One of the highlights of each year at Stone & Wood – both for their staff and invited guests – is the Stone Brew Day. It's a tradition stretching back a decade that sees them create a batch of beer into which is dropped a collection of rocks that have been heated in a fire on the brewery grounds throughout the day to aid caramelisation and pay tribute to an old brewing technique.
Due to COVID-19, the brewery team was unable to host the brew day shindig, but the beer lives on. It's still tagged a wood-fired porter but this time around the emphasis is on the "wood" more than ever before thanks to the use of a Red Gum-smoked malt from Voyager Craft Malt. And it's a decision that's taken the beer to a new place.
The label reads: "best paired with campfires, fresh air and cold starry nights" (something I've just abandoned after 16 nights for lockdown in Melbourne – why!?!) and, even if you can't do that, just the experience of drinking one is like spending an evening by a campfire. Stone Brew 2020's smoky characters take in campfire, mesquite BBQ sweetness and hints of charred bacon, leaving everything else to play second fiddle: the dark chocolate seems even darker with the smoke as accompaniment; the roasty bitterness is given a sharper edge by the smoke.
It's like chuffing a cigar with an Islay malt in the other hand and your mouth stuffed with Lindt 90% Cocoa dark chocolate.
NB There's a limited amount of Barrel-Aged Stone Beer 2019 out now too.
- Stone Beer