, German style wheat beer brewed with molasses and rum; number two, Aureus Chrysalis, fused the Belgian Dubbel and smoky Scotch Ale styles. So where would they head with number three, particularly as the Collective this time around features the Sydney artists behind some of Dinosaur Jr’s artwork, Sydney-based Swedish photographer Ingvar Kenne, an award-winning Brisbane architect and He Died With A Felafel In His Hand author John Birmingham?
A lager, that’s where. “Really?” you say. Well, yes, but no ordinary lager. Starting with a desire to create a beer that captured the transition from winter to summer and one worthy of someone that gets jobs done, they settled for a strong lager – a strong, red-hued, fruity lager, in fact – featuring an eye-catching label design from Sonny and Biddy Moroney and some of the finest words you’ll find on a beer label from Birmingham. The beer uses Aussie hops that bring to mind the soft, subtle, spicy aromas of their German forefathers, while in the mouth it’s a fruity, slightly sweet affair wrapped up by a gentle bitterness that leaves you wondering how it could possibly weigh in at 6.6 per cent.
FInd it here
Style: Strong Lager
Stone & Wood Stone Beer
For a bunch of brewers on the cutting edge of the modern Australian brewing scene, the guys at Stone & Wood don’t mind taking inspiration from Marsellus Wallace once in a while.
Well, once in a year, to be precise. As that’s when they invite friends and family to their Byron Bay and “get Medieval on your arse”. Well, not your arse so much as a bunch of volcanic rocks that co-founder and head brewer Brad Rogers has been lugging around since his days brewing in Fiji.
They’re heated in a blazing fire on the brewery’s driveway before being lowered into the beer in a recreation of a brewing style from the Middle Ages. The Stone Beer has been tweaked each year, with this year’s a deeply dark, rewardingly rich and smooth chocolate led affair that’s so luxuriant it could soothe even poor, wronged, Wallace’s pain.
NB: This is what we wrote for Smith Journal’s Thirsty Thursday too – no point reinventing the wheel twice in one week!
Check out Stone & Wood’s Beer Finder for your nearest stockist.
As well as the standard 500ml bottles, Stone & Wood are also selling ‘vintage packs’ which consist of a 500ml swing-top, ceramic bottle and a standard 500ml bottle. These are available exclusively through their online store and cost $45plus postage.
Style: Stone Beer
Mash Collective Aureus Chrysalis
A chef, musician, furniture maker, engineer and tattoo artist walk into a brewery… and out pops the Aureas Chrysalis. It’s the second release from Stone & Wood’s occasional side project, the Mash Collective, which sees them bring together eclectic collections of creative people to concoct new beers. Having launched the first Mash Collective beer at the 2012 GABS, this time their select band included leading tattoo artist Trevor Bennett, home brewer Richard Grant who won a competition at last year’s Good Beer Week to become part of the team, chef and TV presenter Ben O'Donohue, furniture maker Greg Hatton and musician Ash Grunwald. They came up with some unusual inspirations for the beer, including using the colour of Ash’s favourite guitar for the colour. The name comes from one of Trevor’s pieces of artwork, with Aureus the Latin for gold, but also for hop, and Chrysalis referring to the cocoon that gives birth to a beautiful creature. According to the team, the beer is inspired by the bold ales of Belgium and Scotland: “Think the faint whiff of a smoky highland fireplace across a rich Flemish fruit cake, iced with a spicy resinous marzipan.”
Find the beer here
Style: Belgian Dubbel / Scotch Ale
Stone & Wood Garden Ale
It’s not too often that Stone & Wood release a short run beer, what with having to brew six million litres of Pacific Ale every day to meet demand. But in time for summer comes the Garden Ale, a sub-four per cent ale with its eyes firmly fixed on the post-lawnmower set. Like the Stone Beer, there’s inspiration from the past, with juniper berries added to the boil in a nod to pre-hop days when brewers would raid their gardens for ingredients. According to Stone & Wood, the berries are said to: “purify negative energy, guard against disease, strengthen sexual potency, bring good health and even increase psychic powers”. So there you go – drink Garden Ale and become an uber-fit, all-seeing sexual god(dess). On your way to superhuman status, you’ll encounter a sessionable beer that uses newish Aussie hops Ella and Summer to add floral, grassy and spicy hop characteristics to what’s a slightly cloudy, rusty golden-coloured ale with some sweet, caramel aromas and flavours and very gentle bitterness. It’s on tap and in bottles with the former seeming the more rounded tipple to us here at Crafty Towers.
Get your thorn-pricked gloves on some here
Style: Session Ale
Stone & Wood Stone Beer (2012)
This year saw a change in direction for the Byron brewers' annual stone beer. Sure, they still pulled out the same stones from Fiji and heated them in a wood fire on the driveway outside the brewery. And they still lifted them, when white hot, into a metal cage and lowered them into the brew to let them work their caramelising magic. But elsewhere, it was all change with an all new recipe that saw the beer become a much bigger affair. That it’s a new beer is apparent from the moment it hits the glass: much darker and viscous than in previous years, a sight that heralds a multifarious malty mouthful. Toffee, chocolate, cocoa, cola, treacle – you name it and you’ll get it as it makes its salubrious way from goblet to gullet. It’s gently warming, as you’d expect at 7.2 per cent, with the hops contributing a subtle spicy aroma and a lingering bitterness that’s aided and abetted by a little roastiness from the malts. That a very limited amount of this limited release comes in a stone bottle seems appropriate as it’s the kind of beer you can imagine men of yore tucking into after a hard day’s boar-hunting or maiden-rescuing; either way, well worth the effort.
Find it here
Style: Stone Beer
Stone & Wood Stone Beer (2011)
Given the runaway success of their Pacific Ale, the Stone & Wood team has little time to do anything but brew batch after batch of it these days (well, when not surfing or hanging out at the beach, anyway). But they do like to find time for their annual Stone Beer brew, the beer that involves head brewer Brad Rogers pulling out the rocks he’s been lugging around since his days brewing in Fiji, superheating them over a fire and using them in the brewing process. It’s a recreation of an ancient brewing technique and one that allows them to mess around a little with the recipe year on year. For while this year’s Stone Beer, launched at a pair of festivals in Byron and Melbourne, clocks in at the same ABV as last year’s, it’s a somewhat different beast. A slightly deeper red than last year’s, it also boasts a heavier body and flavour, with the sweeter caramels of 2010 replaced by darker toffees in a beer with greater bitterness and a hint of smokiness. In fact, despite coming out of one of the sunniest spots in the world, it wouldn’t be out of place being served over a bar in Scotland.
Style: Stone Beer
Stone & Wood Red Relief
Originally under construction for The Local Taphouse’s Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular – and intended as a prototype for a potential third permanent member of the brewery’s lineup – this beer became a fundraising tool when the floods hit Queensland early in 2011. Given it’s a red beer and it was hoping to raise around $20,000 for the Flood Relief appeal, the name came easy. As for the beer, it’s a darker beast than anything (except perhaps their occasional Stone Beer release) to come out of the Byron Bay brewery, with nutty malts leading the way. And, as with everything Brad and co have put it, it’s well balanced, beautifully clean and demands you go back for more.
Style: Red Ale